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Persistence is all

written by Hans Eisenman
9 · 07 · 21

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Amazon is still the #1 platform for sellers. But wow, can it be a frustrating experience sometimes! Here are a couple examples that are pretty bananas.

Amazon sellers have to be ready for some screwy rabbit holes just to keep products selling on that platform.

A big part of this is because Amazon uses algorithms (“algos”) to help them manage the millions of products on their platforms.

Those algos can act like crazy people.

I’m talking like psych-ward crazy.

Deadly ear plugs

QuickAid sells an ear plug on Amazon and other channels. They are great in any noisy situation, soft and keep out the noise.

The listings get taken down randomly one day (zero warning–that could be its own blog post) and we get a notice that the products were flagged as–wait for it–pesticides.

Huh?

How did Amazon manage to convert a perfectly good safety product into a bottle of liquid death?

After many calls over the course of several weeks, we finally got to the bottom of it. The word “germ” existed in the listing in one or two places and, to Amazon’s algos, that was the same as “pesticide”, essentially. 

That’s the exact point of psychosis: “germ = pesticide”.

If a human said that, you’d be thinking to yourself “…he might be nuts”.

Exploding First Aid Kits

Here’s another one:

QuickAid also had a first aid kit which sold really well and was rising up in the ranks a little over a year ago.

The kit gets marked as a “Dangerous Good” (DG), which is another way of saying “thrown in jail” if you’re moving a lot of a product.

The headline might have read: “First Aid Kit Gets Death Sentence”.

Why? Because Amazon limits your storage area in their fulfillment centers to about what you could fit in the trunk of your car.

When this happens you can’t move enough inventory to make it worth your while. You’ll sell out too fast and won’t be able to replenish quickly enough to keep your ad campaigns happy, not to mention enjoy a little bottom line.

The worst part of it is: this kit didn’t have anything in it at that time which would be dangerous. (Amazon is usually concerned that the product could be flammable or something of that nature. So you wouldn’t want alcohol pads in the kit, for example.)

At one point that kit did have alcohol pads in the kit–two years ago!

The pads got removed and replaced with a non-flammable alternative so no more “DG” label, or so you’d think.

Here’s what we didn’t know:

  • Amazon retains text in their system (in the “back end” let’s say) that sellers cannot see.
  • That text doesn’t always get removed when sellers update their listings. It sits there like an old land mine from World War II, waiting for someone to step on it decades later.
  • These words can also be in translated files which are hidden in Amazon’s back end, apparently in a different location.

Because of the hidden text we would have never found on our own, Amazon would keep throwing the product back in “jail”, over and over and over again–no matter how many “dangerous good reviews” we requested.

Here’s what we did know:

None of this made any sense.

We weren’t violating any rules because there was nothing dangerous about this product.

The only way to get past something like this is to activate what I may forever call “Everest Mode”.

We have to keep pursuing what we know to be true.

Genuinely believing that this was all very silly, I just kept climbing up into Amazon’s support structure until I could find someone who would help.

Also I insisted that Amazon reps actually understand the situation 100%–even if I had to politely ask them to repeat back to me their understanding of it. They get into these robotic ruts sometimes where it probably all just looks the same to them. Gotta snap ’em out of it!

More than 15 unique calls support tickets (and 100 megawatts of insistence) and a year later, we finally made a breakthrough.

We discovered that indeed the world “alcohol” was in a hidden version of our product data in some file which had been translated into Spanish. It was just lurking back in the Amazon shadows where we would never have found it.

That one little word was making our kit “dangerous”.

That was two weeks ago and last Friday, Amazon emailed me to let me know the Dangerous Goods label had been lifted

Product jail break complete!

Sellers: don’t quit! Sometimes just your own enduring stubbornness is what it takes to win the day (or the year in this case).

And hey Amazon: how about a warning/grace period before you delist perfectly good products? It’s better for everyone’s bottom line!

Hans Eisenman

Husband, father, nerd and more or less in that order. I love tech, especially tools that will help me get more done in less time. Everything I talk about, I've tried (or will state I haven't). Current obsession: the FEDIVERSE.

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