Episode 30 – Was Your Amazon Seller Account Suspended Due To Giveaways? What’s Going On?
If you’ve been active on e-commerce social media pages, Facebook groups, or related chat groups lately, you’ve probably seen what seems to be mass hysteria about the recent Amazon account suspensions. Sellers are worried about the possibility of having their Amazon seller account suspended due to giveaways and for other reasons. While there has been an increase in suspensions lately, Helium 10 is here to help calm the growing anxiety that’s spreading. We’re also here to remind FBA sellers that the best plan of action is to remain in good standing by being proactive, preventative, and by doing your due diligence if you are flagged by Amazon or suspended.
That’s why we’re focusing episode 30 of the Serious Sellers Podcast on reporting what situations we’ve seen that could have caused sellers to be flagged or suspended. To be clear, we are not giving out any legal advice and we (nor does anyone besides Jeff Bezos) do NOT know exactly why these accounts are being suspended. Instead, we are here to report what we have discovered based on interviews of people in the Amazon space and to share their best interpretations as well as to share strategies designed to help suspended sellers get reinstated.
In this episode, Bradley discusses:
- 01:20 – Speculation About Possible Causes For Suspensions
- 03:50 – The Amazon Suspension Email – What’s Been Happening Recently
- 07:10 – What Is Happening With 90% Giveaways?
- 08:15 – Potential Review Manipulation – Offering A Discount And Asking For A Review
- 09:10 – What Is “Brushing” And Why This Could Be Causing Suspensions
- 11:20 – Multiple Accounts Buying A Product With The Same Credit Card – Potential Suspension Causes
- 11:55 – Plans Of Action To Help Sellers Get Reinstated
- 17:28 – Sales Velocity Issues – Fulfilled By Merchant – Potential Suspension Causes
- 19:10 – Preventative Measures – Opening An Amazon Case
Enjoy this episode? Be sure to check out our previous episodes for even more content to propel you to Amazon FBA Seller success! And don’t forget to “Like” our Facebook page and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Google Play or wherever you listen to our podcast.
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- Freedom Ticket: Taught by Amazon thought leader Kevin King, get A-Z Amazon strategies and techniques for establishing and solidifying your business.
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- Helium 10: 20+ software tools to boost your entire sales pipeline from product research to customer communication and Amazon refund automation. Make running a successful Amazon business easier with better data and insights. See what our customers have to say.
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Bradley Sutton: Guys, in this episode, we are going to talk all about accounts that are getting suspended. Our giveaway? No longer a viable way to get to page one. Find out about that and more in this episode of The Serious Sellers Podcast.
Bradley Sutton: What’s up everybody? Welcome to the Serious Sellers Podcast. I’m your host, Bradley Sutton, and today we’re going to talk about something that you have seen all over social media, all over chat groups—WeChat groups, Facebook groups—and it’s all about giveaways and suspensions. There was a rash of suspensions on Amazon last month, and when I say rash, I’m not talking about thousands of accounts or anything. By the way, guys, that’s how you’re going to know if, for sure, there’s going to be a huge change on something—if all of a sudden, you see hundreds of people who do giveaways or two-step URLs every day, if all of a sudden people are getting suspended in masse like that. But when I say a rash, I’ve seen at least 10 or 15 on Facebook and people mentioning about 10 or 15 others—a lot of them talking about the same case. But still, the point is this is something that was not happening even just two, three months ago.
Bradley Sutton: So what happens when all of a sudden something new comes up? Well, people are going to make speculation on what might be the cause of it. And so, what did we see? We saw people who claim that it was all because of reviews. We had other people say it was about sales velocity. We had other people say it was about two-step URLs. Other people said, “Hey, it’s just about the giveaway. It’s about the discount percentage. Well, today, we’re going to talk a little bit about the kind of things we have discovered. We’re interviewing different people in the field who have insights into this. I am not here representing the Helium 10, explaining Helium 10’s official position on giveaways or suspensions.
Bradley Sutton: I am not an attorney giving legal advice on how to create your plan of action if you are suspended to get unsuspended. I am just Bradley Sutton here, who wants to give you guys the information that I have found from my sources—some of them I can mention, some of them I’m not allowed to mention—but I want to share this information with you so that you can, first of all, avoid the things that we have discovered. People are causing some of these suspensions, and more importantly, if you have been suspended, then here are some things that might help you to get unsuspended or how to write a plan of action. But again, don’t take all of these as gospel. I am not the most knowledgeable person in the whole entire world about this, but I am somebody who is going to try my hardest to get the right information out to you guys, and that’s what I think I have done with this
Bradley Sutton: A lot of this is coming from AMA episode; I believe it was 69 or 70. AMA is, for those of you who don’t know her, ask me anything episodes we do on Facebook once or twice a week. You can find those at Helium 10 on Facebook. So again, it’s Episode 69 I believe, where I interviewed Anthony Lee from SixLeaf, who has obviously unique insights into what’s going on, and he pretty much laid out what his sources have said is causing a lot of the suspensions, and a lot of that lined up with what my sources also have set. So if you want a little bit more in-depth, in detail, please watch that Episode on Facebook. That was over an hour-long video. This is all going to be about 15-, 20-minute podcasts, I should say.
Bradley Sutton: So, let’s just first of all talk about what’s been going on. People have been getting this e-mail that says, “Hey, you have been manipulating either review; you have been manipulating sales.” It’s basically the same copy-and-paste email. You guys have probably seen this in Facebook groups, and so you are no longer able to sell on Amazon. “Please let us know what you did, and we will determine if you can get back.” And a lot of the people had done what’s called giveaways or promotional discounts. So that was why the rumors that are getting started—that this was happening—is because Amazon does not want people to do promotions. So is this true or not? While there is nothing actually that can hundred percent say that “Yes, that is the case.” However, we have strong indications that it’s not just about the discount promotions.
Bradley Sutton: First of all, again, like 97% of the people who are doing those kinds of promotions, whether it’s on themselves on Facebook, they’re doing a launch on Facebook, or they’re using a service out there, they’re still not getting suspended, but still 3% is bigger than 0%. So, what did we find that our sources said is causing these? Well, there’s a number of new factors that Amazon seems to be testing out according to our sources. So one of them has to do with brushing—that they’re trying to stop brushing. What does brushing mean? Brushing is when there are sellers who try and want to get a whole bunch of reviews, right? So what they do is they make a whole bunch of orders using different Amazon buyer accounts. There are some companies in China and other places that have access to hundreds and hundreds of buyer accounts that are basically just bots, right?
Bradley Sutton: And, they order a product, and they want to be able to leave a verified review. So to do that, they actually have to ship it to an actual address. So basically they get these addresses that come from maybe other company’s orders or something, and they’ll send all these orders to a random address. The person didn’t order a product, but because they “ordered” it and it got delivered, now they can leave a verified review. This is what’s called brushing. And again, as always, what does Amazon crackdown or Amazon cracks down on things that give them bad publicity? A couple of years ago, it was reviews and incentivize reviews. There was a big article that came out saying, “Hey, X number of Amazon reviews are fake.” So what did Amazon do? They put an end to incentivize reviews. A few years ago, even before then, Amazon was getting upset that they were getting bad press because people were trying to get on the top 100 BSR lists.
Bradley Sutton: So they were taking advantage of the dollar-off coupons that Amazon provided, where if you had a $10 product, you can have a $10 off coupon so that basically the customer was paying zero for it. And so Amazon viewed that as a manipulation of the sales rank. And so they put that in the terms of service. You cannot try to inflate your sales rank by doing stuff. And, also they just took away the ability to have dollar-off coupons or 100% off coupon. So again, Amazon is very reactive, and if something gives them bad press or can hurt their bottom line, they’re going to try their best to try and curtail it. And so many articles in the last six months have come out about brushing being one of these issues. So, again, I don’t have Jeff Bezos on here as a guest who can confirm these things, but all the signs point to some of these following things that Amazon is cracking down on
Bradley Sutton: Number one, what could get your account flagged is if you are offering a 90% or more discount. I have not personally confirmed this. There are people who are doing 90% who are okay. This is not necessarily something that’s going to get you suspended. But if you’re doing 90% or greater discounts, this is a possibility that could get your account flagged for further review. And this is not something that’s actually, as far as the last time I checked, in their algorithm, right? It’s not in their algorithm, so it’s not being automatically checked, but some kind of manual check that’s happening. So that’s especially why you can still see tons and tons of people doing 90%. So, one of Anthony’s suggestions is, “Hey, if you think that this is valid, a valid concern, easy. Just go 89% as one of your highest to avoid that flag.
Bradley Sutton: Another thing that the Amazon is cracking down on, and again, is that they’ve always been very sensitive about reviews, but regardless of the discount you give out, that was one other common denominator in a lot of these accounts suspensions. If you’re giving a discount, even if it’s 40, 50, 60%, and then you use an email service, like Helium 10, to follow up and ask for a review or you send a message to them and buy or sell, or messages asking for a review, then Amazon might flag your account for this because in their eyes, think about it, you just gave somebody a huge discount and now you’re asking for them for review. So, you might not think that you’re manipulating reviews, “Hey, I’m not asking for a positive review. I’m just asking for any review.” But just think about it from Amazon’s viewpoint. If they’re sensitive about something, they’re always going to err on the side of caution. And so, this might be another thing that could either get your account flagged or possibly even suspended. I have seen a few where this seemed to be the direct cause of the suspension. They had a giveaway that they were doing so they sold tons of units at 80% off. And then they sent out a hundred emails asking for a review and boom, they got shut down. So that’s another thing that you might want to avoid. Other things that are resulting in suspension seem to be—again, this is just a report here resulting in suspensions are—for example, things that might make it seem that brushing is happening.
Bradley Sutton: For example, what if multiple Amazon buyer accounts are using the same shipping address? Alright? Now when might this happen? Why? Why is this happening during a giveaway, which is probably one of the biggest reason why, on giveaways, that was one of the common denominators? Well, what happens is there’s these hijackers, right? There are these arbitrage people who go out to these websites and coupons looking for the deals, and even if you have max order quantity or only one coupon per customer, they have ways to order multiple units. They could either have multiple, five or six, Amazon accounts, right—different ones that they’re using on different servers—and Amazon doesn’t track them, and they order the same product all going to the same address. Some of them even have Facebook groups where they say, “All right everybody, here’s the new 90% off coupon for this product. I’m going to pay everybody $1. If you guys ordered this from your accounts and send it to me, send it to my address.” And then that’s why you’ll see resellers or hijackers or piggybackers—as some call it after somebody does a giveaway—all of a sudden there’s some seller that has two, three, four, five, ten units, selling and undercutting you in getting Buy Box.
Bradley Sutton: Well it’s usually these are a charge people, but from Amazon side that seems to be brushing, right? If multiple people are getting the same product or I’m sorry if multiple accounts are sending the same product to the same address that, by curtailing this, is going to help them curtail brushing. But, on a side note, this whole giveaway thing where somebody is doing that for arbitrage, this has nothing to do with brushing, but I’m sure you can see how it looks like just from Amazon’s side. Another thing is, what if multiple accounts are buying the same product and then regardless of address it is going to is being paid for by the same credit card right? Now, that’s something that you can’t really have control over. You can even see who knows if that’s happening. But again, that’s another method that these hijackers or people who are trying to get a good deal are causing.
Bradley Sutton: So you know, an easy way to get around is to not give that high of discount. If there’s a 50 or 40% discount, and that’s the way you can launch your product, or do a “giveaway or discount promotion”, well by the time that person, that hijacker is paying his people to buy their product and it ships to him and him ships it back to Amazon and 15%, guess what? There go his profit margins. So he’s going to be less motivated to try and buy your product at a discount and resell it if the discount is lower. How can you even know if that’s the case? How do you know if somebody is doing that will print your sales reports if you get suspended, right? For me, personally, if I get suspended, that would be one of the things I look at, if I was doing a big kind of promotion, whether it’s a giveaway, or whether it’s just an email campaign.
Bradley Sutton: Or what I would do is I’ll print my sales report and look at the addresses. Is there a whole bunch of orders that came in on one or two or three days that are from the same address? Well, boom, that’s going to be easy. I’m going to say, “Amazon, hey, here’s what I did. I did a promotion using this website, and I gave 80% off coupon.” By the way, this is all highlighted in that AMA I did where you should absolutely be upfront with Amazon of what you did. Because right now, Amazon is not saying those giveaway companies, I have not seen one thing that says, “Hey, give away companies are against the rules.” Everybody that I ever heard who has used this as an excuse, they get reinstated. All right?
Bradley Sutton: So they basically say, yeah, I used SixLeaf, or I use this other company. We rebate key or whoever, right? I gave away or I offered 50 coupons for people who bought my product and this is who I use. Amazon is totally fine with that, but you’ve got to specify what could have caused it, right? Or that helps. Some people don’t. Some people would just say, “Hey, this is what I did.” And Amazon actually reinstates them. But if you want to go a step further, you could totally find the cause of why that was if you see that history and say, “Hey Amazon, I think I know why I was suspended. I used this service. I did a Facebook campaign by myself, I did a whatever, and 50 people bought this at 60% discount or 80% discount. And I noticed in my sales reports that multiple people from the same address or multiple seller accounts sent the same product to the same address. And I think it’s because I use this service, or I think it’s because I did not set my max order quantity. I think it’s because of whatever the case. I also ask that you guys please investigate these buyers because I did not ask the same buyer to order this on different accounts. So, and I would actually like it if this kind of buyer was not able to order my product in the future. So, please investigate it.” I doubt guys that they’re going to follow the case, but that’s a completely honest way of going about it because I’m sure you are upset that somebody did something like that because those are the people who’re going to be trying to resell your product.
Bradley Sutton: But Anthony goes in a little bit more on the things that you can say or that you can say to try and get reinstated, but that’s a big part of it: Just be upfront. Now of course, if you guys are doing complete black hat stuff, this podcast is not about that. I’m specifically just talking about if you’re doing your own Facebook giveaway and you think that’s might be one of the causes for the suspension. Again, it’s not the giveaway that seems to be the case. That’s just my opinion right now, based on all the different case studies that I’ve seen of this, but absolutely be upfront about what happened. Say the service that you use, how many coupons went out, and say you know that “Hey, you’ll try and be more careful in the future.” Or “Hey, I’m not going to, if you didn’t know that, have a 90% or higher as this is something that’s causing a flag.” Tell them that. Just say, “Hey, I have heard that 90% are off is not that great.”, or that you guys don’t like that. But so, in the future, I will not give any discount codes for 90% off. Again, Amazon just wants the dialogue open. Honestly, I have myself work with accounts; I have gotten suspended; and it was like pulling teeth to get reinstated, pulling teeth. Even when I had professionals helping me out, but now people are just sending these POAs and Amazon is reinstating them left and right. As long as they just say, “Hey, this is the company I used and this is what happened.” I wasn’t trying to manipulate any system at all and I’m not sure what I did wrong and boom, somebody got, they’ll get reinstated just by saying things like that.
Bradley Sutton: So I mentioned professional help guys; we’ve had people on the podcast that do this for a living, you know, help sellers get reinstated. So by all means, reach out to a professional in the field if you want to get help with getting reinstated, or get some professional advice on this; they do this for a living. I’m just giving you the information that I have been compiling. So again guys, Amazons can change the rules in a second, right? The rules can change at any time and they probably will. Who knows if you’re listening to this a year from now, who knows, maybe discount giveaways are completely out and they are going to add them to the terms of service. And now, anybody who does it is going to get permanently banned from Amazon. Who knows? Amazon can do anything at any time, but at this time, it doesn’t seem to be the case. Most giveaways are still okay. And then again, the few that are getting suspended, usually it’s because of some of these things that we talked about today is going on. Either asking for reviews or doing too high of a percentage. One more thing and this is something I have not tested out enough myself but is kind of causing buzz is Sales Velocity. Sales Velocity has always been an issue, especially if you’re doing Fulfilled by Merchant. I remember the first company I worked for that was selling products on Amazon. They ramped up to 100, 200 units a day within the first month and boom, they got back. They got suspended for a month from Amazon. They were being investigated because of sales velocity. This is like four years ago, but now there’s been some speculation that I can neither confirm nor deny, that now newer accounts or even on a product level, there might be some Sales Velocity issues, where if a product goes from zero to selling 100 or 200 a day, it could cause a flag or some kind of investigation, if you feel that this is the case.
Bradley Sutton: There have been people I’ve seen in Facebook groups mentioned things like, “Hey, open up a case with Amazon and tell them that, “Hey, I’m about to do a promotion on whatever website. You don’t have to say what it is, or I’m just doing kind of social media promotion, and I expect to be increasing my sales to a hundred a day for a while. I just wanted to make sure that this was going to be okay with my Sales Velocity and that this wouldn’t make any flags. There are people who say that that’s not going to protect you at all. Let’s say, you do get a specific sales velocity warning or email. Well, now you have a case in Amazon. You can say, “Hey, I told you guys that I was going to do a promotion and get X number of sales. Here’s the case number 73345, or whatever. So you know what’s going on. I thought we’re all good. That’s the thing to do guys. Whenever you’re in doubt, this is not 100% way to protect you, but it takes two minutes to open a case. If you’re one of the people who think that a brand two-step URL is against terms of service. Just ask Amazon. I did that. I send out, I opened up a case to Amazon just two weeks ago. I’m like, “Hey, I want to be able to send customers to a certain list of products in my brand so I’m going to use this URL.” And basically it was literally a two-step brand URL, or it had a certain keyword that only three or four products show up in the results.
Bradley Sutton: And I said, “Hey, I want to do this so I can give— I would just want to display this list of products to my customers. Is this okay if I’m sending this email out to customers off of Amazon?” Because remember, you’re not supposed to obviously use buy or sell messages for any of this kind of promotional stuff. And they said, “Yeah, sure.” So then later on if for whatever reason, I personally don’t think that brand URL is against terms of service. But if I did and if I thought that that was one of the reasons why something happened to my account, I have this case, I say, “Hey Amazon, I made sure that this was okay. Why did I get suspended?” So, just take some preventative measures. I know the launch companies as well are working on different ways to better vet buyers, right? So that things like this don’t happen, but there’s no foolproof way to prevent it.
Bradley Sutton: So just be prepared guys, do the things or don’t do the things that might cause a flag. In my opinion, don’t give over 90% obviously don’t send out review requests for discounted purchases, et cetera, et cetera. But be proactive to make sure you’re protecting yourself and your business. And then if, God forbid you do get suspended, hire a professional or listen to Anthony’s AMA, he talks about different ways and different POAs(Plan Of Actions) that his friends and customers have taken that help them get reinstated. So, rewatch that episode, relisten to this episode. But anyways, I hope you guys can just ease up a little bit on the paranoia that’s happening. Yes, this is a very serious matter, but don’t spread rumors that are unsubstantiated as, and say it as Gospel.
Bradley Sutton: I’ve seen headlines now, things that say, “Hey, giveaways are dead or giveaways don’t work anymore. Don’t be one of those guys who just try to jump on the bandwagon and say things. Do the research, talk to people who have been suspended, who have gotten reinstated. Listen to people who have an ear in the community like myself, like Anthony and other ones. There are other podcasts who have talked about this as well. So, before you jump to any conclusion or make any business altering decisions, make sure you have the facts together. And I think you guys will be all right. And if something else happens in the future, absolutely, we’ll update. We’ll do another podcast or we’ll update the Facebook group, et cetera to give you guys the most recent information. But this was something that’s definitely been on the minds of so many sellers out there right now. And so that’s why I wanted to dedicate an episode to it. So again, guys, I hope you find this information informative, and keep on crushing it with Helium 10. And I will see you guys on the top.