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Chris McCabe is a prolific voice in the Amazon space. Chris is a former Amazonian who has created his own consulting company, ecommerceChris, that helps sellers to communicate with Amazon to maintain a healthy Amazon seller account. 

Chris worked for many years at Amazon evaluating seller account performance and helped enforce Amazon’s policies. He now uses that knowledge and experience to help sellers think like Amazon and protect their businesses, appeal listing restrictions, and fight account suspensions. 

 

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [02:00] Chris talks about his anniversary of starting his company
  • [03:02] How Chris keeps up with Amazon policies after the company makes changes
  • [04:32] Emailing Amazon Seller Performance
  • [12:40] Using a Plan of Action when getting your account restored
  • [15:50] Dealing with a high late shipment rate
  • [18:37] Building a Plan of Action
  • [23:40] Connecting with the right people at Amazon
  • [28:15] Offensive product listings on Amazon
  • [35:10] Does Amazon protect brands from counterfeit products?
  • [39:45] How to reach Chris

In this episode…

What does an Amazon seller do when the unthinkable happens and Amazon sends strongly worded emails about unsatisfactory seller performance or shipping times? What should you do if your account is suspended? It can seem like the world has come crashing down and there is nothing left to do. 

Fortunately, there is someone you can call.

In this week’s episode of The Buy Box Experts Podcast, host Eric Stopper is joined by Chris McCabe to talk about what he learned working for Amazon, offensive listings on the platform, and what to do if your account gets suspended.

Resources Mentioned on this episode

Sponsor for this episode

Buy Box Experts applies decades of e-commerce experience to successfully manage clients’ marketplace accounts. The Buy Box account managers specialize in combining an understanding of clients’ business fundamentals and an in-depth expertise in the Amazon Marketplace.

The team works with marketplace technicians using a system of processes, proprietary software, and extensive channel experience to ensure your Amazon presence captures the opportunity on the marketplace, not only producing greater revenue and profits but also reducing or eliminating your business’ workload.

Buy Box Experts prides itself on being one of the few agencies with an SMB (small to medium-sized business) division and an Enterprise division. Buy Box does not commingle clients among divisions as each has unique needs and requirements for proper account management.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:17
Welcome to the Buy Box Experts Podcast with your host, Joseph Hansen. We bring to light the unique opportunities brands face and today’s e-commerce world.

Eric Stopper 0:18
Welcome to the Buy Box Experts podcast This is Eric stopper. Today’s episode is brought to you by Buy Box Experts.Buy Box Experts takes ambitious brands and makes them unbeatable. We’ve got a team of consultants that will help you identify key low hanging fruit for some of your best selling aces on Amazon. So if you’re an Amazon seller and you want to make more revenue, then go to buy box experts. com click on the free analysis button. It’s completely free, no strings attached. But we will be charging for it at some point just because our time is getting limited. And guys seriously, there are so many tools that you have to have in order to really understand how to sell well on Amazon. We have all of them. We have every single one and we can help you so Come and reach out to us, our whole team. We’re all great. And we’d love to help you out. Today, I am joined by Chris McCabe, a prolific voice in the Amazon space. He runs his own consulting firm that focuses on helping sellers with a myriad at a myriad of different issues. When you’re selling on Amazon, you sometimes get these little notifications that your listings have been shut down or you know, your store is in disarray or you’re late on your ship. I mean, there’s a bunch of reasons that he helps with all those kinds of things, the annoying stuff, the things that can break your business down. on his website, ecommerceChris.com, you can read all about their case studies and the services that they have. He and his team are all former Amazonians. So they have a long history of helping people in this space, and they will help your appeal succeed. He’s appeared on many podcasts and YouTube channels in the past and I’m honored to have Chris on the show today, Chris, welcome to the show.

Chris McCabe 1:58
Hey, Eric. Thanks for having me.

Eric Stopper 2:00
So you were actually just telling me that you’re coming up on a very important anniversary. Tell me about that.

Chris McCabe 2:07
I think it’s sometime this year, I will have been a consultant to Amazon sellers almost as long or as long I should say, as I worked at Amazon itself. So most of the last 12 years working with the kinds of cases and problems that you were just mentioning account suspensions, Jason reinstatements, and all the muck, all the less fun stuff to talk about right that sellers encounter.

Eric Stopper 2:29
Now, we have, we have James James Thompson here by box experts. And if you don’t follow James already, and also by implication, if you don’t follow Chris, go follow Chris on on LinkedIn and wherever you can find him. Same with James Thompson. These guys they know their stuff, but I I challenge James with this question, and I want to hear your thoughts on it too. So you haven’t worked there for a long time. And Amazon policies change all the time. So how how are you able to Keep a good pulse on what’s happening internally, even though you’ve been out of the organization for so long.

Chris McCabe3:04
Yeah, it’s it’s not as difficult as it may seem on the surface. Amazon expects everyone to stay on top of policy sellers, people like me, doesn’t matter if you left a month ago, a year ago, two years ago. And people like me, given the nature of the work, appeals work getting suspended accounts reinstated, you have to stay 24 seven on top of all updates in terms of the teams that are involved in different kinds of suspensions, how to appeal, are they deprecating certain email cues, even right down to are the managers changing in terms of who manages what team and escalations Of course, lots of sellers who attempt this stuff themselves who get stuck, or who hired the wrong people to help them get stuck in the appeals process and you have to escalate your plan of action. So people like me need to be current on all the comings and goings. I mean, some people work at Amazon for 15 years. I’ve got friends who have been there over 20 years. You can believe it. But there are others that come in come out change roles, and anyone in my shoes who’s worth their salt needs to stay on top of those changes.

Eric Stopper 4:08
that don’t make sense. So you, you mentioned a couple of really specific things that I’m sure that a lot of people listening have run into deprecating email cues. So, so walk me through that, because when I email seller performance, or I am expecting that email to get lost into the vortex, and that the person on the other end is just miserably under the cracked whip of Jeff Bezos or whoever’s running, right. So talking about that one specifically, the deprecating email.

Chris 4:39
Yeah. And I’ve got some painful examples, or at least one that I can give you were back in the day, maybe when I was closer to the beginning of this consulting firm creation. I was interacting with members of for example, seller performance teams, talking to them about hey, this plan of action was rejected. What was considered missing did this attach an invoice that you guys didn’t find, or one of the bullets in the plan of action didn’t quite ring true or get reviewed properly. What do you think we need to do to clear this up? And I had some colleagues or friends however you want to categorize them get back to me with Well, I think part of the problem is you sent you or the seller has been sending their appeals into an email queue, which is overflowing with mass amounts of other things, other appeals complaints, other situations that aren’t account suspension related. Try this one, and they would throw one out at me. And it would be an email queue that not necessarily everyone would be using or know how to use, let’s say, and I would already based on my past experience and skill set, have an idea of what needs to go in the subject line. How to represent so hold on let’s Yeah,

Eric Stopper 5:47
I want to take I want to take a couple steps backwards because a lot of like, I think everybody listening struggles with this, right? No, no, it’s perfectly deep, but I want to make sure that we’re on all the different things that are being discussed. So when I I have a problem on Amazon. I will typically I’m in Seller Central or vendor central whatever let’s see Seller Central For this example, I click on the My my help button up in the top right hand corner. And it guides me through their their literature that they’ve that they’ve written on different issues. Yeah. My first question, right is, is that the right way to do it? Right, I’ll just kind of go through the proper steps.

Chris 6:23
Seller support Seller Central is useful for very specific stuff and only a certain percentage of the time, the rest of the percentage of your time which is a large percentage, you shouldn’t even be wasting your time with it. Like what

Unknown Speaker 6:35
kind of what kind of stuff is

Chris 6:37
they give and keep in mind they give bad information along a lot. They give you they send you off totally down the wrong path. You could be burning appeals wasting your time. I mean, time is precious when you’re appealing and account reinstatement. You can’t waste time on useless phone calls or getting answers back from them that are totally copy and paste generic and a lot of times it’s bad information. Example as a new seller trying to register a new account who gets stuck somewhere in the registration or account verification process? So with support, we have, I don’t know, 50 to 75 examples of support teams telling people Oh, you’re stuck, just open a new account. And then what happens? The new account gets blocked for relay lag for sure. all eternity. Yeah, support is just trying to get you off the phone. They don’t care that the information is not accurate. Obviously, no one’s automating these phone calls, right? Because this happens over and over and over. Unfortunately, that type of problem is starting to bleed in solid performance emails to where they just bounced back generic answers that have nothing to do with why your appeal was rejected, for instance, or what what they really need.

Eric Stopper 7:44
What’s the metric of success for the seller performance customer service teams? Is it just the amount of appeals that I can get through in a given hour? Or is it quality did I saw the

Chris 7:56
part of the if it’s really straightforward, then sometimes you can just send A quick email the solid performance, they’ll read it, they’ll understand it. It’s luck of the draw, but you’ve got the right person who’s actually somewhat skilled, someone experienced, they read it, they understand it. You attach what they asked for, and they arranged it erasin or maybe they accept your appeal to reinstate the whole account.

Eric Stopper 8:16
Well, they always know what to ask for, though. Like, I feel like they sometimes the burden is on my shoulders to be able to make my case, you know,

Chris 8:23
Yeah, I agree. You have to mind green because they send very generic bland canned messaging to you as a seller on purpose. Right. Amazon keeps the messaging vague, deliberately because they don’t want you to come back and pigeonhole you know, turn of a phrase and quote them back to themselves. They’re they’re probably terrified of that because they can’t defend much of what they send people in terms of the denials or requests for more information, if you’re able to figure out exactly what they need, and it’s straightforward by anyone’s estimation what they need, and you attach it to an acceptable plan of action then you could get yourself reinstated on a nation or an account whenever having a talk to somebody like me. The problem is those odds are going down as time goes on. Because to answer your second question, they’re not auditing these investigations, they’re clearly there’s no evidence they might be auditing. There’s no evidence that any of their audits of solid performance investigators is effective. There’s no evidence of that. No.

Eric Stopper 9:21
Oh, that’s so funny. So so my uncle was formerly the head of customer service at Amazon. I don’t know that he was over the seller Performance Team. And I told him all all these kinds of things like, Hey, you guys are the worst. And he and he said he, he were in his car

Unknown Speaker 9:39
like downtown and Seattle. And he like,

Eric Stopper 9:41
oh, like stabs himself, like, oh, man, that’s so bad to hear. Oh, I bet you that he would say that. No, like, we’re always trying to improve our processes. And we’re always seeking to like make sure that we engage as little as possible with the brand and make sure that they solve those issues. Yeah, I mean, what do you think there Missing, right that that’s making it so that there’s no way these calls are getting audited.

Chris 10:03
They’re missing proper managerial oversight, which means they’ve even got to bring in some new management that can actually competently handle that type of task. Or they need more resources. If the managers that are already tasked with this are less experienced with this sort of thing they need more experience, if they don’t have the tools and the teams that they need, then they need to add more headcount. And they need to add more resources, like better recipes, I mean, maybe some stronger material and stronger content that investigators can be trained with, in order to make informed decisions as opposed to just copy and paste, do it quickly. take a glance at it skim through the middle of the page. I mean, that’s not resulting in good quality work. And it’s just telling the sellers and the broader Amazon community that Amazon’s giving this part of the company, short shrift and very tiny slice of their attendance.

Eric Stopper 10:56
So, here is a here’s kind of a challenging Question. Because if I’m Amazon, and I see all of my my people that work at Amazon leaving to start agencies that service, specifically what my issue is, do I even care? I mean, e commerce Chris, right? Like, I’ll just go, I’ll just have all of them handle it, and he might sell it sellers.

Chris 11:20
You know what I mean? Yes, I do. I mean, back when I started, there was no one really doing this. I mean, James was a great example of somebody leaving Amazon to consult, but no one from my part of the company was doing it with these types of issues. And no one had sense in any meaningful way. So the thing is, they know that this is going to happen if they continue to send automated messaging to people that doesn’t really say anything that guarantees that sellers will need help understanding what’s expected of them. So it’s a communication issue until Amazon decides to invest a bit more in their ability to communicate, and not these sort of basic phone calls with account health reps and account health. services, I mean, that’s not doing anybody any good. They have to, they have to up their game considerably in order to make it a meaningful, significant difference, so that sellers won’t waste so much of their time or take up so much of their time. And so that their teams won’t have to take up so much of sellers valuable time that they could be spending on launching new products and creating more revenue, which would in turn result in you know, better commissions levels for Amazon itself, even for selfish reasons. They could be doing a better job at this. But they still haven’t found that motivation to, like I said up their game in the managerial ranks and in their communication strategies.

Eric Stopper 12:37
So so in in you come on your white horse, right. And actually, you you talked about, you’ve hinted at some pieces of best practice so far. And I’ve been telling people just kind of like rough roughly like how do you know how to deal with seller performance, how to deal with you know, when you’re, we’re in when your account gets shut down? And we have articles and stuff written on It, you talk about a plan of action? Yeah. What does that look like? And do I just need to assume that I’m going to send a plan of action with every single account suspension thing? Yeah. What are the criteria for that?

Chris 13:13
No. I mean, there are times we use plan of action style language to communicate an appeal or to get an account annotated when they haven’t asked for one. But aside from that minority of cases, we only say provide a plan of action when they specify that they actually want one from you. And usually they give you some links to seller help and some additional information that describes what a plan of action is, if you haven’t heard through one before. Generally, in our experience, sellers still don’t have enough information to write one. They’re not sure what’s expected. They’ve got tons of questions that they can’t get answered before they appeal. So this is one reason we created a membership that’s based on my methodology and my approaches because we believe sellers can write an effective plan of action. They don’t necessarily need to hire somebody like me to do everything for them. But you have to do it the right way. And you need to use the proper approach. Otherwise, you’re not going to really get somebody on the other end who’s willing to read it and spend quality time reviewing it.

Eric Stopper 14:10
You have a membership, yes to a methodology. So you come in it’s like courses on course. Yeah,

Chris 14:16
courses, the first course. I mean, now we have several k courses. But in the beginning, it was the first course was how do you build a plan of action? What goes in it? What doesn’t go into it? What do I you know, what do I put in? What do I leave out? Because in those days, especially a few years ago, when we started, we saw plans of action that sellers wrote with that were all over the map. I mean, extraneous content that had nothing to do with why they were suspended in the first place. Or they were just really really long too long. didn’t read nobody in Amazon was willing to read through, sift through pages and pages of, you know, information that we write emotion or we love Amazon, you know, writing a page about how much you love them a page about how much you hate them, writing a page to Jeff hoping and read it, there was just a hodgepodge of things in there. And all it did was guarantee that no one was going to get reinstated using an appeal like that. So that was the first course that we put together for the membership.

Eric Stopper 15:12
Yeah, that seems valuable in and of itself. And so now you’ve, you’ve built that out to a couple of different products that you can also go. So if you’re having issues with this, right, here’s a shameless plug for you go check out the conference. He’s got you covered.

Chris 15:24
Yep, forward slash membership. That’s the membership. It’s still only 500 a year. I’m planning on adding more content, more courses to it soon. So the price will eventually go up. But right now it’s still 500 for the year.

Eric Stopper 15:34
Okay, get in like Yeah, yeah. Um, so I have a specific alert on my account. And I want to I want to talk through this before I before I start throwing some even more difficult questions at you. Oh, um, so I sell these earplugs, and they’re like my love child. I do all my deals with this account, and it’s kind of small, right? We make two grand a month maybe. And I ran out of FBA inventory. Right, you probably hear this all the time ran out of FBA inventory and I It’s now my responsibility I have my condition created where then it goes to F fbm. And I got this alert this morning, your account is at risk of deactivate if deactivation a critical event has occurred with your account and has caused it to be at risk of the activation, view account health, right. That’s the action that I can take. And it says that my late shipment rate is 50%. And the target is 4%.

Chris McCabe 16:30
That’s right. I’m,

Eric Stopper 16:32
I’m like terrified, right? I don’t want my account to be shut down. So from here, what do I do? Where do I go? It’s not, it’s not telling me to do anything at this point.

Chris McCabe 16:42
They’re just giving you a heads up that you’ve got to up your game increase, improve your performance, I should say. Otherwise, if you keep trending in this direction, you’re going to lose the account. If or at least lose the ability to merchant fulfill which I don’t actually work with that many. I mean, I Have some clients that merchant fulfilled but most of my clients are hundred percent FBA and they’re leaving out things like seller fulfilled prime and those types of things. They’re they’re shipping to all their product FBA and they’re paying the storage fees and they’re having Amazon fulfill their orders because they want to spend most of their their time and not worry about an item or two going missing totally skews your metrics like this.

Eric Stopper 17:25
Yeah, they want to do marketing. Yeah, they want to focus on that. So am I, in this instance where I get the yellow notification, right, I just need to make sure that I don’t do what they’re telling me again, if I if I am late again, is that just it?

Chris McCabe 17:41
It was, it didn’t result in an automated suspension, they know that it’s a short or low number of orders that resulted in this, my high late ship, right. So just make sure that whatever is broken, you fixed it and your numbers will correct and you’ll you’ll improve them over time. I have had some people who didn’t really do more merchant fulfilled. And their numbers just sort of sat there for a while. And obviously, if you have metrics that are out of range for a really long time, it can bite bite you in the future, but it doesn’t necessarily cripple you right away.

Eric Stopper 18:17
Let’s say I’m crippled. Let’s say, boom, I miss my next shipment. And I’m late. Yep. man of action time. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. So I tell you the plan of action, which is I mean, at this point, it’s, I will pay more attention to Seller Central, right? Like, how do you build a really compelling plan of action that isn’t just like, the most reasonable thing?

Chris McCabe 18:37
You know what? That’s not a plan that when they say a plan, they want several steps. They want to hear all about your due diligence, they want you to scrub through exactly what went wrong, which it’s a starting point to say you weren’t paying attention to it, but there are ways of describing root causes to go into that plan of action that’ll be a lot more in depth. And it sounds simple, and it sounds like you’re really just writing a few sentences and that should be in But the reason they asked for a full plan, which can be anywhere from, you know, three quarters of a page to a page is because they want to hear how you took care of the problem. First, first, that you can identify exactly what happened and what went wrong in detail in a bit of depth specifically, not just I wasn’t paying attention, how you took care of it immediately your immediate steps to resolve the past misses and violations. And then of course, future prevention is the big third chunk of the way that they won’t hear more about,

Eric Stopper 19:32
will they? So Chinese New Year was extended because of the coronavirus. Right. And I can’t order I can’t order more products because my everyone on my factory is vacationing to avoid dying. Right, right. So is are those kinds of explanations like there’s a human on the other side of this solid performance doing this kind of stuff, and they’re pretty reasonable about it.

Chris McCabe19:52
Yeah. And a lot of people misunderstand, you know, or is this a person sending an email or looking at my account? I mean, yes, it is. There’s a solid performance Team I think most of us know that there are human investigators that might not feel that way when some of the messages you’re reading, but that is a person choosing a message from a drop down menu or a group of messages they could potentially send you. So okay. There are people and this happened all the time. I think there was a huge snowstorm in the UK. This is my favorite example. I worked in the UK cues, not just the US ones. There’s a giant snowstorm and what 2008 2009 and the UK basically an act of God, similar to what we’re seeing now with the coronavirus. Not as many people sickened and not it’s not as high of a depth account, but packages were lost. businesses were shut down. And we understood that and we weren’t necessarily just suspending everyone under the sun for having canceled orders and late shipment rights. We, you know, collectively made these decisions and took steps to make sure that people weren’t auto suspended or that we you know, understood that we would see elevated ranks of leadership and in the UK and a lot of the sellers were not suspended the way they normally would have been. So Amazon understands that these things are going on when it comes to Corona virus. They understand it a lot more than a hurricane or a regional snowstorm that’s impacting global selling for all e commerce and for all regions and all marketplaces, right, I. So adjusting automatic suspensions, that sounds like something that a software engineer should be doing, right? Like, you guys had to go and tell the people governing the Amazon robot to say, Hey, don’t suspend these people. Is that is that a fairly frequent event? So you just have all these inputs going into this robot designating what happens depending on you know, what the current state of events is? Yeah, I mean, just to take people behind the curtain and I just for a second and talk about the old days a little bit. I wasn’t a party to all of these meetings, but I would sit down with engineers and talk about, we need investigations to be generated into certain buckets by certain criteria. These are the criteria. I wasn’t necessarily the person with the technical skill to generate that list. But that’s what the engineers were meeting with us to talk about, what do you need? How do you need it visually presented, so your teams can go through these accounts one by one, and manually sift through a group that we’ve, you know, designed the logic to capture that data and that information, the group of sellers that you need to examine more closely, that’s just part of being, you know, an investigator at Amazon and knows what’s going on who’s, you know, training and auditing investigations the way I was?

Eric Stopper 22:34
That so that makes a lot of sense. Now, investigators, these are these are what they call the members of the seller performance.

Chris McCabe 22:40
Right? So solid performance. I mean, they call it merchant risk investigation inside MRI, but it’s, you know, I don’t use the term memory because that means something else out in the world anyway, so everyone seems to call it cell performance. Why don’t we and that’s the name of the email queue as it is so. Okay, external facing name is fine. We’re talking about people reviewing accounts manually. Looking at sending warnings, deleting listings, canceling listings, suspending accounts.

Eric Stopper 23:05
So here’s it. Here’s a golden question that I’m sure everybody wonders because on even even in the interactions that we have with people, I tell people we have we have contacts with the right people at Amazon to help resolve certain issues. And in all of the cases that we’re talking about, that’s true. We have an individual on like the hardlines team, or somebody on the like the b2b sales team, things that were involved with, right? We don’t really we do submit appeals and stuff but I’ve seen testimonial after testimonial on your website, and on a lot of other people’s websites to like, try to make this claim right. Not only are you good at crafting a good seller performance appeal, but you’re great at getting it in front of the right people escalations. Yeah, is that the way is just walk us through kind of how that works and and what an example might be of a When you get somebody connected with the right person,

Chris McCabe 24:02
yeah, I mean back a few years ago, it got to the point we had to escalate most email appeal most appeals or more most cases to get any answer that would make sense without just getting the generic can messaging back. What I’ve seen in the community, I mean, just to talk, you know, there are people that are good at this, there are a lot of people that aren’t so good at this. Anyone is boasting that they know how to escalate. If they were as good as they promised, then I wouldn’t inherit so many of their failed appeals, defended cases. And what do I find? You know, there’s a lot of different kinds of suspensions and a lot of different situations. What do I find most of the time is, they’re just telling everyone right to Jeff right to Jeff and Amazon. They don’t even get them something custom tailored to serve as an escalation letter. They just say right to Jeff, here’s the same old pod I gave it two weeks ago that’s been rejected a couple of times. Well, what up

Eric Stopper 24:54
so either like you’re aware of people in this space that just tell folks to email the Jeff amazon.com that’s most people.

Chris McCabe 25:03
Not some people in this,

Eric Stopper 25:04
is that an escalation activity? Is that a viable escalation? I

Chris McCabe 25:07
mean, at this point that Jeff, an Amazon email has become something totally different than it was when I was working there. Maybe I should just do a quick history of the base of escalation when people wrote to Jeff, for seller issues. I mean, buyer, Hughes went to buyer teams, I wasn’t working on those seller issues, went to our team, and my manager would get eyes on it. And they would delegate delegate it down to somebody who’s certified or trained, let’s say, to do a so called paisios. escalation. Well, who was that? In those days? It was me and a couple other people. I mean, these days, they have tons and tons of people, dozens, maybe even hundreds, globally, who are looking at the Jeff emails, which shows you how watered down it’s gotten, but you used to have to I mean, a lot of those emails were from Jeff. I saw Jeff put the question mark on it. So the question mark,

Eric Stopper 25:53
yeah, read the book here. The question mark is like a death

Chris McCabe 25:56
sentence for you unless you have the whole nother question mark. Well, a I should go back farther and explain the question mark. The question mark was Joe Joe. Yeah, Jeff himself had put eyes on it. He wanted to know what went wrong here. He wanted a deeper dive. Somebody looked into it, he delegated it down to his people who would show it to us. And we were the ones responsible for seller investigation. So of course, it was up to us to give a full recount of exactly what steps had led to that seller being suspended. why some of their appeals may not have been answered or why they had been denied reinstatement. We would spend at least an hour I don’t know, I would put sometimes 90 minutes into these and create almost like a complete dossier in terms of our response of this sort of thing happens anymore. I mean, only in very special cases. And quite honestly just a little bit too busy these days to be adding question marks to too many messages. I’m sure it still happens, but nowhere near the number of basis escalations that would have been handed down. In those days I remember them well because I would drop everything I was doing as soon as I saw that Jeff had a question mark. It landed in my lap, everything else would stop time would stop.

Eric Stopper 27:03
Right? That’s, that’s back when you had like Rick Dalton and all those guys, you know in those in some of those decision making seats. So going back to the investigators, because my heart goes out to these guys, I like I said at the beginning, I assume they’re just in a windowless building just miserable. They don’t have phones, you can’t call solid performance, you have to email the seller performance@amazon.com most of its written

Chris McCabe 27:27
that’s correct

Eric Stopper 27:28
appeal. Now, you gave the New York Times your thoughts about some products that were sold. I don’t think it was this this past December, but over a year ago, that had some pictures of Auschwitz. Remember that?

Chris McCabe 27:42
That was that was this past December 20. It was

Eric Stopper 27:44
this one. Okay. It was Yeah. Um, and this is and this is the note, this is a quote from you. We’re hopeful that additional resources both on the investigation side and in terms of their online tools and the technical side, will result in a reduced likelihood that offensive material will appear in the future. removing all offensive items, he said, though, would be very difficult, right is the kind of appendage to that. So there’s two, there’s two questions that I have baked into this. Number one is, shouldn’t we have like a robot doing that? Like, shouldn’t I mean, technology is so advanced that we could like that’s a pretty easy asset to allocate to something specific like that. Yeah, machine learning, picture recognition. And then number two is, given that, that that’s probably the thing that is going to solve that. Do we expect too much from these investigators, these normal people that have to go you know, home at the end of the day?

Chris McCabe28:45
Or are our expectations that they’re going to actually help us exactly as high as they need to be? What do you what do you think? So a couple different answers? Let’s start with the first question. Why isn’t this automated flagged? The question, the answer is it Probably is most of the time, but it’s flagged for review, not deleted on the way. I mean, I don’t I can’t speak to the technical element as well, I would think that if you’re talking about the word outfits, you could probably design a program which will flag and stop any listing that has that term before it ever makes it live on the site that shouldn’t be hard to accomplish. Maybe there are complexities involved in that that I’m not aware of. But they went through this and 2018 I think it was June or may 2018. They had Nazi paraphernalia that was maybe not a Christmas ornament, but it was the same concept, same idea. So you would think they would have learned the painful lesson then to make sure that anything with a swastika anything with the term outfits or anything related to concentration camps and so forth would be hit on the way in flagged for high priority so that a policy investigator would put eyes on it immediately. Almost what I was saying a moment ago, time would stop and somebody would drill straight to that q straight. And maybe that’s where the issue was, maybe they didn’t have it quite set up so that whoever got the page, whoever was on duty at that moment would immediately put eyes on it. And within seconds, have it deleted.

Eric Stopper 30:15
This sounds like an enough to do like an end encored kind of things. They emphasize that back in the day pulling the end on quarter,

Chris McCabe 30:22
they all they always do, but there’s different layers to it. Maybe that’s a first, you know, there’s a trip wire, but there’s just a review process. And then they have to get somebody to marshal resources in that direction and review all these listings, but they aren’t auto deleting them, right? They’re looking at them one at a time. And maybe that takes time while they’re taking time or trying to get their act together. If it happens on a weekend. Buyers, just blasting them and your times is I mean I was in Australia at the time the New York Times contacted me I was in Sydney that day. So maybe I was up in the middle of the night when you You guys were asleep here. But it doesn’t matter. This is a 24 seven marketplace, right? You need to have somebody 24 hours a day, who’s ready to jump in on something and identify that it’s a policy violation and deleted immediately. So that you you have only five or 10 people who see it versus 10,000 people who see it. It’s not so much about bad press. It’s it’s a question of when this happened in 2018. Didn’t they put new people new processes, new teams and tools in place, so that wouldn’t happen again. And now that it happened in 2019, does that mean in 2020? It’s going to happen again, and we just can’t stop it. Machine learning, it’s overhyped. I think media relations comes back with these quotes when the press calls them and says, Well, we’ve got the best minds, developing great artificial intelligence and machine learning. I mean, that shows up in almost every quote that media relations pumps out in the press. But the problem is if they had really good AI and machine learning, they would have solved the product. The fact that Product Review problem a long time ago, I think sure or not solved it. Right. Let’s be clear, they might have made made headway. Yeah. And and I don’t know how much progress they actually have made on it, we still see lots of fake positive reviews and fake negatives loaded on the site every day loading up on the site. So harder to harder to probably execute than we think it is. I’m sure there are technical aspects we haven’t come up with in terms of gaps and loopholes that are exploited but let’s face it, it’s Amazon their data company they have to stay ahead of the curve on this stuff.

Eric Stopper 32:33
Yeah, it’s I mean, we demand that from them if they’re

Chris McCabe 32:35
going to have so much of our of our share of voice and mine right then they got to be on top of it. It’s not a good buyer experience to look at offensive, you know, hate related material, whether it’s something that’s on a product or something that’s written in a product, Detail page title or Detail page bullet or an image. Hate is hate. Amazon has the same responsibility to Shoulder that any of us do to make sure that if something weird is going on on our websites or anywhere else like my fit my seller Facebook group you can set up my facebook group so that I can approve and deny posts. If somebody has something hateful that they want to put in Amazon seller first class, I’m deleting it right record sees the light of day can Amazon do that? I hope so.

Eric Stopper 33:22
Yeah, I wonder why they don’t just blur the image, you know, blur the blur the title and just put a additional barrier to entry and you let them know like, Hey, you know, if you click on this, you’re probably going to be offended. It’s like that would be much easier, right? If it’s flagged, you might as well just blurt I feel like all the porn sites have that pretty much on lockdown, right?

Chris McCabe 33:40
Or that tech will tell you is that by best, the best buyer experience is paramount. It trumps everything in their world in the marketplace experience or buying experience that he would ever care about and that all of us should care about. Well, if you see something that offensive when you’re trying to shop for Christmas, it’s probably Probably not just ruining your buyer experience, it might ruin your entire day. And I’m pretty sure Amazon doesn’t want somebody to be so turned off that they don’t feel like shopping or even thinking about what they just saw for the rest of their day. And if that means more resources are needed, whether it’s more headcount, more people reviewing things manually after they’ve been flagged or better machine learning. I’m pretty sure Amazon’s got the funds. Now, they certainly

are worth the spend, I would say for the buying public globally. Yeah.

Eric Stopper 34:34
So the the last thing that I that I want to hit on with you, I have I mean, I have lots of case studies we can work on together and we could even do another episode another time but in an interview on Christopher Grant’s YouTube channel, I like him. He’s great. I’d like to have him on. You talk about how Amazon doesn’t legitimize IP claims. In other words, right they they don’t they don’t let you know if someone is claiming you’re infringing on a piece of intellectual property. You know whether or not they are the actual brand owner and owner of that IP. So walk us through some of the steps of actually legitimizing a claim like that for your own brand,

Chris McCabe 35:10
right? We just we might have to do an entire podcast just on this topic I’ll try to condense to the extent that’s possible. There are different kinds of if we’re saying that the complaints about bogus or fake, which I think is what you’re talking about here, there are different kinds of fake complaints or fake complaints that come from the brands themselves, who are trying to exploit Amazon’s gaps and loopholes and trying to abuse the infringement claim process by claiming rights ownership where the issue is not rights ownership related, or simply accusing resellers of counterfeit because they don’t want them on those lists.

Eric Stopper 35:44
Yeah, their price is too low or whatever. They don’t

Chris McCabe 35:46
like the price. They don’t like maybe the images and information on that detail page and they’re just trying to in one fell swoop, use their legal department if it’s a huge brand, if it’s not, it’s a brand using a brand Protection Agency quote on quote to knock a bunch of people off of listings off of listings at all costs doesn’t matter if it’s a legitimate complaint or not. So those might be from the brands but they’re not substantiated. And they’re just trying to put resellers back on their heels and exploit we says on Amazon side, then there are the bogus claims where one reseller submits one against another, pretending to be the brand, or using a fake email address and just submitting it to see if Amazon has any process at all for vetting IP claims. Obviously, those are a little bit easier to counter you can come back with hey, we’ve got a letter from the brand, saying they never reported me for a counterfeit complaint or an IP complaint. But Amazon’s got a lot of monkeying around. They do with stuff like that, like you noted where they say Oh, don’t tell it to us tell it to the rights owner and they just keep giving you automated messages with the same email address even if it’s a completely bogus email address. You’re supposed to be able to challenge those with the claims. challenge those claims in the notice dispute process. That’s in theory. In practice, we’re seeing notice infringement teams, really just kind of knee jerk sending these messages out, you haven’t addressed the claim we’ve received. It doesn’t look like there’s any real scrutiny, whether it’s legal based or otherwise, of the validity of these claims. Amazon might dispute that. But in real life, we’re dealing with these things. I would say, not even every day, every hour. We’re helping people deal with these fake claims. Clearly the people submitting fake claims whether the brand themselves or reseller or somebody attacking you, clearly those parties know they can exploit the weaknesses on the notice infringement team side at Amazon. And Amazon just hasn’t been motivated to fill those gaps and to correct that

Eric Stopper 37:44
yet. Now Now, specifically, you just talked about sending a sending a letter from the brand saying, Hey, you know, like, we never we never made a complaint is a screenshot of an email from that brand good enough or does it need to be like on their company

Chris McCabe 37:58
letterhead I would do like Head, okay, I don’t take any chances. I mean, for Amazon, I was a risk management management manager. Sorry, if you want to think of it in terms of risk assessment, I’m doing that as a consultant now, but from a different perspective, minimize your risk of seeing an appeal denied. Don’t give, especially with notice, infringement teams, do not give them a chance to skip over your appeal or deny it because they just see a screenshot of an email, they won’t take it, get it on company letterhead, escalate it. There’s that word again, escalate it properly. If you notice that you sent it on company letterhead signed by a sales manager or a company owner, something like that. And they still say you haven’t addressed the claim that they’ve received. If they’re still sending that auto type messaging back to you. You have to fight them on it. They’ve got a notice to speed process. If you’re accused of counterfeit, there’s supposed to be a testify behind that accusation. It’s supposed to be proven that you bought I’m sorry that you sold a counterfeit item on Amazon and somebody bought it So if there’s no order number no no proof with images and with written description from the brand owner that you were selling counterfeit versions of their products, you should be able to defend yourself if Amazon just sending you the same blanket text over and over, then that’s where the escalation process comes in.

Eric Stopper 39:16
And I think and that’s and that’s great. I think there’s a lot of there’s a lot of nuggets in here about like how to deal with the seller Performance Team and how to escalate and everything there’s obviously so much more and horrible things that people run into while selling on the platform and this is just supposed to be a part of somebody’s business so how how do people get in touch with you How do I get people over to you obviously ecommerce, Chris calm Is there any other way that you would suggest people get in touch with you?

Chris McCabe 39:45
Yeah, we have a lot I mean, on e commerce Chris calm, we have a contact form, which is pretty easy to use. You can put some information in there. that generates an email to me or you can email me at Chris ch ri es at ecommerce, Chris calm. And we answer pretty quickly in terms of trying to figure out, you know, what’s the strategy here, diagnose the problem, figure out some solutions. And we don’t necessarily work with every seller, we want to get some details from you What’s going on? What do you have to show Amazon? Do you have what they’re asking you for? Before we, you know, take on a case. So we try to do a bit of scrutiny before that, that initial phone call or email, but I go through all the emails for sure.

Eric Stopper 40:28
Yep. Awesome. Chris, thank you so much for coming on the show.

Chris McCabe 40:31
No, thank you.

Outro 40:34
Thanks for listening to the Buy Box Experts podcast, be sure to click subscribe, check us out on the web, and we’ll see you next time.