Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) recently made changes to its appeals procedures since the COVID 19 crisis for third-party sellers, which have left many of them at a loss as to how to resolve their issues with Amazon, leading to seller account suspension and deactivation without apparent recourse.
Amazon sellers had trouble reaching Amazon Seller Performance before but now it is impossible
Before the changes in Amazon’s appeal process that appeared only recently, an Amazon seller could contact the Seller Performance Team by email to resolve their issues with Amazon. A telephone call was impossible. Now, the process can only be done through the Seller Central dashboard. One would think that would be a good thing because, before, Amazon sellers experienced frustration over their email appeals not being answered at all. However, only certain Amazon appeals can now be made by the “appeal button”, such as ASIN reinstatements (reinstatements of deactivating listings). Many others have to go through Amazon’s Seller Support Team, a department with which Amazon sellers have always expressed frustration. Since Seller Support only an intermediary, the frustrated seller often only hears that the matter has “been forwarded to the concerned team.”
The new procedure for appeals with no appeal button showing involves sending a message through Seller Support, using the “contact us” feature, which, in accordance with Amazon’s “Hands off the Wheel” policy, has become even more automated. While a seller used to be able to simply send a message to Seller Support, he or she now has to go through a set of FAQ-style help categories to do so, leaving even the most sophisticated seller in a state of despair.
To make matters worse, the new procedure has left certain Amazon sellers with no place to go to make their appeals. For example, in cases where a seller account has been hacked, the seller is often locked out of the account, and, therefore, cannot access his or her seller central panel to appeal or contact Seller Support. In cases where Amazon suspects fraud or illegal activity (mostly as a result of alerts from its artificial intelligence) these sellers are locked out of their accounts by Amazon and cannot appeal. In both of these cases, as well as many others, a seller can only contact the executive office by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org (commonly called a Bezos escalation) which has been taking an average of eight months to respond, or Amazon’s Legal Department, who most of the time never responds at all.
Amazon’s automation of processes leaves sellers without a remedy
According to the Harvard Business Review, during the past 10 years, Amazon has been implementing a program called “Hands off the Wheel” which replaces human labor with AI, which uses machine learning to accomplish the task, purportedly leaving employees free to handle other tasks. It is thought that this makes Amazon more efficient so it can continue to grow. However, sellers suffer from this streamlining attempt in many ways. For example, companies who sell items such as cosmetic masks have had their listings deactivated because Amazon’s AI flags such masks as PPE, on which Amazon has recently imposed sales restrictions due to COVID 19. Other sellers have had their listings removed (on cosmetic or first aid items) for being improper flagged as pesticides.
The customer-centric approach leaves Amazon sellers feeling left out
According to Statista.com, in the second quarter of 2020, 53% of all merchandise purchased on Amazon was sold by third-party sellers. Despite this statistic, Amazon favors its customers over its third-party sellers and will not hesitate to hit the suspension button to deactivate an account due to even one customer complaint. Some of these complaints are false complaints that come from other sellers masquerading as customers who are trying to put their competition out of business. Amazon knows this, but the endless stream of sellers entering their platform apparently has them not concerned enough to do anything about it. Putting yet another obstacle between the Amazon seller and a human being at Amazon makes it even more difficult to resolve these issues.
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