How Amazon Shut Down My Business I built Over Many Years

So, I’ve been a seller on Amazon for over 4 years. Well, I used to be anyway, until last week when I logged in to my account to find it inexplicably closed, without warning.

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It was an intensely startling experience, like walking to your office only to find that someone had made the entire building disappear – and your primary source of income with it.

Don’t get me wrong, my store wasn’t anything huge, it was just a retailer that took toys and electronics and imported them to a western market – tablets, phones, toys, but recently our largest seller had been “hoverboards”, or the less catchy name “Self Balancing Unicycle Scooters”.


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They were a large source of revenue having become so thoroughly popular over the last year or so, but with popularity comes controversy and articles like this one giving the impression that every hoverboard is defective and will explode under your feet, blowing your legs off, weren’t exactly great for business: http://wkrg.com/2015/11/30/gulf-shores-man-claims-hoverboard-exploded-below-his-feet/

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Anyway, I’m getting off track. My store had overwhelmingly positive reviews, but the few negative pieces of DSR from disgruntled buyers was enough for Amazon to suspend my store indefinitely. For those of you that don’t know, DSR stands for Detailed Seller Ratings, and they encourage people to provide a detailed review of the seller with emphasis on four different categories – Communication, Item as Described, Dispatch Time, and Postage and Packaging Charges. The idea behind it is that people can provided an extensive review that goes over “good” or “bad”, which doesn’t seem specific enough for most stores. In theory, it’s a great idea – good sellers get good reviews and more business, bad sellers get shot down. In practice, it doens’t work like that at all.

A DSR scoring is enough to absolutely cripple an Amazon store, and a system that’s heavily abused by a small minority of users. You can have an overwhelmingly positive score but a high number of low scoring DSRs, and in turn you won’t be eligible for “Top Rated Seller” positions, your standings will fall, your listings will become less visible on the front pages. Even if, through endless email chains and ridiculous amounts of waiting around for Amazon to actually get in touch with you, you manage to get the visible DSR removed, it’s impact on your standings will remain and your listings will never be as visible as they once were.

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The buyer doesn’t even need to raise a dispute and try and get a refund, to leave a strongly negative DSR and a glaring mark on a sellers store. So how does this all come to play into my story? Well, I had a few DSR’s that were low in the Postage and Packing Charges section. Being that many of my goods, just like pretty much all the technology, toys etc were produced in China but sold in Europe and the states, postage is intensely expensive – almost all of the complaints were from people who had purchased Hoverboards, as if it was totally insane that paying a few extra pounds for postage was ludicrous when buying a $200 scooter.

It’s not cheap to move things halfway across the world and because of that I felt that my postage fees were appropriate. Apparently, a small percentage of my clientele completely disagreed and decided to voice their strong opinions against having to pay a practical amount for postage in the form of negative DRS’s.

Eventually, Amazon sent me an email notifying me of the trend and asking me to explain why my standards were so seemingly low, despite the 98.7% positivity ratings. I replied informing them that postage and packaging was expensive, especially for me since I operate as an individual and not a large corporation.

The Amazon store was originally a secondary form of income that expanded when I lost my job, so minimalizing postage was an essential part of the process to ensure a livable profit margin. When I replied to the notification, explaining that my postage fees were completely fair, they simply recommended that I make all P+P charges free for the buyer, a completely impractical and intensely costly solution to what should have been a small problem. However, I conceded to lower the charges to as low as I could manage and still make a profit, and everything was perfectly fine for about two weeks – when I logged on and discover that my account had been suspended indefinitely and I would not be able to continue selling any products on Amazon.

Naturally, I instantly sent the customer service an email explaining my situation and got the usual completely canned and utterly useless response. I tried phoning the customer service line and after being on hold for over forty minutes, I was directed to the members of the customer service dedicated to “Resolving Account Problems”.

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The name there is truly ironic, sense nobody seems to have any intention of resolving any kind of problem – over three days I spoke to five different representatives that essentially gave the same answer, explaining how I was totally SOL and that there was nothing they, or anyone, could do – trying to make it seem like I was somehow completely in the wrong here for thinking I was charging an appropriate amount for Postage and Packaging, somehow implying that I shouldn’t be in control of my own profit margins, and that it was my fault that a minimal percentage of negative DSRs can have a disproportionately huge impact on the seller.

Eventually though, it all lead to the same place “Sorry, but there’s nothing we can do.” and with no chance of appeal, my account was lost. Four years of work down the drain and a substantial portion of my income cut away over what is essentially the price of stamps.

To say I was frustrated would be the understatement of a century, but after the complete hell of customer service I crawled through, I’ve relinquished to letting it go and moving on with my life, though I’m having a hard time getting the bad taste out of my mouth.

 

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