Negative Amazon Reviews Are Spiking And Sellers Are Losing Millions - Why?
The number of negative Amazon reviews has gone way up. While the virus is challenging all of us in unexpected ways, Amazon finds itself in the unique position of seeing both A) an astronomical spike in demand, and B) a severely reduced capacity to continue safely making deliveries.
That’s a devastating combination, and it’s caused estimated delivery times to skyrocket to as long as one month. Clearly, customers aren’t happy, but it’s small businesses and independent sellers that are dealing with the consequences.
Despite the ballooning demand for items across the board, sellers are being asked to ship items without Amazon’s assistance, even if their funds have been frozen by a misunderstanding by the site’s algorithm.
"Essentials Only" Policy
Amazon’s shipping infrastructure has been pushed to its limits. With many businesses being forced to shutter as a result of stay at home orders, people are looking to Amazon now more than ever to get what they need. It certainly doesn’t help that the reaction to the virus is slowing everything from package delivery to internet speeds.
Customers noticed a big increase in estimated delivery times - sometimes as long as one month - starting in late March.
Shortly thereafter, Amazon decided to prioritize essential items, and a new “essentials only” policy was put in place. With the goal of alleviating some of the extreme stress that their shipping infrastructure was facing, Amazon announced their warehouses would temporarily only stock essentials, such as groceries, tools, and, yes, replacement parts.
In the face of a crisis, such a move is easily justifiable. Amazon wants to get people what they absolutely need. And people would like to receive their essentials as quickly as possible.
The Algorithm is Freezing Funds...
However, this shift proved devastating for many independent sellers on Amazon. In normal times, Amazon gives sellers the choice between fulfilling their own orders, or requesting that Amazon fulfill them.
If you were a seller selling a non-essential, like soccer balls, for example, Amazon was now asking that you ship all of your own orders, removing the option of Amazon fulfillment while they diverted all of their resources exclusively to essentials.
As has been the case with many sellers, this would result in a rapidly increasing number of seller fulfilled orders. This number would have reflected both the sitewide increase in orders and the increase caused by the removal of the fulfillment by Amazon option.
Normally, such a shift is suspicious, so Amazon’s algorithm is designed to flag accounts that experience such a sharp rise in seller fulfilled orders in such a short amount of time. Their funds are frozen while their account is subject to a “velocity review,” which can last up to 90 days. Sellers do not have access to their funds during the review. In some cases, this can mean millions of dollars.
But here’s the kicker: even though this increase in seller fulfilled orders is justified and reasonable during this crisis, the review process is completely automated. It is completely unaware that circumstances have made such a dramatic increase in seller fulfilled orders totally viable.
To complicate things, it is next to impossible to contact Amazon and speak to a human about removing this account freeze.
Even in normal times, Amazon simply does not have the resources to address all of their user concerns, so support for sellers is largely automated, and it is difficult to see results.
...And It Expects Sellers to Keep Selling
Sellers are expected to continue conducting business as usual while their accounts are under review. But with their funds frozen until the review is completed - which can take as long as 90 days - it is sometimes impossible to stay in business.
In cases where the customer cannot fulfill orders because they simply cannot afford them, Amazon then, per their user agreement made with sellers, has grounds to cancel an account outright.
All of the frozen funds are returned to the customers. The sellers will never see any of it.
Fast forward to now, and Amazon is in the process of hiring over 100,000 new employees to meet the rising demand. The “essentials only policy” has been lifted, and things should be back to normal (as normal as these strange times can allow).
However, businesses and independent sellers are still reporting that their accounts are under “velocity review.”
This means their funds are still frozen and they still face potential shutdown.
500,000 New Negative Amazon Reviews
Sellers are also taking heat in another form: the biggest spike in negative reviews in Amazon history.
In March of last year, the worldwide rate of positive reviews on Amazon was 94%, meaning that out of all the reviews on Amazon, only 6% were negative.
In April of 2020, however, the rate of positive reviews on Amazon was 91%, meaning negative reviews increased to 9% worldwide.
This translates to an increase of around 500,000 negative reviews.
Generally, customers report dissatisfaction with the increased delivery times. It’s unclear what they expect.
Since it became clear that COVID-19 was going to pose a significant challenge to postal workers and couriers, Amazon has made many efforts to communicate that delivery times could possibly grow to as long as one month (though this projection is an extreme, worst case scenario estimate). This has done little to deter the huge and growing number of vocally dissatisfied customers on the site.
Sellers on Amazon are responsible for fulfilling their orders as advertised, or handing the product over to Amazon so that they can fulfill the orders. In the cases where Amazon fulfills the orders, once the product is out of the seller’s hands, it’s just that: out of their hands. It’s Amazon’s responsibility after that. Anything that happens, up to and including delays caused by the worst pandemic in over 100 years, after that is typically the fault of Amazon or their shipping services.
It's Never Amazon's Fault - Even When It Is
In the short window of time where sellers were temporarily forced to fulfill their own orders, with no option of fulfillment by Amazon, a negative review citing slow shipping time was the fault of the seller. Even though Amazon is fulfilling orders again, negative reviews citing slow shipping time are still blamed on the seller.
Previously, negative reviews that cited late arrival on orders that were fulfilled by Amazon could be challenged by the sellers and removed. These reviews can hurt a sellers reputation over something that is not their fault, but Amazon’s.
However, Amazon has recently revamped its review policy. They have made it much more difficult to challenge these reviews.
Their new review policy could explain why the spike in negative reviews is so out of control. But the fact of the matter is that small sellers and independent sellers are hurting now more than ever, and now they must also be forced to take the heat for Amazon’s mistakes.
It could be that an exception is eventually made to this policy sometime in the future and that these reviews might someday be allowed to be removed from a seller’s page. But for now they have no choice but to accept the hit.
Snap Supply Remains Fully Operational
Amazon itself might be asking their customers to wait much longer, but Snap Supply remains fully operational. As an essential business, we understand that our customers need quality parts delivered in a timely manner now more than ever.
We are doing everything we can to get packages to our customers on time. Constraints caused by postal and delivery services have prompted us to kindly ask that customers remain patient if deliveries take an extra day or two. Even in crisis, Snap Supply is still here for you.