Practical Ecommerce

My (unplanned) survey of Amazon resellers

In the last few days I have been conducting an unplanned survey of the customer service of hundreds of Amazon resellers. It is unplanned and unwelcomed because someone sent phishing emails to thousands of Amazon resellers pretending to be an Amazon customer and using my email address as the sender.

Any clued up recipient would presumably look at the email header and quickly ascertain that the email originated in Italy and not from my account. Fortunately for me, most spam blacklist organizations used the header properly to identify the culprits, and therefore flagged the email.

The first I knew about this was the arrival of a flood of “undeliverable mail” bounces to my inbox. This is the immediate bounce of spam sent to invalid or no longer used addresses. It is an automatic bounce. Whilst this wave of bounces came in, I also started getting real responses. Initially I was frustrated, but as the response rate increased I decided to analyze the response and learn from the experience.

Clearly some statistics are impossible to get, or are meaningless. For instance I have no idea how many sellers were targeted so I cannot work out the overall response rate. Further the undeliverable mail bounces merely reflect on the poor quality of the spammer’s mailing list. Looking at the real replies, however, was interesting.

Seller responses

Ninety percent of the replies came within the first half hour, going up to 95 percent in the next two hours. The last 5 percent came within the next day. This indicates that Amazon seller metrics has taught sellers to respond fast.

It’s not all good news, however. Some 62 percent of the replies were automated customer service acknowledgements. Of those, only some 13 percent were followed up by a real person. I assume that the lack of follow-up was due to the resellers recognizing spam when they see it — and not inefficient customer service. But time will tell if I get any late responses from these automated-email retailers.

All of the remaining replies were real people with real responses. Taken together, the replies were as follows.

Some 47 percent requested more information, like the Amazon order number. A similar percentage suggested that I contact Amazon directly.

The remaining few responses were interesting. For example, one reseller asked, “Is this spam?” Another, said, irately, “I am reporting you to Amazon for spamming.”

Most astounding were the few who replied in the vein of “we have found your order, but please confirm your address so we can send it out to you.” That’s astonishing. I can see why people send spam.

Cutting across these responses were the sizable minority who said that they had clicked on the link in the spam email. I replied to all these and suggested that they review their security and anti-virus practices.

A final ongoing annoyance is the 5 to 6 percent of retailers that are now sending me customer service “how did we do?” email surveys. I am tempted to tell them!

My conclusions?

  • Amazon has trained their retailers to reply promptly, but not necessarily intelligently.
  • Too many retailers do not deal with spam properly.
  • A worrying number of customer service agents click links in emails.
  • Spam emails are successful when people ignore basic security precautions.
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Comment ( 1 )

  1. Elizabeth Hollingsworth April 25, 2017 Reply

    Great article, Richard! A wedding stylist friend of mine had her email hacked last week.
    Someone in Nigeria had sent a realistically worded email regarding reviewing a document but as I was out and about didn’t open my emails on my iphone.
    Others who did, and who replied to her email address got some sort of followup that it wasn’t spam and to open the document.
    Spammers are a real worry.