Did You Receive Your Order On Time? – Amazon Feedback Issues

Let’s talk about Amazon’s Feedback system.  The single biggest issue I have with Amazon’s Feedback system is asking buyers a question that Amazon ALREADY KNOWS THE ANSWER TO!!  And allowing buyers to OUTRIGHT LIE in response to a question for which there is hard data & evidence clearly indicating the answer to this question.

Amazon provides an estimated delivery date range.  I enter tracking information.  Amazon keeps track of the % of my packages which are delivered ‘on time’ [via a completely flawed mathematical format we'll talk about one day when I'm in one of my mathematical moods].  In order for Amazon to maintain statistics regarding the % of packages that were delivered on time, they must know WHICH ORDERS WERE DELIVERED ON TIME.  Why is this an optional question for buyers in feedback?  If anything this should be used by Amazon as a LIE DETECTOR question and any buyer that enters the wrong answer should not even be ALLOWED to leave feedback.  They’ve just proved their a LIAR — anything else they have to say is unreliable from that point forward.

order

As you can see from the PINK Boxes, Amazon estimated the shipping date to be October 3 to October 4 and as the shipping date indicates, I did indeed ship the order on October 4 which is within that 2 day range.

In the red boxes you’ll see Amazon estimated the order would arrive October 8 to October 11.  There is also a tracking number and carrier.  Why Amazon is unable to implement the tracking number as a pop-up or link to the tracking status is beyond me, but if we go out to the USPS.com website & search for this tracking number we’ll see the following information:

usps

Well look at that !!  The package WAS delivered on a date within the estimated delivery dates.  [Although the USPS estimated the delivery for the 12th, it was actually delivered on October 11 which means IT WAS INDEED DELIVERED ON TIME.  Now if Amazon didn’t go through the trouble of receiving data from the USPS and determining which of my orders were and were not delivered on time in order to provide [a flawed calculation] to use as a basis for extending seller suspensions that should never have occurred in the first place, that would be fine.  But since THEY DO [incorrectly] calculate the % of packages which were delivered on time, they know full well that this particular order WAS INDEED DELIVERED ON TIME.

So it baffles me as to WHY this is a question which allows BUYER’S INPUT on the feedback form.  AND in doing so, when a buyer LIES about having received their package on time, the seller is no longer able to select the appropriate option on the feedback removal request form.  “The buyer answered ‘No’ to one or more of the question above” comes up if a seller attempts to classify their feedback removal request as “Product Feedback”.  Even if the issue is …  the buyer left Product Feedback.

feedback

The statement left by the buyer is the very definition of PRODUCT FEEDBACK!!  [I'm not making this sh!t up!! That's ACTUAL feedback I was left -- They were UNHAPPY WITH THE PRODUCT!!!]  When I attempt to classify the feedback as ‘Product Feedback’  Clearly the buyer was VERY disappointed having purchased a brand new full size high-end lip gloss that retails at $30 at the lowly price of $4.89 [including shipping -- yup I shipped it FOR FREE TOO because I couldn't deal with Amazon allowing other sellers to manipulate the prices of my products by modifying the shipping weight] but instead of leaving product feedback, they leave seller feedback LYING about having received the product on time which [a] prevents me from properly classifying my removal request properly and [b] ensures my removal request will be automatically rejected because instead of using data Amazon ALREADY HAS to determine if the item was received on time, they just go off the word of the buyer [who obviously LIED].  And if the product wasn’t received on time, Amazon can’t be bothered reading anything I took the time to write [unless I file an appeal to the automatic rejection].

What makes this entire situation especially humorous [aside from the fact that my sales will go down because of the impact of the [1] score & I could possibly be suspended over the [1] feedback score] isn’t even that it is over a f-ing $4.89 sale for which I PAID $1.68 to SHIP the item to the buyer.  This just so happens to be one of my absolute FAVORITE lip glosses & I love it to death!!  Despite selling cosmetics on Amazon, I don’t often wear a lot of makeup, going for the more natural look & keep this in my purse as my everyday lip gloss.  My biggest issue here is how does this person NOT LOVE THIS Lip Gloss?  Out of all the products I sell to have this type of issue with, it’s with one of the few products, I happen to really like.  But that’s besides the point.

Amazon — You obviously KNOW if the order was or was not delivered on time.  The only reason this field should be editable by the user is if you intend to use it to determine the reliability of the buyer leaving the feedback.  In other words, if the buyer leaving feedback answers ‘NO’ to the question about having received the item on time, and you have data which PROVES that the item WAS INDEED delivered on time — that feedback should be immediately dismissed as entirely unreliable.  In fact, I personally consider it to be libel.  A buyer claiming that I did not send something in such a way so that they received it ON TIME when in fact they DID receive it on time gives other potential buyers the impression that I don’t mail my orders out on time which I consider to be damaging to my reputation.  And while it is not my responsibility to prove the statements are incorrect [In libel cases, it is the burden of the party making the alleged libelous statements to prove their statements are correct], I’ve already been able to do so.  The buyer LIED, the lie is damaging to my reputation and I’m partially considering filing libel charges against the buyer and Amazon as Amazon had in their possession evidence which disproves the statements made by the buyer — and by choosing NOT to remove the feedback, they are further supporting & providing a platform by which the buyer is allowed to make libelous claims.

Regardless of whether or not I win such a suit against Amazon [I don't think I'd have an issue winning a suit against the buyer -- if they thought $4.89 was disappointing for a lip gloss, wait till they get the bill from my lawyer when they lose the civil action] I’m fairly certain that bringing such a suit forward would immediately see the removal of this question from Amazon’s feedback form [or at least an enhancement which automatically populates the field based on actual data and not a buyer’s uneducated opinion as to whether or not a delivery date of October 11 is within a range of dates that ends with October 11.

If the inability to add such functionality is beyond the scope of Amazon’s development team, I’ll be more than glad TO WRITE THE LOOKUP CODE MYSELF FOR YOU provided you remove ANY FEEDBACK [past and present] for which the buyer LIED about whether or not they received their order ‘on-time’.

Thanks Amazon for once again being so stupid as to allow a $4.89 sale [including shipping] to waste SO MUCH OF MY TIME and account for such a significant loss in business for me!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Funny Customer Support Tickets From Amazon —

This was one of my favorites…

A little background ..  when selling on Amazon, if there’s no existing picture of an item, any pictures you upload will be automatically be uploaded to the item listing.  If there’s already a photograph there, be it a customer photograph, a photograph of a different product, a watermarked photograph that doesn’t meet Amazon guidelines or a funny picture of a clown — don’t bother uploading any photos — they’ll never ever show up.

In order to have the incorrect photographs removed and [your] correct photographs uploaded [or any other changes to the listing] you need to PROVE to Amazon that the photo shown is incorrect or they won’t change it,  This ensues to an interesting argument especially when Amazon recommends you go to the manufacturer’s website when the majority of products being sold on the secondary market are usually discontinued or overstock items — not available on the secondary market.  Factor in only about 1/5 of their UPC codes are correct [60% of the listed cosmetics don’t even HAVE actual UPC codes as their usually GWP, PWP, Sample, Testers [without stickers] or other unboxed, unpackaged items never intended for POS and don’t contain UPC codes and attempting to provide proof can be quite frustrating.

One of the listings for a lipstick I had was one of those BRAND NEW [never used] unboxed GWP lipstick that doesn’t have an actual UPC code but is listed either by someone who has an ‘exemption’ and wasn’t supposed to create listings for major label cosmetics with the exemption but did anyway, or a seller without an exemption that either used a valid UPC code from another products or a UPC checksum generator to make up a phony UPC code — the point being the products doesn’t and never had a UPC code [but don’t tell Amazon or they’ll tell you such a product can’t be sold on their site.  The reason sellers must provide such proof is because Amazon has 100% total faith and trust in the original seller who uploaded the photos or wrote the description — in their mind it is not possible anyone could have attempted to create the original listing with any sort of misleading in mind, but myself and you and any other seller is 100% untrustworthy [even after submitting HUNDREDS of catalog corrections -- a significant amount of time] therefore there needs to be overwhelming evidence to overturn the original listing details or photograph.  [Or blatantly incorrect shipping weight]

At some point in time another malicious seller decided to upload a photograph of a candle to the listing and somehow attempt to sell a candle with this lipstick listing.  At the time I tried to use the listing, no one was using it at all.  Not difficult to understand — the listing is for a lip gloss and there’s a picture of a candle and trying to get Amazon Seller Support to correct it goes something like this …

My Original Request [Short and Simple]

Please fill in the following information:
Product Category:
UPC or ASIN:B008YGCID4
Please describe the issue:
Please remove the photograph of the CANDLE and upload my photograph of a LIP GLOSS to this listing.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

This is the response I received:

Greetings from Amazon Seller Support,

We will need some additional information in order to deal with your concerns. Please provide the following details:

* The Amazon order ID
* Your transaction partner’s e-mail address
* A brief description of the situation

We look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for selling with Amazon,

Jane C.
Amazon.com Seller Support

___________________________________________________

Given my extreme frustration with several requests for catalog corrections that required more work / effort than the amount of money I’d receive for selling the products, I found it necessary to demonstrate the issue with a marked up screen shot :

lipglossCandle

Why It Is Nearly Impossible To Correctly List Items on Amazon — An Example

ASIN B00000JFC9:

ATB “9PM” 12″ Vinyl

There are at least 18 DIFFERENT versions of this vinyl record issued on various labels across several continents.  This ASIN specifically has UPC code 689289900418 associated with it. 

With the exception of 3 of those 18 releases EVERY DIFFERENT release was issued with a DIFFERENT photograph The photograph shown in ASIN B00000JFC9 is from a  release of the product with UPC code 5026535801269 [Here is a link to a photo of the UPC code on the BACK of the cover shown in listing: http://www.discogs.com/viewimages?release=4713

The product with UPC code 689289900418 which is listed in ASIN B00000JFC9 DOES NOT have this same cover. [Here is a link to a PHOTO showing UPC code in photos of the ACTUAL picture: http://www.discogs.com/viewimages?release=69576

The UPC code in ASIN B00000JFC9 is for a Radikal Records double 12″ vinyl record issued in the US.  [http://www.discogs.com/release/69576

ASIN B00000JFC9 has a photo of a single 12″ vinyl record issued in the UK on a label called Ministry of Sound.  http://www.discogs.com/ATB-9PM-Till-I-Come/release/4713

The track listing provided does not match ANY of the 18 known releases however is closest to the one with UPC code 689289900418, corresponding to ASIN B00000JFC9
http://www.discogs.com/viewimages?release=69576
The track listing provided in ASIN B00000JFC9 is missing the last track which is located on the product containing the associated UPC code 5026535801269. 

When I attempted to list this product for sale I DID NOT SEE one that had the same cover as the version I have.  http://www.discogs.com/viewimages?release=69576 IN FOLLOWING policies, as mine had a valid UPC code, I attempted to create a NEW listing for MY version of the product.  When attempting to save my new listing, the listing software says there was ALREADY a product with the UPC code matching the one I was trying to use, 689289900418. 

Amazon fails to acknowledge the possibility that there could be 2 different releases with the same UPC code [although in this case a previous seller apparently took the unused UPC code from this release and added a photo of their [different] release of the product.  Based on the negative experience I have had with Amazon’s seller support when it comes to multiple releases with the same UPC code I chose not to bother opening a seller support request about my having a product which LOOKED different from the one in the photo.  The typical response when identifying varying releases with the same UPC code from seller support is to go to GS1.org and BUY a NEW UPC code — which is not even possible as GS1.org only sells prefixes, not individual codes AND they sell these to manufacturers of products, not people who need a different UPC code because a PREVIOUS seller uploaded the WRONG photo of an item in order to sell theirs. The recommendation from seller support to purchase a UPC code from GS1.og is not even a legitimate recommendation as this can NOT be done.

As I was unable to create a NEW listing for MY product with this UPC code & Amazon is under the impression that the UPC code is a unique distinguishing attribute, I was forced to list my item using the existing listing instead of creating the new listing.  [There were NO OTHER SELLERS of the record at that time]. 

My experience has been that when there is ALREADY an existing photo in a listing, I am UNABLE to add ADDITIONAL photos to that listing automatically.  Adding photos when one already exists or attempting to replace an existing photo is a lengthy ordeal which must be addressed via a seller support ticket and the issue is only addressed some of the time.  In most cases I receive a canned response about a buyer bid box and my inability to modify [an INCORRECT] listing created by ANOTHER SELLER despite the fact I am the ONLY ONE selling the product at the time.  An explanation which to be perfectly honest takes longer to write then it would have to upload the correct photo to the listing.  In some cases I am told my ticket is transferred to another team, my request is marked ‘answered’ and I completely lose the ability to track the ongoing progress of the request which most often is NEVER ADDRESSED. 

For the reasons stated above, I DID NOT bother wasting my time uploading a photograph. 

The track listing was missing the last track of the record, however there IS NO RELEASE which has the track listing shown therefore I assumed this to be a MISTAKE.  In the past 100% of the requests I have opened to correct a track listing have been DENIED as I am informed that seller support does not have the ability to modify this information and I am referred to another department that is not applicable to me as a seller. 

In an effort to FOLLOW Amazon POLICIES & ensure that I was doing everything I POSSIBLY could to see that I clearly identified the product for sale, I used the ONLY editable section of the listing [the condition notes] to accurately explain the ERRORS in Amazon’s listing of ASIN 689289900418.  As there are 18 DIFFERENT releases of this vinyl record listed in the title, I provided potential buyers with the UPC code CORRESPONDING to the ASIN under which the product is listed.  Factual information which Amazon INTENTIONALLY HIDES from buyers [from best I can tell in an outright effort to confuse buyers and not allow them to clearly differentiate between various listings] I provided the UPC code located on my product which MATCHED the ASIN I was using [the one that came up when I attempted to create a new listing with that ASIN].  I also wanted to ensure potential buyers did not have a false expectation that they would receive the UK single record version on Ministry of Sound Records shown in the photograph [which DOES NOT have the same UPC code as the product in this ASIN] so I explained another seller had INCORRECTLY uploaded a DIFFERENT PHOTO of a DIFFERENT release and I was unable to load the correct photo automatically on my own. 

I ensured that I was selling the CORRECT UPC code for this ASIN.  I validated that the photo shown was NOT a variation under the same UPC but an outright INTENTIONAL ERROR from another seller who previously MISUSED the listing.  I provided a detailed description of the CORRECT product corresponding to the UPC code  went out of my way to ensure that potential buyers understood EXACTLY what they would receive when purchasing this record to ensure they would not want to leave negative feedback or find it necessary to return the item.

As far as I am concerned, it is Amazon establishes policies directed  at misleading or confusing potential buyers when it comes to CD & Vinyl products. 

I have seen multiple product reviews by which sellers ARE UNABLE to DIFFERENTIATE between various releases of a single title because of the following policies in place regarding Amazon’s listing.  I have brought these issues up to seller support & Amazon’s done nothing to address them.

[1] They INTENTIONALLY HIDE the UPC code from potential buyers, the UPC code being one of several potentially differentiating pieces of information buyers could potentially use to distinguish between various releases of the same song title.  This also leads to significant confusion for inexperienced sellers who DO NOT see a UPC code on the initial listing page so they use the wrong listings.

[2] They REFUSE to allow potentially distinguishing information from being properly entered in fields & displayed alongside other important information.  This information includes the label catalog number [which often varies even when the UPC code may be the same], the matrix / runout information [different for each release], the release year & number of tracks.  While some of this information CAN be entered in the product listing.  NONE OF IT IS DISPLAYED for users to see!!!  This leads to significant confusion FOR SELLERS of products where there are various DIFFERENT releases of the SAME title that have the SAME UPC codes.  If SELLERS are confused, it can be assumed BUYERS are confused.  This is vital information that should be REQUIRED for all listings and clearly displayed along with the title artist & label information.

[3]  The track listing information CAN NOT BE ENTERED or CORRECTED by a seller thus regardless of the UPC code, label catalog number or any other distinguishing information, buyers looking for a specific version or remix of a song can not be sure WHICH of the multiple ASINS for the same title/song name the version if the song they are looking for is on.  SOME of their listings have track information.  OTHERS do not.  Those which DO NOT have track information DO NOT allow this information to be entered by sellers such that it appears in the same manner that the listings including this information display it.  Those listings which DO have track listings DO NOT contain the running time of such tracks.  For example, believe it or not, there is actually ANOTHER release of the ATB 9PM song title with the SAME EXACT UPC code as described above [it also DOES NOT CONTAIN the cover photo shown in their listing].  Both listings are double 12″ US releases from Radikal Records with the same label catalog number but different color labels.  The ONLY distinguishing information outside of the label color is the LENGTH of the first track listing [all of the remixes/tracks are titled exactly the same on both releases].  Therefore the ONLY MEANS of distinguishing information between these two releases [which look very different] is information they DON’T ALLOW to be entered and DON’T Display for users.  Vinyl collectors are VERY SPECIFIC with what they want and DO NOT want to be ‘surprised’.  As there are 18 DIFFERENT releases of the single song. ATB “9PM” including 2 with the SAME UPC code, Amazon doesn’t provide potential buyers enough information to clearly distinguish between multiple similar song titles to determine if a listing is indeed the one they are looking for.

http://www.discogs.com/ATB-9PM-Till-I-Come/release/4157385
http://www.discogs.com/release/69576
Click on ‘more images and there are photos to verify the labels DO indeed show ALL of the EXACT same information except for the length of the first track.

[4] The country of origin is not clearly displayed for those items designated as imports.  While there are various fields available to designate the import status of a CD, there is no consistent place that sellers are REQUIRED to enter the country which is displayed IMMEDIATELY alongside the import designation.  I have NEVER in my significant experience in the record/cd industry seen a CD or vinyl record designated as an import without providing a specific COUNTRY listing.  Import should not even be a valid selection unless the COUNTRY name is REQUIRED and displayed clearly for buyers alongside the import designation.

[5] Amazon allows ANYONE the ability to upload photos of ANYTHING they want to ANY listing in their catalog as a buyer and don’t CLEARLY separate those ‘customer’ uploaded photos from validated seller photos.  When a customer photo is IDENTIFIED TO Amazon as being incorrect for a specific UPC code listing they’ll REFUSE to remove the photograph citing that it is NOT in violation of their photo policies.  How is this NOT confusing for buyers?  I spend time taking and uploading photos of the ACTUAL item being sold.  Someone else uploads photo of a DIFFERENT [possibly more expensive and rare] release, the photos are displayed NEXT TO EACH other from the buyers perspective and suddenly buyers have the false expectation they will be receiving the more expensive, rare product SHOWN IN THE PHOTOGRAPH thus causing them to be UNHAPPY with their purchase!  How am I supposed to ensure listings clearly and accurately describe the product when they allow anyone under the sun to upload whatever they want & show those customer photos NEXT TO MINE?  Without any CLEAR and CONCISE separation or identification that the first photos are from the seller and represent the item being sold and the others are [unverified] random photos of whatever someone felt like uploading that day?  Amazon is causing false expectations from buyers because they do not [a] validate uploaded photos ARE of the same UPC as the product being sold [b] display the random invalidated photos alongside seller provided photos [c] do not clearly indicate to potential buyers that those photos [not clearly marked] which are ‘customer uploaded’ MAY NOT REPRRESNT the actual product being sold [d] DO NOT OFFER a means for sellers to ‘report’ those uploaded photos which are from different products [photo reports can only be opened against those photos which were uploaded by a seller] and [e] OUTRIGHT REFUSE to remove photographs which a seller has CLEARLY IDENTIFIED as INCORERECT and MISLEADING to potential buyers. 

Meanwhile as a seller when I attempt to report an incorrect photo [from another seller] and request the correct photo be uploaded, I am hassled, argued with, required to spend significant amounts of time uploading photos of UPC codes [which the first seller -- uploading the WRONG picture in the first place -- was never asked to do].  Once I’ve proven that I DO INDEED have the correct photograph for a UPC code, NOTHING IS DONE ANYWAY. I’m told that there is already a product under that UPC code and despite it having the wrong photo [making it a completely invalid listing using that UPC code] I am [incorrectly] told to go out and purchase a UPC code for my product [WHICH ALREADY HAS A VALID UPC CODE] and given the URL for the organization which DOES NOT ISSUE individual UPC codes, all because some savvy previous seller took a listing with a valid UPC code and used it to sell their a product that likely DIDN’T CONTAIN a UPC Code uploading a photo of the product THEY have despite it not matching the UPC code.  As the end result is that the photo usually isn’t corrected, it isn’t worth my time PROVING that the item I have IS the one which correctly has the UPC code. 

 

Amazon — Singlehandedly Destroying the UPC System [Do they even know the UPC code was designed as Point of Sale and not 'Unique Product Identifier for all eternity'?]

 I’m trying to sell products that have 10-20 duplicates of items, most with fake UPC codes or an ‘exemption’ for UPC codes [despite the fact that Amazon states even with a UPC exemption, beauty products from major manufacturers STILL require UPC codes.  Some of the beauty products don’t have UPC codes which complicates things because the only way to list them is by generating a UPC code with a checksum calculator or using valida barcodes from products not listed on Amazon [the l atter is not something I do]. 

 

When I see 15 of the SAME exact product listed [from $.89 to $189, I don’t even know which one I’m supposed to use.  [They have the same pictures, shade names, sizes and I’m familiar enough with the product lines to know their identical.

 

For the most part, I liked to selling on an existing listing.  As Amazon’s ‘featured seller’/’buybox’ and [likely] search rankings are intended to discriminate against smaller businesses [I only have about 1200 different products on Amazon right now] I like the idea of piggy-backing off the existing listings that appear higher in the search rankings and being able to sell my products at competitive prices. 

 

When there’s dozens of duplicate listings of the SAME brand/shade/size/tube/design lipstick [with the SAME photo used to sell all] I think its confusing for buyers and offers some sellers an unfair advantage.  I’ve often reported the IDENTICAL DUPLCIATE listings to Amazon and they tell me that all of the items have different UPC codes so they’re not the same item.  I tried explaining that some of the items DON’T have UPC codes [usually the full size promotional items offered by cosmetic companies when making purchases] only to be told that I shouldn’t be listing items if they don’t have UPC codes.  There seems to be a lack of common sense where if there’s a photo of an unboxed lipstick [and the title says its unboxed] Amazon is unable to accept the concept that the UPC codes entered by sellers ARE PHONY.  I’ve even TOL D them people make up fake UPC codes and sent them to the GS1.org website where the prefixes issued by GS1 are all listed [showing the prefix for all of the duplicates products are ‘reserved’ – ie: never issued to a company to use on their products & they still refuse to accept the idea that the [unboxed] product[s] being sold don’t actually HAVE UPC codes.  [I’ve been rejected for exemption on listing products without UPC codes, so I can only sell items that OTHER sellers – with exemptions have already listed.  Any colors or shades that other sellers don’t have can only be listed if I make up a fake UPC code.].  If they don’t want the non-UPC coded items sold on their site, they need to uniformly get rid of and enforce the non-sale of those items.  Instead of discriminating in regards to WHO can list new items [or virtually forcing sellers to make up UPC codes]

 

Another issue with their UPC requirements is sellers that are too lazy [or don’t understand] a UPC checksum so they just take the UPC code off ANY valid product not currently listed on Amazon.  Amazon ONLY validates the checksum [they don’t even verify that the prefix is a prefix that was issued by GS1 – something that would be very easy to do]  or better yet validate the manufacturer of the product matches the assigned prefix [not applicable to all products, but definitely applicable to the major brand cosmetic items they’re REQUIRING the UPC codes for].   As long as the UPC meets the checksum and isn’t being used, sellers can create new items with UPC codes of OTHER items.  Suddenly I’m entering in the valid UPC codes of items that someone else MISUSED and trying to get an exception or additional listing [even when the original UPC code is for a product no longer available].  I have to go through significant efforts to PROVE to them that MY product DOES indeed have the UPC code I am claiming it has, when the person who entered the WRONG UPC code doesn’t have to do anything to validate their product.

 

 

 

 In addition to cosmetics, I also sell some collectible music and it’s quite common for sellers to have 12” vinyl from really small record companies or labels [that NEVER had UPC codes on them] use a UPC code from a major label record company [the same song/artists but issued AFTER the rights were purchased by the major record label].  I was trying to sell off some of my vinyl by holding onto the original label records and selling off the mass produced major label versions of the songs, only to find out the valid UPC codes from the major labels were being used to sell the original [non bar-coded records]. 

I tried to explain to Amazon I can’t sell mine if photos and description are for the original non-UPC version of the same record – buyers would expect the original [more expensive] version of the song.  Even after taking photos of the items, Amazon sent me links to an ‘external’ website showing the UPC code DID indeed match the EXACT photograph of the item the other user was selling.  Which led to another issue Amazon refuses to acknowledge….

 

 Many UPC lookup database website utilize AMAZON’s database as the basis for their data.  Site which haven’t yet realized the significant degree of inaccuracy on the site due to phony and incorrect UPC code entry due to their UPC code requirements.  The site Amazon was showing me with the UPC code and photo was a site that got their information FROM AMAZON!  And their customer support [easier to get a hold of than eBay’s support but]  lacks the  ability to understand a concept like this. 

 

Then there’s the issue of products with BARCODES that aren’t necessarily UPC codes.  [As long as the POS store selling a product can match a barcode to product information the POS system will work.  A lot of smaller manufacturers for specialized items with limited distribution / sales points will utilize their own barcoding scheme and provide the barcode-to-product-data for POS systems.]  Victoria Secret is an example [I have a lot of their beauty / cosmetic products I’m trying to sell].  They only sell through their own stores so their  barcodes only need to be interpreted by their own POS systems, there’s no reason for them to pay GS1 for UPC codes.  While these all have unique barcodes, they’re not actually standard UPC codes [less numbers & will not meet UPC checksum validation when padding with 00’s] These don’t have actual UPC codes but they do have unique numbers.  These products [usually discontinued shades] come from the same distributor as many of the department stores cosmetics but technically can’t be sold on Amazon because they don’t have valid UPC codes.  They’re beauty products so they require a valid UPC code which means sellers either need to MAKE up UPC codes or once again use existing barcodes from VALID products not on Amazon [or do whatever it  is sellers with exemptions do to get approved for such exemptions].  Even Amazon’s reply to inquiries about these types of items lacks common sense.  “Go to GS1 and BUY a UPC code for those items”.  [1] I didn’t manufacturer the items, so GS1 will not even issue me a barcode [I need to go through one of their resellers if I ACTUALLY were going to pay for one] and they cost MORE than the price of the product I am selling [which  I may only have 2-3 of each shade for].  [Then anyone else selling theirs can use my listing without having to have paid for the UPC code]. 

 

I understand what they were TRYING to accomplish by requiring UPC codes but they’re not [1] refuse to acknowledge the ability to circumvent these efforts and [2] Do nothing [even when informed] about multiple duplicate listings of products – the very thing they claim the UPC code requirement was intended to prevent. 

 

Then there is the issue you brought up & Amazon’s refusal to acknowledge the concept that NOT ALL UPC codes are unique.  I’ve seen CDs now where smaller music labels [due to the high cost of UPC codes] will reuse a UPC code for COMPLETELY different products, once discontinuing the earlier product.  As long as the POS systems receive the updated information [most smaller labels only sell through specialty stores and limited distributors] there’s no issue with reusing the UPC codes.  Until [a consumer] having purchased both CDS wants to sell them on Amazon and can’t.   A lot of CDs are collectible with their collectability depending on when they were issued.  A UPC code doesn’t need to reflect information about if a CD is a first pressing, second etc etc.  It just needs to have basic product information and the price.  Often represses of CDs [to make more, not the remastered ones] for major labels will have the same UPC code as the original.  But there could be differences on the CDs that a collector may care about.  [Song name changes due to licensing issues etc].  NOT on AMAZON.  It’s not possible.  Their idealology is that all variations of a product can’t possibly utilize the same UPC code.   [Forgetting the intent of the UPC code in the first place – POS, NOT unique product identification]. 

I’ve even got CDs that have packaging differences with the same UPC code.  [A moot point for POS systems, a big difference for collectors].  For example…  the highly collectible CD LONGBOX.  [Remember when CDs at Sam Goody & other record stores came in those 12” tall boxes  [intentionally oversized in order to fit into existing vinyl retail displays and used as a theft deterrent]  They often contained additional or variation artwork – highly collectible, but when CD retail displays and those plastic lockboxes used at record stores came out, there was no reason for the excessive packaging.  Space was limited so the CDs weren’t repackaged in long boxes.  Since the CD content itself [usually] didn’t change, there was no reason for any record company to [pay for the] reissue of NEW UPC codes. 

Want to sell long box CDs on Amazon?  Just stick them in the standard listing and hope someone might read your condition notes.  They won’t show up in searches for long box cds.  Amazon refuses to acknowledge the variation in packaging could warrant an additional product with the same UPC code be listed.

 

The worst thing with Amazon’s CDs & vinyl is that they don’t even bother requiring or displaying the information about records that IS unique [for most issues].  They don’t even bother displaying the UPC code for buyers to see despite their belief that it uniquely identifies CDs.  Things like the LABEL CATALOG number, production year , # of tracks and [more often than not] the actual track listing isn’t REQUIRED [it should be] to be entered for sellers.  So when multiple CD singles of the same song come out [with various remixes] how is a buyer supposed to know which is which?  [If, as a seller, I fill out the fields for the label catalog number – it won’t display on the product listing page].  The UPC code isn’t shown.  Amazon accepts customer images from ANYONE without ANY validation and since they don’t[require or provide] any distinguishing information, customers often post photos of the WRONG products just to make it even MORE confusing.  Then customers [and often sellers] will post reviews arguing about which remixes / tracks ARE on the CD/record.  An endless debate in the reviews/comments ensues about which version it is.  As many sellers [who don’t understand there is actually a UPC code associated with the CD] aren’t selling the right one anyway it could be either.  Some of the CDs do contain a track listing [without the lengths – sometimes helpful] however this is done via another system that sellers have no access to, so they’re unable to add track listings [the same way] to CDs they’re selling. 

 

But lo an behold a seller buys something expecting something else [despite the unpublished UPC code – never provided to the buyer – being correct] and suddenly I have to take it back, pay for return shipping and give them all their money back.  EVEN when I REPORTED the items TO AMAZON as confusing to potential buyers because they DON’T provide enough information to distinguish the product from similar products with different UPC codes. 

 

I don’t personally even buy [specialty] CDs or vinyl on Amazon because I don’t know what I’m getting, but I don’t blame the seller who is helpless to provide this information, as Amazon just doesn’t display the information when filled in by the seller. 

 

I asked Amazon about why they HIDE the UPC codes from buyers and they claimed something about record companies not wanting consumers to have access to this information.  Which is quite odd since when I attempt to list CDs without UPC codes [or with a UPC code that was already ‘used’ – on a totally different item] Amazon’s response is to go out to the manufacturer’s web site and find the UPC code for the product.  [Information which is usually not available for discontinued items.  Manufacturer consumer websites are intended to promote currently available releases].  If the information WERE on the manufacturer website [as they’re asking me to provide] WHY WOULD AMAZON need to HIDE the information from CONSUMERS?  Or why would they ask me to provide information from the manufacturer that they previously told me the manufacturer [supposedly] didn’t want me to know?  There is just an overall lack of common sense or logic within their customer support staff. 

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My Letter To Amazon — One [of the many] Reasons YOU SUCK

My suggestion to you is that you hire ‘Category-Specific’ ‘Product Experts’ to manually review the significant quality deterioration of product product listings in your catalog created by your unwillingness to accept several loopholes and known issues with your current ‘UPC code’ means of distinguishing products.  This is especially true within your Beauty & Music categories.  I understand that your original intention behind the UPC code requirement policies.  The strict enforcement of the requirement for some sellers & the exemptions of other sellers combined with significant FLAWS in your enforcement & validation of the UPC code [not to mention DIFFICULTY in having issues resulting from those flaws addressed] has led to overwhelming amounts of product duplication [the very thing you were intending to avoid].

 

When working with your customer support in attempts to have duplicate product listings addressed, there are several key concepts related to UPC codes which your sellers-support employees either lack knowledge, are unwilling to accept or just don’t care & are too lazy to do anything about it.  If you escalate my concerns to someone who has enough common sense & intelligence to spend 15 minutes researching the information I have provided, they will see that the points I am making are indeed significant loopholes in your ability to control product listings based on UPC codes.  Additionally someone with an understanding of how department-store counter cosmetic companies operate / package products and run promotions [along with someone familiar with the retail aspects of the music industry] will have a better understanding of this information than someone who does is not familiar with the industry.

 

The UPC code system was designed as a means for POS [point-of-sale – aka ‘cash register checkout’] system such that a single code correlated with basic product information and a price.   As it was a universal system, all stores with UPC-based checkouts would implement the GS1 standard for how the information in a UPC was coded, eliminating the necessity for companies to provided store-specific information about their products.  This is important to understand because Amazon UPC-based policies for product listings work under an assumption that manufacturer’s ALSO used these UPC codes to DIFFERENTIATE products within their own catalog – this is NOT the case.  While some manufacturers may include their part/model/label/catalog/etc number into the UPC code, a significant majority of manufacturers have their own entirely unique system for managing their product lines, variations of products within those lines & batches/issues/releases of individual product variations – which usually don’t correspond to the UPC code in any means.  It is those manufacturer-specific part/model/label/catalog/etc numbers which ACTUALLY DIFFERENTIATE a manufacturer’s product catalog.  Those manufacturer-specific part/model/catalog numbers are how products are represented in company catalogs, on their website, marketed to consumers, known by consumers and overall referenced in the marketplace.  The manufacturer specific model/part/catalog number is also what is used by many distributors and retailers to order products.

 

As a consumer, if I like the lipstick someone is wearing, I ask them what brand / shade it is.  If I hear a mix of a song I like, I find out the Label / Label Catalog number of the remix CD [because quite often there are several different versions of singles release].  If I’m at my mom’s house and I like her blender, I ask her what the brand a MODEL NUMBER is.  When I needed a new oil filter for my car b/c the quick-lube place near my house didn’t stock the one required for my car they sent me to the auto parts store with a PART NUMBER.

 

It irks me when your seller-support staff tell me to go to a manufacturer’s web site to provide ‘proof’ of the UPC code for a product because most manufacturer DON’T INCLUDE the UPC code on their website because it isn’t how they refer to their own products.  Every time a seller-support staff member requests that I send a link to the manufacturer’s website where they can ‘verify the UPC code with the correction I am providing’ they demonstrate their IGNORANCE and  utter lack of understanding for the purpose & intent of the UPC code system.  Since manufacturer’s use part/product/catalog/label/model numbers to differentiate their products to consumers [AND the few manufacturers that even sell directly to consumer aren’t using a POS or ‘cash register’ checkout there’s little reason or incentive to include this information on their website.  Not to mention a significant number of products available in the Amazon catalog are DISCONTINUED by the manufacturer, & may not even be promoted on their website.  Manufacturer create website to educate and inform their consumers about current and NEW product & product lines.  It would be CONFUSING to consumers for them to LEAVE old Discontinued products on their site.  I do not understand where Amazon got the idea that it is common for manufacturer’s to provide archival UPC code information on discontinued products for the sole purpose of assisting Amazon’s seller support staff in product validation that can be easily done by verifying manufacturer UPC code prefixes with GS1.

 

It is only on the retailer-to-consumer side of the industry [and not vice-versa] that Inventory management & pricing is done via UPC codes.  The retailer-to-consumer utilization of the UPC code [unlike Amazon’s implementation] is NOT flawed, because the retailer retains ultimate control over their own product catalog.  Therefore they can generate their own codes for un-UPC coded products and address potential conflicts via their own means without issues.

 

I don’t recall any instance where [as a consumer] my ability to purchase a product or differentiate between various similar products was made based on a UPC CODE.

There is a REASON WHY.  Several of them.

 

  1.  There are a significant majority of companies that don’t use UPC codes for various reasons, most notably is the EXPENSE.  Small companies with limited controlled distribution channels don’t NEED expensive overhead of a UNIVERSALLY accepted POS coding system.  As long as they can code their products & provide the coded data in an understandable means to the limited number of stores they sell through – there’s no need to buy UPC codes.
    1. Stila is an example of a very small brand cosmetic company.  Their products were only made available through a limited number of retailers and thus they NEVER EVER obtained a UPC code prefix from GS1.  They used their own [non-UPC standard barcoding system] that was compliant with the systems in place at the stores they sold through and as long as the [non-UPC compliant] bar code resulted in the correct product / price when scanned by cashiers at the cosmetic counter – there was no reason to.  NONE of the bar-codes on ANY Stila products are UPC-code compliant.  EVERY SINGLE STILA product in your Amazon catalog either has either  [1] no UPC code [2] a phony UPC code [3] a UPC code from A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT product or [4] a 12 digit number slightly resembling the actual barcode on the product generated by a 12-digit checksum calculator for the purposes of meeting your ‘UPC Code Policy Requirement’ in order to create NEW or DUPLICATE listings for Stila brand products.
      I will explain how to verify this later, but I guarantee if you asked EVERY SELLER SELLING ANY STILA product to send you a photograph of their products ‘UPC’ code, every single photograph will come back with Stila’s proprietary bar code AND you’ll notice the SIGNIFICNAT AMOUNT of identical  products that have MULTIPLE [some in the DOZENS] of ASINs in your catalog.
    2. Avon is another company that only establishes UPC codes for a very limited number of their product brands that require it.  Major-branded Avon cosmetics sold direct though Avon’s direct sales representative system [how the company was founded] DO NOT contain UPC codes.  The product lines which DO contain UPC codes & are manufactured / distributed in the US start with Avon’s assigned prefix 094000 I’ll explain the GS1 UPC code prefix concept shortly [as it appears Amazon doesn’t understand it, but you can rest assured any [US manufactured / distributed] AVON product in the Amazon catalog with a UPC code that doesn’t start with 094000 is 1] a phony UPC code [2] a UPC code from A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT product or [3] a 12 digit number slightly resembling the actual barcode on the product generated by a 12-digit checksum calculator for the purposes of meeting your ‘UPC Code Policy Requirement’ in order to create NEW or DUPLICATE listings for non-UPC coded Avon products OR DUPLICATE listings for those Avon products which DO contain valid UPC codes when sellers don’t want to use the existing product listing.
    3.  Companies often REUSE UPC codes from discontinued products because THEY CAN.  They paid for the UPC code, there’s no reason to ‘retire’ & waste a perfectly valid UPC code when they’re expensive and the company has created a product to replace the existing product.  This is frequently done in the MUSIC industry by SMALL record labels.  Re-issues / re-pressings of the same CD or subsequent volumes of compilation CDs will often reuse UPC codes.  As the intent of the UPC code system was to identify products by POS system, the manufacturer only needs to update their product information associated with the UPC code such that it is recognized by POS systems.  It doesn’t matter to the POS system if that UPC code USED to belong to a different product, variation of the product, older model of the same product because POS systems don’t CARE what else USED to have that UPC code so long as nothing else currently in the stores’ inventory does.  And stores don’t care if they have and ‘old model’ and ‘new model’ of a product with the same UPC code if they’re called the same thing & are the same price.  POS systems require the customer to be PRESENT at the POINT-OF-SALE & the customer is therefore able to look at both models, determine which one they want & checkout.  This is NOT the case for Amazon’s catalog because Amazon refuses to acknowledge the possibility that THE SAME UPC code could possibly belong to multiple products and thus there is ONE ASIN where sellers [who WANT TO SELL THEIR PRODUCT] will either [1] engage in wars amongst themselves over control of the product listing page to list THEIR product [2] intermingle random details about BOTH products within the listing [3] differentiate the product in their condition notes or [4] NOT differentiate which version of the product they have leaving buyers confused or subject to a ‘lottery’ as to which version they might receive.    Amazon’s refusal to even INCLUDE THE UPC code for music listings makes the buying experience THAT MUCH MORE confusing when trying to purchase music.  Amazon doesn’t require sellers to enter ANY of the ACTUAL information that distinguished various releases of the same single/album.  The Label Catalog Number used by the record company to DIFFERENTIATE THEIR OWN products [also used by distributors and retailers to ORDER Music products] isn’t a required field.  The NUMBER OF TRACKS on a CD isn’t required Most pop/dance songs are released in a ‘CD Single’ and ‘Maxi-CD’, often additional remix releases which are often most easily distinguishable by the NUMBER OF TRACKS on a CD – NOT required information to sell a CD on Amazon.  Or [my favorite] a majority of the product listings for music CDs don’t contain A TRACK LISTING.  Unless Amazon is also selling an MP3 [or POD – Print on Demand]  version of the CD OR anther Amazon process which SELLERS ARE UNABLE TO ACCESS / UTLIZE populates the track listing, THERE ISN’T EVEN A FIELD FOR SELLERS TO ENTER THIS INFORMATION let alone REQUIRE it. When sellers designate a CD as an import, they’re not REQUIRED to specify the country of origin and if they DO, it doesn’t display prominently on the product details page for users to see.  And in AMAZON-LAND record companies wouldn’t DARE use the SAME UPC code for products issued in different countries [which often my have different track listings]

 

I will NEVER buy music from Amazon because almost NONE of the listings for songs I want include the most basic information like ‘WHAT SONGS / REMIXES’ are available?  And the ONE piece of semi-usable information [which isn’t even a reliable means of differentiation] the UPC code IS NOT MADE AVAILABLE for buyers to SEE!!!!

When I contacted Amazon about WHY they don’t show the one semi-differentiating piece of information to buyers their response was an interesting one.  They informed me that with the exception of ‘top 40’ songs / cds MANUFACTURERS DON’T WANT CONSUMERS TO HAVE THIS INFORMATION.  I found this to be extremely ironic considering Amazon’s seller support RECOMENDS sellers include links to the MANUFACTURER’s website as a means of validating / verifying UPC CODE information when submitting requests for updates to incorrect information.  AMAZON HIDES UPC CODES on MUSIC products because MANUFACTURER’s DON’T WANT PEOPLE to have this information, then turns around and REQUESTS SELLERS provide links to MANUFACTURER’s websites to VALIDATE/VERIFY UPC code based information updates.  I don’t understand Amazon’s expectation that manufacturer’s would provide consumers with the same information about their products that they specifically requested Amazon keep hidden from those same consumers.  I don’t even understand the desire on the part of the record companies to have this data hidden, considering most major record labels Amazon would be pandering to [if that’s even why they hide UPC codes from buyers] don’t sell DIRECT to consumers.  I’d think record labels would WANT to provide some type of distinguishing product information consumers could use to purchase products promoted on the label’s site.  I also don’t understand [major] record label as  the driving force behind Amazon’s refusal to display UPC codes for DISCONTUNED products UNLESS [major] record labels are REUSING UPC codes from discontinued products.  IN WHICH CASE they’d have had to explain to Amazon WHY they wanted the information withheld from consumers thus VALIDATING the concept that the UPC code is NOT an efficient means of differentiating products.
Examples

  1.  MicMac records is a small fresstyle music label in New York that gained Top 40 / Pop / Major Radio station visibility during the late 80’s and early 90’s.  Only a few of their artists had enough songs to warrant their own albums, so a majority of their CDs intended for major market sale were issued as compilations.  [MicMac Dance Party, MicMac Frestyle Greatest Hits etc].  I’m assuming it’s for cost purposes [or maybe it was just in error] but I know of at least one instance where Freestyle’s Greatest Hits Volume II has the EXACT SAME UPC CODE as Volume I.  Two completely DIFFERENT CDs – SAME UPC code.  At some point in time, the second listing was created using a UPC code that IS NOT located on the product in order to sell both CDs.  Amazon will tell you that if you don’t have the EXACT SAME product with the MATCHING UPC code, you shouldn’t be using that listing.  Since Amazon’s UPC code isn’t actually ON the product, technically NO ONE should be selling it.  Since it’s too difficult to convince Amazon that BOTH of the DIFFERENT CDs contain the SAME UPC code [as Amazon believes this to be unheard of] the ONLY way for someone to sell the second volume is under the WRONG UPC code.  When attempting to REPORT the issue regarding the INCORRECT UPC code to Amazon  their canned reply is that if MY product isn’t an exact match including the UPC code – I can’t sell it.  I tried explaining that the UPC code in their database for the second volume is WRONG but Amazon feels MY knowledge on the topic is limited to only the CD I am holding in my hand and can photograph which [since it doesn’t match the UPC code for the listed product – can’t be sold on their site].  The concept that the initial seller FALSIFIED information in order to sell a product for which a UPC code ALREADY existed is outside of the realm of their understanding.  Although to be fair, I don’t blame the seller that created the listing seeing as AMAZON’s process to address DIFFERENT products with the SAME UPC code is extremely time-consuming & often results in a continued refusal to create an additional listing.  Most sellers will find it isn’t worth the time required to report the issue[s] to Amazon anymore.
  2. Let’s talk product packaging.
    i.  I’m not getting into details but a significant number of UPC codes on individual household products are misused by [initial] sellers to sell case-level packaging thus rendering it impossible for anyone else to sell the product.  EVER – even after the original seller is long gone & no one else is selling the product.  If you report the issue to Amazon they simply tell you your [individual] product isn’t an EXACT MATCH to the product in the listing and therefore you can’t sell it.  Despite the fact that the ORIGINAL SELLER MISUSED the UPC code printed on the INDIVIDUAL product.  Amazon couldn’t care less that the CASE LEVEL packaging likely DOESN’T HAVE a UPC code [or uses a packaging level  GS1-standard UPC feature that Amazon has yet to implement].  The first person to utilize a UPC code doesn’t need to do ANYTHING [other than provide a valid UPC checksum] for a product and their listing becomes FOREVER WRITTEN IN STONE in the Amazon catalog.

    1. My Dad used to sell CDs & Records in his collectible store.  [BTW: He let me run the department so I did all of the ordering.  Major Label releases were ordered through a distributor, using the Label’s CATALOG CODE – NOT the UPC code, while small label releases were often obtained directly from the manufacturer [also ordered by label catalog number as most didn’t even HAVE UPC codes].  After I’d left for college, without anyone to stay on top of new releases, my Dad eventually ‘phased out’ the  music ‘department’ of his collectible store and let me buy out the remainder of CDs at the store.  Some of which went into my personal collection [now attempting to be sold on Amazon] and the rest were boxed for storage  to do something with at a later date in time.  Now is that later date.

      You may [or may not] remember WAY Back in the day when CDs first came out & record stores needed a way to display the CDs on their existing [vinyl record LP album] display fixtures, CDs were packaged in 12”x5” cardboard boxes [commonly known as ‘the long box’].  These may have also served as a primitive & early means of low-cost ‘theft deterrent’ as it was somewhat more difficult to stick a 12”x5” cardboard box into one’s pocket.  The interior CD was exactly the same as the post-longbox packaging CD, so much so that the UPC code was identical.  With the advent of more advanced CD-specific theft deterrent systems, designed-for-CD store fixtures  [and likely a ‘green initiative’ on the part of the record companies] CD packaging became simplified to consist of shrink wrap around the 5”x5” plastic jewel case.  The switch from longbox to shrink-wrap jewel-case occurred mid-production for many albums which resulted in many CDs being issued with BOTH packaging styles.  Your standard cash-register POS system COULD NOT CARE LESS if the CD you were purchasing came shrink wrapped or in the 12”x5” cardboard box  — so long as the artist/album name & price information was accurate.  [Soundscan data was also immune to packaging deviations].  Thus utilizing the SAME UPC code on BOTH styles of packaging was quite common.  Consumers on the other hand are somewhat more picky.  The 12”x5” cardboard packaging allowed for additional album artwork and [as the packaging was being phased out] also became ‘rare’ and ‘collectible’.  Today, ORIGINAL LONGBOX versions of CDs [better yet factory sealed versions of longbox CDs] make quite an interesting find for collectors.

Amazon’s ONLY means of establishing a ‘collectible-friendly / non-UPC requirement / collectible deviations exist of products with the SAME UPC code [for music media] is to list the item in the ‘collectible’ condition.  [Similar issue for ‘autographed’ copies of CDs/ Records].  There’s two problems with this.

(a).  An overwhelming number of people use the ‘Collectible’ condition to sell regular USED copies of a CD [or totally different version they shouldn’t be selling there anyway] because they don’t want to compete with the standard ‘used’ listings.  So many that actual COLLECTORS don’t bother looking on the COLLECTIBLE condition tab because it’s usually just 20 sellers trying to get $50 for the same CD selling for $0.01 New & Used.

(b). The information entered in the condition notes [like ‘longbox’ or ‘autographed’ IS NOT SEARCHABLE]  And doesn’t appear in the product description.  So collector’s SEARCHING for Longbox CDs don’t know that you have them.  [I’ve had several sellers inform me of this having accidentally stumbled upon a few of my listings.

(3)The listing within my ‘product inventory’ in SellerCentral doesn’t allow me to easily identify those cds that ARE packaged in longboxes & I’ll keep accidentally LOWERING the price when I forget [why the hell am I selling a Bobbi Brown CD for $50?]  As the $3.99 [which used to be $2.99] doesn’t cover the actual shipping required when the to safely ship the longbox CDs, I accidentally LOST money a few times having forgotten they were in long boxes [until they’d been sold].  I’m also unable to search my inventory for the longboxes so when people ask which CDs I still have available in long boxes – I can’t easily filter my product inventory to display this information.

 

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