And got the attention and escalated:
And then eventually resolved:
(of course not)
1- data driven
2- revenue maximizing
They’re constantly tweaking the website in order to even marginally increase revenues. Halting the transfer of funds hurts Amazon’s bottom line because those companies would just be using that money to replenish sold inventories. It’s unfortunately not a direct measurement, but if halting the transfer of funds resulted in the business going out of stock on Amazon, or leading to more delayed fulfillments, canceled orders, less satisfied customers, more refunds, etc then Amazon lost future commissions due to this. If Amazon can update their statistical models to prevent such potential loss of sales in the future without risking more false positives, then their in-house quants have strong incentive to do so.
"Now, should we tweak our process ? Take the number of merchants in the marketplace, A, multiply by the probably rate of false positive, B, multiply by the average cost of lost commissions C. A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost in increased scams, we won't do it".
"Are there a lot of these kind of issues?"
"You wouldn't believe"
"Which cloud company do you work for?"
"A major one"
The real takeaway here is that this guy pays $5,000 USD per month to get a support rep on a platform he sells a million dollars a month worth of goods on, of which it already takes a decent percent, and the support rep can't even talk to anyone with any power. This is the dark side of monopolies.
There's no scam going on here and bringing it up is just a way to take blame away from Amazon and for what end?
Amazon are offloading their fraud risk onto random small businesses and the nuance of their platform gives the small business no recourse. In a fair platform, you could resolve something like this pretty easily. I'm sure you agree, but it's worth noting explicitly. It's not a stretch to imagine Amazon are allowing for this "bug" in their support system to remain because it saves them money.
How? It seems that Amazon could provide better communication, but how would this situation be easily resolved?
As I said, while I can feel the pain of getting automated replies from a company that owes you a lot of money, I don't think this situation lends itself to easy solutions without a waiting period, even if you involve lawyers. There are circumstances where payment processors will hang on to the cash for much longer than this. Concert tickets come to mind.
Obviously their service could be used nefariously and they asked a few questions, wanted to see my office and validate a few things to ensure I was going to use it for valid purposes. (I used it to scrape publicly accessible data for research purposes).
Sometimes the low tech, manual human process is the best final filter.
Amazon has two days delivery for most orders. They can quickly get customer feedback (product review, refund, shipping issue). They could even directly question customers "have you received product? Yes/No".
They could easily determine that a vendor is legit if they wanted to, they do not need to hold funds for months.
The purpose of delaying was to prevent fraud and this achieves nothing to prevent fraud, the vendor can just take the loan and run away. If PayPal is confident enough to give a loan, they're confident enough to release some of the funds, but they prefer to force a loan on the account holder and get extra fees?
I don't expect that going well in many jurisdictions. Consider the massive power imbalance and usually shorter legal timelines to close SME payments, that give more weight to the case.
Does it save them money? Maybe in the short term. Maybe even in the long term if the PR cost doesn't hit them at all.
I think as people this is a reason where we need to hold them accountable by pushing our businesses back to platforms where we have more control, and pushing our selling habits back to those same platforms.
I don't think Shopify is ideal, but I do think it's better for both sellers and buyers than Amazon.
You're implying that the way they're currently doing it is the only possible way to deal with the problem.
What makes it so insane is they still get exploited on both the buyer and seller fronts. Really though the crux of the problem if they want to do this type of enforcement is they just need a better internal policy of expedited processing of reviews for accounts > some age && > amount of held funds.
If they ramped up this current type of "enforcement" to deter fraud it's going to come with a PR cost.
They're not a monopoly.
Quoting from an article published in 2018: https://www.retaildive.com/news/amazon-beats-best-buy-as-top...
> 60% of every incremental dollar being spent online in North America is gong to one company — Amazon. No matter what you sell, Amazon is coming for you
Getting the JD to enforce monopoly laws is a whole other problem
But just Fyi, often fraudsters will buy or otherwise gain control of companies with long histories to commit fraud. They do this exactly because you'd assume a company in business since 2013 is legit.
You see the same thing with old ebay accounts, people buy/hack them, suddenly start selling again and when it turns out all they mail is bricks in boxes it's too late, they took the money already.
For tax evasion (and I'm sure also legit purposes) you can buy companies that have been setup, registered and had returns filled for years, and now look like real entities. They're called "Shelf" companies.
Edit: I think they even do it the Sopranos. A guy has big gambling debts, they put a gun to his head and his company maxes out its credit with the bank and all its surpliers such that it will never be able to repay. The money goes to Tony and the bank/suppliers are left wondering why an established businessman ruined his own business and probably their's too.
Criminals are clever and that makes everyone's lives more difficult...
Tech monopolies are particularly good at it, online support tickets and "community" forums are fantastic decoys for real support.
I need to use AdWords again next month so I reactivated the account and asked for another appeal. They immediately deleted the $900 debt and unbanned me.
Oh; no introduction necessary. We go way back.
If this is some sort of "suspected fraud, don't tip them off" then it is a really shitty way to handle it - and probably not legally required. Amazon is choosing to handle it this way.
Sounds like Paypal - never keep your money in it a day longer than necessary. I don't know how Amazon Marketplace funds work, but this is a lesson never to trust Amazon with your money if you can avoid it.
So, it's chilling to see that Amazon has a system where you can pay a frankly astonishing amount for a "priority" rep, who you would think would have the power to actually get any issues addressed, and actually they're just as useless as the Tier 1 guy who read you the script about violating the terms of service.
Seller does $12 M/yr revenue with Amazon. How much is an exit fraud worth? I find it difficult to believe that anyone on the black market is willing to pay anything close to the discounted future earnings of a $12 M/yr revenue business just to pursue an exit scam for about a week.
But also: shit happens to people. They get into debt. Businesses go bad. There’s a reason Amazon has a system in place to flag and shutdown this pattern of activity. Maybe it was wrong in this case, but it exists for a reason. Chesterton’s Fence and all that.
But does Amazon share the full details of this "machine" with the partners/vendors beforehand who are going to be subjected to it? If I'm a vendor I'd like to know the exact rules of the game, down to the last if-then-else, no matter how complex, so I can at least have all the information to decipher what may have gone wrong, or how not to overstep. Sharing this information would only make it easier for both Amazon and the vendors.
If someone reads all of the law and finds and exploits loopholes, did they really commit fraud? or is there something wrong with the law that needs to be fixed?
It looks more like a simplistic trigger that somebody just threw in there that doesn't take e.g. Amazon's ability to fulfill FBA orders. And it looks like a terrible policy to just say "yeah, fuck the seller, shut them down, we don't do manual reviews of the decisions of some Perl script from a decade ago".
Thankfully scams are limited in time. Freezing funds for 30 or 60 days is an effective fraud prevention tactic.
P.S. Of course in this case it's stupid and there should be a way to contact a human and release some of the funds.
> Freezing funds for 30 or 60 days is an effective fraud prevention tactic.
It's also an effective tactic to ruin companies. Amazon should pay a hefty sum for any false positives, they currently have little to no incentive to a) make their automated systems work well ("just block everyone that looks kinda suspicious, the ones with lawyers and enough money will get our attention") b) actually have a process in place to check their automatic decisions.
Is there a bright side?
If your comment is correct, we could just wrap old tshirts around my babies arse.
Pros and cons to everything.
Edit: maybe “while” would make my intent clearer? I understand it leads to worse pricing/progress later.
We were on Vendor Central so we had a dedicated rep. He would avoid helping us however, and use the opportunity to force us to renegotiate our rates (so Amazon could have more margin). Then the issue would disappear.
This happened so often we suspected these automatic issues were actually orchestrated to secure more margin.
The Amazon rep told us that he had quotas to hit of new margin targets for us every quarter.
We also consistently had issues of Amazon reporting under-deliveries and holding our funds. We shipped product in packages of (modulo) 8, and so they ordered in packages of (modulo) 8. When it arrived at the warehouse, they'd mark only 7 delivered, which is not feasible, sell the extra one and refuse to pay us for that 8th unit. This amounted to millions of dollars.
I eventually tracked every single package we had ever shipped and presented evidence of this fraud to them. They offered to pay us 30 cents on the dollar if we signed a waiver forgiving the rest.
That is truly wtf.
Did you get your full dollar? I don't see why you didn't get more, this is ripe for lawsuit.
Three hours after posting a fair but damning report where all the home brew people hang out and I get a manager on the phone and some sob story about how they probably shouldn’t be selling that hardware anyway. I didn’t disagree.
And even then I had to go to the bank anyway and reverse charges because they tried to charge me a restocking fee for hardware they clearly couldn’t even get their hands on. What are you restocking?
I ended up using the money to move to Seattle instead, which was at least as good an investment.
TBH for 4.x million + continued business (12M a year at least), I'd shut right up myself. That's not just "your" money but all of your employees as well (with 200K shipments / month or however much it is they're likely operating a warehouse of their own)
I'd be sorely tempted to shout from the rooftops, hit up every VC I could, and move heaven and hell to break into their vertical just on principle at that point. Sometimes, not rocking the boat does more harm than good. Doing anything else is basically accepting the legitimacy of the practice.
Don't get me wrong. I understand the inherent risk. I realize they have their business and employees to think of. However, taking the hush money and moving along just sets Amazon up to do it to someone else. It isn't "just business"; it's bad business, damnit and getting away with it lowers the bar for everyone because you're not willing to hold someone to account.
If the next 5 businesses who catch Amazon out doing this type of thing carefully, documenting every detail, and take it to the authorities, you can bet there will be change. They may make more money than a small nation, but tie up non-trivial portions of it fighting tooth and nail against multi-national legal scrutiny, and I guarantee there will be traction gained.
Anyway... End rant, andapologies. That type of thing makes my blood boil.
>Why would Amazon, in the middle of a pandemic squeeze a business such as ours so hard that we cannot get ANY of our funds for goods sold or to pay our people. I understand risk mitigation, but this is over the top. Please mods, help us!
Amazon considers sellers to be a renewable resource that can be disposed of haphazardly at the whim of an automated system or a low level employee. Note that they also pay for an account rep, covering a significant portion of that rep's fully loaded salary, yet they are still unable to get timely information. You have to understand that even if you are on the larger side, in the top 10% of sellers, that Amazon still considers you expendable.
Paid reps are very helpful but the cost is sort of absurd for what they wind up doing in high pressure suspension situations for nebulous or stupid/incomprehensible reasons.
Unfortunately, they are trying to write to "Amazon legal" which does not exist to field seller problems. Writing to "Amazon legal" is indeed a black hole. The way to force a response is to file for arbitration.
Tried to sell my book, was twice denied after a lengthy process without any explanation and a "this is settled, we will no longer answer your emails, good bye". No way to appeal, no way to get an explanation. No way to properly sell the book because of the Amazon book discovery monopoly.
Their whole business model is built around automation and removing human decision making. Yes, it's going to result in false positives that cost them 20+ year customers (and even $100k in spend over that time period is a blip of a blip of a blip to them) but it's clearly something they've thought about and can live with.
No. Amazon considers them a threat. Amazon itself is the largest of large sellers. Any profits made by an upstart large seller are profits that Amazon would rather be making itself.
However as any gigantic organization, Amazon is not a single minded entity. It's likely these activites are handled by totally separate entities with different employees and targets. So it's entirely possible that Amazon is pushing simultaneously for more marketplace and for more own selling actively sabotaging both aspects.
Amazon has all the data anyone would ever need to determine which products the above is true or false for. They would be negligent if they weren't putting that information to use.
If you don't think Amazon thinks that way, ask yourself why it takes so many clicks to unsubscribe from Prime, but only one click to buy whatever you want. Amazon is waging a war of attrition against its top sellers, and Amazon is winning.
It's almost like... Amazon doesn't have to... compete to draw sellers to their platform
There was no Target Oil, or Wall Oil. There also was never any ginormous hypothetical foreign oil company. Like, if a middle eastern company existed back then that called itself Ali Baba's 40 Oils. It wouldn't have been a monopoly.
That's the problem today. People want politicians to act against Amazon based on laws that are over a hundred years old. We never conceived of a situation where a company could have enormously powerful competitors, like Target, Walmart, and Alibaba, while simultaneously controlling an enormous market. Our laws never conceived that as a possibility.
Or maybe our laws don't really see that situation as a problem?
But whatever the case, if we want change, we're really going to need to rethink some of the laws on the books. They're going to need to change.
By the law as written, anybody seen exercising monopoly power is, and has chosen to be, a monopoly, and is governed by public utility rules, not regular market rules. The way the DoJ has chosen to re-interpret the law, it doesn't kick in until "consumers" see high prices. Charging below-cost prices and driving everyone out of business first, so there is after no one to compare prices to, gets no attention.
Random example: https://www.walmart.com/search/?query=bicycle%20tires
I think what you're thinking of with Amazon is more of a monopoly. I'm not sure they really need to team up with other businesses.
EDIT: Yes. I know that Amazon does not fit the legal definition of "monopoly". I was only saying that if we bend the legal definition of "monopoly" a bit in just the right manner, Amazon would fit. Whereas Amazon would never fit the legal definition of "cartel", or "trust".
In all honesty, isn't it? Isn't that the fundamental thesis of Amazon?
Amazon is an American business, and American capitalism has always favored the (near) monopolists. Nowhere else in the West do we find such a lack of diversity in options as in the US for consumers. Americans perhaps like succes more than others, for instance I feel the French are much more prone to sympathizing with the underdog, which builds a natural counterforce to monopolism.
Sometimes I think Americans do not realize their large internal market is both a benefit and a downside:success can snowball like nowhere else, into bigger snowballs like nowhere else. No other western market has a natural market of similar size, therefore foreign competition is always an underdog, or must succesfully learn to expand internationally before they can match for size.
We let Amazon get away with it, because we are letting them get away with it. In other circumstances, we'd not identify one company with its market so easily or totally, and Amazon's competition would keep them sharp.
In some seller categories, you are required to show Amazon where you purchased your items. The excuse is that they need to make sure they are authentic.
While this may be the case, Amazon will most likely use this information to go around you and put you out of business. In the re-sale business, sources are your best guarded secret and competitive advantage.
You aren't really building a business anyway. Amazon doesn't allow you to access any real customer information, you can't communicate outside of Amazon's communication channels, and you will get banned if you include any advertisements for your own business/website.
When selling on Amazon, you could sell there for a decade and have nothing to show for it.
"How many accounts does each account manager manage?
Each account manager manages between 12-15 accounts. We limit the number of sellers that each account manager has in their book of business so they can focus on optimizing your account and helping you reach your business goals."
So up to $900k/yr of the revenue made by each of such managers. Yet they are either nonresponsive or not helpful. Not sure what to think about that kind of business...
Plus who are they paying? Most businesses have 28day payment terms don't they? So 15 days in is a little early to panic.
Plus everyone is dealing with coronavirus, so not getting a call back from Amazon for 2 weeks doesn't sound like the world ending...
I think running lean was considered a great idea, but it leaves companies very vulnerable to any interruption in supply or demand or cash flow. Glad to hear you are in a better position!
This is insane. You should have at least 60 day terms from oversees factories. Unless you're in some really weird industry where that's not the norm.
What you noticed about negativity, I experienced myself on these forums, as well as noticed in all topics I viewed today. Not sure why that happens. Presumably, most if not all of the posters there are sellers facing similar challenges since such issues come up with both big and small sellers.
There are lots of automated freezes on accounts, some legitimate (selling products from protected brands without permission) but lots of shutdowns for no clear reason and it's impossible to get an explanation from a human.
Edit: Now I'm getting downvoted too.
The challenge is to get a human on your case. One option would be to give your rep a heads-up that in 24 hours you will ask your state representative (choose one which likes to bitch about Amazon or monopolies) for help. Or media. You like Amazon, blah-blah, but they are killing your livelihood. This has some risk that Amazon will retaliate and kick you out after releasing your money, but unless you seriously misrepresent your case they have way more to lose from publicity than you do. Good luck!
I have to wonder if it wouldn't be a great business idea to find / gather all disgruntled Amazon shippers / sellers, then create some small-scale, yet large enough to get the job done, Amazon alternative...
After all, "Where there's muck, there's brass", as the old expression goes, as Joel Spolsky reiterates in one of his essays:
It was impressed upon the other participant that you should make dead sure to pay your bills on time if you actually have the cash. Once they stop trusting you your cash situation just snowballs.
It seems like that relationship becomes very topical when your retailer starts sandbagging on their end. Like the question shouldn’t be how many dollars, but how many days.
I can just imagine the internal scenario, the rep escalated, there's some support ticket sitting on some engineering teams backlog somewhere. Rep can't do anything since it's all automated, have to wait for the devs to do something about it.
The systems probably lack manual overrides, or other such measure. Maybe they were flagged for fraud, but somehow the payload got stuck in some error state somewhere, and now there's an engineer that needs to figure out how to get things moving again. To the engineering team, that's 1 error out of hundreds of thousands of requests per day. This is low severity.
I guess my point is that, as an engineer myself, I often feel very disconnected from the users themselves. We see errors and issues as percentage of total traffic. Low number of errors, not important. We don't always stop to think, wait is there an actual person or business that relies on this for their livelihood? This one error, what's the impact to the user that depends on my systems?
The same way that big corporations start to see users and employees as just a number, I think so do we often fall into this trap. We're always focused on the scale out, never the quality of service of individual requests. It always seems more important to launch in one more region, than to fix the hand full of errors and corrupted requests in the existing one.
I think ignoring these edge cases is a mistake. In statistics, we are often most interested in the tails of our curves. That is where the interesting stuff happens. P-values disprove null hypothesises, things fall outside confidence intervals, medium importance individuals suffer a failure and cause a PR disaster that diverts millions of dollars in revenue from your company.
I wonder if big (or even small) companies could benefit from this "attention to the tails" thinking. It would be the kind of long term thinking and planning that keeps them on top for a long time instead of crumpling at the first sign of disruption. Of course this subscribes too the idea that anyone in the money-side of the company even cares when mostly they are just fighting for power in a zero sum game.
I am worried this doesn't make sense, but I hope it provides insight :)
I feel common metrics applied to software systems arn't very elaborate. Like I said, you might look at percentage of errors over total. Then you might take a goal like ok, let's try and have it less then 1%. The number chosen is arbitrary and has no rational, could have been 2%, or 0.5 but 1 sounded good right now.
Every metric seem mostly linear and arbitrary, nothing fancy. I wonder if applying something more thorough like what is done in research and leveraging better statistic could make things better.
For an example, say you are interested in how frequently a particular function fails. You are especially worried that a first time user will have this function fail on the first attempt and then disengage entirely from your product. So you want to know how likely it is that your function will fail on the first try. You can run an experiment where you call the function repeatedly until it fails. You find it fails on the 10th attempt. You can use knowledge of probability distributions and a trick for calculating the most likely probability given the experiment you conducted to conclude the obvious: that it has a 1/10 chance of failing on the first go. What the long way gets you, is the chance for it failing after x attempts. So a bit of knowledge gets you a lot more information to make informed decisions with.
You could always simulate this experiment in a script to estimate these numbers as well, which I think could be useful to someone with a software engineering background but without the time or resources to learn statistics.
1.Probability dist for the example: https://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=geometric+distribution...
There are 20 engineers on the core dev team. There are 1 Billion customers. 99.9% of customers love the service. 0.1% fall into some bug, and need customer support to sort it out. 0.1% of those complaints are unusual and need an engineer to sort it by writing some code.
Thats 1000 issues that require one of those 20 engineers. 50 each. It might take a day per issue, since these are the in-depth, real corner cases. Some will require re-architecting things to fix.
You are the project manager of this webmail system. Do you spend 2 months of the entire teams productivity to help 0.0001% of the customer base, or do you ignore them and build some features for the other 99.9999%?
That's my sticking point. If I pay a company to have a human advocate for me at the company, I should actually have a seat at the table instead of being subject to the machinations of a black-box system that nobody can seem to touch or do anything about unless someone high enough sees people on social media shaming them.
My point is that we're no better. Do we stop and think... Hum, what's happening to that 0.0001% Did they just miss some important email from the USCIS about some mandatory thing they needed to do? Will that get them deported? What if they missed a memo from their boss? Etc. And in the case of the article here, does it mean that a few dozens of people haven't been paid in a few weeks?
By reducing everything to some number, I feel it disconnects us and trivializes things.
I don't know that I have an answer. But I find that it is interesting how I think everyone in a company can somehow wash their hands on issues the company is causing by adopting this kind of mentality. Well, given the constraints we had, we went for the big fish only. It's almost some kind of oppression by the majority. Majority of users get their new features while a minority suffers.
I think it's easy to start scape goating left and right: well our team isn't given enough resources, well we missed out on profit targets so had to cut back, well investors are pulling out, well government imposes all these regulations on us, well voters wants us too, etc.
So I guess we're all a victim of the system and no one is to blame or could have done anything about it.
Maybe I'm being a bit cynical, but it's something I've been asking myself more. Could I actually do something about it at my work? At least when it comes to engineering systems without such error, maybe just thinking about impact one such failure could have, I can push a little harder, I can consider it a little more.
I feel the same way, in fact, I won't see any production errors until a ticket is assigned to our team. So if the business decides to ignore certain errors or issues, I simply won't know about it. And if I know about it, I won't get a chance to fix them. And even if I fix them, they most likely won't be pushed to production.
It's one thing I truly liked when working at startups, you're much closers to users, and it makes you care more. At that time, I had no problem staying late or working weekends to fix an issue a user had experienced. Because when a user experienced a problem, it would most likely also be a problem for me.
While I can understand the need for this type of action on Amazon's part... I do not feel that taking nearly 2 weeks to resolve this kind of situation is appropriate. They should have at least a 72hr max turn around for requests from paid account reps.
I'm also not sure if Amazon is experiencing higher fraud rates than normal right now either... the silence is deafening.
The best way I can describe what being a third party seller on Amazon is like is something like this: If you are interested in ending-up in the hospital with a massive heart attack, become a third party seller on Amazon.
This is my opinion, of course, your mileage may vary. That said, the things I've seen defy description. Things like your entire product line suspended overnight without cause, recourse or a clear and immediately actionable path to recovery. Or how about your entire account being suspended and the Seller Support people you talk to are useless?
And how about this one: How about people who never bought your product leaving negative one star reviews. Even better: People leaving reviews before they receive the product they purchased, then they cancel the order and it never goes out. I mean, think about it, as an example, say you buy a weight loss product. How can Amazon's software allow anyone, even an actual buyer, to leave a product review before they receive it? How can they allow it a week after they get it?
Here's a nice one: You manufacture your own product (not a Chinese one-in-a-thousand-copies private label product). In other words, you are the sole source and the sole retailer of the product. Nobody else makes it and nobody else is authorized to sell it. Amazon has no protections against some scammer claiming they sell your product. What happens is someone buys from one of these scammers and either get a box full of rocks, something totally different or a bad quality copy of your legitimate product. Whats worse is you are left to answer for what happened and your reputation, seller and product scores suffer due to the bad reviews.
Then there's the issue of no protection against competitors attacking your ads within Amazon. They have a pay-per-click system. You set a daily budget. Competitors will pay offshore click farms to click on the competition's ads while everyone in key markets are sleeping. By the time your potential customers wake up your ad budget is gone and you produce zero sales for your money.
I could go on. He left the platform and got really good at running his own online operation. His stress level is a thousand percent lower and, more importantly, he knows his business isn't going to be shutdown overnight by some all powerful online retail god who could absolutely ruin him. I mean, these people are supporting families. The way Amazon treats legitimate third party sellers is just terrible. And they make so much money because of them.
I mean, who does business like that in the real world? Even the IRS will pick up the phone, talk to you and help resolve issues. You have to wonder what kind of personal and corporate culture leads to having such contempt for clients, customers and partners that a company would think it OK to treat them this way.
Facebook is another one. Someone I know was advertising exercise clothing for women. Tank tops, spandex shorts, that kind of stuff. His account got shutdown without recourse for showing too much skin. As she tells the story, she was treated to a daily dose of ads from Victoria's Secret while browsing FB, and they show far more skin and in very suggestive ways than she ever did with her workout clothing. Three years later she is unable to reach a human being to have, you know, a human-to-human conversation and attempt to get the account back.
This is wrong. I guess it's the new normal.
Nothing says organizational dysfunction better than having a disempowered employee email the same last-ditch "please may a human see this" support email address that's given out to customers.
And yet it's all too common. I currently find myself "escalating" issues constantly because other people aren't helpful. Usually it's easy to go up the chain, to their manager, then that manager's manager, department head, ...etc
But every so often you find yourself in a situation where the next step is upper management, then what do you do... (This is at a 90K+ employee company)
EDIT: also when escalating (because their first layer of reps defense can not resolve the issue) and requesting a call, I got a very specific "we do not have capacity to call you".