Amazon just destroyed my business; How one single email telling me I am banned from Amazon turned my world upside down

Ed Rosenberg reached out to me to help me when I could not gain access to my Amazon account. He has vast knowledge on Amazon suspensions and is now doing some serious research into just what is going on with these “desired use of Amazon Payments” e-mails and gathering a list of everyone affected by it. If you have had one, he is the guy to speak to. Check out the interviews he did with 2 other sellers who found themselves blocked out, with almost exactly the same stories as me:

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UPDATE: 26th November 2016 – Account Reinstatement

Yesterday, 25th November 2016, at 14:20, I received an e-mail from Amazon. It said:

“Good news!

You can now sell on Amazon.

We will get in touch with you if we need more information. Happy Selling!

Amazon Payments Europe”

This short and sweet e-mail came through to me less than 48 hours after this blog went live and over 10,000 people had read it. I am obviously very happy to have my Amazon seller and buyer accounts back. It’s a shame I had to go to these lengths for it to happen, and I feel very bad for all the sellers that are still locked out with no explanation at all. I am yet to receive an explanation as to what happened, and most likely never will. But I will try to get one. I know of so many sellers that had the same “desired use of Amazon Payments” e-mail who are still left in the dark. When I logged in, my account had been migrated to the new selling on Amazon platform (I was on the old platform previously). Could this have caused an error to be thrown up during the migration process?

I still have some way to go to restoring my seller account to how it was. With me being blocked out, I have had A-Z claims and refunds out of my account and a negative feedback for me not being able to respond to buyers wanting to return items. I now need to e-mail relevant departments and hope these can be removed from my account and I can be reimbursed for the refunds not authorised by me. My account needs to be back in good standing, like it was before the ban (with 100% feedback, 0% ODR rate etc).

Thank you to everyone who read this blog and supported me with messages offering help and well wishes. This is clearly a worldwide issue and I hope Amazon will look at being more transparent with sellers in the future. Something needs to change.

To anyone who is in the position I was in; don’t give up. Fight to get your account back. Write your own blog. Record a video. Talk to journalists. Get your message out there.

It can be done.

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A brief introduction

Today is the 23rd November 2016, some 7 weeks since I received the single worst e-mail I have ever received in my life. You know, one of those emails or letters you get and you just feel your heart sinking. Before I tell you about that e-mail, allow me to introduce myself; Hi, I’m Josh. If you were to have asked me 2 months ago what I did for a living, the answer would have been very simple; I sell on Amazon. I’d have told you what an amazing selling platform it is and how I just love Amazon, for both buying and selling – I have Amazon Prime and I’m a Pro-Merchant seller, I’d have said. You’d have probably been shocked and asked me if I can really make a full time living on there? I’d have had a little laugh and replied of course! You’d have asked me why I don’t have a website of my own and I’ve have explained to you that with Amazon, I just never needed one. I pay them a chunk of money and they bring the buyers to me – millions and millions of potential buyers. It was a healthy business relationship.

This kind of conversation was a very common occurrence for me – telling people you were your own boss and sold on Amazon for a living always intrigued people, one way or the other. I had my Amazon account for as long as I can remember – since 2002 I believe; and started selling on Amazon Marketplace UK in 2003, just a year after it launched. I was just a teenager but realised pretty much anything would sell on there. I quickly became an Amazon advocate, telling people they must be mad not to use it and to always check prices of items on there first. I have grown up as Amazon has grown up and my business has grown with it too. I went to study at university, but I knew deep down I did not want a graduate job, I wanted to be my own boss and I knew how good Amazon was, so whilst all my friends were busy starting graduate jobs, I was busy selling on Amazon. Getting a graduate job was not even an option I had considered. I knew what I wanted to do. Fast forward to today and I’ve had many, many positive and happy years selling with Amazon, I would often joke that if you cut me in half, you would find Amazon running through my veins.

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A top Christmas Seller email I received from Amazon. Amazon rarely praise sellers like this

From Amazon heaven to Amazon hell

On Thursday 29th September 2016 I went to log into Amazon Marketplace as I had done a thousand times before. But it would not work. It kept telling me my password was incorrect. I knew my password was right. Worried my account had been compromised, I clicked the reset password button. I got an e-mail and changed my password, but I still could not log in with the new password and kept getting the same message. I rang Amazon to be told my account was “on hold” due to a billing address issue and an account specialist will e-mail me within 24 hours. I heard nothing. I rang again the following day and the following day, always being promised an e-mail, but nothing ever arrived. I decided to e-mail Doug Gurr, the Amazon UK MD, hoping one of his team will read my e-mail and help me get back into my account quickly – I was losing orders every day I could not log in and I was totally confused and worried as to why this had happened and disappointed at the complete lack of communication from Amazon. The following day, I had heard nothing, so I rang Amazon customer services again and demanded to speak to a manager – his name was Kieron and he sympathised with me when I explained my situation. He spoke to Seller Support for me, to see if there was a problem with my seller account; he came back and said my seller account is in good standing, which was a relief to hear. He told me there must be a problem with my buying/retail account and I just need to hang on and wait for an e-mail.

3 more days of complete limbo passed, I had not heard a thing and it was impossible to find out anything and I felt rather lost.

At 16:58 on 5th October, this e-mail came through:

“Dear Customer,

Thank you for contacting us.

The hold has been removed from your Amazon.co.uk account.  You may track the progress of your order via the “Your Account” section of our website. Once your order has been dispatched, we will send you an email notification to advise you that your order is on the way.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us should you have any further questions.

Thank you for your patience with our security measures.

Warmest regards,

Amazon.co.uk, Account Specialist”

I was so excited. I went to log in and got into my buyer account. I then clicked on the seller account link, but it did not work. It said my account was not associated with a valid seller account. It felt like I was back to square one again. I ordered a blu ray that night with my Prime subscription and sure enough it arrived the next day. I was hopeful after getting my buying account back again, I would get my seller account back any day.

Then, the next day, at 13:04 on Thursday 6th October, an e-mail pinged up on my phone: “Your Amazon.co.uk Enquiry“. It read:

“Hello,

My name is Sandra, and I am a member of the seller-verification escalations team. The Amazon UK Managing Director Doug Gurr received your e-mail and asked that I research this issue and respond on his behalf.

Having reviewed your account thoroughly and considered all of the information provided, I regret to advise that your account will remain blocked. This decision has been reached because your desired use of Amazon Payments may be in violation of our Acceptable Use Policy or User Agreement, which you have accepted when registering with Amazon Payments.

Whilst I appreciate that this is not the outcome you had hoped for, please consider this our final position on the matter. Further correspondence regarding the closure of your account may not be answered….

…Thank you for your interest.

Regards,

Sandra
Escalations Specialist
Amazon Payments”

In that single moment, I felt my whole world crash down around me. I did not know how to react or what to do. 13 years of selling and that’s what you get. Nothing about the e-mail made any sense to me. My desired use of Amazon Payments MAY be in violation of their AUP or UA?! I still cannot believe just how ambiguous that is and I have no idea what it means. One minute I was happily trading on Amazon, the next I was being told I was pretty much banned for life. I just kept thinking this has to be a mistake and over the next few weeks set about doing all I could to speak to Amazon to get this issue resolved. My buyer account had been deactivated again too. When you are a buyer/seller on Amazon and can log into your account, it’s pretty easy to speak to Seller Support. However, trying to speak to them when you can not gain access to your account is virtually impossible. I phoned, e-mailed, sent letters and tweeted Amazon. All had no success. What’s strange is that the e-mail I received seems to be extremely rare. Googling the term “desired use of Amazon Payments” only brings up 5 results. 5. This is one elite club I do not want to be apart of.

I spoke to many companies that can help you get back on Amazon by giving you guidance on what to say (yes this is now a whole industry), but they could not help. Usually, a seller is suspended if something is wrong with their account, and they are given a chance to fight the suspension. They can still log in and use their account and then they can submit an appeal from within their account. But I was never suspended. I was banned outright. For good. I did not have any A-Z claims against me, I had 100% positive feedback and all my seller metrics were excellent. Something did not make sense, yet it was impossible to talk to Amazon. That’s all I wanted to do. My emotions were all over the place.

Without a doubt I’ve gone through the 5 stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I say acceptance because after 5 weeks of not making a penny and suddenly not having a business to run and being very down about everything, I decided to start up my old eBay account again (I forgot just how amazing eBay is) – but have I accepted being kicked off Amazon? Absolutely not. I will never accept it, because I truly do not believe I have done anything wrong and I am determined to get back on. Nothing adds up. Why was my buyer account unblocked then blocked again? Why did I keep being told it was a billing address issue? Has my account been compromised? How are Amazon allowed to just do this with no explanation?

If you Google “Amazon ban” you will quickly find people talking about “stealth” and “ghost” accounts – it’s the process of making a fake Amazon account. This is something I would never want to do. I feel I either get this issue resolved and I get my cherished account back, or I have no choice but to walk away from the company I have loved for almost half of my life. I totally understand it’s Amazon’s playground and they can decide who is allowed to buy and trade on there, but I honestly believed my 13 years of selling and my track record meant my account was in good standing. I would always go out of my way to ensure every joint customer of ours had excellent service. I don’t know what more I could have possibly done to be a better seller. But now, if any of my previous customers on Amazon have an issue, they cannot get in touch with me, so they are left in limbo too. Also, as I cannot log into my Amazon account, I cannot see my sales history, making it extremely hard for me to do my company tax returns. How is this fair?

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Letters sent to Doug Gurr, the Amazon UK MD and other directors at Amazon, with no response at all

A warning to other Amazon sellers

Be careful. If this can happen to me, it can happen to anyone trading on Amazon. The old saying don’t put all your eggs in one basket comes to mind. Try not to solely rely on Amazon for your income. Look at other revenue streams to run along side Amazon if you can. Go into your Amazon Seller Central account right now and check all the details over – is all your information correct? I have been given no real reason why I have been banned, but the fact I kept being told it was something to do with my billing address, makes me believe it was something incredibly insignificant on my account; something that could be rectified with just one phone call.

The future

Right now, I am not sure what the future holds for me. I continue to receive e-mails like this one from Amazon, rubbing salt in the wound and leaving me totally confused:

“Dear seller,

As we announced earlier this year, the Christmas Selling Guidelines for the Toys & Games store come into effect on 17th November, 2016. Sellers must meet those guidelines to sell in the Toys & Games store throughout the remainder of the year.

We are pleased to inform you that you have met the Christmas Selling Guidelines. To remain eligible to sell in the Toys & Games store this Christmas season, please continue to meet those guidelines.

Regards, Amazon Services Europe”

I am not kidding you, I received this e-mail just last week, on the 15th November 2016. I have no idea how or why I have been banned from Amazon, I just cannot see what reason there would be for this. Amazon are also holding £1,300 of mine, what was in my Amazon Payments account the day I was banned. They have told me in 90 days I might be able to get it back, might. I also paid £79 to renew my Amazon Prime subscription in September, which I can no longer use.

In the last e-mail I received from an Amazon Twitter representative called Ann, I was given the contact details of the Retail Ombudsman.  She said: “Please note, we are not a member of The Retail Ombudsman dispute resolution scheme. We believe our customers are better served when we discuss customer service issues directly with our customers. However, we welcome feedback from all consumer organisations, so that we can continually improve our customers’ experience”. I had to laugh or I would cry. All I have tried to do is talk to Amazon, so this yet again rubs salt in the wound. If you try and go onto the Retail Ombudsman’s website and try to make a complaint about Amazon, it tells you (wait for it):

“The retailer that you have entered is in our database but on previous claims has refused to co-operate with us. Therefore, we are unable to take your claim forward at this stage.”

You just cannot make it up. I have spoken to 2 other sellers that were just like me and got the exact same ban e-mail as me at a similar time. Both had accounts in good standing and are just as confused as me as to what is going on. We are positive there has been some sort of error on Amazon’s internal systems, and all we want is an opportunity to defend ourselves, be told what the issue is and get it resolved so we can go back to doing what we love doing.

For now, I will continue to sell on eBay. I really did forget what an awesome marketplace it is – I have spoken to them and PayPal to sort out various issues and they have just been fantastic to deal with and the lines of communication are always open with them. Just check out my last DM on Twitter from a PayPal Twitter representative at the bottom of this page – Amazon take note, that’s how you treat and talk to your customers. You’re supposed to be Earth’s most customer-centric company – from where I am standing you are Earth’s least customer-centric company. Do I miss buying and selling on Amazon? Yes. I never usually went one day without buying or selling on Amazon. Now it’s been almost 2 months and I miss it like crazy. But you have totally failed me and left the most bitter of tastes in my mouth. If anyone from Amazon is reading this, please get in touch with me. Talk to me.

I would just like to take this opportunity to say thanks for reading my blog and if you have had a similar experience to me then please do get in touch. I would also like to say thank you to my closest friends and family who have helped me get through the toughest few months of my life, who have been in as much disbelief about this situation as I have.

As one door closes, another opens, as they say….

paypal
This message from a PayPal Twitter representative was great to see. Just how business should be done. Amazon take note.