Avoid Amazon Suspension

Is it just me, or does it seem like there is an abundance of Amazon sellers getting their accounts suspended these days? Just today, we even received a generic email from Amazon Seller Support advising us to check our Account Health because the holidays are upcoming and poor account health not only jeopardizes your account standing but will reduce your Buy Box opportunities.

You know, when you hear all this negativity surrounding selling on Amazon, it can really make you feel super vulnerable. But we’re taking the side that these “random” or “unexpected” suspensions are handed out with good cause. After all, over 40% of Amazon’s sales come from 3rd party sellers like ourselves, so I doubt Amazon is trying to randomly purge their sellers. They are simply looking to make Amazon an even more trustworthy and safe buying platform for their deeply valued customers.

So, we thought it would be a good time to hit you with the top 14 ways to decrease your chances of getting dealt an Amazon suspension.

Please note, that these are not in order of importance, as all of these are sure ways to keep your account in good health.

1. Monitor the Big 7 Metrics

Like I said, these aren’t in any order of importance but I think that this is a great place to start. Whether you just figured out your seller display name, or you’re rocking $100K/month in sales, you should be very familiar with your metrics.

Amazon focuses on 7 metrics to ensure a seller is meeting their requirements. You can check these metrics out by clicking on “Account Health” under the “Performance” section of your Amazon sellers dashboard. From there you’ll see the status of your Order Defect Rate, Cancellation Rate, Late Shipment Rate, Policy Violations, On-Time Delivery, Valid Tracking Rate and Contact Response Time.

You’ll want to make sure that all of these boxes have a nice fat green check marked in the box. Otherwise, you need to figure out why you are sub-par and address it quickly. Scrolling down the page you can see a more detailed breakdown of these metrics.

Here’s some of the metrics that Amazon want’s to see for these categories.

  • Order defect rate: < 1%
  • Pre-fulfillment cancel rate: < 2.5%
  • Late shipment rate: < 4%
  • Valid tracking rate – required categories: > 95%

QUICK TIP: If you want PERFECT METRICS in Order Defect Rate, Cancellation Rate, Late Shipment Rate, On-Time Delivery and Valid Tracking, JUST USE AMAZON FBA.

If you are an FBA seller and steer clear of FBM, you will never have any issues with these metrics. Instead of dealing with 7 of these key metrics, you only have to focus on two. Voila!

Now that we have knocked out 5 of the 7, there’s just Policy Violations and Contact Response Time. (I’ll cover Contact Response Time later on.)

As for Policy Violations, there are a lot of things you can do to get in trouble on Amazon. Like anything else, if you use your common sense, be ethical and put customers first, you should do great. To avoid turning this article into a novel, I’ll refer you to Amazon’s Prohibited Seller Activites and Actions, which you should fully read and understand.

2) Perfect Order Score Above 95%?

While Amazon highlights these 7 key metrics at the top of the page, there are some other ones that you should be aware of. Perfect Order Metrics is a conglomerate of these metrics.

On the right side of your Account Health page you’ll see your Perfect Order score. This figure is out of 100%. Amazon wants you to be above 95%. They factor many of the same 7 metrics into your Perfect Order metrics, plus some.

If you’re number is below 95%, one easy way to address this, other than converting your inventory to FBA, is to look at your “Bottom Performers.” Do you see certain products that are being returned often or are just creating account health issues? Then take a look at the product listing. Is there inaccurate or a lack of information? Well, update the listing to make it more complete.

If you can’t seem to figure it out, you should just consider having Amazon return your inventory of that product to avoid any other issues. One product isn’t going to make or break your business, so don’t let it be a reason for suspension.

3) Keep Your 90-day Refund Rate Under 5%

Look, returns happen and Amazon knows this. But if they are excessive, it is likely that there is an issue with your inventory or listings, or both. Get on it, address these issues, up your standards and improve your Refund Rate. The less refunds means more profit and decreased odds of getting your account suspended.

To check how you fare, scroll down towards the bottom of your Account Health page and you’ll see your Refund Rate. Amazon focuses in on the 90-day Return Rate, which they want to see below 5%. Anything above that and you need an action plan, quick.

4) Respond to Buyer Messages IMMEDIATELY

Buyer messages, referred to as the Contact Response Time metric, are most often initiated from recent buyers asking you a question or trying to address an issue they are having with the product they bought from you. However, it could also just be a prospective buyer sending a message direct to you. Regardless, Amazon expects you to respond to these Buyer Messages within 24 hours.

Just to be safe, I’d make this the #1 priority when you see a message come through. Respond in under an hour if you can.

You can view these “Buyer Messages” on your Amazon seller dashboard under “Performance”, on your Amazon sellers app from the bottom of the homepage under “communications” or just check your email. Whether you have an answer or not, at minimum respond back letting them know that you are coming up with a resolution. You can also mark certain messages as “no response required” if it’s just a message saying Thank You or something of that nature.

For more information, check out Amazon’s page regarding Buyer Messages.

5) Get Negative Feedback Removed

Sometimes customers just aren’t happy, no matter what. But you know what? They are ALWAYS RIGHT! Amazon doesn’t really care about your side of the story, they just want you to make each customer extremely happy.

If you’ve gotten the unfortunate negative review, it is critical that you reach out to the customer and make it right. Now, by no means am I suggesting that you request they remove their review in return for some sort of compensation. (Amazon clearly states this in their Prohibited Seller Activities and Actions.)

However, what you can do is offer them a refund or some other sort of resolution and hope that will in turn make them feel the Karma and remove or at least modify their negative review.

Just a few months ago we got a negative review because of an issue with commingled inventory, which I’ll cover later, and we offered to refund the buyer for 2 of the 3 units. Only one was defective. We also added that he needn’t return the defective one. Keep 3, get refunded for 2. He was happy enough with that resolution, that he ended up taking down his negative review.

Even if it costs you the full amount of an item, it’s worth it to ensure that you keep 5 star, 100% positive feedback. So err on the side of the customer, and exceed their expectations with resolutions.

6) List Products In The Correct Condition

When creating listings on Amazon, you can choose from a variety of conditions, ranging from New to Used to Refurbished. It is vital that you choose the most accurate condition to avoid any negative feedback, returns or A-Z guarantee claims.

The thing is, when you are doing Retail Arbitrage especially, you need to set your standards very high. Because with RA, you’ll often be presented with very profitable product that may be unused but the packaging may have varying levels of wear and tear. And Amazon buyers expect new to mean BRAND NEW! Not just a new product, but a mint product as if it were direct from the manufacturer.

For Nessa and I, we just err on the side of caution and pass on most products that aren’t in Brand New condition. This eliminates any potential dissatisfaction from the buyer.

However, if you do want to sell these types of goods you really need to take the time to understand Amazon’s condition guidelines and put in the effort with additional photos and clear condition notes.

Admittedly, there have been a few instances when we did buy super profitable products and listed them in Used condition. This was the case for some items where there wasn’t a Prime offering and we could leverage that to claim a solid price, even in “used” condition. That said, we wrote a very descriptive product condition note, which can be done from the “Add new product” page, and added the max number of seller photos, which is 6.

Here’s one of the descriptions we wrote, just to give you an idea of what you could write if you go this route.

Unopened and unused in original box with factory seals. Edges of box show some wear as seen in the photos, but this product is 100% unused with original seals. Get it quick and enjoy. If not satisfied, get your money back!

7) Delete Inactive Listings

Once you sell out of a particular product and do not intend to re-supply, you should delete your product and listing. For one, it makes it much easier to navigate your active inventory. Not to mention, that if a buyer accidentally finds your listing and places an order, you will be faced with canceling an Amazon customer’s order. (Really applies for MFN listings.) The last important point here is if Amazon has a “quality” issue with this product you don’t want to be associated with it if you are no longer selling this product.

Do yourself the favor and go to “manage inventory” and click “delete product and listing” for all of your “inactive” items. Just be sure that you don’t delete items that are “inactive” because they haven’t been checked in to the FBA warehouse yet.

8) Mismatching or Creating Duplicate Listings

When you list your products, you want to make sure that you find the EXACT MATCH listing of the product you want to list. For example, you might find a product that looks exactly the same as the other but one has a better rank, tempting you to list against the better ranked ASIN. Say, a 2015 model versus the 2014 model. You’ll want to be extra sure that you are matching the right listing, which can most easily be done by verifying that the UPCs match.

As for creating duplicate listings, this is also big no-no. While some do this by accident, other sellers do this to control the Buy Box, often at a higher price. Whatever your motive may be, you DO NOT want to create duplicate listings. Like with mismatching listings, do a thorough search to see if there is an existing listing. If you happen to start creating a listing that already has an existing listing, Amazon will notify in the listing creation process with a prompt saying something along the lines that “this UPC matches an existing listing.” Needless to say, follow their prompts from there.

9) Driving Business Away From Amazon

This is a bit higher level, but important nonetheless. Like any business, companies do not condone activities that drive sales away from their channel. While intuitive that this activity is prohibited, Amazon sellers who sell on other sites still attempt to solicit customers to non-Amazon websites. Pretty self-explanatory what not to do here. Don’t provide links, videos or images in any way shape or form that could even slightly lead a customer off of Amazon.com.

10) Neglecting the Amazon Price Parity?

The Amazon Price Parity issue refers to sellers who, for example, list a product on Amazon for $50 + Free Shipping and also list that same product on eBay for $45 + Free Shipping. You cannot offer a product for a lower price than your Amazon listing on a different sales channel.

While this may come as a surprise to you, it again falls into that category of persuading customers to leave the Amazon sales channel to buy elsewhere. Keep this in mind when creating listings on different channels, because you can be assured that Amazon’s bots are crawling the web looking for these types of issues.

11) Elect to Label Inventory

When you setup your Amazon account, you will automatically be defaulted to “Stickerless, Commingled Inventory.” This is just a bad way to do business, simply because all products from various sellers is mixed into one group. So your actual product that you sent in will very unlikely be the product that gets shipped to the customer.

As a result, the advice that you took from us in # 6 could be for naught. And as I alluded to in # 5, we actual got a negative review because of using commingled inventory.

From that point on we completely converted to labeling all of our inventory. Now, it is certain that the product that we sell will come directly from our inventory and not potentially from some seller with low quality standards.

By doing so, you’ve just decreased your chances of getting returns and negative reviews.

If you’d like more info on this topic, check out our article about labeled inventory.

12) Piggybacking Private Label Listings

While we mostly cover Retail and Online Arbitrage, Nessa and I are getting into importing private label products. And something that private label gurus recommend when getting started is to find a non-branded product that sells well, import that “same” product and add it to the existing listing.

Just hold your horses. This is absolutely a way to get yourself in trouble. Here’s why. Although some product pages on Amazon don’t show any sign of branding, there was someone who initially created the listing and started selling the product. And the seller could very likely still be selling that product. If the original seller spots new sellers piggybacking their listing, this could provoke them to take action.

All it takes is for that seller to ask ONE person to buy your piggybacked product and to tell Amazon that it is counterfeit. And that’s a big ass red flag for Amazon.

If you’re going to get into importing products, man up and don’t try to saturate someone’s listing. Get your own product, create your own listing and show that you can get it done.

Leave piggybacking for RA or OA, where there is a clearly defined product and limited gray area.

13) Manipulating Product Reviews

If you’re selling Private Label products, the conventional wisdom tells you to get AS MANY REVIEWS AS POSSIBLE to drive your sales. The more reviews, the more face-time and the more sales. Yes, this is true about reviews.

But Amazon absolutely does not want you to flood your page with non-organic reviews, especially ones where you provided compensation for the reviews. Unfortunately, Private Label sellers have completely exploited this and it has led to Amazon just recently making their review policies much more stringent. Again, refer to Amazon’s General Guidelines.

Although you can still scoop up reviews from your family, friends and peers, just be cognizant of these policies. You don’t want Amazon sensing any fishy tactics. Keep your strategy on point, and pace your reviews. If you do decide to offer a steeply discounted product in exchange for an honest review, that needs to be clearly stated by the reviewer.

14) Operating Multiple Seller Central Accounts

This may come as a surprise to some of you, but Amazon prohibits you from using two different seller accounts. If they find out, which wouldn’t be too hard, it’s a pretty easy way to get suspended. Just keep it to one seller account and you won’t have any issues.

However, if your situation does warrant you to have an additional seller account, just reach out to Amazon’s seller support and ask them if your circumstances qualify you for a second account and how you can set them up. For example, you could have an LLC for a Private Label product which would give you good cause to have a secondary account for this business.

I feel like I could keep this list going, but I really wanted to cover the biggest reasons for Amazon handing down their fearsome suspensions. Bottom line, use your common sense, err on the side of caution and consult with authorities in the industry and Amazon seller support if you’re uncertain about anything that could be considered a “gray” area.

Ignorance is no excuse for not following Amazon’s guidelines! Now it’s time for you to check your metrics and come up with an action plan. Remember, complying with Amazon’s policies not only reduces your likelihood of suspension but increases your chances of winning the Buy Box.