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Avoiding Negative Feedback on Amazon

It's not easy to stay 100% positive, but here are some proven tactics that can help.

Feedback has always been a way for buyers to differentiate between sellers. Do they want to buy from the seller with 87-percent positive feedback or the seller with 100-percent positive feedback? While this example may be an obvious choice, in reality, the numbers are usually much closer than that.

On Amazon, feedback is generally in the range of 90 percent to 100 percent for good sellers. Most Amazon buyers do not seem as impressed (some might say obsessed) with feedback numbers as eBay buyers. But feedback does matter—and it can be the tipping point when a buyer chooses between sellers from whom to purchase.

Maintaining a good feedback rating should be a priority for anyone selling on Amazon, but it can’t be your main priority or a place to spend too much time.

What’s a good seller to do?

The best way to deal with negative feedback is to avoid it, so let’s talk about some best practices for selling on Amazon that will directly tie into lowering that percentage of negative ratings and comments.

The first suggestion I have is to become a Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) seller. When you utilize all the benefits of the FBA program, you will minimize a lot of the reasons buyers leave negative feedback, such as slow delivery or mis-delivery.

Amazon buyers are mostly used to brand-spanking new, fresh-from-the-factory items. Because of that, I always grade condition down one level

Another plan is to choose the categories in which you sell very carefully. Some categories are just more prone to fraud and picky (one might say cranky) buyers. Talk to other sellers and do some investigating to check this out.

The place to start is in your grading of inventory. While you can sell used items on Amazon, buyers on this marketplace are mostly used to brand-spanking new, sealed and fresh-from-the-factory items. Because of that, I strongly recommend that you always grade condition down one level.

For instance, let’s look at the book category on Amazon. It has five condition grades: new, like new, very good, good and acceptable. For the most part, I don’t recommend selling items in acceptable condition, simply because Amazon buyers have such high standards they may not have reasonable expectations about the item, even after they have read the description and notes. So I avoid acceptable-condition items, with the rare exception of a high-value book.

That said, if, after your examination of the book, you feel it qualifies as like new, grade it as very good. If you feel very good is the correct grading, give it a good rating.

Expectations and things beyond your control

Why do I recommend this? Because exceeding expectations is what it is all about.

Ratings, above all, are subjective. You want your buyer to receive their item and be pleasantly surprised that it is in better-than-expected condition—not to receive the book and feel it was misrepresented as better than it actually is.

The next important component in avoiding negative feedback applies to FBA sellers only, and that is to pack well. You are going to put your items into a large box and ship them off to Amazon. They will be travelling hundreds of miles or more in hot UPS trucks and planes, and loaded and unloaded numerous times—and not gently. They will then land at an Amazon warehouse that is the size of five to 10 football fields, and will be unpacked and carried to their final location on golf carts, conveyor belts and more.

After all that, when an item is ordered by a customer, it will be pulled and placed into a cart, go through more conveyor belts and finally be packed to head out via another UPS journey to its ultimate destination. Remember this journey when you are getting your items ready. Do whatever is needed to help them arrive at the customer’s home in the same condition as when you sent them off to Amazon. It won’t do you any good to grade conservatively if the items are insufficiently packed and damaged on the way.

Remember that presentation matters, especially when you are selling on Amazon. Even though the customer ordered your product for themselves, and paid for it themselves, when it arrives at their home, it is treated as a present. I’m not suggesting that you should gift wrap every item and use tissue paper, but I do mean an item should arrive as described, and if that requires using a poly bag, bubble wrap, or even a lightweight box to protect it in transit, then you take those precautions.

The inevitable negative feedback

But even if you follow all my recommendations above—if you sell for longer than a few months on Amazon—you will, at some point, receive a negative feedback.

Now what? Is all hope of maintaining your perfect rating gone? No! While you can’t remove a customer’s feedback, Amazon or the customer can.
Because most buyers who purchase from you actually think they are buying from Amazon, it can help to point out that their purchase was from you, and that you are a small business

If you receive a negative rating, the first place to go is to the customer. My friend Bob Willey of recommends the “Grovel then Guilt Trip” method. I know that sounds too cute and funny to be effective, but let me explain. Willey has maintained a 100-percent positive rating on Amazon after selling there for several years, so when he talks, I recommend you listen.

The first step of Willey’s method is the “grovel” email. In this email, you are writing to the customer and it is all about the customer. This is not the email to request feedback removal, this is the email to apologize and grovel, and promise to make it all better. Willey says that only after you have heard back from the customer and corrected the situation with a refund replacement or whatever you can do to make them happy, should you even broach the request for them to remove the feedback. This is the “guilt trip” email.

I got some great input on this one from another friend, Denny Basham, who points out that, because most buyers who purchase from you actually think they are buying from Amazon, it can really help to point out that their purchase was from you, and that you are a small business.

This approach—coupled with your comments about how much you care about your customer satisfaction, an invitation to view your other feedback, and a mention of how negative feedback can have a serious impact on your business and other comments—can encourage the customer to remove the negative feedback. Always make it easy for your customer to do what you ask by including a link to the page for them to modify or remove the feedback they left.

In some cases, Amazon can help

There is another approach you can use if you are an FBA seller. That approach is to contact Amazon. In the past, practically every time an FBA seller contacted Amazon support and requested a feedback be removed, it was. Recently, however, Amazon has become more selective about what it will remove.

There are two ways Amazon can help with negative feedback. In certain instances it will completely remove the feedback. In other cases, it will “strikethrough” a feedback, which means the feedback will not be counted in your seller metrics. In these instances, Amazon will post this message under the feedback: “This transaction was handled by FBA, and we take responsibility for the customer experience.”

Amazon’s feedback rules state that Amazon will remove feedback when:

  • The feedback includes obscene language.
  • The feedback includes seller-specific, personally identifiable information.
  • The entire feedback comment is a product review.
  • The entire feedback comment is regarding fulfillment or customer service for an order fulfilled by Amazon.

Always, my motto is that it never hurts to ask. So, not only do I pursue the customer with the “grovel” email, I will also open a case with Amazon customer support to ask them to remove it. If denied, I will wait a week and ask again. You never know. The rules for selling on Amazon are complicated and they may be interpreted in different ways by different employees. If denied again, then I’ll send the “guilt trip” email to the customer.

In summary, let me remind you of what I said at the beginning: Maintaining a good feedback record should be a priority for your business, but not the top priority. Always focus on the tasks closest to the money first and don’t obsess over your feedback.

About the author

Kat Simpson
Respected as a trusted e-commerce speaker, educator and entrepreneur, Kat Simpson has been a successful e-commerce merchant for more than 10 years. Simpson is an eBay education specialist and Silver PowerSeller, who also maintains stores on Addoway, Bonanza, and iOffer. She is the co-host of the popular weekly e-commerce podcast, eCom Connections. Connect with Simpson on Twitter and Facebook. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

  • Nostalgiabooks

    The suggestion to down grade used items on Amazon is a very unrealistic one.  I assume that if an item is “like new” that is what the customer wants.  For a seller to have a “like new” item but list it as” very good” creates two negative events.  The buyer who is seeking a “like new” item will ignore any listed as “very good”…boom, no sale.  The seller expects a selling price commensurate with the “like new” condition, however, if listed as “very good” the price will then seem unreasonable…boom, no sale.  Bad suggestions, Kat.  Sellers need to be very meticulous in their grading however, downgrading is not the answer for those two very obvious reasons.  Richard Pryor

    • BettyLaBoozer

      I downgrade everything as the author suggests and have received very positive feedback for doing so.

  • Pietergrant

    Like I have time to grovel to some idiot who wants the impossible.  I’m trying to run a business not give psychological councelling to to someone who needs to get a life

  • Jimbo

    FBA is a real “joke” unless you are selling new & expensive items (like the shoes sold by Ms. Simpson). My business sells mostly used media (books, CDs, DVDs), and in those categories, there is usually much competition. Buyers of these items, which are mostly under $25, would rather have them shipped quickly by an independent seller than one of Amazon’s fulfillment warehouses. Of course, they do receive free shipping if the item or items are over $25.

    As far as feedback goes, Amazon users tend to be apathetic about the whole process, unless there is a problem. Case in point: My businesses on eBay and Amazon have sold the same amount of items. My eBay feedback is 2800, with no negatives or neutrals. On Amazon, I have 800 feedbacks and 4 negatives & 6 neutrals. I take care of business the same way on both sites (accurate item & condition descriptions, quick shipping with careful packing, etc.). I even grade Amazon items conservatively, according to the guidelines above.

    The common occurrence here is that people do not take time to read the listing descriptions on either site, and assume things that aren’t there, or miss important details. At least on eBay a seller can alert others through the feedback system of problem buyers, and block them from bidding. And other sellers can do the same thing. Ii’s very important, since just two bad buyers can ruin a small eBay business for an entire year.

    Amazon doesn’t have that capability, and should at least allow sellers to block potential problem buyers. The only recourse to identify people who abuse, scam, or just do not read details was buyer feedback, and they recently discontinued it. At least on eBay feedback as a buyer and seller are visible on one page. Isn’t it informative to see all the practices of someone who trades online (buying & selling), or not? That may be open to debate, but Amazon doesn’t think so…..

  • sell&buy

    I see the feedback the last solution. I give negative only if I can’t solve the problem and I do anything else to just not leave feedback. 
    I talk to the seller first and try many times to find a solution for the problem but if the seller don’t care and don’t answer I feel sad but I must leave negative. 

    I had a customer that left feedback for me even before contact me to fix the problem. She wanted me to fix the problem after left negative feedback so i didn’t care anymore and didn’t help her! It’s so unfair when they leave feedback before try to fix the problem. Many customer don’t know why the feedback is good for. Is not because something went wrong or the item is wrong that you can leave negative feedback  the feedback is used to know if the seller or buyer help you in something is wrong. Many people don’t know that.

  • If selling used books, should each book be individually bubble wrapped? I’ve heard complaints from FBA users who stated Amazon merely put the shipped the book in a box without any packing materials. Also when using bubble wrap for each book, should the FBA label go outside the bubble wrap? Thanks!

    • Japheth you can definitely do that but it comes into the category of Risk vs Reward. If you send in 1,000 books and spend an extra 2 minutes wrapping each – you have to take your time into consideration. 
      Personally, I will do this for books of higher value, say $25 of more, but not for the lower end ones.

  • sell&buy – you are the kind of customer we all want. I would hope customers would contact before feedback always!

  • Good comments Jimbo but I don’t completely agree. Most of my items on Amazon are less than the shoes I sell. I seem to do best between $30 and $50 as a price point. I do agree that anything below $25 is hard to squeak a profit from but again, Amazon buyers, IME still prefer to buy FBA.

    I agree with all your comments on feedback, it does seem to be much less ‘important’ on the Amazon platform.

  • Gary Seymour

    ” I will also open a case with Amazon customer support to ask them to
    remove (the feedback). If denied, I will wait a week and ask again. You never know.
    The rules at Amazon are complicated and they may be interpreted in
    different ways by different employees.

  • Lizthefluter

    Amazon is a horrible way to sell.  Many of those that are good at it have thousands of the same item, and thus perhaps it works.  When you have very high end new or pre owned / reconditioned instruments it does NOT work at all.  Most customers want to discuss the item before purchase, and Amazon does not want the customer talking with the seller.  They also want to hold up your money for 3-4 months, and allow a very long return policy. For that reason, I do not sell on Amazon at all.

  • Richard L.

    Bob Wiley has been deceptive about his “100% feedback” rating. Its simply not true. He has switched accounts several times to maintain this charade, and no one is falling for it anymore. It’s not ok to condemn other sellers in a haughty way for the exact thing you are guilty of, “Bob.”

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