An Amazon’ Crash Course

Dealing with a bully.

A testimony on Amazon practices.

This post is under continuous construction. It will be fully online as soon as I finish nursing my lawyer from the apoplectic fit he somehow incurred reading the draft. As the saying goes, if courage is doing something knowing it may hurt, stupidity is exactly the same. I will be as prudent as can be to uphold the right of information… and I shall back every single one of my claims.

Meanwhile (or in any case), I recommend that you read this excellent article from The Verge.

So… setting a different tone for a different type of page, though this is a serious topic. You are welcome to participate and comment (witty and fun is OK, trolling is not). Post responsibly!

As a display of my inexperience, I once thought that Justice, blind lady Justice existed around a notion of right and wrong and that one could seek Justice’ protection when he had been wronged. I believed that Justice could set things straight when, after countless attempts to find a solution, realizing that my efforts only yielded disdain and bad faith, I felt that I had no other choice but to call upon her. How naive of me! I have since learned the hard way that the Law is not Justice, and that it will not protect you from bullies when the bully has better lawyers than you. 

Photo of a random Amazon lawyer. This photo is being used under the fair use laws and is only used for the purpose of illustration. Its low resolution does not compete with the original and is cropped for use. BaouRouge does not claim to own this image.
Photo of a random Amazon lawyer. This photo is being used under the fair use laws and is only used for the purpose of illustration. Its low resolution does not compete with the original and is cropped for use. BaouRouge does not claim to own this image.

Welcome! 

Whether you are new to Amazon, or have been around long enough to know better, this page is for you. It is a candid testimony about my experiences as an Amazon vendor. Its purpose is to detail and illustrate how Amazon truly acts as a company, and what you may expect dealing with them, beyond the fancy PR that the public usually gets. I am publishing this because, when troubles started adding up for me, I sure wished someone else had done the same, so I could maybe figure out the rules of the game being played. After 8 years on their platforms and over 5 years in litigation against Amazon Europe, I no longer hold a professional account on Amazon but I trust that I have both the credentials and insight to give relevant comments on the matter. If this page can inspire people to speak out, support other vendors to find guidance and understanding, and overall inform readers, it will be worth many times the insult of 8,699.36 Euro (about 10,500.00 USD) that Amazon thought I would settle for (out of court and out of sight!). As you read this, it simply means that I gave them the finger, 36 Euro cents included, and that our argument went back to a judge.

From there, I shall also make sure that everyone can see by themselves how this is being handled. It would pain me that only some obscure Amazon personnel approving legal expenses got to follow the saga, hence this invitation to a much wider audience.

Europe is not the US where any incident can settle for millions. 8,699.36 Euro is 100% of the claim I originally made to Amazon + 500 Euro extra, so why refuse? Well, among other things, one of the strings attached was to absolve them of any wrongdoing and not to make any public or legal challenge against them ever again. Oh, and before I forget, that was also supposed to be fully confidential and never to be spoken of! Did I just spill the beans? Well, I don’t recall agreeing to any confidential terms, and IP addresses from emails do not lie, so consider carefully before you challenge that! Understand, reader. That was not only about money, it was possibly the end of a real nightmare, with assurances to let me back onto the Amazon platform (which meant, Inventory Performance Index (IPI) adjustment, volume allowances, and other warranties that we would have defined together), and after seeing my business nearly destroyed, I guess I could be tempted. Only, in their arrogance, they have forgotten that if this was indeed the amount I initially claimed from them, between then and now, 5 long years have passed, 5 years of lies, deceit, retorsion, perjury, court filings and legal fees that have accrued way, way beyond that number, not to mention the cost of lost opportunity, grief, and stress. 

I believe I may have just caught your attention, haven’t I?

I will not overestimate my chances after years of seing the ugly side of things. I may only be headed for a Pyrrhic victory at best, but I intend to make the most of the experience, sharing it from the front line, and explaining a few Amazon principles I learned along the way.

Basic principle.

When things go reasonably well, you may be content with your dealings with Amazon. Pray that it stays that way because they can also be very frustrating at times. As a vendor, your unique point of contact is Seller Support via Seller Central and more often than not, at some point your reaction may be: Why! Those guys are useless!

And with almost ¼ million hit results on Google, I’d say this looks like a fairly popular topic!

I appreciate that it may be difficult to picture without sounding outlandish, but try anyway. You were not unlucky to fall on the one incompetent employee on duty that day! This incompetence is by design and serves a very specific purpose that I will explain shortly. For the time being, remind yourself that Amazon is one of the richest and most successful companies in history, whatever your criteria may be. They did not manage that position playing nice. They have some of the smartest minds on their payroll and those can be ruthless. Underestimate Amazon at your own risks. Dismiss them as being silly or incompetent and you may eventually find out the hard way that all along, you were the Amateur; they are the Pros, and you are being played.

But I digress. Amazon has organized its Seller Support in a way that often makes it exceedingly difficult to get answers to somewhat complex questions. You do not have a single point of contact, as thread communications often gets assigned to the next available agent who may have to figure out what the first one intended to do. It is virtually impossible to reach specialist departments, and there is no real escalation mechanism to any level, not even to a litigation department. Meanwhile, if you do not follow-up within 48h yourself (while they can take as long as they wish to answer) your case will be summarily closed and you will need to start over again.

One consequence of this setup is that a problem can very quickly involve several dozen people without anyone being assigned end-to-end responsibility for your issue. Notoriously, Amazon agents work on a quota system with very short response times, and get graded on meeting their objectives. Naturally, temptation must be very strong for them to close those requests as quickly as possible, and they may not hesitate much to pass the hot potato to a colleague, by purposely giving an incomplete answer to which the seller will later respond, with that response being assigned to another agent, more or less competent, more or less willing to read over all the information previously exchanged. Very quickly one can reach an incredible amount of exchanges, up to hundreds of messages, without noticeable progress. It ends up discouraging people who often give up at this point. Specialized discussion forums are filled with frustrated comments from sellers having to deal with under-trained or even plainly incompetent Amazon support workers and talking about how difficult it is to get results through this one interface. With experience, you get to see through that scheme and even sometimes catch agents red handed in their bullshit. The satisfaction is quickly gone, though, as your problem is no more resolved for it.

Meanwhile, notice that this system has achieved one hidden but significant objective: It has naturally, and at very low cost, gotten rid of a good proportion of the more troublesome requests as people simply often give up at this stage, on account of this felt incompetence. But is it really genuine incompetence? The following example, a true story, may help you see things quite differently!

An Amazon’ Crash Course

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