There was a time when correcting a stranded listing on Amazon was as easy as recreating the listing, that is not the case anymore. In the past four or five years, Amazon has made changes that makes even knowing you have a stranded listing difficult.
Listen in as ecommerce expert, Karen Locker, takes you through the why of stranded Amazon listings and the how to correct them. You can also read the entire transcript below.
Phaedra: It is time once again for Conversations with Karen. I’m Phaedra Perkins, CMO. I’m here with Karen Locker, CEO of Solutions4Ecommerce. Karen started her first eBay and Amazon stores back in 2008. She is a highly regarded e-commerce industry expert and she is having conversations answering your burning questions. Today’s burning question, Amazon stranded inventory. Not easy to fix anymore, is it, Karen?
Karen: No, not at all. It is the bane of my existence. Sorry about the phone. Definitely the bane of my existence. Years ago, it was just relist. It meant that the inventory wasn’t showing up. Just recreate the listing, hunky-dory, everything was all fixed. Yes, not so much anymore. Amazon’s been doing some things when they started the new Brand Registry a couple of years ago. I think 2.0 has been around about two, three years now.
Now, they go through and they pull listings some from the catalog but you don’t know it necessarily. Sometimes, they tell you when it’s stranded and they’ll say it’s missing the SKU. Well, it can’t be missing a SKU because the SKU’s right there on the stranded. Basically, what that means is Amazon pulled it out of the catalog and you have to either get approval to get it relisted again, or you just have to create a new listing. It’s hard to know which is the right answer. You can look in your policy notifications and stuff like that, and it will tell you some things but sometimes, it’s just trial and error trying to figure out what’s wrong with it.
Phaedra: How do know if you even have stranded inventory then?
Karen: If you do FBA, there’s the tab. When you go into a URL inventory view, there’ll be a tab and it’ll say stranded inventory. Items may be stranded because they’ve come in without a price. They can be stranded because they were sent in a different condition. Say, you used an inventory listing software and accidentally, it said used and it’s a category that doesn’t support used. Variety of reasons it can end up there, but the amount of reasons have been getting much larger as time goes on and for the last year, it’s been really difficult.
I have some right now- my favorites- that I was working with for somebody this weekend and I’m like, it’s stranded but it is listed in their inventory and it’s saying inventory error. Which, basically, means the FBA inventory computers and the catalog computers aren’t syncing. They know it’s in the warehouse, they know we have in the warehouse but over here, the one that presents it to the clients doesn’t know that the inventory is there.
Now, it used to be just relist it and they’d sync up and it’d be all happy, or you’d open a case and Amazon would refresh the listing and it would be all happy and it would fix. Not so much anymore. They have new tools you can use to find out why so this was great. I went and put it in the tool and it said, “Your listing might be stranded, go and look at your strandeds.”
I’m like, I’m in my strandeds. I knew it’s stranded since I opened a case from it and it said, “In stranded, unable to get relisted.” That was the title. I opened the case and I explained the situation. I will not kid you, Seller Support came back with a templated thing, telling me, “You might want to check in you’re stranded, empty list.” I then lost my mind.
Phaedra: After you take a break and a deep breath.
Karen: Yes, and stepped away so I didn’t say, “You stupid person, you.” I then went back and said, “Yes, I’m aware it’s stranded. We have relisted. We have open cases to have Seller Support refresh it. We have done this, this, this and this and they’re still not working. Could you please escalate this to someone who can help?” I get back, “Well, you just need to recreate the listings with a flat file.” I’m like, “Okay, I’ll try that one again.”
Those are the kind of problems. Usually, when I’ve worked with stranded long enough, that I know what the little buzz word means. If it says it’s a listing quality issue, it means Amazon doesn’t like the price. It may be too high, it could be too low. They just don’t like the price and that you’ve got to battle out. Then there’s also the pricing alerts and they’re too high or too low. You’ve got to make sure your reprice is not doing it wrong. You’ve got to make sure that your max and mins are set right.
There’s a whole bunch of things that Amazon has put in place because a couple of years ago, one of the repricers went a little haywire and priced a lot of people’s stuff at a penny. I think Amazon spent a lot of time trying to help cancel orders for sellers, pick it out and put these max-mins in. They’re not overly helpful and sometimes they don’t stick, which is all the more fun because then you have to open a case and get an answer to update, yes.
Seller Support is famous for giving you a templated answer the first time. You come back and explain things more clearly and they come back and give you a second templated answer, usually, not even referencing anything you’ve said in the middle. Sometimes, I will get frustrated and I will write, “Could you please read the entire thread.” Usually, I’ll personally do two go-arounds and then I will ask for escalation.
A lot of it is the way the system is set up. They’re expected to put the templated answers and they’re not expected jus to– The first level of Seller Support is not expected to spend a lot of time searching out the answer to your problem. This will get the tickets answered and out of their way because as we all know, everything on Amazon, especially the FBA is based on time studies. You’ve got to do it, it’s got to be fast, how fast you can do it.
Phaedra: There’s a lot of different ways. Some of the ways to fix things are to re-upload the flat file. A lot of times that will force the system to fix things.
Karen: Yes. There’s other times where you have to delete the product from the main catalog and then re-upload it. You’ve got to watch out that you don’t get “The SKU has already been used and you can’t use it.” Years ago, you could use the same SKU over and over again. You can’t anymore. They get fussy about that, too. There’s a lot of things that have changed. What used to be really easy to fix, not so much anymore. Anything that you could do with a push of a button, you may take two or three days of messages back and forth now.
The biggest thing, though, is definitely the missing SKU things where they’ve pulled them out. Sometimes sellers send stuff in that was fine to sell it when they sent it and by the time they sent it there, Amazon decided to restrict the brand or who can sell it. Then, you’ve got to pull it back. There’s nothing you can do unless you can get invoices and approval and go round around with them. Then, of course, as we talked about two couple of weeks ago, as the sides are putting a whole bunch of stuff and to spread it to because you’ve got a pesticide in that T-shirt of yours.
Phaedra: Yes. How often should a seller check for stranded listings?
Karen: At least once or twice a week. I have some people that are checking it every day because their volume– Sometimes, we pricers don’t send the feeds incorrectly so it’ll go in with just the data feed but not the pricing thing because there’ll be an error that hangs it up. Then the longer your stuff sits in your stranded, the more you’re paying storage fees for stuff that can’t sell.
Karen: You’ve got to stay on top of it. The problem is, like I said, it’s not an easy fix as much anymore. Like I said, this one I went round and round with all weekend and I still don’t know that it’s fixed because now we have to do the flat file upload. Once we do the flat file upload, we’ll see. I do know that a person I worked with this weekend, they had a different question and their product did completely disappeared out of the catalog. We had to do a flat file upload and relist it. Sometimes your products will be in there but they will come up in search and doing a flat file is the way to fix it. There’s just a whole lot of weirdness in the catalog now.
Phaedra: What if the someone doesn’t have time to be doing this? I mean, they need to run their business.
Karen: Then you hire somebody else to do. Yes, that’s the whole thing. A lot of the back-end stuff with Amazon now, honestly, is a full-time job for a seller, which does not leave you time for sourcing and all the things that actually make you money. That’s part of the that reason I started doing what I do because a seller makes their money when they buy the product. Everybody knows you make your money when you buy. You don’t make your money going round and round and round and round and round with Seller Support for three weeks.
I’ve gone round and round with them about the weirdest things. You have to know all the tricks. A seller who is fairly new and they all of a sudden have 400 strandeds, it’s like, “Why do I have that?” Well, variety of reasons. That’s why I always laugh when people say, “Well, I fixed it once so I can teach other people how to fix it.” I’m like, “No you can’t.” Each one has it’s own unique and it depends upon Seller Support rep you get and how tolerant you are for the frustration of dealing with it.
Phaedra: Wow. It sounds to me that from 2008 to 2020– First of all, even knowing you have stranded inventory can be an issue because you could have stranded inventory and not know it if you’re not regularly checking to make sure of this. Secondly, instead of just pushing a button and fixing your issue, this could be a very time-consuming exercise for an Amazon seller.
Karen: It sure can.
Phaedra: Wow. All right guys, you heard it right here on Conversations with Karen. Check your stranded inventory regularly. If you prefer to spend your time actually building your business [laughs], head over to www.solutions4ecommerce.com. You can set up a private consultation with Karen herself. That’s www.solutions4ecommerce.com or go find her on Facebook, Solutions4Ecommerce. Thanks so much for tuning in with us today. We’ll see you next time on Conversations with Karen.