Originally published on October 6, 2016, updated April 30, 2020
Rachel Greer from Cascadia Seller Solutions joins Liz Fickenscher to talk about using product review tracking to avoid product recall, getting your listings suspended, or even worse, a lawsuit for the products you sell on the Amazon marketplace. She’ll discuss:
It’s vitally important that the products you sell on the Amazon marketplace are safe. An industry leader and advocate of safe seller practices, Rachel Greer shows you the way.
You can watch the webinar above or check out the show notes below for the recap and a full transcript.
Being proactive can make a huge difference when it comes to protecting yourself and your eCommerce business. It can be frustrating to receive negative reviews, but it’s important to take all ratings seriously.
Understanding the requirements associated with selling items, particularly within certain categories, is just one way to be more in control. Our eComEngine team recently paired up with Rachel Greer of Cascadia Seller Solutions to create an informative webinar to help vendors understand how to weigh and address the risks while being successful.
Having worked at Amazon for eight years, Greer is an expert on Amazon’s Retail and Marketplace business. Based on her experiences in the industry, she feels that understanding the role of product compliance is essential for sellers.
In addition to processes such as factory audits, creating prototypes and conducting laboratory inspections, Greer explained that one major part of compliance is product labeling, which includes:
It can be difficult to navigate the rules and regulations, but it is crucial that vendors protect their customers and their business from potential dangers and pitfalls. Fortunately, Greer covered this topic in great depth throughout the webinar.
The road to becoming an informed seller can feel discouraging and overwhelming, but that’s an indication of how important it is. FeedbackFive supports your growth in knowledge by allowing you to not only monitor your own product ratings but to also look at the of competition for complaints and known problems.
Take some time to look through Amazon’s Restricted Products page as well as the vendor contract’s “risky list.” You may be required to have additional product liability insurance on those specified items, which include strollers, power tools, healthcare equipment and even shoes.
It’s also important to check SaferProducts.gov for complaints, the major agencies (including but not limited to the FDA, CPSC, Coast Guard and NHTSA) and laboratories about the latest on Prop 65 (regulations for the state of California) and voluntary safety standards.
Review all that you have learned and get honest with yourself about the types of financial, legal and personal risks you are willing to take to launch your products.
Despite your great self-help pages and stellar product descriptions, there’s a good chance that at least one of your customers will have a complaint at some point. It’s crucial that you are familiar with the types of complaints Amazon considers most urgent. In the webinar, Greer provided an in-depth description of the various comments you can expect to encounter, what to do if a listing is closed due to negative ratings, as well as how to handle worst-case scenarios.
Liz: Hi, everyone. Welcome to today's webinar. I'm super excited to bring Rachel Greer from Cascadia Seller Solution. She's going to be talking to us about how to avoid product recall, listing suspensions or worse. She's about to give you a whole bunch of information. Please don't forget to submit questions in the GoToWebinar question panel. I will collect those and will be pausing periodically throughout the presentation to address some of your questions and we'll also have a Q and A period at the end. I'm Liz Fickenscher. I am business development lead for eComEngine. We are the inventors of FeedbackFive, RestockPro and eCom Spy which are all tools for Amazon sellers. You guys probably already know who we are so I'm just going to turn it over to Rachel. Rachel, are you ready?
Rachel: Yeah. I am. Let's see. This is the hard part, right?
Liz: Once we're past this, it's me failing.
Rachel: Okay. Yeah, so today, I'm really excited to present to you guys about using FeedbackFive for managing your compliance for your product and it's actually my favorite tool for using this. There's a couple of tools on the market and usually, what I'll do is compare them side by side and decide what features I like best and for us, FeedbackFive is the best for keeping track of product reviews and keeping on top of product review issues. Today, what I want to talk about is how to protect yourself and your business proactively. We get a ton of reactive issues coming in where people just weren't on top of things for their own accounts.
Rachel: So, then they've got to go fix it and the challenge there of course is that you're under the gun, you're kind of ... in most cases, you're losing money instead of doing it when you're still selling and it's also just really stressful to try to solve things after they've happened, rather than trying to fix them before. Then, we're going to go into a little bit about how FeedbackFive can help you with improving your overall star ratings and protect yourself from getting sued. Okay, so who am I? I am a seller, a former Amazonian and an Amazon expert. So, we have developed our own brand. This is something that I worked on when I first left Amazon and we sold through our first two POs within six months and established a following on Facebook and that's the part that I don't actually personally do.
Rachel: It's always fun to see the post that come up and the engagement. It's kind of an entertaining part of it so that's not usually the part that I do. I usually do the product side. I worked at Amazon for eight years and I had ... let's see, one, two, three, four, five, six different jobs in the marketplace and retail divisions of Amazon. So, all under the CEO Jeff Wilke in Amazon Retail and Marketplace. I really love working with business owners who really are caring and invested in their business. The best part about working with business owners versus employees is there are plenty of employees who are engaged and passionate about what they do, definitely.
Rachel: On average, I would say that most business owners are far more passionately engaged and really care about their product, really care about their business and want to do the best thing that they can for their business and themselves and I really love working with passionate people. Let's talk about what compliance is. What is product compliance in a very ... let's just say, practical way. The first thing it is, is product labeling so you can see nutrition facts here, your ingredients labels will be here, allergen labeling or on consumer products, you see this sometimes on children's products, this warning, choking hazards, small parts. Not for children under three years.
Rachel: There's a bunch of these kind of warnings with the red box and the yellow triangle. That little circle in there, that's what we in the product safety community call, ugly baby. That's the European symbol. Something like this would probably be on the Mattel product and this one is Lego of course but something like this would also be on something like Mattel because Mattel and Lego make products that are compliant in the EU and the US at the same time. They do those together. They don't do separate products for each marketplace so then they've combined the warning into one label. The next thing that you might see for product compliance is the types of safety listings you see here.
Rachel: A safety listing is basically an NRTL, Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory. It's credited by the US government, their mark basically. You can see basically, the UL mark here, you can see there's an ETL mark here on the right. You can see a CSA mark here on the bottom right, on the streamline dongle. A CE mark is also on the streamline dongle and I want to talk about that for a minute because a lot of folks will come to us and say, "Yeah but I have CE on there. My supplier said that it's certified in Europe." No, that's not what CE means. CE does mean Conformité Européene, which means European Conformity but that doesn't mean that the European anything has approved it.
Rachel: What that means that the factory is certifying that it meets European Conformity and what is the best way to validate that it meets your European Conformity? Ask for your test reports. Never trust the factory. What they'll do is they'll put a CE on there just because they know that it looks good and people will think it's important and they don't even have the test reports to back it up. CE is a self-certification. That is as opposed to the UL, ETL, CSA mark. Those are actually marks that are issued by the lab and you can look them up on their websites. So, double check all of those. Amazon certainly does. Alright, so another kind of label that you can see here is a care label or a tracking label.
Rachel: Now tracking labels are mandatory on all children's products. If you don't have a tracking label on your children's product, that means it's not legal to sell, and you can actually have it seized at the port if CPSC finds out, the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Let's look at this care instruction here. We have the brand logo, a website, handmade in the town with an RN number. An RN number is issued by the Federal Trade Commission and I've already rattled off, three different potential agencies, so knowing your agency is important. RN number is free to get, you just have to register with the FTC and then you can put it on your products. There's the care instructions in a batch or lot number.
Rachel: We recommend batch or lot numbers on everything. For children's products, obviously, they're mandatory. For a lot of other electronic products, we recommend it because of the potential for fire safety and issues like that. This care instruction label here, that format is actually mandated by FTC, the Federal Trade Commission. You can see over here on the right hand side under McRae, you can see that this one has ASTM F2413-11. That is the test standard that this one is claiming that it is adhering to and then at the bottom you see their PO number and 06/2016 JS and here I would assume that JS is their designation for the factory. Typically, this is a very typical way to label your products. The date of production and the factory designation.
Rachel: Then, the last thing that product compliance is not just labeling and safety testing and regulatory labeling, it's also quality. You can see here the difference between a fake and a real Louis Vuitton purse. You can see the stitching there is different, the thickness of the thread stitching in the leather. You can see there's different kinds of thread sizes here that can be used. The main difference between say, Banana Republic, The Gap, and Old Navy, these are all owned by the same company and in fact, they're using, in many cases, the same fabrics, from the same factories. They're even using the same workers in many cases to make the product and obviously, you pay a lot more at the Banana Republic than you do at Old Navy.
Rachel: Well, the main difference is actually stitches per inch here which is SPI. So, something like that, if you have many more stitches per inch on a high quality garment, that isn't going to apart. Quality is also a big part of product compliance. Okay, so now you know what product compliance is, let's take a look at what AmazonBasics does in their process. This is an AmazonBasics office chair. There's a couple different kinds of office chairs that AmazonBasics offers. I personally love my AmazonBasics office chair. I will often buy AmazonBasics products, because I'm really aware of how they produce and test their products so I feel comfortable with what they do.
Rachel: What they typically will do is, they have the best data in the world, right? They have all your data. What they'll do is they'll pull all the information on top selling products, they'll find the ones that do best and they'll basically be inspired by it, which is a nice way of saying they make their private label copy of it. What they'll do is they'll then find a factory that meets all of their requirements, whatever certifications they expect to see. They'll do a factory audit and I don't know hardly any of our clients who even knew what a factory audit was before we talked about it. Amazon always does a factory audit. Then, you do prototypes, so you validate the prototype is what you want.
Rachel: You send it to a lab, make sure it meets all the requirements there, then you approve production to move forward and often test the first production run sample as well and of course, do inspections. Then, what AmazonBasics does, it's also really important and why we're talking about FeedbackFive, is they monitor all of their reviews. It's almost on a daily basis and they monitor their reviews for quality issues. Obviously, that's a pretty important thing for star ratings, is you want to make sure that any quality issues are assessed and managed. What AmazonBasics does is they'll launch with my invoice in many cases, but then after they launch, then it's up to the product to live or die on its own.
Rachel: They don't really do anything after that in terms of trying to boost the rankings or the star ratings or anything. It's either going to be a star rating that's above three and a half stars and do well or it's not and then they'll cut it from the line. It's really important to know that that's how Amazon basics does it and then if there is a safety or regulatory issue that comes up in the reviews as well, then they'll report it and do something about it. Amazon actually had to do a public recall a couple years ago in Europe for a charger that was failing. There was some spotty soldering on there and there were a couple of reports of problems.
Rachel: There was no way to replicate them but there were enough reports that it was a concern, and Amazon always tries to do the right thing for customers. What's my system for sellers? The first thing is you start with Amazon. Review all your Q and A of the competition, particularly the no name competition because they'll have the complaints and problems along with the customer reviews. Look at all of that, collect all of that. One thing I also suggest when using FeedbackFive is you don't have to just track your own products. You can track competitor products too, and I think this is a really cool feature.
Rachel: If you have a couple of competitors where you want to stay on top of them or you want to see what kind of activity is happening on your competitor listing or maybe there's been something happening in your particular niche like some dirty seller tricks that have been happening, you can actually put their ASINs into FeedbackFive as well and have those ones emailed to you when something comes in that's negative and so you can prepare yourself if there's some sort of activity happening in there or you can use their issues to improve your product. Also, review the restricted products page for potential issues. You don't want to spend all this time making a product and then find out you can't even sell it. Then validate against my risky list, which I'll get to in just a second.
Rachel: Then off Amazon, check saferproducts.gov for complaints and we'll go over saferproducts.gov a couple of more times in this presentation. Check the major safety agencies for recalls. This is not a comprehensive list here. That's for sure. There's over ... I don't remember the exact number but I know there's over 40 federal agencies and all of them have different jurisdictions. They have different goals. They have different priorities and many of them have jurisdiction over products. Double check which agencies have jurisdiction over your products and then check with laboratories about the latest on Prop 65 and voluntary safety standards. Prop 65 is a regulation in the state of California.
Rachel: It's not meant to but it basically does regulate all consumer products that are sold in the state of California. Make sure that you understand Prop 65 and what the requirements are there before going forward with the product. Alright, so saferproducts.gov, this is a new tool that was built as part of CPSI, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, and basically it allows consumers and other ... people like doctors, ER folks, businesses, anyone really can report an unsafe product. Businesses can log in and register and respond and I highly, highly suggest this for any business. Login and create an account for your brand. That way it emails you, if someone creates a complaint on saferproducts.gov.
Rachel: You don't want to find out there's a problem when you have a government inspector knocking at your door, that's a problem. Then, you can search recalls and reports when you're planning on creating a new product. Alright, so here's the risky list I mentioned. Now, the risky list is, this is from a portion of the vendor contract with Amazon. Amazon does require a certain amount of insurance for everyone, general liability and product liability. They actually require that there's additional product liability insurance on all of these products for vendors, because obviously, if they get sued, they don't want to have to carry it. They want your insurance to carry it.
Rachel: This is for vendors. Note here, all of the different kinds of products, if you sell any of these, you need compliance, you need to make sure that you have exercised your due care because even if you do get sued and even if you have insurance, the payout is much, much higher if you haven't exercised due care, in which case the insurance may not pay out and we'll go into that in a bit as well. Take a look at this. This is really comprehensive, children's or infant clothing or sleepwear excluding shoes. Although, I would point out that shoes ... there are a lot of recalls on shoes that are cute so be careful of that. Baby carriages, consumer products, anything with alarm or escape or heating products.
Rachel: A lot of this stuff is really obvious, things to plug into the wall, things for children, things that you eat, things that protect you in a car, certain automobile parts and chemicals. All those makes sense but just keep in mind, if you're planning on doing any of those or you already have, make sure that you're prepared, these are the more risky products. Alright, so now we're going to have some questions for reflection intake, any questions that folks have had so far. The first thing I want you to think about is what kind of risks am I willing to undertake to launch my products business? Are you a risk taker? If you feel like you're a risk taker, well, then great, jump out there, right?
Rachel: The biggest problem that I see with our clients, especially the ones who have come to us after a problem happened is that they don't realize what risks they're taking. That's the part that I think is unfair. A lot of folks are teaching how to do private label or they're going into a corner, so they're researching on the internet and reading blogs and they're not aware of the kind of risk they're taking. They're not aware of the potential human risk of what they're doing. What kind of risks are you willing to undertake, if you're a low risk person, if you feel uncomfortable with that, if that would make you feel depressed? Well, then don't take some of the risks. If you're okay with that, okay, that's your business decision. Just know that there is a risk there.
Rachel: The second thing that I want you guys to think about if you're working on your own product business, is am I willing to self insure in the case of product liability lawsuits? If so, am I confident I know the actual risks for such a lawsuit? The number one thing if you want to self insure instead of getting insurance, is you can't be a vendor. Amazon does require that and they'll get very irritated if you haven't met the terms of their agreement. Remain in marketplace because marketplace does not have those individual insurance requirements because Amazon will just push the lawsuit directly to you. If so, are you confident, you know the actual risks? So, we'll go over some examples of product safety liability lawsuit payouts. Then, do I understand how to prevent the usual causes of product liability lawsuits?
Rachel: As Amazon says, the best customer service is the customer service that never happens. So, you want really great self help pages so that no one ever actually calls. That's Amazon's goal, zero contacts. If you're talking about product liability, the best kind of product liability lawsuit is the one that never happens. You never want to get sued. How do you make sure that you can prevent those things from ever happening to where you never have to pay out, you never have any issues with your product liability? To do that, to really understand how to do that, it comes down to a really intimate understanding of compliance. At Amazon, when I was working at AmazonBasics, the largest team for AmazonBasics was not product management.
Rachel: It was not sourcing, it was compliance. I find that fascinating because so many sellers in this space don't do any compliance but for every big company, compliance is the number one sized team. You have to have compliance because that prevents the lawsuits or at least it minimizes the number that you could potentially get and of course, Amazon has deep pockets, people are going to try to sue if something happens and they can't pay their hospital bills, of course, they're going to find someone to try to pay it. Think about that for you. How can you try to prevent this? The best lawsuit is the one that never happens. Okay, Liz, were there any questions? I just want to make sure that I take a break in case anyone had a question so far.
Liz: Not yet but I did just remind everybody to please put their questions into GoToWebinar so there should be rolling in soon. I'll definitely let you know.
Rachel: Okay, awesome. All right. So, let's go into various types of payouts. Obviously, the biggest kind of payouts are the ones that are in industrial and construction, as well as medical. Everyone I think is familiar with medical liability, things going wrong in a hospital, somebody dying. That's obviously really significant, collapses in a building space, injuries there. Those are really common and pretty significant, but what I want to point out here is that consumer products liability lawsuits on average payout 279K. If you're a self insurance person, do you have that kind of cash to pay out? That's the most important thing for you to think about is, if there is a major issue, if someone does go to a hospital because of using your product and they're uninsured or they're under-insured, as many Americans are, are they going to try to sue you to cover their hospital bills?
Rachel: Depending on the situation, their lawyer will probably try to go for punitive damages because many times lawyers only agree to represent if they get some sort of cut of the payout. A lot of times lawyers will be much more pushy about it than even the consumer who just wants to pay their bills. Think about how much this costs. The average jury verdict for compensatory awards for product liability cases is almost twice the median for anything involving transportation products so be really careful if you're an automotive, that's really like your brakes fail or like those Toyota recalls or whatever that were happening, and all the Volkswagen stuff. I know there's a bunch of other ones that have come up in recent years, where there's been major payouts.
Rachel: Be aware that the problem, of course, is that many of these are jury trials. It really depends on the outcome with your lawyer and the opposing counsel. Let's take a look at the typical payouts in all kinds of lawsuits. You can see a lot of times, you might think that ... you might think that something like personal negligence or vehicular liability, you know, everyone knows a person who's gotten sued because they rear-ended someone and you got the lawsuit that's like, loss of consortium and pain and suffering and stuff and you're like really, from a fender bender but in any case, there are a lot of those that I personally know about but if you look at the amounts, they're all really low.
Rachel: The median is only $34,000. When you look at product liability, the median is much higher. So, be careful with your products, especially if you're on that risky list. For those of you who have insurance, first, your policy needs to be large enough to pay out. Typically, if you add a rider on your general liability, typically it won't be above a million dollars. Often, you'll need to get special insurance if you want to get above a million dollars in coverage. Then second, you may not be covered if you haven't exercised what's called due care in the production of your consumer goods. Due care is a really simple definition, the conduct that a reasonable man or a woman will exercise in a particular situation and looking out for the safety of others.
Rachel: The problem is, that's really vague. There isn't really clear test for that. As I mentioned, what will happen is they'll get in front of a jury and maybe you didn't have the money to hire a really good lawyer and they did. Now, the jury is like, "Oh, wow, you're a horrible person. I'm going to really punish you." You have to think about the fact that this is going in front of a jury of your peers but not just any jury, a jury of people who couldn't manage to get a jury duty. Now, think about how much you really don't want to have that happen.
Rachel: Yes, this stuff is important. This is a hoverboard. This one is hard to talk about. There's a couple other products that are hard for me to talk about. The reason why is because this product has burned on multiple houses and has killed multiple children. There's many, many kinds of companies that make this product but when it first came out, there were no mandatory safety regulations or voluntary safety regulations in the US on this. In fact, most consumer household products do not have mandatory safety regulations for things that plug in and just keep that in mind. It's kind of scary. With this product, people were just importing it because it was doing so well, they weren't looking at any of the safety components.
Rachel: The problem with a lithium ion battery fire, which is what was powering these hoverboards is it's a metal fire. It's not like a heat fire or the way that wood fire works where you can just put it out with water and the sun oil fire where you can put it out with like flower or something. You can't put out a metal fire without a special kind of fire extinguisher and most people who have like those home fire extinguishers, it's not rated for that. If you try to put water on it, it actually makes it worse. These are really hard fires to put out and they're really fast. You can have a flashover in a room in less than 60 seconds with a fire that comes from a lithium ion battery.
Rachel: It's really important. It's really problematic. Amazon took down everything that was hoverboard related and then they only let people back on who were UL certified. Think about this before you launch, anyone who is UL certified made pink that Christmas because it was the only ones left. Yeah, it costs more up front but I would say that burning down somebody's house and killing their children is probably not where you want to be. The hoverboard situation is just a really egregious example of this. Anything a lithium ion batteries, anything that plugs in, anything for children, be cautious. Okay, so that sets the stage for what we're talking about, what is product compliance? What is your risk?
Rachel: We're going to go into how do you then solve for that risk? Customer Complaints 1.0. Let's look back in 1997. This was a national bestseller in 1997, talking about The Nordstrom Way. What they talked about was how awesome Nordstrom's in-person customer service is. I can attest to this. I went to customer service support, I just walked in and found somebody who had a name tag, when I was trying to find my husband some clothes, years and years ago. I don't understand men's clothes. This is not something I've ever worn. It's something I really understand, the sizing, I don't get. I went in to ask how do I buy something for my husband and the person who walked me through everything and show me what was going on, so helpful, so knowledgeable, really polite, acted like I was truly important.
Rachel: Looked into my face, didn't look distracted. Acted and sounded like I was the most important person in the room. That's why Nordstrom's customer service is so amazing. It's completely in-person. This is how most customer service was in 1997, most interactions with products and with issues were at the brick and mortar level. If you had a problem, you went back to that customer service rep or see someone else at the checkout counter and say, "Hey, I have a problem with this product." You went to the store. At the store, they have these safety notices or recall notices and they will be posted at the point of sale. In fact, they still are in many stores.
Rachel: They're posted up in the entrances. I've seen this at grocery stores, where they'll post the recalls when you come into the opening doors and this is the way that people used to be notified of a recall. The company would actually issue printed flyers and then ship them to all their distributors and the distributors would ship them to their customers, and then everyone would get a recall notice, and that's obviously a little bit old school, right because that's 1997. This will be put up and people would hopefully get the message at point of sale. Let's talk about internet penetration in 1997. If you look down here, there's about 20% internet penetration in the US in 1997, 20%.
Rachel: That's it. One in five people had the internet in 1997. Amazon.com only went public, I believe in 1996. So, you just don't have the same kind of situation that people are still definitely going into the store, in 1996 '97, we still got three newspaper subscriptions at our house. We had the local newspaper. We had the newspaper that was for the big county wide thing. We had the ... and then we had a Sunday newspaper from one of the big ... I think, it was the New York Times. So, it's the New York Times, The Bremerton Sun and the Poulsbo, something or other. We had three different newspapers coming on a regular basis. It was the North Kitsap Herald I think. Anyway, not important. The point is, we were in a prints age. We are in a talk in person age.
Rachel: Now, let's talk about what's happening today. Customer complaints 2.0, what do companies have to deal with today? Well, first you're on a website. You get these darn pop ups all the time. So, you're constantly being inundated with information, with constantly people bugging you. So, if you ever wanted for customers to know about a recall, we've actually seen this with some folks, some bigger brands, where people if they go on to a page of an item that's been recalled, they'll actually do a pop up of a recall notice and have a separate page for it as well. They'll actually do different kinds of things to try to get customer attention, and we're constantly in competition for attention with each other.
Rachel: Pop ups for newsletters. Pop ups for things that are that are off, not to mention the actual pop ups that happen if you go to certain pages like Expedia and then it force opens a new window and gives you all these, let's go to Bermuda or something, right? There's constant information overload for everyone who's online. Now, let's look at what's happened to the newspaper industry, back in 2000, 8.7 billion dollars in classified ad revenue. As of 2010, and it's gone down since then, even more, 723 million. We had someone come by our door back in 2009 and said, because the Seattle Post-Intelligencer went out of business, basically, they went to online only.
Rachel: All the delivery drivers, the Seattle Times tried to hire some of them and they came by and they're like, "Hey, we'd really love if you could sign up for a subscription because it'll help out people," and I'm like, "Okay, whatever I'll pay and this is so cheap, if it helps you out." We end up getting the Seattle Times for a while and it's fallen even more since then. People just aren't reading the newspapers anymore. Now, let's talk a little more about saferproducts.gov. I said, I mentioned this more, these are the kind of complaints that come into saferproducts.gov. These are the top 10 categories, and the thing that I want you to note here is look at the kitchen versus everything else.
Rachel: Now, I find this fascinating because the actual number of injuries does not correspond with the actual number of complaints. The reason why that's interesting is because you get a lot more people who are concerned about products in kitchen than you do about actual injuries. In fact, the last I looked, which was a while ago, the number of actual injuries, the most commonly injured product were stepladders. The most commonly complained about products are kitchen appliances. It's because people are scared of them. You plug in a toaster, it starts smoking and then it makes this popping noise. Then, you're like, "Ah, my whole house could have burned down." In actuality, that's very rare with kitchen appliances. Most of them are too small for that to happen. It is scary, totally get it.
Rachel: A lot of people complain about kitchen appliances. If you're a person who's in the kitchen appliance category, you should know there's going to be a lot of customer complaints. That's just a reality of that space. The sad reality on the other hand is that Amazon follows up on all of those complaints and takes a ton of your stuff. You just have to be prepared, that's a part of doing business on Amazon, that you kind of get taken down sometimes and then have to get yourself back up. Obviously we can help with that. The goal is to get all the paperwork ready ahead of time so you can just keep submitting it over and over again until somebody responds. Because people get worried, they see a little puff of smoke, even if it's supposed to be that way because the overload worked properly.
Rachel: They freak out because they think that it was fire instead of realizing that was intentional. You can also see here, different kinds of products that are also of concern like baby products, toys and children. I would say that baby product, in terms of the number of complaints is definitely out of proportion to the number of products that are sold in the marketplace. Definitely 77% of sales in the country are not for baby products. So, people are very concerned about baby issues if they feel like their baby is threatened and they'll report that. One thing that you can also get that's really interesting is you can sort by who actually made the complaint.
Rachel: You can sort and not just look at consumer complaints but you can look at complaints from what might become qualified complainers like ER visits. You can see the reasons for ER visits here. Footwear, which is interesting, it's not the number one thing that most people think of. Chairs like collapsing chairs. Strollers, baby strollers often result in pinching a fingers or falls for babies. Bicycles and accessories, I mean, that's obvious, going too fast, falling over, scraping, breaking arms. My dad broke his arm on a bicycle. Exercise equipment and fuel oils, gels or fire pots. I definitely do the exercise equipment as well. I worked on multiple recalls where people fell off of things or smashed themselves or other things that aren't so great.
Rachel: Okay, so evolution of search. What we're looking ... we've talked a bit about paper, the newspapers. We talked a little about moving towards an internet type system to where now, we started with, various types of paper and maybe, if somebody had a really good memory, they would remember all the different things and you go ask your secretary if they remember getting a letter in the mail, right? Now, you have this world of really disparate kinds of information coming in from social media. You have Facebook, you have Twitter, you have Pinterest. Everyone is talking about your stuff, all over the place. Okay, so let me take a break here just to see if anyone had questions. Liz, is there any questions in there? I want to make sure that we answer them as close to the original slide as possible.
Liz: We do have one. Someone asked, what is a factory audit?
Rachel: Okay, yeah. A factory audit, there's three different kinds of factory audits. The first is for quality purposes, and some of you may be familiar with this ... when the factory talks to you and they say, "I'm ISO 9001 certified." ISO 9000, 9001 is a quality certification. It takes a look at their process and procedures and make sure that they have them and I think it's funny to say that but at the same time, there's plenty of factories in the world, especially in areas that are still growing, where they don't have standard quality procedures or they don't have even written procedures for anything. So, ISO 9001 is looking at that, then the second kind of factory audit is a what's called a social responsibility audit sometimes.
Rachel: There's other terms for it like social audit or corporate social responsibility. There's a few different words for it. There's not really a single type of audit like there is with the ISO standard. There's a whole bunch of different kinds of auditing groups because there isn't really an international consensus on this. There's like SA 8000 or a BSCI audit or an ETI care audit. What those are looking for are things like child labor, forced labor. What kind of living conditions are there, whether the emergency exits are blocked. Do they have fire extinguishing equipment? Basically, health and worker safety and that's what they're looking for there.
Rachel: The third kind of audit is a C-TPAT audit. C-TPAT audit is an audit that evaluates the factory for their security and safety in terms of import. What you really don't want is a factory that doesn't have secure entrances and guard locks and everything because what they could do is they could plant a bomb in the container and then have it ... get imported into the US and now there's a giant, horrible dirty bomb, whatever, right? C-TPAT is something that the US government really beefed up their import procedures and import security procedures after 9/11 because they were concerned about something like a bomb coming in through US container traffic.
Liz: Awesome. Thank you for that, and back to the insurance part of things, does Amazon have a recommended or required amount of coverage based on product segment or is it totally self-guided?
Rachel: For marketplace, it is self-guided. They only have a requirement, as I recall and you should double check the most recent seller agreement for this because they do sometimes change this. The most recent one that I recall is that if you sell $10,000 a month then you're required to sign up for a Million Dollar General Liability insurance policy. As far as I know, that's it. Everything else you're supposed to do yourself. Now, if you're a vendor, they're a lot more strict with that. They require you to comply with the supplier code of responsibilities. That means that your factories are supposed to be socially compliant. If you're a vendor, you've got a lot more things to comply with including very specific writer. They actually list out exactly how much product liability insurance they expect for that risky list, that's if you're a vendor.
Liz: Awesome. Thank you for that. Then we had a question about how to find out if your products are compliant, but I think you're going to get to that in a couple of minutes, right?
Rachel: Yes, so we'll go into that. Okay, cool. Let's go back to the complaints. Using marketing tools to enhance product safety, so typically, something like FeedbackFive would be considered a marketing tool. You're checking to see if people are happy and then you want to raise your overall star rating. Typically, these tools have been made by marketing departments and being in product compliance and product safety, we always kind of had to jury-rig everything for ourselves because there wasn't a lot of tech support for something that's unsexy. It's sexy to make money, it's not quite so sexy to make sure people don't get sued, like it's important and failure in a safety or a compliance area can mean that your whole product gets shut down, and you get sued, big problem but it's hard to monetize potential risk.
Rachel: Usually, you don't get a ton of funding there, whereas marketing, it's like, "Look how much we sold this month," and you're like great, and they throw money at you. So, what often people in compliance have done is borrow tools from other areas and that's part of the reason why, when I came into this space, I started looking for exactly that same sort of thing in the marketplace. What kind of marketing tools are out there that I can use for my clients and for our brand in trying to protect ourselves? If you look at this, this is an example of the kind of thing that can happen to you with your products. This EOS balm obviously caused the woman to freak out. What we would recommend here is first really clear ingredient lists.
Rachel: You want ingredient list in text on your page and you want pictures of the ingredient list, and you want to list potential side effects of the ingredients. What we actually recommend for our clients is not just listing the allergens as required by the FDA, which is a fairly limited list, and it's usually people who have life-threatening allergies that are on that list like shellfish and milk and other kinds of, like peanut allergies. Things that actually causes ... in many cases, that can cause death for the consumer. Also, think about ingredients that can cause side effects. There's a lot of people who have mild allergies, like I have a mild allergy to kiwi and it just causes my lips to tingle and poof up.
Rachel: So, just kind of odd but there's a lot of people who have mild allergy responses. If you put that into your detail page, then you're much less likely to get these kind of complaints. People are saying that the balm itself is the problem. Now, I don't know that, this is just something that was posted. No one else knows it either. So, you can't tell if this was because the balm was created in an unsanitary environment and it's actually contaminated with something, which it could be or it could be that this customer is actually allergic to one of the ingredients. She doesn't know, you don't know because you didn't tell anyone on the page. Let's take a look at the situation with Pampers Dry Weave.
Rachel: This was a change in their product design basically to where they went from a thicker diaper to a thinner diaper using more absorbent, what's called ... In diaper technology, you have two fillings, you have the super absorbent filling and then you have some sort of other fiberfill. What Pampers Dry Weave was, was they added a different kind of super absorbent fill and it made the diaper thinner. They didn't need quite as much filling to hold the liquid. Well, what this resulted in is a lot of really upset parents. They changed the shape a little bit and it was thinner, so kids were getting a lot more rashes. Obviously, whenever you change anything with the baby, their skin is so delicate and so sensitive, people freak out.
Rachel: They were told that they had rashes. The people claim that there are chemical burns. I will not show you any of those pictures because they're really awful. If you've ever seen real diaper rash, it makes you feel awful for the poor baby. What you see here in these comments is you know, if Pampers were a pill, they would have pulled it off the shelf by now. It's so crazy that doctor is not making more of a deal about this. Then, you see somewhere down here where someone says, "Well, there hasn't been a recall and they can't be that bad or maybe your child just has extra sensitive skin, blah, blah, blah." So, you can see people freaked out about this. There are multiple websites talking about how Pampers needed to take down Dry Weave.
Rachel: Pampers had to invest in a multimillion dollar investigation process. It was a lot of effort, all because people were complaining. Then, you see here the Fitbit situation. These were rashes that the Fitbit was causing and when Fitbit first came out, I don't think that they realized ... No, I don't know this. I didn't work with them on this. I don't think they realized that when people are wearing your product 24/7, there's going to be potential for rashes and a lot of times because there's no regulatory or safety risk with armbands, no one really tested that, I don't think that they really realized the effect of having something on a wrist all day, all night, could be.
Rachel: There's a lot of people with sensitivities in their skin, people who are allergic to nickel. People who have particular sensitivities to certain kinds of plastic ingredients. Again, you need to know your product, you need to know what's in it and you need to warn customers because that's the number one thing. Fitbit had to do a huge recall because they hadn't warned customers and they hadn't made sure that their product could work for everyone. The last one I want to show you from an injury standpoint, and there wasn't one but people were concerned about it, is the Fisher-Price Rock-a-Stack. Now, you can't buy this toy anymore. It does not exist. Now, there's a new one with like a half red, half ... like liquid thing at the top. Fisher-Price no longer makes this toy.
Rachel: There was a problem with it. It was sold for years and years and years and years and just got taken off the website. The problem you can see here, there's blue smudge on this kid's arm. What happened was, if you look at this item here, see how bright blue that was? The people who were producing this for Fisher-Price used the wrong dye for a couple production runs and it didn't adhere to the plastic properly. When people were playing with it, when kids are playing with it, the blue would come off and so you had multiple people complaining about blue getting on their carpet. One person was like, this blue got on my white carpet. I now thought it was hilarious because they have toddlers, why would you have white carpet on toddlers.
Rachel: That seems like a really bad idea anyway but in any case, they're really upset about their carpet. They were more upset about situation like this where there was blue dye getting on their kids, they are freaking out. Is this toxic? What's going on? I can't wash it off. Little things like making sure that your factory is using the right dye, can really help with reducing customer upset. Now, as of last year, the Fisher-Price Rock-a-Stack toy, the old one, that was still the top review, this product should be recalled, blue dye and they've now stopped selling it on Amazon. It no longer exists. This is the new product, and you can see the kind of complaints that people get here.
Rachel: This is the kind of thing that you want to get an email about immediately. You want to know this immediately. On the middle one, my seven month old put the top ring in his mouth while playing and it cuts his tongue and he start bleeding. That's huge. If your product causes a seven month old to bleed, you need to do something about that. Multiple applications are available for tracking reviews but we're going to show you how this works with FeedbackFive. The main reason is because I really liked FeedbackFive. I think the format is great and the way that it's set up really works well for the kind of thing that we're doing with it. What it will do is it actually gives you a daily email summary or you can have it email you whenever it comes in, negative, neutral and positive feedback.
Rachel: The reason I like the email is because you don't have to even think about it. It takes care of it for you and then it tells you when there's a problem. You don't have to go out and look for it. This is what they look like. You can see the ranking, the reviewer, the date and the actual review itself. The cool thing here is that you can sort, you can take a look at everything and you could potentially figure out if there's a match. Now, the reason why that's super awesome for private label is you can then reach out to that person potentially and ask them for information, ask them for the product back so you can send it to a lab and test it. There's a lot of things you can do if you know who left the review. I just have to do some more for a little bit.
Rachel: Then you have a way to keep track of the results, so you can have keywords here. I like to look at keywords as ways of keeping track a level of risk. For example, if you were to be tracking that ... the one that I mentioned before with Fisher-Price, where they said the top ring cut their lip and there's bleeding. Bleed, blood, bleeding, those are all keywords that I would consider as high risk. There's a whole bunch bunch of examples that you can get on various sites where you can find things like choke, strangle, die, death, recall. There's a lot of them and keep track of the ones that are problematic. Then keep track of them on dates too.
Rachel: Your responsibility as an importer and brand owner is to know what's happening with your product. So, keep track of this and keep track of your investigation, especially if you have an FDA regulated item or a CPSC regulated item. Those two agencies really want to see your investigation. They want to see what you did. What kind of testing did you do? Multiple warning letters have been issued to companies whose investigations were insufficient by FDA. FDA has no sense of humor when it comes to customer injury. I know that with CPSC but FDA is worse, so keep track of your investigations and results. Okay, so how do you use it? If we look here, you can see this great little gift here that has their product review analytics, you can sign up with FeedbackFive, they have a nice little dashboard here.
Rachel: You add in with the ASINs just in the list, it's really simple, and then here it goes on this list. Now, the thing that I like about this and it's going on pretty quickly, but there's one thing here that I think is really great, which is that there's a notes column. You can actually add section in this notes. You can put your own notes or you can put like your brand name in the notes. You can use that notes for various things, on that note section. Then also, if you download this to Excel, which I think is great, the export feature is fantastic. That's one of the reasons why we like FeedbackFive most is because there's bulk import and bulk export.
Rachel: You don't have to just have the ones that are connected to your account. You can just import whatever you want, so you can watch your competitors or you can watch top brands that you want to follow. With this, you can see there there's a note section. If you export this to Excel and you have a notes function where you put like brand and then hyphen and something else, in Excel, you can actually break that out into multiple columns and run metrics on it. I really like the way that this is bulk import, bulk export. How much it costs? It's actually really affordable. You can see here that if you have up to 10 skews, it's actually free, and if you go here ... we track quite a few, so obviously it appeal more than that.
Rachel: If you're monitoring your own product plus some competitor products, it may only cost you 10 bucks a month. That's huge in terms of time savings. You don't have to go look at it, it does it for you. Alright, so let's take a look at how this affects global customers and how it affected for Amazon. People elsewhere described problems differently or they have different expectations of products. So, I'm looking at here at Tesco. The thing that you have to be careful of, even in English speaking countries is people use different words for things. Here is someone who complained about the bacon packet that they got being incomplete. The thing that I think is important here is they said, "As a fellow bacon fan, I can fully understand your shock, disappointment and unadulterated anger at finding only six rashers in the packet."
Rachel: Now, Americans don't use the word rashers. The number one thing with a keyword style system if you're marking things important by keyword, is you need to know which keywords people are using. In English, obviously, the King's English is a little bit different than our English here. You'll need to make sure that you check with someone who actually speaks British-English and get their feedback on things, certain words mean different things. Make sure that you're tracking them appropriately. Now, if you're going somewhere in a non-English speaking space, work with them to figure out something or find a freelancer who can help you. Say if you need someone who reviews your ... reviews in Germany or in France, say you're in Europe, you want to have someone whose native language is to go through and look at your negative reviews and give you feedback.
Rachel: Just going into Google Chrome and go into Translate, that can help, definitely but there's a lot of cultural context that's missed. So, if you're a bigger company, you have more risk. I definitely suggest hiring someone to go through this for you. This is this Strathwood product that went to Germany, and from a quality perspective, people just didn't like the big products. They actually said they were too American. That was actually one of the complaints, so keep on top of your complaints. That helps you with the marketing side, it also helps you with the safety side. Alright, so once you get the complaints, how do you respond? I listed each of these complaints here and we're going to go through each one of them.
Rachel: Basically, when you get a complaint, the point is not just to get it and be like, "Oh, look, I got a complaint." You need to do something about it, be proactive, try to solve the problem and then be aware of which situations Amazon is most going to be concerned about. The first type of issue that they have is a condition difference. If the customer perceives the item as not being in pristine, new quality but they bought it as new. Even if the issue is more that people think that it's ... you might use the word fake or they might use like it's not new. Amazon will often warn you for something like "Used Sold as New," "Inauthentic," but the actual issue is that it didn't show up new.
Rachel: Number one thing, have a clear product specifications to provide to your supplier. We had a supplier who would consistently leave globs of grease on the products and we would get annoyed because it would go out and there'll be globs of grease and people would be like, of course, complaining because of grease on it. The factory got back to us and said we make the handy tools not the art. What? What does that even mean? That's a usual situation with working in factories in China, is sometimes the English that comes back is spelled correctly but not entirely understandable. What we figured they meant is that they're just making the product, they're not making it look nice. Be really clear with your factory about what you need.
Rachel: Then, always perform inspections. Sometimes you'll get a situation where the production isn't quite as good as the last one. Then, inform customers what to do so like memory foam mattress, you're supposed to undo it in the garage. Let it sit for two days then bring it inside. Not as described is a huge issue on Amazon. You have a lot of customers who get annoyed of things aren't exactly as they're described. So, be honest in your product descriptions. The ones that you sell because you're overselling will come back as returns. That's way too expensive and it's a lot of effort when people are returning it, they could damage your product, it could cost a lot.
Rachel: Be honest, I mean, obviously, you can find better ways to say things than just, it's going to stink for a couple days. You can find better words but be honest about it. Then make sure you test ahead of time. The worst kind of product testing is the product testing was done by your customers. Test it in the lab first, make sure that it meets the expectations that you have. Okay, so used sold as new is a really common issue that customers will complain about, is anything that appears to be used. The number one problem that we see there is insufficient packaging actually. People who are using too thin of cardboard. We always recommend be flute corrugate at a minimum.
Rachel: Then, if there is anything else that's in it that's breakable or that's anyway fragile, then you may want to add supporters or double wall corrugate so thicker corrugate and than even be flute. Always inspect as I mentioned and then ask your factory about raw material storage procedures because if they're clean at the start of the production run, then hopefully it still goes just fine. If they store it in a place that's really humid and it molds or gets rusty, that's a problem. So, safety incidents there's two different teams that do safety. Amazon product safety has actual safety issue that they follow up on. They're a much more strict team. Then, you have the team that calls things safety incident.
Rachel: I know it's confusing to have two different teams doing things called safety at Amazon but the safety incident team is dealing with customer complaints but of perceived safety issues. So, they will complain about things like feeling sick to their stomach or nausea or vomit, all of those words will cause potential investigation. Okay, so then the last thing listing closed due to negative feedback. It used to be that you could ignore these. Now, please, please, please do not ignore these. We've seen multiple clients who have had their FBA privileges revoked for ASINs, from having too many returns too often. Don't just put this in your listing, back up and go forward.
Rachel: You actually need to investigate and fix the problem so that you don't get such high returns because Amazon is not dealing with that anymore. You must do quality testing in the lab, super, super important. You don't want to learn about the product problem for the first time from your customers. I cannot reiterate that enough. Then worst case scenario is you need to report. All manufacturers and importers are obligated to report safety issues to the appropriate regulatory body. I cannot emphasize this enough either. For most products that will be the CPSC and section 15b, reporting obligation. You can go to saferproducts.gov to report, but there's plenty of different products that are FDA regulated or regulated by other agencies where you need to report to those agencies.
Rachel: For example, we were just working on a product that has a medical application, and it's not a product that you would immediately think of as being medical application but FDA has a very broad idea of what a medical device is. For example, band aids are medical devices, toothbrushes are medical devices. You need to know if FDA considers your product a medical device or if you're making therapeutic claims that then make it a medical device. If so, then you have an obligation to report to FDA if there's a problem. If there really is a problem, if it's really truly a problem, get a lawyer. Don't try to do this on your own, very bad idea.
Rachel: Okay, so how do we help our clients? We have a done for you program where we basically do the whole development of a private label product or a private label product line for our clients and it's done completely at your specification. We can either decide on the product together or you tell us what you'd like to produce or we have a course and coaching options. So, you can either take the course by yourself as a self learning option or you can do it with a coach. The course and coaching option is great for people who have more limited budget. The course itself is obviously the cheapest. Of course plus coaching is kind of the middle level and then done for you is anywhere between 1100 a month to upwards of 5K a month.
Rachel: So, it's definitely the more expensive option but if you were to hire people to do this, it would cost you more certainly. Here's an example of some of the products that we've worked on recently. This one just recently launched and actually helped to unload the container of these, that took a while. These are really great products that have been produced in China to our specifications. We not only tested the product itself, so we know that it's safe to use, in terms of no lead contamination, no other issues. We also did testing on the product packaging, so we actually tested this for the client. When the factory had packaged it, multiple units failed for it's the transit testing, as in they would have broken in transit to the client, to the customer.
Rachel: So, what we worked on for the client was fixing the packaging, making it more sturdy, making sure that it passed that testing, so now they're going to make sure that they get a lot few returns. If you already have a brand, yes, we can definitely help you. A large proportion of our clients are actually people that need compliance backfill. They already launched their brands, they're already out there, they're already selling and they're like, "Oh crap." We'll actually go through and evaluate their packaging, their labeling, their actual compliance in terms of customer complaints, in terms of potential risk. The same thing that we do for our clients. When we start working on projects, we'll go through and find any issues for you, get it into the lab, get it tested, get it certified, whatever is needed.
Rachel: We have a lot of folks who come to us and the products are not actually compliant as they're currently being sold. You don't want to be in that position. You don't want to be trying to go into expanding. Say, you want to expand your own website. Well, that's okay but what if you're trying to expand a Walmart? What if you're trying to expand to some sort of brick and mortar store? You don't want to be in the position of having a product that's actually not compliant and then have them ask you and then you have to go away. You want to be able to make those deals, you want to able to grow your brand. What we do is we work with the laboratory to get the most up to date regulatory and safety testing protocol.
Rachel: A protocol with just a list of tests with the expectations and we'll work with you on what makes the most sense for your product and your budget, that's another key thing. Labs will tell you everything that needs to be tested which can be quite expensive. You want to focus on the things that are most important for you as a small business owner. Then, we also review your detail page and competitors. Actually, that's an important piece for customer complaints versus quality and safety and then provide you with a comprehensive report, so you can go through that and talk to us about what you need to improve or areas that you're doing really well. We also want to compliment you if you're doing well on things, but this is something that we do a lot of, to help our clients sleep better at night, really.
Rachel: I mean, especially once you see pictures of like hoverboards and the kind of damage that can be done, for myself, at least, it was a stressful job making sure that all of Amazon's own private brands were safe for customers. That was my job. If something had gone really wrong, I would have been the one getting yelled at and I understand as a business owner, you're the one who's going to have the problem. It's important to make sure that you can sleep well at night. Okay, so what kind of questions do we have? Liz, I'm not sure if more questions came in since the last time we took a break.
Liz: We did indeed.
Rachel: Awesome. Okay, questions.
Liz: One person has asked, if your group helps with global regulations, if they want to sell outside the US?
Rachel: Yes, we do. Actually, that was my last job at Amazon, when I was there the first time was managing global imports. So, I managed global imports for Amazon launched to Mexico, business launch Canada, relaunched Europe, launched China, launched India. We went totally global. We were also really familiar with the regulations in Japan and Australia. Australia has been on the roadmap for a long time, so we made sure that we were up to snuff on that as well. Yeah, so that's a big part of what we do for our clients. FBA makes it so easy to go global and there's a lot of companies out there like OFX or Payoneer, that make your banking really simple and all you got to do is set up your legal entity and you're set up and ready to go, right?
Rachel: Not quite. If you haven't done your compliance going into Europe or going into Japan or China, you may be getting your product stuck at the border, you may be paying container fees. So yeah, that's a big part of what's missing, and what Amazon does on this, and I'm not joking is they just have like a one liner that says, make sure your products are legal to sell, and they have a help page for it, and like the Europe help page, I am not kidding. I posted it into the Google Docs page and it was like 15 pages of guidance. You definitely want help if you're going to Europe. That one is a painful marketplace to work in and then of course even Mexico and Canada, just because you have NAFTA doesn't mean that there's reciprocal agreements.
Rachel: The number one non-tariff barrier to trade in the world is product compliance because often countries can't assess duties or tariffs because of WTO. What they'll do instead is they'll come up with stupid labeling requirements or they'll come up with registration requirements or they'll come up with something where you have to have it tested in that country. Something where a product compliance rule is there to protect that local economy, so you have to be careful of those.
Liz: A follow up question to that was, can you help actually get a foreign entity, can you help somebody get started selling on the Amazon Marketplace in other regions?
Rachel: We do have folks that we can refer people to for that. We do not set up entities outside of the US right now. We do help if someone is trying to get into the US, we have helped to get folks set up here because we obviously have contacts and lawyers and recommendations for getting set up here. For getting set up elsewhere, we usually try to recommend somebody who's local there.
Liz: Super. Another person asked how do you prevent Amazon from restocking returned goods?
Rachel: There's two answers to that. The first is make sure your repackaging is off. That takes care of the most egregious situations where your packaging is completely destroyed. Amazon will put it in their own plain packaging and sometimes they'll even like scotch tape things up. It's terrible. It's not a good experience for your customer, so make sure repackaging is always off. FDA came up with this as a way to reduce the number of unfulfillable returns that they were reimbursing sellers for. It just looks awful. It's not good, so turn that off. The second part is you can't stop them from restocking. They are doing it for you. That is their choice. There's no way to get around that.
Rachel: I have actually followed up with my old director at Amazon, he's actually the head of C-Returns, long time ago. He was our director. I actually complained to him, I was like, "Hey, you realize this is a problem, right?" You have one team at Amazon who's shutting you down for used sold as new, which is almost always because returns are going back out to customers and your team that handles C-Returns is responsible for all these things that are used going back into fulfillment inventory. I know they're working on it. They're always working on something but there's always a long backlog. So, no, there's no way to stop that right now. I would love it if there was a way that you could just set it to return to you.
Rachel: If you could set all your returns to go back to you instead of going to Amazon or auto destroy or something to where it doesn't contaminate your current inventory, but there's no way to stop that right now. That's most problematic for people who have topicals and who have food items. It's just too horrible. It's not a good experience but that's the way that Amazon currently has things set up for FBA and hopefully they fix that soon.
Liz: Awesome, and then one more, is there a way around being misclassified, like a medical device that really isn't a medical device?
Rachel: I would be really cautious about being an armchair compliance expert. We have this happen a lot where someone comes to us and like, "Yeah, but my product isn't this or isn't that," and we look at it and they've made a claim about how it helps relax muscles, that's a medical claim or they have something where it's got a chart that shows exactly which bones it helps, or they've got something that in a phrase says that it helps increase sleep quality. Any of those are medical claims and as soon as you make those medical therapeutic claims, your product is a medical device, no matter what it is. So that's an important thing. A lot of people don't realize they're turning their products into medical devices to their claims.
Rachel: The second thing is, FDA does actually classify a lot of things that you wouldn't expect as medical devices because of their typical uses. So, there's a lot of exemptions in terms of the kind of regulatory oversight. You don't have to file 510Ks, that's a pre-market notification to FDA. You have to get pre-market approval, a lot of these things you can just produce, but you do have registration requirements and you do have reporting requirements. Now, I am not going to be the person to tell you that you have to register with FDA. That again, is just like everything else in the space, a business decision. Do you feel comfortable with ignoring what the FDA wants? That's your business decision but you should know that it exists and that it's there.
Liz: Super and then we just had ... this is something I've actually wondered about too. Can you also talk about any legal issue around suffocation warning on polybags?
Rachel: Yeah, so the suffocation warnings are actually based on local regulations, it's not a federal regulation. There's multiple local regulations. I think New York has one, Maryland, the city of Chicago. The standard suffocation warning required by Amazon is basically an amalgamation of the most strict requirements there. Depending on your bags, most standard sized polybags are going to be fine with just a standard warning. This is not for play, this is not in cribs, there's that centered warning there. The problem is when you get a really big polybag, if you have a really big polybag, you need to make sure that it has the right font size warning, that's an interesting one.
Rachel: There's actually font size warnings, and then certain kinds of really big bags, you're actually required to perforate. Yeah, if you are interested in that ... I believe I have a blog post on this but if you're interested in that, I can respond with that information if anyone wants to email us and our email address is email@example.com and we do have basic instructions on how to comply with the safety labeling there and then of course, if you're in Europe, there is a different suffocation warning required and it needs to be in all languages, so keep that in mind as well.
Liz: Super. Thank you so much, Rachel. That was tremendously great information.
Rachel: Yeah. Hopefully, I didn't talk too fast.
Liz: Great. We do have some special offers here at the end. Rachel is offering 10% off your first order, if you use her coupon code that you see here. Also, if you want to try any of eComEngine's software products, just use the coupon code safety first on the third page of the signup wizard and you'll get a 30 day free trial for FeedbackFive or RestockPro or 150 free credits for eCom Spy. This webinar has also been recorded and all registrants will receive the recording later on this afternoon. It will also include a link to Rachel's website and her email address so that you can get in touch with info at Cascadia. I want to thank everybody for attending today. I think this was great. We went a little bit over time but I think it was well, well worth it and I want to thank Rachel so much. That was just tremendously good.
Rachel: Of course, thank you for having me, and thank you for making a great product that we use.
Liz: Thank you for using it and evangelizing it for us. We love that and if anybody has any questions about product review management, don't hesitate to reach out to me. I'll definitely get you in the right place. Happy weekend, everybody. I'm going to stop the broadcast now. If you have any questions, just let us know.
Originally published on October 6, 2016, updated April 30, 2020
This post is accurate as of the date of publication. Some features and information may have changed due to product updates or Amazon policy changes.