What To Do If Your eBay or Amazon Account is Suspended or Cancelled
The Online Seller's News, June 22 2012, Volume 12, No. 10
Tips, Tools, News and Resources for eBay, Amazon and Independent Online Sellers
A Great eBay Scam That Will Warm Your Heart – My wife sent me a link to an article in Gizmodo that was hilarious. It’s a true store about an eBay seller who managed to get back at a very nasty Non-Paying Bidder. Here is a link to the story.
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It’s been a while since we announced Online Selling Coach. We have recently added new content and are starting to run more webinars. If you cannot attend a live webinar, all of our webinars will be posted within 7-days for later review. We have also added some new contributors to the site and don’t forget – OSC members get a 40% discount on any books sold at SkipMcGrath.com.
Just before I went to print with this issue, I got an email from eBay that they are delaying implementation of the 90% tracking policy for one month until July 21st instead of June 21.
They said the reason was that eBay sellers were asking for more time, but I think they had systems issues as the info on my seller’s dashboard was consistently wrong.
In the last issue I told you about Jennie Hunt’s Summer Toy Guide. Unfortunately the deadline for the introductory price cut is over, but Jenny has packed some extra value into this year’s offer so its still a very good deal. Here is what you get for your $27:
That is over $90 in value if you bought all of those items separately.
Jenni has a great track record for showing sellers how to make money with toys. She publishes twice yearly –The Summer Toy Guide and The Christmas Toy Guide. I followed her advice on toy buying in the last Christmas Toy Guide and made over $3000 on toys between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Click here to learn more about The Summer Toy Guide.
An apology - In the last issue I linked to a first-person story about a woman who owned a jewelry store selling her hand-made jewelry. She got started selling on Amazon FBA and was able to close her store and now she is just full-time Amazon. Unfortunately the article was only available to Amazon sellers who were logged into their account. So I apologize for that. I contacted Amazon and asked them to put the story on an open link, but they have not gotten back to me yet. If they do agree I will put the link in a future issue.
The idea for this article came to me when I received an email last week from a reader who just had her Amazon account shut down. She admitted that she had received two policy violation warnings in the past, but her account was shut down suddenly with no warning.
Of course the best way to keep your account is to not violate any policies and to keep your feedback and DSR scores high. But lets face it. Just because you violated a policy doesn’t mean you were malicious or doing it intentionally (unless you are/were). Everyone makes mistakes. With all my knowledge and experience, I had an unintentional policy violation on Amazon a few months ago and one on eBay last year. So it can happen. Fortunately since it was my only violation I am still selling.
But, what to do if you are shut down?
Both eBay and Amazon have an appeal process – but to be honest they are not very forgiving and will rarely grant an appeal. At best they will only suspend you for 6 months to a year. At worst they just ban you permanently and won’t even communicate with you. That may seem harsh –and it is. But remember lawyers, not business people, set company policies. Both Amazon and eBay have many thousands of sellers and more joining every day –so losing the occasional seller doesn’t mean much to them.
Nevertheless, you do want to write an appeal. When you do this remember three things:
Believe me, an angry or sarcastic letter will get you nowhere. Think about that. Put yourself in their position. How would you respond to an angry missive?
So if your appeal fails – what do you do next?
One thing you can do is prepare by setting up a separate eBay or Amazon account in advance. But if you haven’t done that, here is the best way to go.
A corporation is considered a separate person under the law. So step one is to form an S-Corp or LLC. I use My Corporation.com. They charge as little as $69 for a basic LLC. Plus you will have to pay a filing fee to your state. Some states such as mine charge a really high filing fee. Here in Washington State it costs $200, but Nevada is only $75, so that is one option since you do not have to live in Nevada to have a corporation there.
Next you will need a new email address and a physical address. The email address is easy. For a physical address you want to just rent a box in one of those mailbox franchises that exist in almost every town. (There is another advantage of this. The mailbox place is a commercial address. When you have goods shipped to you, it is cheaper to ship to a commercial address than a residential one. This savings can easily pay for the box rental).
Once you get a commercial address, you will now need a bank account and Visa card in the name of the business. Just take your articles of incorporation to your local bank, open an account in the name of your business (your LLC name) and ask for a Visa Debit card for the account.
Now you just need to do one last thing. Both Amazon and eBay log your IP address, so you will need to change that. This is very easy. Before you go to bed, simply disconnect your computer and your modem from the Internet and shut them down for at least 8 hours. When you reconnect them the next morning you should have a new IP address. That will work 90% of the time. If it does not, go to this link for further instructions:
Now you should be ready to apply for a new account. Just one more thing; when you name your corporation or LLC, use a name different than your own. If your eBay account was in the name of Susan Jones, don’t name your LLC: Susan Jones, LLC. Your LLC doesn’t have to be named after you, you can pick any name you like that isn’t being used by someone else. ( My Corporation also has a free business name search).
Side Note: A lot of eBay and Amazon sellers use LLC to incorporate, but I spoke with a CPA who is of the opinion that you should use a corporation if you want to hide the ownership. There is not much difference between the two in terms of tax treatment. When you form a corporation it is a C-Corp, but if you file an S-Corp election with the IRS you will be treated the same for tax purposes.
One of my readers came up with the following. I am not sure if all of this is necessary, but if you want to be really sure you can follow these additional steps. Here is her advice (unedited)
That is a lot to do, but if you really want to get back in business, that’s what it takes. You might wonder if this is being dishonest. Remember what I said at the beginning – A corporation or LLC is a separate person under the law. Amazon or eBay may not feel that way and still try to ban you, but in that case they are in the wrong –not you.
One of the most frustrating things that happen to Amazon sellers is when they find a great product at a good wholesale price and when they check the pricing on Amazon they discover that Amazon is selling the product directly. At that point, most folks just give up and look for something else. But you don’t have to do that. There are ways to compete.
Here is an example. In the last issue, one of the wholesale sources I mentioned was Barluxe – a company that makes drinkware. Several readers wrote me that they were interested in buying the product but that Amazon was selling it directly. I looked, and sure enough Amazon was the seller. (But then something strange happened. I went to the listing a few days later when I was starting to write this article and Amazon was no longer selling them –instead Barluxe was selling them directly themselves which pretty much amounts to the same thing).
It could be that Amazon was out of stock and they will be back. But in any event the same technique will work. Actually this one is very easy. Both Amazon and Barluxe are selling the glasses in sets of six. Now that is an unusual number as most people buy glasses in sets of 4 or 8. So all you have to do is buy a few cases of the glasses (they come in case lots of 24) and create a listing for a set of 4. You will need a UPC code when you do this (I get mine from BarCodesTalk). So once you have a UPC code, just create a listing for a 4-Pack and every time someone searches for Barluxe products your listing will come up next to the others.
You can do this for almost anything. And it works for any competitor –not only Amazon. Just last week I found a product that another seller was selling individually, so all I did was create a listing for a pair. See below. The first listing is another seller then there is my listing –which by the way, all twelve 2-packs that I sent to FBA sold out within a week so I have more on re-order.
I actually have three listings. This company sells both classic ketchup and spicy ketchup. So I have one listing for a 2-pack of each, plus one listing for a combo of spicy and classic. (All of the others are sold out as well and I am waiting for the next shipment).
So this is a pretty simple technique you can use to compete with either Amazon, a direct seller or any seller for that matter.
At the moment Amazon is out of stock of the underlying product, but I have been competing with Amazon on this product for over a year.
Here is a product where Amazon was selling the same salt and pepper mill that I was. In fact the sales rep where I buy these from, also calls on Amazon and is the sales rep for this product.
Since Amazon was selling just the salt and pepper mills, I simply sourced a bottled set of sea salt and pepper and added it to the product. I also raised the price. When I was just competing with Amazon they were selling these at such a low price that I could not make any money after fees. Now I am making about $18 on each sale. They don’t sell that fast but they sell well enough that I am content with the profits.
Besides quantity, there endless variations you can create. Here is a set of knives where I am competing not only with Amazon, but several other sellers as well.
In this case I created a unique listing by adding a magnetic knife bar to the set. Now when anyone searches Guy Fieri on Amazon my listing comes up alongside the competing listings. Why did I use a knife bar? Well at the bottom of the listing Amazon shows you what other customers bought after buying this item. Here is that image:
As you can see, Amazon will actually help you create listings by telling you what customers’ want. And it works. If you look closely at my listing I am out of stock because the entire shipment that I just sent into Amazon about a month ago. I sold 12 sets of this knife set in a three-week period.
Here is one that is a no brainer. This product requires a UV Flashlight, which was not included with the original listing . So I bought the product from the manufacturer and bought a UV flashlight from another supplier. I married the two products to create a new product. Notice that the listing says only 2 left in stock. I sent a dozen of these into Amazon just about 4 weeks ago, so they are selling about twice a week.
So the moral of this is don’t be afraid to compete directly with Amazon, or any other seller for that matter. Just be a little creative and you can win the buy box –and the sale.
One of the most frustrating situations a seller can run into is when they have a great-selling profitable product and they can’t afford the money to buy more of it.
I have told you many times that one of the secrets to profitable online selling is to turn your inventory over as fast as you can. But, to do that, you have to have inventory. This basically comes down to cash flow. The best way to always have funds to buy inventory is to improve your cash flow. There are several ways to do that:
The last thing I want to mention on this topic is what to borrow money for. Never borrow money to finance inventory unless you are 100% certain the inventory will sell. In fact only use it to buy inventory that has already proven to be a quick and profitable seller. And even then – be careful. There is nothing worse than finding a product that sells, buying a ton of inventory and then a competitor shows up who lowers the price and there go your profits. Remember if you are selling something quickly – others can see that. This business is one big moving target and I prefer to be the shooter and not the target.
Both eBay and Amazon have restrictions on selling. Besides restricting certain categories of products such as Tobacco or firearms, there are other restrictions you can run into. Lets look at eBay first.
eBay has a program called VeRO which stands for Verified Rights Owners Program. It is a program designed to protect the intellectual property. Basically what happens is if someone thinks you are violating their intellectual property they file a Vero Complaint with eBay and eBay shuts you down if you are selling the infringing product.
I actually made a VeRO complaint once. A seller had taken one of my books to a copy shop and made copies and was selling them on eBay. She (yes it was a “she”) even copy pated the sales letter from my web site into her eBay listing. It took eBay a couple of days to shut down her listings and a week or so later I noticed she was gone from eBay altogether.
Besides copyright issue, companies use VeRO to protect their trademarked brands. Some companies such as Dunkin Donuts, Tiffany and Oral-B will not allow their products to be sold on eBay at all. Other companies insist you only sell used products. While others will only let you sell if you purchase through an approved wholesale distributor.
This has hurt a lot of eBay sellers. You might buy some merchandise on closeout thinking your got a great deal. You list it on eBay and Bam! Your auction listing is shut down and you get a policy violation warning from eBay. Do that a couple of times and eBay will suspend or close your account.
You are probably thinking – How would someone know before they bought something?
Well it turns out that eBay has a list of companies that restrict the sale of their goods and the list is quite long. Before we get to the list you should go to the eBay policy page that explains how VeRO works. That page is at: http://pages.ebay.com/help/policies/intellectual-property-ov.html
Once you have read that information you will want to go to the page that lists the VeRO companies: http://pages.ebay.com/help/community/vero-aboutme.html I strongly suggest you bookmark that page so you can refer to it often.
The page is broken down by category. Under each category is a list of companies. The problem is you have to actually click on the link to the company’s policy to see what, if any, restrictions there are. Here is one from American Eagle Outfitters:
If you read this you will find that you can sell AEO products on eBay, but you must first make 100% sure they are authentic, you may not use a photo or any description or copy from the AEO website (I.e. take your own photo and write your own description) and do not use any of their trademarks. The problem is you can often do all of this and you still get shut down. All the company has to do is tell eBay: “That shirt looks like a fake,” and eBay will kill your listing (I am not suggesting AEO would do that, but I have heard of this happening to sellers of other lines).
Dunkin Donuts is a lot stricter. Here is an excerpt from their policy statement:
This refers to their K-Cups for Keurig coffee makers. They were turning up on eBay and Amazon and I heard from several sellers that were shut down so they were definitely enforcing their policy.
Amazon is a lot more open. They do have several restricted products and categories (just search the term restricted products on the Amazon Help Page to see them). But Amazon doesn’t police brands. I sent Amazon a query asking about brand restrictions and specifically mentioned the Dunkin Donuts K-cups and got the following answer.
This was slightly unsettling when I read the line that said: “ However there are products, for which you need to get authorization from the manufacturers to list them…” They told me there are products that I need to get authorization to list, but they did not tell me which they were. So I went back with another question and got this answer:
So that’s about it. For eBay you can check with Vero, but for Amazon you have to type in the UPC code of the product before you buy it to make sure you are allowed to resell it on Amazon.
Garden Botanika sells botanically based skin care, body care and fragrances. Minimum order is only $100. NOTE: The website is retail. Use the contact form to get wholesale information or email email@example.com for wholesale info. These type of spa products are very hot on Amazon and being sold by Amazon, so you will want to compete by creating bundles.
The Wallet Manufacturer manufacturers High quality men’s leather wallets, card cases, checkbook covers and other leather products
Her Station Wholesale offers wholesale western style purses, wallets, luggage, belts, & etc. as well as a large selection of fashion accessories.
FANZ Mart sells a complete line of NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB products including jerseys, caps and other products.
CTS Wholesale is mostly known for their sunglasses, but they also sell other nice line, including some hot lighter products.
We R Nutz sells a nice line of nuts and trail mixes.
Drugstore Products is a wholesale distributor for Health and Beauty Care, including Colgate, Gillette, Lever, Mennen, Dove, Coppertone, Banana Boat, Old Spice, Listerine mouthwash, Oil of Olay, JJ Johnson and Johnson, Neutrogena, Aveeno, razors, Condoms, Shampoos, Deodorants, All Sunblock brands, body wash, HBC, travel sizes.
The Ruffin Flag company sells all the flags in the world as well as Gifts & Souvenirs with flags, caps, bikinis, fleece blankets, license plates.
That’s it for now. See you right after the 4th of July. I hope all of my readers have a great holiday weekend and stay safe if you play with fireworks.
P.S. If you missed the last issue, click here to read it.
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