One of the most dreaded and devastating things that every Amazon private label seller fears is account suspension. Remember, all of us are playing on Amazon’s playground and they are the ones who get to make and enforce the rules as they understand them. That means that for any number of reasons the items you sell can be reviewed by the Amazon powers that be and be rejected – even after you’ve been selling them successfully for some time. That’s the exact scenario Eric experienced and he’s with us to tell his story on this episode of the Amazing Seller. Scott isn’t trying to scare you by highlighting Eric's story. He wants to help you avoid these problems with insights from Eric’s experience.
You can’t depend on Amazon private label as your only source of income.
If you do, it’s only a matter of time until you'll wish you’d diversified your sources of revenue. The reason is that Amazon can and does change things from time to time. The changes often come without warning and in areas that dramatically impact the way you sell and offer your products. Changes of this nature can impact your income dramatically overnight. On this episode, Eric shares a situation where Amazon’s decision about his products slashed his income instantly, he lost his page 1 ranking, and almost got kicked off of Amazon entirely. Please listen to Eric’s story to hear the reasons Amazon put his products on the chopping block so you can safeguard yourself and your products the best you can.
The choice not to inspect his products almost got him booted from Amazon.
Eric’s products were selling like crazy. He had great revenue coming in every week, was ranked on page 1 for many of his keywords, and things were running smoothly. At one point he needed to reorder products and decided to shortcut his normal process by not doing an inspection of the products between the supplier and Amazon. In that shipment, some of his products didn’t have a clearly stamped logo on them (they were blurry) and customers complained that they had received a “generic” product. Those complaints served as a red flag to Amazon and Eric’s product was suspended without any questions. What did he do to rectify the situation? You can hear the entire process on this episode.
Much of the advice you read about importing products from China is wrong.
Since building his successful Amazon FBA business Eric has moved on to become director of marketing for a company that is American owned but with boots on the ground in China. What he’s come to discover since going to work for the company is that much of what he’d read online by supposed experts about China manufacturing and sourcing is flat out wrong. On this episode Eric shares some great resources you can use to find out the truth about sourcing products from China and how you can safeguard your investment even more, so be sure you listen.
Learn how to sell private label products on Amazon from this free workshop.
Every now and then Scott Voelker offers a free private label workshop that walks would-be Amazon sellers through the 5 steps he’s discovered for researching, sourcing, purchasing, shipping, branding, and listing a product on Amazon. If you’ve been eager to learn how to source your own private label products you won’t believe how much incredible knowledge Scott shares for free in this workshop. Take the time to listen to this episode so you can hear how to get involved in the next private label workshop.
OUTLINE OF THIS EPISODE OF THE AMAZING SELLER
- [0:03] Scott’s introduction to this episode of the podcast about account suspension.
- [4:15] Eric’s background: how he got started selling Amazon FBA.
- [8:08] The need for diversification in your online business efforts.
- [9:06] How Eric’s account was suspended by Amazon.
- [12:33] The back and forth process with Amazon trying to reconcile things.
- [19:24] Tracking down the reasons his products were refused by Amazon.
- [22:24] Why the inspection process is so vital for every shipment.
- [27:42] A recent change Eric has made in his business path.
- [34:31] Great resources you can find to learn about importing from China.
TRANSCRIPT TAS 276
TAS 276 : (Suspension Horror Story ) Tips to Avoid Amazon Seller Account Suspension & Listing Removal
[00:00:03] Scott: Well hey, hey what's up everyone? Welcome back to another episode of The Amazing Seller Podcast. This is episode number 276 and today, we're going to be talking about something that could be very, very, very scary. Wow! That rhymed, and I didn’t even try to make that rhyme but honestly we're going to be talking to a guy, and the guy's name is Eric Barrett by the way and he is going to tell us this horror story…
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…that happened to him recently and that is Amazon saying, we might suspend your account and we're going to get rid of your listing. This was on a product that was doing over $20,000 a month. To get that email, I can't imagine getting that email or that notification in your inbox, I just can't imagine.
He's going to walk us through exactly what that felt like but also what he started to do about that and how he got his account reinstated and got in the clear and all that stuff. We're also going to talk about how doors open when things like this happen or just from taking action. We always talk about taking action, or I do anyway because I believe that movement creates opportunity. We have to get in motion in order to even see what happens. You can learn all this stuff, but until we put it in motion, until we actually do something we're not going to have a result. On that result we can't react and do something to improve it, or we can't get a good result because we haven’t done it right. There are these different things that we have to understand.
He's going to take us through that as well because when he actually emailed me the first time, which was a few months ago, he told me all about the story, wanted to share this but then since then something else has happened which has totally took his business in a whole another direction and actually sold his business in that process. I'm going to let him explain all that, but I just want you guys to know that in business things happen, they happen, good things, bad things, they're going to happen. We have to understand that we have to be ready for this stuff. We have to understand.
[00:02:02] Scott: That's why being able to have people on like this like Eric come on and really share his story, I think it's critical because we can see what he did to get through that, and hopefully you can avoid the mistake that he made, because there was a mistake that he made in here, one pretty big mistake. He knew it at the time but he figured I'm just going to go ahead and see what happens and hopefully everything will be fine, because I've done it before this way and well it backfired on him. I'm going to let him explain that to you. If you guys want to download the transcripts, the show notes, we're also going to have a special PDF there for you that you can actually see exactly or he's going to take you through the whole story of what happened and kind of give you the play by play, so that will be available for you as well.
You can download those at the show notes page or on the show note page at theamazingseller.com/276. Again, that’s theamazingseller.com/276. If you guys are brand new to this show, you can head over there and there are a ton of resources there for you, so go check them out. I'm going to stop talking now so you can enjoy this interview, this conversation that I had with Eric Barrett.
[00:03:08] Scott: Well hey Eric, what's up man? Thank you so much for hanging out with myself and the TAS community. What's up man, how are you doing?
[0:03:16] Eric: Hey Scott, yeah, I'm doing well. Thanks for having me, I appreciate that.
[0:03:19] Scott: Yeah, no problem. I know we just talked a little bit before we got on and you asked what the temperature was here in my new state that I'm living in, which is South Carolina, and it's a nice 79 degrees I think, and you said it was like what, 50?
[0:03:30] Eric: About 52, and I think that's what we're going to top out today. So it's a little crisp.
[0:03:34] Scott: It is a little crisp. I like those crisp days though and I do, I get them here in the morning and then it kind of warms up but yeah, I do like the seasons as well, just not that fourth season though, the winter on.
[0:03:43] Eric: Yeah, that's a tough one like you said it. It's got me questioning my loyalty to this state every single year.
[0:03:48] Scott: Cool, all right, so the reason why I really did want to have you on today because you had something happen to you and kind of something that's happened to other people and that thing is really about an account being suspended and a list of removal and kind of how you were able to go through that whole experience and then get out of it. Really, what I want to do is dig into that whole story before we do though, could you give the listeners just a little background as far as kind of how you got started in this whole thing?
[0:04:21] Eric: Sure. It was about three or four years ago, I had some friends selling some things online and it kind of caught my eyes, started reading up, saw Amazon FBA, and just I took a shine to it, started experimenting, and then over the course of the last three four years, I went from one private labeled product to north of 30. I've had some horror stories as I'm sure many of your audience have, the battle scars but you live and learn. That's kind of when I got my start, it was pretty uninspiring, it was just hearing it over and over and taking a closer look into it. That's where I ended up recently, and yeah.
[0:05:08] Scott: Yeah, let's dig into that just for one second because what I'm hearing and I hear this on anyone that's been in business, whether it's this business or any business. There’s always changes, there’s always things that you have to adapt to, that you have to pivot or whatever. I think it's good that you just said that you got some battle scars, you've got some of these things that have happened but you haven’t stopped. Can you maybe speak to that a little bit before we dive into really how to help people if they did get their account suspended and all that stuff and bring up your story?
[0:05:36] Eric: Sure.
[0:05:37] Scott: Can you maybe just speak to that a little bit.
[0:05:39] Eric: Absolutely. I think anyone who sold on ecommerce or FBA specifically for any amount of time we can all share battle stories. We all have the scars but you run into things all the time and you're right, this industry, FBA specifically is in a constant state of flux, always changing. That's one of the things you have to learn is, you have to adapt or die. Whether it's rule changes, whether it's barriers to entry, gated categories, things that I’ve went through where they didn’t get my shipment, my shipment was held up. I've went through stages when I first started outsourcing that an entire shipping container worth of things was defective.
It was pretty bad, whether it's a small problem or something huge, there is always something that you have to overcome. It does get discouraging once in awhile, I think we all step back and ask ourselves, “God is this really worth it?”
[0:06:40] Scott: Guilty.
[0:06:41] Eric: In the long term you see the benefits and you're just like all right put my head down and just do it.
[0:06:47] Scott: I think you have to go back to like what's the other options? The other option is I can go work for someone else if I want to or I can pick another business model. Even if you work for someone, you're going to have to deal with their problems on a daily basis. It's like what do you want to deal with and it's kind of like you pick your own poison I think.
[0:07:03] Eric: Exactly.
[0:07:04] Scott: I just love kind of I guess highlighting that because recently we just had a pretty major update with Amazon, with their current service, with reviews and all that stuff and the sky is falling.
[0:07:14] Eric: Yep.
[0:07:15] Scott: And the sky is falling. Now everyone is like it's done. What do we do now? A more recent one which wasn’t really publicly announced but everyone that was a new seller kind of was aware of this and they were shipping in their order, it was like, “Oh wait a minute…”
[0:07:28] Eric: Can't take them.
[0:07:29] Scott: Can't take your orders until December 19th, sorry to tell you that. I just got an email this morning actually from a listener and he says, “Hey Scott, I just was getting ready to get started here and I got my sample coming and all that stuff and now I heard that we can't sell in fourth quarter, should I just not sell now?” And I was like, I said, “Listen, number one if you're in this for the short game, retail arb would have been the thing you would have been wanting to do anyway but no,” I said, “It's about the first quarter and the second quarter and the third quarter.” So many people get so focused on the one platform and the one time that they're going to try to capitalize, versus thinking about the long game.
[0:08:08] Eric: Absolutely and I think you've talked about this before too, that goes to the whole point of don’t put all your eggs in one basket. If you're relying on Amazon FBA and you're making a ton of money that could change in a heartbeat. If they change one rule you're done. You need to diversify, try different platforms.
[0:08:25] Scott: Yeah well, and I just talked to a guy yesterday, he actually bought a site years ago, it was a supplement business and it was doing well. He sold it and then he reinvested that into another business that he was interested in but he didn’t realize that the site he was buying had a ton of really bad negative backlinks that was helping to drive the traffic and then Panda came out and boom that business was wiped out overnight.
[0:08:48] Eric: Yeah, that's tough, those algorithm changes.
[0:08:51] Scott: Yeah but that's Amazon too. They have a change like this or they have… But they didn’t literary say like, “Oh you can't sell now,” but your case what they're going to be talking about, there was some scarcity around that because they actually suspended and listing removal and all that stuff. Why don’t we lead into that? Why don’t you tell us a little bit of a lead up to that and then what you did to battle through this?
[0:09:14] Eric: Sure. Actually I remember it was over the fourth of July weekend and I had just, a month earlier I placed a reorder. It was my biggest reorder for this particular product. Everything was going great. I mean sales were fantastic. I think the previous month this particular product made over about $60,000. Things were going phenomenal, then I got an email, I think it was in the morning and it was just very business-like. It says we've removed your listing because a buyer complained about the condition of an item they received. It says it's going to remain inactive until you can work with us to resolve the issue and then they ask for three invoices and a couple of other proof items.
It seemed pretty… I understood it, I said, “Oh no problem I can get this to you.” I started the process and it was not fun or easy. They rejected all of my invoices because they don’t take pro forma or commercial invoices and if you've worked with private label long enough, you know most suppliers that's all they send. They're going to send a pro forma or a commercial invoice and Amazon doesn’t accept those.
I wrote back, I left the note, I said, “Hey this is all we've got,” and if I was thinking deviously I could absolutely just change the title but Amazon is Amazon with endless resources. You know they have some sort of forensic program that can detect any changes. I couldn’t change that word file or that Excel document and just erase the name, it would have been as simple as that but I couldn’t do it.
It was a back and forth, and back and forth, and I wrote up an article here and you're welcome to post on your site, it's got the exact emails that Amazon sent me and they were rejecting everything. Everything was rejected because of those invoices. I tried to figure out what I could do, so I called all my suppliers, the two suppliers for this product.
[00:11:18] Eric: They both agreed to standby, they'd take a call from Amazon, they'd get on a Skype call to attest that I am the only owner of this private label product and it's authentic. Amazon claimed that it was a condition of the item and I was selling inauthentic items, which I thought was crazy.
I owned the item, I produced the item how in the world could be inauthentic, it's an oxymoron. Down the road we ended up having the Amazon, they didn’t want to have any interest. They didn’t want to talk to the suppliers at all, had no interest in that. It was very… It was just really frustrating because I know exactly what they wanted. They know I have the invoices, I know they did. It was just those two words on top of the invoice; it was pro forma and commercial.
I finally realized that after the third email where they said that they've taken my listing off and the email actually reads, “Thanks for responding to our request for information after reviewing the info, we've determined that you cannot offer these items on our site. We’ve removed your listings.” It was that cold, that terse and I started shaking, I'm like, “Oh my God, it's done. It's over.”
[0:12:31] Scott: Now, how long was this process, back and forth?
[0:12:38] Eric: It felt like forever but in reality, I mean I jumped on it immediately. In May to their credit they responded to every email I sent back to them within probably 12 hours.
[0:12:49] Scott: Did you ever get on the phone with anyone?
[0:12:53] Eric: I tried calling, I tried getting on the phone with the retail department or seller… I think it was, I forgot what the department was. They had no interest in talking to me. They said just respond with that the email has and you'll be fine. It was very difficult trying to get anybody on the phone that would talk about it because they kept referring back to, “This is all we can do. Follow the email instructions and that's the best we can do, that's the best we can offer.”
It was really frustrating trying to contact anybody who wanted to talk about it. I got people on the phone. I got people in the catalog department, actually people in the retail department in Seattle, they had no interest in talking about it. So I ended up looking up professional services that help with listing suspensions. I found a couple of them and I don’t know why but I looked at a couple of them. The big one, I think everybody knows her, her name is Cynthia Stein, she's done phenomenal but I had something in my head that would have been ridiculously expensive, so I'm like, “I'll just use somebody else.” That was a horrible mistake. I ended up paying, I forgot whether it was $800 or $1,000 for another service.
I knew immediately it wasn’t right because they sent me a long list of items I should give them, which was fine. I had to give them all the shipping numbers of all the samples as well as the product that occurred in 180 day window, all of the corresponding invoices and a whole long list of things. Then they were going to put everything together, craft an email and then send it off to the seller department.
Well they sent it to me before they sent it to the seller department and they had forgot to attach like two items. It's kind of a big deal, I'm running out of chances because in Amazon's last email, it said, “We may not respond to any further emails.” I had kind of mentioned it to them and they were like, “Oh no problem, we'll just attach that.” I should have cancelled, I should have just said no, but I didn’t. They sent it off and within two hours Amazon sent another email that said, “Thank you for responding to request for information, after reviewing the information you provided, we've determined that you may not offer these items on our site.”
[0:15:14] Scott: Jeez.
[0:15:15] Eric: Exactly the same email. It said, “Please remember any additional complaints may result in removal of your selling privileges entirely.” I was running out of options. I then had just spent I think it was $800 on those guys. I wrote back I said, “It didn’t work.” They said, “Oh no problem we can do that again, but it's going to cost this much.”
[0:15:40] Scott: Gosh.
[0:15:41] Eric: Yeah. I kind of just did, I bit the bullet and I looked up Cynthia and it was actually cheaper. It was actually cheaper than the group I had used and she got me in contact with one of her account reps, Roy, I think his name was, very professional, it took about six days I think to get everything together to where they were satisfied with what I had that would get me reinstated.
[0:16:11] Scott: Okay.
[0:16:12] Eric: Sent it off and finally again it was the email looked almost exactly the same as the suspension ones but the final said that I could sell again. They said after reviewing information that you provided, we have determined that you may continue to offer these items. It was that cold, that's it, everything was back up. It was just…
[0:16:32] Scott: So at first you apply thinking to yourself thinking to yourself that email is going to be the same as the others?
[0:16:36] Eric: Exact format, it looked exactly the same except for those couple of words.
[0:16:40] Scott: There was no happy tone.
[0:16:42] Eric: No, not at all. It's to be expected, I get that but for what was pretty much one of the toughest moments in my business career over which is over 25 years, it’s just disheartening just to see it's just another day at the office for whoever was writing the email. I get that. It was really frustrating because you ended up knowing that they knew this is… My products were legitimate, they had the invoices, it was those two simple words. It was almost like it was talking to a robot that had no… I don’t know, comprehension was an issue and it was just really frustrating. I had to step back take the emotion out of it and just go through their hoops.
[0:17:24] Scott: How long were you out of commission selling?
[0:17:28] Eric: Out of commission selling for about 21 days.
[0:17:31] Scott: Wow, okay.
[0:17:32] Eric: Yep, I had to start all over with the launch process and my rank fell all the way to the bottom. I was on the top three in page one for my multiple keywords for I think six different keywords, so that was tough.
[0:17:45] Scott: Okay. The good thing is you were selling pretty well when you ran out, so you should have had some type of history there at least.
[0:17:54] Eric: Yeah absolutely.
[0:17:54] Scott: That you had some selling conversion.
[0:17:57] Eric: It got back up to page one within, I think within 10 days. At the time we couldn’t do it now but at the time I just did the launch process, ran some discounted giveaways in exchange for reviews which of course is blasphemy now.
[0:18:14] Scott: Yeah.
[0:18:16] Eric: It was pretty quick but the whole process was… It was tough. It made me realize that it can all be taken away in an instant. At that point I had diversified, I was into some brick and mortar stores, some local retail chains, looking at putting it on Jet and Walmart and a site called Lazada. I'd kind of learned to diversify earlier which was good. It would have been fine, but it was still disheartening because it was a very successful product for me. It was kind of one of my favorites. Everyone has products that they love and products that they sell well but you're not really into it, it's not your path, this one was so it was tough.
[0:19:01] Scott: Yeah, that's crazy and like you said, I don’t think that even if you have the additional channels, it's good that you have the security net there in place but it's never easy to say well that's a good driver. Sales it's hard to accept that, especially when you know that you're in the right.
[0:19:21] Eric: That was part of it too. When I started out private labeling, I did it myself for the first couple of products because like I said, I wanted that experience and got those battle scars and wouldn't trade it for the world but then I used a sourcing company for the last 20-some products and it would have been phenomenal. I did something stupid. This was a re-order. I wanted to handle it myself. I'm like, “Ah, no problem. I'm just going to handle the re-order.” Sam over there was like come to go Guided Imports, said, “No, just let us do it. It's going to be easier we've got everything in place.” I'm like, “No, no problem. I want to reach out to the supplier anyway and see if he's going to be at the Canton fair.” So he begrudgingly let me do it.
I skipped on doing a full inspection and what that, because it was a reorder. I'm like, “Everything's going to be fine, don’t worry about it.” I kind of skipped on something they would have done and it turns out the reason that it was suspended is some of my logos had worn off, or were so light that it looked like a generic product. There were three emails, I trace this back in my communication section in seller central. Three people complained about getting what looked like a generic product. That word generic sets off all sorts of bells and whistles at Amazon. I found out later on.
Just those three emails were what sunk me. I ended up contacting each one of those three and actually ended up talking to them on the telephone explaining the situation, giving free product and a refund and talking about it, not overtly asking them to go in there and change that. They were so blown away by the customer service at the end that two out of the three volunteered and said hey this is the best experience I've ever had. I'm going to go in and change that.
It took a little bit of investigating to figure out what went wrong but because I kind of screwed up my own process that I had in place, it was completely my fault. Lesson learned, another battle scar added to the menu that I currently…
[0:21:28] Scott: So really the problem with the product wasn’t necessarily that the product had a flaw was that the flaw was that the logo had wore and it was not looking like a name brand?
[0:21:28] Eric: Exactly. It had rubbed off.
[0:21:43] Scott: But if you had inspected you're saying that would have been caught.
[0:21:45] Eric: Exactly. Yeah because that was my process with the other 20 products that I use those guys for, they have an inspection process and I just kind of skipped it because it was a reorder, they've proven themselves, everything was fantastic so I thought I'd save a couple of bucks and never again.
[0:21:59] Scott: Yeah, well I guess that pretty deep battle scar right there but you did come out, you got your leg put back together and you're walking again. It's still there you might have a little limp because you're just like, “Man, that was a hit.”
[0:22:16] Eric: It was a hit and it's going to be there for a while but that's good, it's going to remind me to stick with what works. You have to pay for that peace of mind sometimes and it pays off.
[0:22:26] Scott: Yeah that's crazy. Moving on past that because you've gotten past that now, and so really what you're saying then is when you do any new products or any type of products on Amazon or for that matter probably anywhere that you would sell it, you would still say go through the inspection process of some kind?
[0:22:50] Eric: Absolutely 100% I see so many comments on a lot of Facebook groups about people wanting to send their product direct from the supplier to Amazon that is such bad advice. Inspection can literally make or break your business. There’s multiple ways you can do it, you don’t have to do an entire inspection but for your first one, I would recommend getting every single product, every unit you have inspected. Everything I do now, again I use those guys, so it's all in a process, they handle everything China side, so I just pick up a product and that's it, I don’t do anything except figure out how to sell it which is a science and an art in of itself.
[0:23:31] Scott: Yeah.
[0:23:32] Eric: But yeah, every single product now I do definitely goes through an inspection process, pre-inspection, mid inspection during production, and the post inspection.
[0:23:40] Scott: Like I said, you and I had talked a little bit and we talked one time, a while ago, and we were going to get you on and then since then things have kind of changed a little bit as far as your direction and again I love it, I love it because, could you have predicted this two years ago now?
[0:23:56] Eric: No.
[0:23:57] Scott: You know what I'm saying? That's why I love where people are like, “Well, Scott if I start on Amazon, I'm going to build my business on Amazon.” I'm like, listen, “That's a way to get you started, that's a way to get doors opening and that's a way to get you understanding the whole ecommerce space.”
[0:24:12] Eric: Right.
[0:24:13] Scott: And with what happened to you now and maybe you can speak to that a little bit and kind of talk about what happened, how it happened and your direction now. I think for people listening, this is part of business but then also understand that the more that you, as I always say take action, whether it's a good thing or a bad thing, you're going to learn and it's going to open doors.
[0:24:36] Eric: Absolutely.
[0:24:37] Scott: Maybe you can talk about what has happened since we emailed the first time which this wasn’t even in the mix and then this has kind of changed.
[0:24:43] Eric: Yeah, that just speaks to the fluidity when things happen, it can just set off a whole cascade of things. For the last 20 years or so I'd been working in the medical device or pharmaceutical sales and then I started with the FBA thing and it kind of grew into multiple platforms etc. I wanted to expand a little bit more. I had kind of brought the products, certain products into local stores in talk with some of the managers about either putting it in there on a consignment basis etc. A couple of my sporting good products and I'm going to do something that most private label sellers are so against, I'm going to name my product which people are like, I can see them just covering their mouths right now.
[0:25:28] Scott: I know.
[0:25:29] Eric: It doesn’t apply right now and I'll tell you that later but I was selling a really high end fast aid kit and I'd customized it and did a lot of different things. I'd marketed toward, one of them was towards camping and hiking, one was of them was toward a first aid kit for sports teams et cetera. I brought it to local sporting goods stores and we end up coming up with a neat way where they ended up advertising for me almost. It was me going in there and offering basically a coupon, so anyone that purchased anything over like $50 that had to do with camping, the person would give them a coupon that said, “Go to this website for a chance to win this $350 first aid kit.”
Then once they got there my funnel would have them enter their email address but I'd also offer to them right then and there at 50% off. It was kind of a cross marketing thing that we came up with. I initially thought that to get traction it was going to be tough but then once I had one store on board, I knew that other stores looking for success and a model of something that was pre-existing would probably follow suit. I ended up having to cut these guys in quite a bit as well as offer them kind of an upfront payment. They are local, so I got to work with and talk with the VP exclusively.
That really helped but this ended up being huge. I just used that model this was a couple of years ago to replicate it in some of the national chains. At one of the chain stores now, when you go in there, at the bottom of the receipt, I don’t know if you've ever seen this before but in some chain stores, they'll say, at the bottom of this huge receipt it says, “Go complete this survey, you'll get 10% off,” I think Best Buy does that.
[0:27:15] Scott: Yeah.
[0:27:16] Eric: So now part of that receipt for that sporting goods store in a certain department has that, they're pointing people to my website for that whole thing. That was exciting and I expanded over to brick and mortar but recently, and I don’t know if this was what you were alluding to, I had a complete career change. I don’t know if that's something…
[0:27:39] Scott: Yeah, you can go there.
[0:27:41] Eric: This was just a couple of weeks ago really. I had been following a company and using… Well, I had to think I was one of their biggest customers, there's no way I was now that I know that. It was the guided imports that I just told you about. They had been handling everything China side for me. They did the product sourcing, negotiation, inspection, quality assurance, photography sample, consolidation, pretty much everything FBA prep and shipping and logistics.
They’d handle everything for me over 20 products. I really liked what they were doing because I'd tried other services and kind of got burned and what I guess lured me in was that it's owned by an American from New Jersey or I think he's from Pennsylvania. He lives in China, he'd been living there since 2008.
For me to have an American with boots on the ground in China, gave me the biggest sense of relief and security. I'm sure you understand it's tough dealing with… The language barrier is so much that it can lead to, and I've seen it in my own personal products. It's led to mistakes. It's hard to convey really specific details on a product. That led me to take a position as a director of marketing with Guided Imports. I had to sell my Amazon business, because they pride themselves on not having a conflict of interest.
If you look at the other sourcing agencies out there, they still sell on Amazon, which I can't believe because you know as well as every FBA seller out there, we're very protective of our products, worked a lot at getting them. For us it’s a clean slate, we had everyone who works there, none of them sell FBA products so I ended up selling my business and just completed it really about a week ago. So the battle scars I've accumulated them, I can talk about them, I can laugh about them but there is a little sense of both sadness that I won't be able to do that anymore but also relief especially when the announcement came out about the reviews and the sky was falling and everyone thought it was the end of the game.
There was just a little sigh inside I'm like, “Oh, got out just in time.” But that wasn’t the case, it was me overreacting, everything is going to be fine, everyone's come out with a new and out of the box ways to launch products and I think it's going to be better. I think it ends up being better for the sellers as well as Amazon customers.
[0:30:06] Scott: Yeah.
[0:30:06] Eric: That's the big change.
[0:30:07] Scott: That's pretty exciting and it's funny because I can go back and look at the trail of emails that you and I have had going back and forth, and this wasn’t even in the equation, and here it is. That's pretty awesome and it's just funny how things happen. It's like I said, I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you if I didn’t decide to give this FBA thing a try. I was doing it really and still to this day really doing it just as a secondary part of revenue coming in not just another revenue stream. So again I think that's for anyone but I think it's great that you're able to share that, you're able to laugh about it. Heck, I mean it's kind of hard…
[0:30:43] Eric: You have to, right?
[0:30:44] Scott: Yeah, I mean during it I'm sure you weren’t laughing but when you get that email and it's funny because I've had a few of my ASINs they'll come through and I'll get someone that might have gotten, like you said maybe it's only three out of a hundred in the last… It might be a time frame of like the past two weeks but it's three out of the past 75 or 100, whatever it is, all of a sudden it suppresses your listing and it says, “Until you let us know how you're going to fix this, we're going to pause everything on you.”
[0:31:16] Eric: Exactly.
[0:31:17] Scott: I've had that happen. Luckily, we've pretty much been able to get those all unsuppressed just by going back and forth a little bit with Seller Central, nothing as crazy as yours but that doesn’t mean that that won't be the next one.
[0:31:31] Eric: Yeah, it's so hard to predict and I get why Amazon does it, their number one asset is their customer base, they'll do anything they can to protect them but almost all of it as it the expense of sellers which is fine but it's funny to read a lot of the comments on Facebook groups and forums. “How dare Amazon do this?” or, “It's so unfair, isn't there a way we can sue them?” It's their business. It's a privilege for us that they allow us to sell on there and it's just kind of… It was something funny to read I guess how backwards some people think that it is.
They could shut the doors, they could shutter the whole place any day and I'm still of the mind that I think FBA could just be a beta tester pool for Amazon corporate. Anytime they find a really successful product, they send one of their buyers out there to find it, find it, make it better because I have a really good friend who lives in Shanghai and he was head of Amazon's global sourcing department for many years. He was kind of telling me about how that works and it works just like that when they find a very successful product, they want to make it their own, put their brand on it but putting their brand on it, it better be good because it's the Amazon brand.
Usually their Amazon base experience or some of the other brands are usually pretty good. It's kind of an interesting thing and like you said, however everything is so fluid, dynamic, everything changes all the time.
[0:33:00] Scott: Yeah, I think even if someone was saying to themselves like, “Well then why would I want to sell on Amazon?” Well because it's there, and it has the traffic, and it's a channel but I also say let's pretend you couldn't even sell on Amazon, I still think it's a great resource to understand what is selling. I also like it that you can look at their reviews and see what people like and what they don’t like. You can get like real data to make products that serve a market.
Then from there you can go out and you know about building an external funnel or an ecommerce site and all that stuff. There is so much that we can do with it and this is just another channel.
[0:33:36] Eric: Absolutely. It can be the greatest product research resource out there.
[0:33:40] Scott: Oh yeah.
[0:33:41] Eric: They have more data on that than anyone, so just going in there and figuring it out and like you said a lot of the successful people, I started out there this way reading the reviews of a product. Find something that's selling awesome with 500 reviews but they are four star reviews and all those people are complaining about one thing. Maybe that bag or that backpack doesn’t have something in there they wish. So if you tweak that, if it's an easy fix, now you've got a great way to sell a product. All these different ways that you can think about with this latest incentivized review ban, there are just so many things that you can do on Amazon, but like you said, use it as a platform, a springboard to start. It's a great place to start, but absolutely expand and branch out.
[0:34:25] Scott: Yeah I agree and I think even with the review thing, even now with us looking at the data, we're going to be looking at the data and I'd say it's going to take a good two, three months before everything kind of settles in after this hasn’t happened or that you're not allowed to do this anymore because giveaways are going to be down, so your numbers as far are going to be more accurate. You aren’t going to have to do as much research as far as going back in time and seeing how long ago they launched and all this stuff. Actually it's going to be a little bit easier to establish if it's legit as far as the numbers, you don’t have to do as much background checking. I also think it is going to level the playing field and I think it's going to be for the ones that can drive their own launches themselves with an internal list. Those are the ones that will have the leg up.
[0:35:12] Eric: Absolutely and that's why building that list becomes more important than it's ever been. It's always been the key but now it's just so much more because if you have that list, that's your whole launch process in a nutshell.
[0:35:25] Scott: Yeah and if you want to spike sales, you send out another little giveaway or whatever or whatever or even a discount and you can spike the sales at will. I love that. Eric this has been awesome and I appreciate you coming on and sharing your battle scars and all of that. Congratulations on the recent change.
[0:35:42] Eric: Thanks.
[0:35:42] Scott: I'll probably have to have you back on because I know you have a lot of information on the importing process and now that you're kind of working with Guided Imports. We'll definitely have to have you back on to maybe help us and give us some pointers as far as what to do even if we can't hire a company right now but we want to protect ourselves. Maybe we can have you back on and kind of guide us through that because you've had a ton of years of experience doing that as well.
We'll link up also to this report that you actually put out which I think is phenomenal, it's step-by-step, it's you walking through it's like… The first line says, I remember it vividly, “I flipped open my MacBook Pro, pulled out my email window and saw an email from Amazon seller performance policy department with the subject line, notice policy warning.” Then you go on to say what you did. It’s literary taking us through the whole thing.
[0:36:30] Eric: Yeah, you get to feel the emotion, not quite exactly but I pasted in the exact email, so hopefully your readers will get a kick out of that.
[0:36:37] Scott: Yeah I'll definitely link that up in the show notes. Is there any other way that you can give people to get a hold of you or anything you want to also mention?
[0:36:45] Eric: Sure, absolutely. As I mentioned since I took that job, we have a ton of resources over at GuidedImports.com, we give away pretty much everything and there are, you'd be surprised how many things out there on the internet by so many other sites about using tips for importing or sourcing are just wrong. It's really amazing because one of the things I found is somebody goes to the Canton fair three to four times, all of a sudden they're an expert in sourcing from China and some of the information it’s kind of scary. We demystify a lot of that and put the actual facts out there because having somebody from America living in China for the last eight years that speaks Mandarin, some of the information that he's told me, that Sam has told me and taught me is just eye-opening because it goes against 100%, a 180 degree flip of what's being told out there in many of the circles.
I think a lot of your listeners or readers will get a kick at a lot of the information we have. Step-by-step guides to help out, to make sure you're safe in sourcing. We're not just looking to sell people things we want to give it away because it's sad that so many people end up calling us when they're in trouble. They're like, “Oh can you help me out?” Sadly in China if you get in a mess, that deep you usually can't get out. It's usually cutting loses. A lot of this stuff where we put out there and we've got a blog that updates three, four times a week is free.
[0:38:14] Scott: Yeah definitely, I'll definitely throw some links in there and if anyone wants to check out the actual report that you put together with the whole story of your experience, they are more than welcome to and they can see the emails and all that stuff. Eric, I just want to say thanks, I really do appreciate, I'm sure I'm going to have you back on because I'm sure we can talk for hours on this stuff.
[0:38:37] Eric: Absolutely.
[0:38:38] Scott: I definitely just want to say thank you and I really appreciate you sharing all of your battle wounds.
[0:38:43] Eric: Absolutely Scott, I appreciate you having me on, and I look forward to any time we get a chance to reminisce and talk in the future, I'd appreciate that.
[0:38:50] Scott: Yeah it sounds good man, take care.
[0:38:52] Eric: All right, take care.
[0:38:54] Scott: All right guys, so that was a pretty crazy story. I'm so glad that Eric reached out to me and was willing to share that. I will remind you guys that all the show notes, the transcripts to this episode are over at theamazingseller.com/276. You can go ahead and grab those over there. I just want to again say things like this can happen and when we think about selling on Amazon or eBay or any other platform for that matter like we are under their guidelines. If they think that there is something wrong or they have a claim about someone saying that it's a generic product or it's a product that's patent infringing or whatever it is, that can immediately throw up that red flag.
You've got to be careful and you just have to be mindful of it, you have to understand that we are playing on someone else's playground. We have to understand that but that is the price that we pay for the convenience of using their traffic, using their platform that's already built for selling products, they make it so easy. We just have to conform and we have to understand and one of the big takeaways that Eric had mentioned was he failed to do the inspection because it was a reorder and because of that, the logo was wore and it looked like it wasn’t an authentic product. That could have probably been avoided.
We just need to learn and that's why this podcast is so great in my opinion because I'm able to interview people that these things have happened to. Let's learn from that and let's just make sure that we do a better job moving forward. That's pretty much going to wrap it up guys, I did want to remind you guys about the show notes and the transcripts one more time, they're there for you so definitely utilize those, head over to theamazingseller.com/276.
[00:40:40] Scott: Anyone that's a brand new listener, I want to reach out and shake your hand and say welcome, there are a lot of resources on the blog and in the podcast, all of the archives. Definitely go check those out. If you guys are new though and you want me to walk you through the five phases for launching a product, I do a workshop where I walk you through the five phases, I answer live Q&A. You can head over to theamazingseller.com/workshop and you can register for an upcoming one there.
So guys, that's it. That’s going to wrap up this episode, remember as always, I'm here for you, I believe in you and I'm rooting for you but you have to, you have to… Come one say it with me, say it loud, say it proud, even when times get tough, “Take action.” Have an awesome amazing day and I'll see you right back here on the next episode.
LINKS MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
- www.TheAmazingSeller.com/workshop – get in on the next PL workshop.
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