Last month I bought a case for my Kindle via a third party retailer on Amazon. When the case arrived it was too small - in their advertisement they referred to the large size Kindle 2 and apparently mine is a 9 inch Kindle DX.
I contacted the Seller about returning my product, which they told me I could do although I was still responsible for all the shipping costs. First they asked me to mail the item to their warehouse, then they asked me to ship it directly to a private address in Canterbury. I agreed to all their terms and in addition to posting it to the private address, I also sent the Seller a copy of my invoice and of our email correspondence, highlighting where the product had been shipped.
Beware the Negative Seller Review!
Three weeks passed and I still hadn't heard back from the Seller nor had I received a refund, but I did receive about three emails from Amazon asking me to log onto their site and review the seller. Frustrated, I logged on and left a negative feedback score (2/5) and a comment along the lines of, "When the case arrived it was too small. The refund process was convoluted and to date (weeks later) I still haven't received my refund."
Within hours I had an email from the Seller berating me for leaving negative feedback. Instead of being concerned about a misunderstanding or customer service gaffe, they complain that I was ruining their business, shouted at me in all-caps and then gave me instructions about how to remove my negative feedback from Amazon. Some of the highlights:
- "I am so upset that you have left a NEGATIVE FEEDBACK on our Amazon listing. I am not sure you are aware that a negative can have our account suspended. This is our family business and our source of income."
- "I am simply without words to see the FIRST NEGATIVE customer feedback in almost 500 trading days of business. This is no way to treat a good seller."
- "Are you aware that the entire Amazon network and customers see these reviews and this can cause of seller rating to drop and cause a suspension. We are very stressed about this and need this issue resolved quickly before our image on Amazon is ruined. I am still cannot belive this is happening to us..why ??? I am so upset about this!"
- "I would appreciate if you could remove this as we have been a very very good seller. I remember my wife asking me to sign a cheque weeks ago, so either it was lost or there is a communication issue. Could you be polite and remove this negative feedback .... please remove this before our sales are hurt even more."
Negative Feedback .... Disappears
Shortly after this email exchange, I logged onto my Amazon account to find that my feedback had been removed.
There had been no email from Amazon and I knew I hadn't removed the feedback. Immediately, I began to worry that the Seller who sent me an inappropriate email had found a way of accessing my account. I looked into Amazon's Feedback Removal Policy and was confident that my review didn't meet any of their criteria for removal. I also wrongly assumed that they would not remove my feedback without at least notifying me. Also suspect was the message (screenshot above) saying that I had removed the feedback, when I hadn't.
After changing my password, I called Amazon and was put through to a very helpful customer service person. After some digging, it was determined that the Amazon department representing Sellers removed my feedback in response to a complaint from the Seller. They apologised for not having sent me an email that informed me of the removal of my feedback - apparently that should have happened.
After a bit more questioning they told me that the review was removed because I mentioned the product, which, I was told, violates their feedback policy. The only Amazon feedback removal policy that references product mentions says, a review will be removed if:
The entire feedback comment is a product review, such as "The Acme Super-Widget lacks the sharpness and speed of the Acme Ultra Widget." However, if the feedback comment is only partly a product review but ALSO contains feedback about the seller's service, such as "Seller's shipping service was very slow, and the Acme Super-Widget lacks the sharpness and speed of the Acme Ultra Widget," then the feedback would NOT be removed.When I pointed out to Amazon that, although I referenced the size of the product, the majority of my review was about the seller and their policy clearly allows for this, I was told that they would need to get back to me because the very nice man I was speaking to was unfamiliar with the actual wording of the feedback policy. Again, he needed to speak to the Seller department to get more information.
15 minutes later the same representative called me back to apologise and say that my review would be reinstated within two hours. After more digging, it seems that it was "accidentally" deleted by someone at Amazon and that there were no grounds for removing it. This conversation happened at noon today.
About six hours later my review was still not up so I called Amazon. Again, I was greeted by a very pleasant customer service person. I explained the entire situation to her (as she didn't seem to have any record of it) and put me on hold (again) as she spoke to the Seller department. When she came back, she told me that she would need to speak to my original customer service representative (I had his name) and that only he could deal with my problem. I am supposed to hear back from him sometime tomorrow about whether or not my feedback will actually be reinstated.
If my situation represents the typical way Amazon deals with negative feedback, then as a company, they are far more concerned with keeping their Sellers happy then their customers. My Seller didn't like my negative feedback, complained to Amazon and, in contravention of their own policy, they removed my review. They didn't contact me to tell me and, in fact, misrepresented the situation with a message on my account inferring that I had removed the feedback myself. If the seller hadn't sent me such a crazy email, I probably would never have logged into my account to re-read my feedback, which is buried deep within my profile, and as a result, I would never have known it was removed.
Moreover, if I hadn't made myself familiar with Amazon's Feedback Removal Policy, I would have accepted the word of the customer service representative and assumed that I'd done something wrong. They seem to be counting on the ignorance of customers. Finally, after all of the above, if I wasn't annoyed enough to check back, deep into my account, six hours later, I would not have called back and again, would not have noticed my feedback hadn't been reinstated.
It makes me wonder whether I can trust the Seller reviews on Amazon or whether they are fixed to benefit Sellers. The benefit for Amazon in having high Seller ratings is presumably that people tend to buy more from Sellers they trust, and Amazon sees a share of this profit. The downside, which Amazon should really consider, is that as a regular online consumer, I no longer trust these ratings nor do I trust that Amazon is handing reviews in a transparent way. Are Sellers with mostly positive reviews really trust worthy, or are they just the ones who take the time out to complain to Amazon? The result of this kind of practice is that genuinely good sellers may be penalised because consumers no longer have faith in positive reviews.
At the present time, my review has still not been re-posted and although I've been told my concern will be dealt with quickly, my faith in Amazon has been shaken. Next time you buy from a third-party on Amazon, you might want to rethink whether you can really trust their feedback score and if you've left a negative review, you might want to check that Amazon hasn't secretly removed it.
Update - Tuesday 16th March, 10 a.m.
When I got up this morning, I logged into Amazon to see that my review had been reinstated, so that's good. I am still concerned about this process and whether it is the typical way that the Amazon Seller Department handles negative complains from customers. There seems to be a bit of conflict between the department that represents the interest of customers and the one that looks after Sellers. At this point Amazon hasn't really explained to me what happened to get this entire process so off track.
I originally posted my Amazon review on Friday night and now that it's been reinstated, because it is nearly five days old, it is no longer showing up on the front page of the Seller's shop, which is where it would have been for at least a few days if it had not been taken down. Maybe I'm being paranoid, but again, I wonder about whether this was intentional.
The other point of concern is that it seemed relatively easy for the Seller to have negative reviews removed (my review was removed within eight hours of me putting it up) but it's taken me much more time and effort (and a blog post) to have it reinstated. After all of this, I am still left with the question - are third party Seller ratings on Amazon trustworthy? Is this just a wild example of everything falling apart or is this something that happens a lot at Amazon? I have more answers than questions.
I welcome anyone from Amazon to weigh in and provide an explanation. Jeff Bezos ... are you out there? Do you care?
Update 2: I've heard from the office of Jeff Bezos, apparently he does care. Here's what they had to say.