So you’ve managed to get through the learning curve, picked a niche and products to start selling, found a supplier or manufacturer to start sending the products your way, and even managed to start selling a ton of inventory on Amazon.
Life’s going good, right? Couldn’t ask for anything more?
Until the day comes when it’s time for Amazon to pay out.
And they’ve frozen your account.
Just like that, all your excitement turns into fear, panic, and you’re stuck spending time trying to figure out what could have gone wrong.
That large payout you were expecting to use to buy your second shipment of inventory is now being held up behind Amazon’s walls, with no signs of being released.
So what do you do?
If you’ve gotten the message that your account is “under review by the seller performance team”, chances are that you’re under a seller velocity review, and are going to have to wait it out until the seller performance team gets to reviewing your account and releasing the funds to you.
However, after extensive research, we’ve found out that there are ways you can increase your chances of getting the money released sooner or even getting access to new money so you can pay for that second shipment and keep your sales flowing while you wait for the velocity review to be completed.
If you email Amazon and ask them to lift the review, all you’re going to get are the standard, boilerplate emails that tell you about how Amazon will review the account once you fulfill at least 75% of your orders through the FBA platform.
But what happens if you’ve fulfilled 100% of your orders through FBA. Shouldn’t you get a break?
After all, your seller account history is flawless. Even your buyer’s account is flawless, with years of purchase history and no problems to be found. You’ve been selling really, really well, with minimal (or even zero) returns, customers leaving feedback, and your sales ranking steadily increasing.
Isn’t there special circumstances for times like this, and sellers / customers like yourself?
Now that the time has come to put in an order for your second shipment of products, you’re officially in a bind. Stuck with your budget wrapped up in your first shipment of products to Amazon, which Amazon is now holding hostage.
And to make matters worse, you’re about to run out of stock, and the second order is at your supplier’s shipping center waiting to be paid for.
Everything feels like it’s going to fall apart. How are you supposed to run a business if you can’t even get paid, and keep your money rolling over from month to month?
Why It Happens
Before you start sending mass emails to Amazon, hoping to catch a break, you first have to understand why it happens, and how it’s designed to protect both you, and Amazon from potential scammers.
Reason #1 - New accounts are under super-high scrutiny.
From Amazon’s point of view, all new accounts are considered the same as a scammer’s account. It’s the way they can protect themselves from potential customer service problems, and damaging the brand image that they’ve spent so many years (and billions of dollars) developing.
To keep scammers from jumping in and turning the FBA platform into a Craigslist replica, filled with schemes designed to separate customers from their money, it’s easier to have teams in place who will review new sellers, and keep them under scrutiny until they’ve proven themselves.
Reason #2 - You’ve made too much money, too fast.
This is a good problem to have, because it means you’ve triggered the review based on how many products you’re selling. You’ve proven that you have a hot selling product, and that you’re doing what it takes to get those products in front of the people who are ready to buy them.
If you come out of the gate making massive amounts of sales, you can be guaranteed to have your account placed under review. Consider it a win, because the sooner it happens, the sooner you can get it out of the way and work on scaling your business.
Reason #3 - Amazon needs to verify you’re selling legitimate merchandise.
One method scammers are using to make sales quickly is to take a product that’s already making massive sales (usually through a large branded image) and counterfeit it with low quality materials, packaging, and customer service. Copyright infringement is running rampant on FBA and a problem they have to deal with on a daily basis.
To verify that you’re not selling counterfeit products, they want to give customers a chance to get the products in their hands, make evaluations, and leave feedback on your account. There’s no way around this but to wait. Or use some of the strategies contained later in this post.
Reason #4 - They need to verify you don’t have too many returns or complaints.
Another problem with new sellers is sending out junk products by using hyped up sales copy on their product pages, and leaving customers holding the bag once they’ve received the item. It’s sad, but low quality products sell just as well as high quality products when you use the same product images, and a good copywriter to create the sales pages.
If you’ve sold hundreds of items, and aren’t receiving a massive influx of returns or complaints, your velocity review will go much better than someone who has a 40% return rate with a bunch of negative reviews left on their account. Those guys aren’t going to have an account for very long.
Reason #5 - Your seller account originates outside of the US, or in a high-risk country.
There are a bunch of countries around the world that are known for their high levels of scam activity. If you originate your Amazon account from one of these countries, it’s going to take you a long time to have the review lifted.
However, more countries are making their way onto the list because scammers have figured out that their home country is already being targeted, so they setup accounts in other countries around the world.
To protect themselves, Amazon has begun laying a blanket “scam” label across countries that shouldn’t necessarily be labeled as such. These countries have their “review periods” extended, and if you’re in one of them, you’re going to have a harder time getting the money released before the period ends.
It’s called a “velocity review” and it’s done for brand new sellers who come out of the gate selling quickly. It’s a good problem to have, because it means your business is on it’s way to the top -- as long as you’re not a scammer, or trying to peddle counterfeit products.
You can find out more about the velocity review by clicking here.
These reviews tend to last between 30 and 45 days, depending on how many products you’ve sold, and the type of feedback you’ve been given by customers. There are a bunch of different things you can try to do to help speed up the process.
No guarantee that they are going to work, though, but we’ve talked to various people who have had success getting their review lifted, and getting Amazon to disburse your funds using one, some, or even all of these methods.
However, if you’re persistent, though, and work to get the data that Amazon wants to see, your chances are high that you can continue on with your business and only feel a minor hiccup -- instead of business breaking road block.
How To Get The Review Lifted Early
If you work hard enough, and follow some of the strategies we’ve seen work for other FBA sellers, chances are high that you can get the review lifted earlier than it should be. Please note, though, you’re going to have to put in the time to get it done -- and getting the hold lifted isn’t something Amazon typically enjoys doing.
Follow the steps below, in order, to make sure you’ve gotten all your “ducks in a row” and are working your way up the ladder, until the final step. It will help when you’re questioned about what all you’ve done to get to the point that you’re at.
Step #1 - Email The Seller Performance Team
First, you need to get in touch with the Seller Performance team. They’re going to be the first line of defense for Amazon to protect themselves, and will be able to answer the majority of your questions.
It also helps to email them multiple times. A lot of the time, you’re going to get boilerplate emails, but if you continue pushing through, you’ll be able to escalate it to the next team up the ladder.
Step #2 - Email An FBA Payments Specialist
The payments team at Amazon are going to be the guys (or gals) that go through your account and look at the history. They’ll have access to a lot more information than the Seller Performance team will, so they’ll be able to sign off on whether or not your account looks legit, from their standpoint.
Step #3 - Email The Seller Evaluation Team
Once you’ve gone through the back and forth emails with both the performance team, as well as the payments team, your request will get escalated to an actual evaluation.
This is where a person with authority takes a look at your history, and can make a determination whether or not your account and sales are legitimate.
We’ve heard of a lot of people having success at getting the review lifted once they’ve gotten through the chain of command, and continued pushing (through multiple emails) to have their account evaluated.
Step #4 - Call Seller Support
If you’ve had someone actually look at your account, and they still weren’t able to release you from under the review, you can begin taking your requests from email, onto the phone lines. Start calling Seller Support at Amazon and speaking with live representatives who can break the situation down into greater detail for you.
You’re going to have to avoid wanting to rip your hair out at this point (it’s frustrating, we get it), and possibly even hang up, and keep calling back until you get a specialist who will go over the account for you.
Once you’ve had them actively looking at your account, you can escalate it one step further and ask to speak to a supervisor.
Step #5 - Speak With A Supervisor At Seller Support
If you manage to get a supervisor on the phone, congratulate yourself. You’ve kept your name in front of the various different teams, and they know that you’re a serious seller. Scammers wouldn’t put in this amount of time and effort to get their account lifted -- at least the majority of them wouldn’t.
When you’re talking with the supervisor, speak in a compassionate, but authoritative tone. Show them that you’ve done your research, and are a legitimate seller. Once you’ve established a rapport with the supervisor, you can ask for a manual review, and for the reserve to be lifted.
Let them know that you’ve sold more than 75% of your products through the FBA platform (if not, 100% of the sales), and that you are doing whatever you can to maintain good standing in their eyes.
The supervisor has the power to lift the review while you’re on the phone. So if you work it properly, you should be able to get back to business as soon as you hang up.
Step #6 - Speak With A Payments Specialist At Seller Support
Getting the review lifted through a supervisor doesn’t always happen, though. It’s times like these where you can confidently abandon ship on getting the review lifted, and focus instead on getting a portion of your funds released so that you can continue on with business.
To do this, you need to speak with a payments specialist at Seller Support. You’re going to have to work through the chain of command again, until you’re able to get transferred to the payments specialists, so be prepared.
When you get one on the phone, let them know the situation and everything you’ve done up to this point. Tell them about your business, and about having a shipment waiting to be paid for at your supplier. Stress the fact that you do not want to run out of stock, and that you could get by with a smaller shipment.
If you play your cards right, and ask for a smaller portion (say, 30% to 50% of the funds) to be released, most compassionate agents will take mercy on your soul and release a portion of the funds.
Step #7 - Visit The Seller Central Forums
The Seller Central forums are a treasure trove of tips and strategies for getting your account lifted out of the review period. By posting your situation, and reaching out for answers, you can keep your account status in front of moderators who work directly for Amazon.
Outline what you’ve done up to this point, and provide details of your interactions through the various steps. Then, work on keeping your thread at the top by encouraging engagement, and eventually one of the moderators will step in to help you out.
Step #8 - Email Jeff Bezos
If you’ve gone through all 7 of the previous steps, and still aren’t getting the answers you need, the next step is to take it straight to the top of the food chain. You can’t do this right out of the gate, though, because you need to show that you’ve put in the effort to work with the support teams he has in place.
When all else fails, you email the CEO of Amazon, Mr. Jeff Bezos. You can find his email at firstname.lastname@example.org. When you’re emailing him, put the time and energy into writing out a coherent, detailed, but concise description about your business, and everything you’ve done up to this point.
Then, before you hit send, make sure to put “URGENT”
If You’re Left With An Account Still Under Review…
Remember when we said that there’s no guarantee the steps outlined above are going to work?
While we’ve heard of a 50% to 75% success rate with getting the reviews lifted early by people who have put in the time going through all of those steps, not everybody will be able to get their funds disbursed.
When that happens, there are other routes you can take, outside of Amazon, to keep your business moving forward and prevent you from running out of stock.
Avenue #1 - Get A Loan From Your Bank
If you have a good history with your bank or credit union, one of the quickest ways to get your hands on more inventory is to visit one of their branches and put in the papers required to take out a small loan.
Most times, these are going to be considered “personal” loans, so the interest rates will be slightly higher than business loans.
If you have a business license with a long-standing history through the bank, it’s worth the effort to take out a small business loan. That will lower your interest rates and give you much more favorable repayment terms than a personal loan will.
Avenue #2 - Check Out PayPal Credit
You can also use your PayPal account to tap into a zero interest, 6-month same as cash loan that can help keep your inventory flowing. PayPal is fairly lenient on who they give credit to, especially if you have an account that’s been active for more than 12 months.
Through them, you’ve got up to 6 months to repay the loan without incurring interest charges. Even afterwards, the interest rates are on the lower end of the spectrum, so you can keep a rolling balance and use it to continually fund shipments in the future.
To get started, visit https://www.paypal.com/us/webapps/mpp/paypal-credit
Avenue #3 - Get Quick Funding Through Credibly
Small business lenders such as Credibly are great for getting larger amounts of funding. Any business that’s been operating for at least six months that makes bank deposits of $10,000 a month minimum can qualify for their different kinds of business loan to fill whatever financial need you can encounter.
From working capital loans to help keep your business afloat to business expansion loans to help you get into a bigger restaurant or new office, Credibly offers loans to meet the financial needs of any small business. Some of their loans even let you deduct payments directly from your bank account every day to avoid a big monthly lump sum to make it easier on you.
To get started, visit https://www.credibly.com.
Avenue #4 - Bring On A Partner
A lot of small business owners may cringe at the thought, but one way to both keep your business moving forward, as well as scale to new heights is to bring on a business partner.
You’ll be required to work up contracts, and give away a portion of your profits, but the upside potential is massive if you find the right person to partner with.
You’re looking for someone with prior investing and business experience. This is a situation where you don’t necessarily want to bring on a friend or family member as a partner, because you want the person to bring something more to the table than just their money.
The best situation would be to find existing FBA sellers who have a long-standing business, and getting one of them to invest in you, and provide you with the guidance needed to help you scale.
Avenue #5 - Get A Working Capital Loan
Kabbage and OnDeck are perfect for situations like this because they’re approved
Lines of credit through Kabbage and OnDeck allow you to pay interest only on the money that you draw. That means, even if you have $100,000 available credit, you can draw $10,000 and only pay interest on the $10,000 that you’ve borrowed.
You can apply online through both at:
Keep Calling Until You Get A Compassionate Agent
If you’re not able to take out a line of credit, get a loan, or you cringe at the thought of bringing on a business partner, you can always revert back to working your way through the ladder of Amazon’s support teams.
We’ve had reports of sellers being able to get their account reviews lifted once they’ve gotten in touch with a compassionate agent who has the authority required to push the account through.
Make sure that you read through your seller agreement carefully. Outside of having a new account, a lot of the reasons that accounts get placed under review could be avoided by knowing the rules, and following them.
Remember, “velocity reviews” tend to last from 30 to 45 days. The best plan of attack is to take out a loan and wait for Amazon to lift it themselves, naturally. If that’s not possible, though, you can always go through the steps we’ve laid out for you, and continue escalating your claim through the various channels.
The worst thing you can do is allow your stock to run out.
Not only are you going to put your earnings in a bind, but you’ll also run the risk of affecting your bestseller ranking. If you have to, get a small batch rush air-shipped from your supplier so you can keep your business moving forward.
It’s a good amount of work, but numerous people have reported successfully getting their funds disbursed, or at least a portion of them, so that they can order new inventory.
Have you had success getting your account taken out from under a velocity review? If you have, reach out and let us know! We’d love to hear how you accomplished it!