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.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: