Happy New Year and not-too-many unhappy returns. Sigh. I hate returns even though they are an expected part of the business. To distract myself, I’m tackling a bunch of administrative stuff like repricing, fixing inventory mistakes and preparing tax stuff for my CPA.
Inventory fixing has been messy for me this time around. I’ve spent days trying to fix problems in my inventory and thought I’d share my pain. I mean, what I learned. I spent over three hours on the phone with Amazon the other day and hope I can spare someone else from sitting through all that.
If you’ve been selling for a while, you may have some errors in your inventory too. When there’s an error, Amazon pulls the item off the site which means you are paying for storage and not actively selling. So, this is one of those tedious but horribly important things of which you need to take care. To make matters worse, some are really hard to fix. Excited now? It gets better. I mean worse. You might learn as I did, that some of the items are pulled because I’m restricted from selling them.
While I list possible fixes below, you can call/email Amazon any time from Seller Central. Go to “Help” and look for “Contact Us” part way down the page on the right. Amazon asks you to fill in an email form with details about your issue. Then, and only then, do they give you the option for them to call you. Type in your phone number and they’ll call you instantly. It is pretty cool. You’ll get their regular seller support. If your issue is FBA specific, ask to speak to an FBA support person and you’ll get put through right away. While I did spend three hours on the phone the other day, it wasn’t the support person’s fault. She was terrific and fixed many of my problems for me.
Mistake: Restricted Items
Fix: Sell on eBay; destroy; return to you for merchant fulfilled; get permission
Details: I was surprised to find several items were restricted in my inventory because they weren’t when I sent them in originally. These were because the original manufacturer contacted Amazon and told them only licensed/approved sellers could sell it. For example, I had bought some Avengers party paper plates at Target for a great price to resell. They were fine when I sent them up, but then they were pulled. The napkins that match the plates are still available to sell. Go figure. In the case of my paper plates, I’m going to return them to Target. If I had hundreds I wanted to sell, I might try to get permission from the manufacturer, but I didn’t. In the case of another restricted item, I’m going to try and sell it on eBay and fulfill it with Amazon since it is already at the warehouse. The same with a plastic drawer organizer that surprisingly requires permission to sell.
I sell a lot of Baby items and was surprised to get a restricted notice during the listing process – it didn’t even make it to the warehouse – this was because it had a baby bumper in the package (it was bedding). If it was just sheets and pillows I’d be OK but baby bumpers are a restricted item on Amazon. The margin was huge on this item so I’m going to sell it merchant fulfilled. It is worth the effort of shipping it myself.
Lesson: Beware of Disney licensed items. If there are no FBA sellers, there’s probably a reason for it. Review restricted items in your categories. It is easy to forget specifics like baby bumpers over time.
Mistake: Restricted Categories
Fix: Get permission; correct category; destroy item; return item
Details: I had several books that were in the automotive category rather than books. I didn’t notice when I sent them in since to my mind they were books and I wasn’t paying attention to the category when scanning. Amazon agrees with me that they are books and has a process (by email) to re-categorize items. In another situation, I had a book that I had sent in that Amazon will only allow to be sold as “Collectible.” This surprised me. I sent it in as “Used-Good” and they pulled it. I don’t have permission to sell in Collectible so my choices here are to have the book returned or get approved or sell on eBay and have fulfilled by Amazon. I ended up having several books in this category so I’m going to investigate further the qualifications for selling collectible books. I don’t know the qualifications for selling in automotive, either, but I’m pretty darn sure I don’t qualify for that. Other restricted categories that sometimes surprise me include clothing and jewelry. I’ve had items that I thought were toys or accessories show up in those categories and then I had to return them or not buy them in the first place (assuming I was paying attention while scanning!). Another option I have for these restricted items since they are already at the warehouse is to sell them on eBay and fulfill them through Amazon.
Lesson: Pay attention to categories. No one is perfect and it is easy to overlook the category when you are moving fast. In most cases, Amazon can help you.
Mistake: Selling Kindle items on Amazon as “New”
Fix: Re-condition to “Used-Like New”
Details: While I knew that only Amazon can sell Kindles on Amazon as new, I didn’t think about it when I found a bunch of great Kindle Fire cases for sale at Marshall’s. After all, I sell lots of electronic accessories and these were not Amazon-produced cases. They were from third-party manufacturers. I had to email the items (ASIN plus my SKU) to Amazon and ask them to manually re-condition and re-sticker them for me in the warehouse. They are willing to do this in small batches of five or less. It generally takes a few hours/day or two because someone has to go and physically do it in the warehouse.
Lesson: All Kindle-related items need to be listed as “Like-New.”
Mistake: Condition mistakes
Fix: Have Amazon fix; send back to you; sell on eBay instead
Details: My mistakes were embarrassingly dumb like I listed a couple of books as “Collectible-Good” even though I don’t sell collectible. I don’t know what I was thinking but it was a mistake on my end. I had a used item listed in “Baby” which only accepts new. Upon closer examination it was a book that got classified into Baby. I will probably just have it returned or destroyed. There were a couple of games that got listed as “Used-Good” even though used game can only be sold as collectible. I will ask Amazon to re-sticker those for me. I know better, but still I made mistakes.
Lesson: Bunch up your inventory. When I’m listing inventory, I try to stick to one category at a time like books or toys and then I set up my Scan Power with my specialized descriptions and notes for that category. With books I’ll even sort into piles based on condition. I do it as part of the clean-up and de-stickering process. It not only helps the listing process go faster, but I’m less likely to make condition mistakes. Nothing is perfect, of course. It didn’t help me with the baby book that was in Baby instead of Books.
Mistake: No listing exists for this inventory item
Fix: Re-submit from Scan Power; edit listing on Amazon
Details: While every error on the report gives this message, in this case I mean that the listing truly does not exist in my “All Inventory” view. In other words, it is “Amazon-Fulfilled Inventory,” but not “All Inventory.” Alternatively, it might show up in the “All Inventory” view but it is listed as “Inactive.” There are reasons why this happens but “Amazon glitch” pretty much covers it. There’s nothing we can do to prevent it and it isn’t from anything we did wrong. The inventory is there, it has been checked into the warehouse, but for some reason some of the information got dropped (like the price – that’s a frequent culprit).
There are two fixes for this. If you pull up the item in Scan Power (using your MSKU), you can highlight it and click the “Correct Listing” button on the lower right-hand side of the screen. Scan Power will resubmit your listing information to Amazon. This fixes a lot of issues, but not all.
Give it a minute and if the listing isn’t fixed and showing up in your “all inventory view” as “active” now, then you have a more complicated problem. I suggest you call Amazon’s seller support to help you if the quick fix doesn’t work. You need to edit your listing manually and it is not easy.
Lesson: Don’t spend time on this if the quick fix in Scan Power doesn’t work. Call Amazon.
BOTTOM LINE: Check your Inventory mistakes on a regular basis to keep on top of potential problems. Go to the “Inventory” tab and choose “Amazon-Fulfilled Inventory.”
Choose “Error Status” and “Items with Errors” from the two drop down menus at the top left of the page. This will show you all the items with problems.
Hopefully this blog post will help you determine which ones you can fix yourself and which ones need Amazon’s help. Have an inventory issue not listed here? Please share!