The Thing About Amazon: Through the Eyes of a Frustrated Marketplace Seller

by in e-commerce October 6, 2020

All is not tranquil and clear for Sellers on Amazon.com.  In fact, the waters at Amazon Marketplace are choppier than ever for small sellers like Spruce Camp.  Navigating deep waters without sonar or radar is an apt metaphor.  Instead of hidden rocks and shoals, there are Amazon “fraud detection” algorithms to be aware of and stay clear.  Instead of pirates and sea monsters, there are cutthroat competitors and black hat consultants.

NBC Business News wrote… Behind the curtains at Amazon: Shadow industry of black hat consultants alter listings for a fee “We’re selling on Amazon, paying for fulfillment and advertising — and now have to pay Amazon to fix their own abuse,” said one seller.

That’s disconcerting to say the least.  The deck has been stacked higher against Amazon’s small business sellers.  More fraud and more costs!  Not to mention the rogue algorithms that are catching good guys instead of bad guys.

Episode 1

We’re one of the good guys.  Spruce Camp has been selling its premium healthy snacks on Marketplace for more than a year and a half.  It has a 5.0 star Seller rating and 4.5 star average product rating.  The Spruce Camp Provisions brand was trademarked early on to comply with Amazon’s Brand Recognition program and to help combat counterfeit fraud.  Spruce Camp plays by all of the rules.

And, Spruce Camp has grown.  Through careful product line growth, strategic marketing and advertising, focus on quality and customer service, Spruce Camp Provisions became a high-ranking Amazon seller.  Of its signature salmon jerky, but also vegan snacks and other related outdoor provisions. And in March, when COVID quarantines forced customers to by food products and other essentials online, Spruce Camp grew more than 5x year-over-year.

This seemingly great “partnership” with Amazon came to an abrupt halt mid-summer.  Without warning, Amazon deactivated Spruce Camp’s seller account.  The notice came with a vague reference referring to “multiple seller accounts.”  We were well aware that operating more than one account was a huge No-No in Amazon’s fight against fraud and bad actors, and assured them that we did not have others.

Of course, we assured them through a very non-transparent (i.e opaque) Appeal process.  Again, we followed the rules.  We structured our written appeals just so.  We never spoke to a human…it was never an option.  We read between the lines and parsed words for meaning.  They would respond back with a formulaic email about every two weeks, saying essentially “wrong answer.” We kept trying and guessing (and playing by the rules) as the weeks rolled on…

Stay tuned for more episodes.  The saga continues.

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