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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  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.

  2. Martin June 5, 2017 Reply

    Hi and thanks for the article! I am wondering what you would consider as ‘dealing with spam properly’? Thanks!

  3. mayne June 5, 2017 Reply

    Maybe you could list the basic security precautions? That would be very helpful. Thanks!

  4. Nina June 6, 2017 Reply

    Hi Richard, I wanted to respond as someone who sells on Amazon to maybe offer a little more information. As a smaller seller on Amazon, we dont actually use anything other than the Amazon interface to respond to customer emails. I am sure other sellers may use email clients, but we simply choose to do it all through Amazon. Of course we still need an email address to begin with, and for this we use gmail (not sure how good or bad their Spam filters are).

    Funny enough we have seen a massive increase in the amount of spam coming through Amazon (versus our own company email on gmail). More often than not, we simply mark the messages as suspicious and move on (no idea if Amazon acts on them).

    However what has really amused me in your article is the summary of speedy responses not entirely equating to intelligent responses. I can assure you that this practice is a direct consequence of Amazon’s thinking and policy. Their very own support team operate on the same basis so when we contact their support team, we simply get template responses based on trigger words in our query. Some of the situations are so shocking that we actually question the benefit of even calling this a support service. They could simply set up an auto-responder and send templates this way rather than employing human beings. Previously a case sent to Amazon, would have remained open for 5 days in total allowing you to check and follow up if needed. Now it is closed within 2 days. So even if you get busy for a day and then go back the next to day to find a response which you don’t feel has resolved your query, the case is already closed.

    Basically time is of the essence with Amazon, quality is not.

    Then there is the minefield of Amazon allowing Chinese sellers on to Amazon which has seen them have to amp up their rules for sellers because of a host of issues that arose from this decision.

    So with everything, there is always another side to the story and its not always down to sellers, but either way the article was a good read and an eye opener in to how bad this hacking nonsense is becoming.