October 19, 2020

No, Amazon is NOT targeting sellers

By: Lauren Barbera

I get it. You’re chugging along, happily selling and following (to the best of your knowledge) Amazon’s policies. Then…

BAM!

Your Account Health Dashboard starts lighting up like the skyline on the Fourth of July.

Your Performance Notifications start piling up.

It can feel like Amazon has you in their crosshairs and have taken time out of their day to focus on making specifically YOUR life difficult.

While still alarming and frustrating, I can assure you that your Seller ID wasn’t pulled out of a hat to be the focus of Amazon’s enforcement arm for the day. Amazon is not targeting sellers.

Let’s go through some of the reasons when and why Amazon enforces policies, and why that can feel like a tsunami wave at times.

Bad press leads to an overreaction or rushes the technical end of Policy and Enforcement Teams

Amazon hates bad press. The Risk Mitigation teams (i.e. the Policy arm behind the enforcement teams) are hard pressed to move fast when bad press unearths a vulnerability in Amazon’s policy and policing of Third-Party Sellers or the catalog.

Are these Risk Mitigation teams generally full of smart, thoughtful people? Yes. Are they staffed with incredibly talented software engineers? Absolutely. However, asking multiple teams to roll out new enforcement (which entails a manual audit, code creation, creating externally facing policy, and training front-line investigators) in a matter of 24-72 hours is error prone. Amazon has a Leadership Principal called “Bias for Action” and rolling out half-baked policy or enforcement changes on a tight timeline is the lived version of this philosophy.

Amazon is not targeting your account!

Enforcement “Bots” and other policies are rarely reviewed for possible abuse by bad actors

Have you ever gotten a slew of fraudulent Notices of Claimed Infringement from non-existent “Rights Owners”?

Have you had your products taken down and received warnings because a competitor has found which keywords to leave in feedback or Product Reviews to game the system?

It feels like an overwhelming battle to convince Amazon that these actions are due to malicious intent for a reason. Amazon built these systems with the underlying belief that those parties complaining are honest. It’s rarely- if ever- considered as to if the system used to police third party sellers can be used in a manner for which it was NOT intended.

In my time working for these teams I do not recall a single internal policy that require investigators evaluate the veracity of the complaint or the honesty of the complainant.

Bad apples spoil the barrel

Amazon knows that, when a buyer is burned by a Third Party Seller, they buy less over the course of their “Customer Lifetime”. So, they try to focus on preventing dissatisfied customers by looking at past bad actor Sellers and use their behavior to try and predict when other sellers might “go bad” and put friction in place in an attempt to weed out the bad guys. The problem with this “shoot first, ask questions later” method is that a LOT (and I mean a LOT) of bad-guy behavior prior to actually engaging in bad deeds looks an AWFUL lot like standard selling behavior.

Have you ever been asked to supply evidence of your identity? Perhaps evidence that a new product you have added to your listings is genuine even before you have made your first sale? Well, those bad guys are to blame. Somewhere, a bad guy has used a false or stolen identity and has sold a fake version of your widget.

Amazon is constantly playing catch-up to those bad actors while trying to predict the future so that the same bad guy behavior does not repeat simultaneously. Make no mistake, the Enforcement and Policy teams have little to no concern how these proactive measures might hurt your business. Their ONLY goal is risk mitigation (e.g. reducing bad press) and a positive buyer experience. All of this is measured with metrics, like “reducing complaints about product condition by X% Year over Year”. There are NO metrics within the enforcement arms that look at, “Sellers that Abandoned Amazon after enforcement.” In fact, sellers that DO end up abandoning Amazon are generally assumed to be bad guys that Amazon has somehow scared off.

Technical Timelines often have coinciding launches

Amazon typically does not coordinate enforcement launches between different enforcement groups to ensure that they do not overlap. The Safety team doesn’t care if or when the Seller Fulfilled Prime team launches enforcement and vice versa. And, like nearly all business, big product (e.g. enforcement) launches are scheduled quarterly. In addition, there are several periods of “Code Freeze” at Amazon, meaning that there will always inevitably be teams that launch changes RIGHT at the last minute concurrently.

In conclusion, while we know that this doesn’t remove any frustration, we do hope that it sheds some light on why it can feel like policy infractions are doled out inconsistently and in waves. Rest easier knowing Amazon is not targeting sellers.

Do you feel like you’re being hit with a policy tsunami? We at Riverbend are here to help! Give us a call at 877-289-1017

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