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Transcription for this episode:
[00:00:01] spk_0: Welcome to the seller roundtable e-commerce coaching and business strategies with and er, not and amy Wiis. Mm Hey, what's up everybody? This is Andy ona with Amy Please. This is sell a round table #105. We have Jeff Schick on deck A. K A the amazon legal ninja trademark. Jeff welcome. Thank you so much for being with us. It's awesome to have you back again. And uh, what we, what we'd like to start with is a little bit about you. We want to know, you know, we just called you the amazon legal ninja. You got to back that up with some creds, some nunchucks, some throwing stars, you know something. So we'd love to love to hear a little bit more about you. [00:00:46] spk_1: Alright, awesome. Well thank you for having me on. I really appreciate it. Um, do I take the stage now? [00:00:51] spk_0: Absolutely. All right, so where [00:00:55] spk_1: Do I begin? Well, you know, a lot of people may not know this value but actually started as a seller on Amazon back in 2011. So on June 11, which is just One month from today, it will be my 10 year anniversary of being on the Amazon platform. [00:01:09] spk_0: So [00:01:10] spk_1: yeah, so I'm really familiar with it. You know, it's, it's something that's near and dear to me, I've been, you know, on amazon for, you know, nearly 10 years now and I've been a seller. I've been on vendor central and then now I've been as an attorney. So, you know, we've gotten to see it from multiple angles and it's been cool to watch the evolution of how amazon's grown and, and so that really was key for us to start our legal practice. You know, we've got over a seller basis. We've got a team of three attorneys in one form of performance representatives. So, you know, everyone on our team has something special to do with either small business or amazon. So you know that's I'll tell you a little bit about our team and a little bit, but it's uh but it's cool and I look forward to talking to you guys today. [00:01:55] spk_0: So awesome. Thank you so much for being on. So one of the things I love to add, well I'm gonna love to ask in the beginning here is there must be like one issue or one problem that you get people coming to you over and over again. You know, there's probably a top three. But uh you know what what are the kind of the top three issues that people come to you with having problems with amazon? [00:02:16] spk_1: So a lot of it has to do with intellectual property and that's why having an attorney handle things that R. I. P. Related is so incredibly important because we have people that come to us with design patent or utility patent issues. They didn't know that a product that's available in Alibaba can't legally be sold in the United States because somebody else has a design patent or utility patent on it. That's that happens on a weekly basis. We have sellers on pretty much a daily basis coming to us with trademark issues where you know they bought a product they you know that's either copyright infringing or trademark infringing and it's you know someone someone else's product or name and then they hit with that. So trademark infringement really important. And then of course What happened the one that everyone fears the most which is account suspensions. So that really the top three things and they're all interrelated because it related account suspensions are the most common suspension. So really really understanding when sourcing what you know, and I know Amy has done an incredible job of getting the information out there. A lot of, you know, not a lot of people in the space do do that. And so I do appreciate that for Amy, but nobody, you know, educating sellers on what you know those, you know, what is a patent, what is a trademark and what is the copyright? Those are three crucial elements that sellers need to know about or else they're going to be facing a lot of, you know, pain, financial pain most likely, you know, when it comes to running their business. And then also just the emotional pain, you know, launching a product and then having it end up in their basement, never to be sold again. So, um, so that's that's [00:03:47] spk_0: that awesome. So um one of the things that I've, I've seen a lot of, and now I'm also experiencing experiencing it myself, which is extremely frustrating. So, you know, I moved from, from northern California to Idaho and so I changed legal entities, bank accounts, all that stuff. And I'm like literally for weeks now trying to get on the phone of the amazon, I get the overseas, you know, team that won't do anything. Um, they got rid of the captive team, like getting anybody on the phone now on amazon who actually knows what they're doing. And I'm sorry if you're from amazon listening to this, but it's just the experience and so no ripping on on the amazon folk. I know a lot of you are hard workers, great people, but in terms of, you know, a lot of the overseas team and stuff like that, it's really, really hard because a lot of them are not trained. It's not their fault but it's been extremely frustrating. Um Any are you are you seeing a lot of that in terms of like any tips for like changing legal identity bank info. I, we get that question all the time in our facebook group. Um you know any any ways to kind of overcome those hurdles. [00:04:50] spk_1: Well a lot of that can be done self service. So reaching out to amazon seller support is kind of the first step down down a really painful ending because they're just going to tell you like they're not going to, they're going to tell you that they've done it and they really haven't or they're going to tell you information that may or may not be accurate or they're just going to send you the step by step instructions and then if you don't follow them then sellers assume that it's been done and then it really hasn't. So that's it's really crucial that sellers realize the place of seller support and don't reach out to them for things that they are not trained or even able to help you with. So a lot of it, you know, so you know if you need to update legal entity, you go through the tax interview now that may trigger an account verification. So before you ever hit that update tax information button, you want to make sure you have your ducks in a row in case they come asking. So that means utility bills proof of residential address, you know as a business address. All that stuff you want to have it ready to go because the last thing you want to be doing is you know, thinking you've got it, pushing the button updating everything and then getting that verification from amazon and then realizing that it was, oh that utility bill is for an apartment I had two years ago and I never realized that I never disconnected electric service and that's a whole other issue that people find out how you have to deal with. But you know that's so there's that I say, you know just doing your due diligence but not relying on anything amazon tells you because nothing they say can be used to help you, but anything they say can be you that you say can be used against you. So that's yeah, [00:06:22] spk_0: yeah, it's frustrating too because yeah, I made sure all my ducks in a row went through the tax interview updated my bank account to this day. I'm still getting the kickback of the things saying I need to verify the account called three times and it's still not resolved. And I'm just like this is why, you know, I hate to do it, but you know, I'm a realist when it comes to, you know, I'm not one of those people who's going to tell you amazon's all rosy because I want everybody to know the frustrations. I mean that's why honestly, every day I'm less bullish on amazon because they are now catering to uh you know, the, the big brands that have, you know, the legal teams and you know, the, the huge teams, the ratios of the world that have all these connections where, you know, they get pencil whip stuff and then the small mom and pop people are, are really, really hurting. So that's a little bit of a of a frustration. But I guess Jeff that's where you come in, you know, we don't need the big legal legal team, we can come to you uh and and hopefully you can pencil whip some stuff for us. Right. [00:07:19] spk_1: Right. And that's actually something interesting. We've dealt, I've dealt with brands, you know, obviously we deal with sellers every day and so most of our clients are small sellers, you know mom and pop, you know, 1-5 employee sellers and say it's probably the large majority of who we work with. But of course we do have some clients that are in the, you know, the bigger ranks to um and what seems, you know what's counterintuitive to a lot of like we have one brand we work with, it's a billion dollar consumer products brand and what counterintuitive to their team when they first hired us on was that they were working with a law firm out of new york city. That is, you know like everyone from my law school class was just like if you've got a job offer through them, you were, you know, in their minds, they were set for life. You know, it's one of those law firms where these people, the associates started $195,000 a year. And so, you know, they're paying, you know, they're charging probably $1000 an hour for legal fees about amazon and they don't even know what they're talking about when it comes to amazon. And so a great example is our client, billion dollar company can easily afford, you know, this bill. But what happened is their product got recalled and it was recalled in july Uh this is in 2018 and so was recalled in July of 2018. They went through, they hired this law firm in New York City, they paid them probably 100 grand, did not get reinstated. They met me and I want to say November, but going through all their corporate purchasing stuff, they didn't get, they didn't get the okay for the RFP to actually hire our firm until January 2nd of 2019. We had their product reinstated in two weeks. They paid us a total of $4,800 and they paid the other lawyer like 20 times more than what they paid us because they were really upset that they paid this other lawyer all this money and all the guy kept doing with sending Amazon letters saying we're going to see you were going to see you not even thinking about the arbitration clause, which makes that impossible. So of course amazon was just filing goes away as soon as they came in, their, you know, their response to, we're going to see you is okay then to us like they really don't care. You know, [00:09:26] spk_0: right? You signed, you signed the terms of service as soon as that product went up on amazon, that pretty much protects amazon. You know, most of the protections on their side. That's a good point though, because I run into, I get clients that come to me who have worked with these major mostly marketing companies who are like, oh yeah, we do amazon and the stuff they chart, you know, I'm not going to drop any names, but some major major companies that are even in the amazon space that I look at this stuff and I'm like, wow. Like some of these big companies are just so clueless because they don't feel like they need to know it, right? So if you don't know if you're hiring somebody as an expert and you don't even know like how to judge that that work, like it's impossible for, for them to know. So that's a really interesting point. Um I see that a lot of the amazon space, which is, which is, which is pretty interesting, but it is great that, you know, people have access to somebody like you who is an expert in terms of, you know, it's one thing to say like, oh yeah, you know, I, I sold on amazon, you're like really like for how long, like six months and I, you know, they got like fidget spinner, they caught some wave that they like sold for a little bit now they're like the expert, right? And it's funny because I sold about the same amount of time as you Jeff. I think I got into it right around the same time. 2011, 12. Um yeah, so I've been in the game for a really long time to, and there's absent flows and, you know, joyous times and, and just, you know, wrenching your teeth time, which I'm sure you experienced a lot of as well. Uh, but it's good to be in those trenches. I mean, I still have my account open. I I'm probably going to sell it off for or just, you know, I I've been pairing off excuse like crazy, but I want to stay with, you know, stay in the amazon game just so that I know the frustrations and you know what's going on there, because I feel like if you're, you know, if you're like a master chef and you're not cooking anymore, guess what? You're, you're not going to be a master chef anymore, right? Like you have to be in the kitchen cooking and getting your hand burned on the pot to like stay in the game, right? So um I love that, I love that you're, you know, you've you've seen it so many things so if somebody comes to you, you've already seen these issues before where a lot of like you said, these major law firms probably don't even know what you're, you know, half these people are talking like a G. T. I. N. X. Exemption, what is that? Like, [00:11:35] spk_1: you know what happened exactly, [00:11:38] spk_0: like, you know, a lot of them Exactly. So that's that's super interesting. So onto I told you I was gonna ask himself selfish questions today. So um you know, if you don't know rebate Jet dot com is one of our software platforms, uh we do rebates discounts. Um also some other really neat stuff that are in the works, but you know, we always keep seeing people saying like if he is really, but you're gonna get your account banned, you know, you're gonna get in big trouble, you know, I heard the same thing back when launches, you know, were before they were against terms of service, you know, so I would love your to, to get your feedback on rebates, you know, if you think that rebates are an acceptable thing to do when launching a new product, when trying to, you know, get some more sales on a stale product, you know, in your view with, in terms of service, have you seen, you know, if you've seen anybody get in trouble for those rebates, you know, what are, you know, what did they get in trouble for? I would love to get the feedback on that. [00:12:33] spk_1: So I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with rebates, it's really no different than going to publix or HPV and buying, you know, you know, coca cola and then you know sending in the bottle caps for a refund, A rebate. You know there's nothing wrong with that where I see people usually get in trouble when it comes to any sort of launch strategy is the I think they're called. It's not I mean I know what a mini chapel is. It's it's a mini chapel. Oh that's connected to like a special U. R. L. That. Send somebody back to the review your product page for that specific order. Um Amy do you know what I'm talking about? Do you know what that's called? That that that like the follow up [00:13:14] spk_0: it's the follow up flow and then also the search find by. Is that what you're talking about? Like search find by. And then the [00:13:19] spk_1: it's not the search find by but it's the it's the flow. It's when you click the button within the mini chat to take you directly to where you go to review, [00:13:27] spk_0: right? [00:13:28] spk_1: I can't remember. I think it might be called a super your album. Not sure. So somebody who is [00:13:32] spk_0: still on the launch side. But yeah, I mean, I mean correct me if I'm wrong if you've heard anything differently. But from what I know, it's just a it's a it's a follow up review message that sort of implies that they're, you know, they're supposed to leave a review. The wording isn't like, you know, it's your option. It's like, hey, time to leave a review. You know, like where it's misleading. So that's kind of what [00:13:52] spk_1: exactly. Well, so any sort of like when you send somebody back to amazon like that is where people get in trouble because when you think about it heuristic lee and you, you know, looking at it from amazon there, they run on heuristics. So what is typical consumer behavior? Typical consumer behavior is not that there on some random website and then all of a sudden get directed directly. You know, they think, oh, I'm going to leave a product review for that product spot. So I'm going to type in the exact trl on amazon and how to get to it. That just doesn't happen. Like that's never like, unless you've got like a tech nerd that's leaving a review. That's the only person that's going to do that. I'm sorry. That's going to screw you up as a seller, that they do that to you. But but realistically if you're sending a bunch of traffic and they're all clicking this link to go to the review your product page and find your order right away. That's not natural. It doesn't happen naturally. So when you're doing any sort of launch strategy, you have to think what happens naturally and what happens unnaturally and you want to stay on the side of things that are natural because if you're choosing unnatural things, that's what amazon bots are going to flag is, hey, this is a problem here. So that's, so I don't think there's anything wrong with rebates. It's just the follow up afterwards. You have to be careful that you're not doing, you know those. [00:15:07] spk_0: Yeah, absolutely. So that is, that's the biggest one of the biggest misconception misconceptions. I see number one you can't offer. So you could, you know, technically you can do up to 100% rebate, but then you cannot offer money on top of that or not even money, but anything of value. You know, you can't say like, hey, leave us a review and we'll send you something in the mail or you'll get a free coaching session or you'll get a free, you know, there cannot be anything of value stacked on top of that rebate. So that's one thing to be really, uh, cognizant of the other thing is 100% rebate. I mean technically you could do that, but once again, uh, like Jeff was saying is you have to look at what's natural, right? If amazon seeing a ton of 100% rebates come through, that might, you know, that might raise a little flag for them now. Not to say that, you know, if you do a small volume of them, that's, you know, to me, um, you [00:15:55] spk_1: know, you [00:15:56] spk_0: know, natural looking, you know, there's a lot of massive companies that giveaway product or that discount products highly in the beginning just to get their name out there to get known you like Jeff was saying a lot of local stores will do that. So once again, I mean it's a lot of common sense, right? Jeff, you know, being is like, okay, does this seem like I'm gaming the system? Right? And if the answer is, is a question, then, you know, you might want to dig into it a little bit more or be a little bit more uh reserved in terms of how much product you're pushing through those rebates through those discounts, all those kinds of things. Once again, also, it's natural traffic, right? So when you're launching, you don't want to just do rebates, you want to do ads, you want to do facebook, you want to do PPC, you want to do all these things? And then amazon goes, oh awesome. Like this guy is sending a ton of free traffic to amazon, they're buying this product, but then they're adding the diapers or the amazon loves that. So if you guys do it in a natural way and when you launch, you know, you think of, you know, what would amazon do? If you, if you see that you're going to give both, you know, if it's a win win for both parties, then you're probably going to be okay. Um, but that's a great, you know, I'm super glad that you clear that up just because there's so many people are like, oh, if you use rebates, you're going to get, you know, man, it's like, no, like it's if you use, if you're giving away 1000 things for free, then yeah, you're probably going to get into trouble, right? But if you're using it, you know, if you're doing like 10 to maybe even 30 you know, depending on the volume, I love rebates and I still recommend them as just one source of traffic at lunchtime. It's one source of your sales. It's a great way to give a sales boost. I think where people get into trouble is whenever they try to tack on, Oh well let me try to get reviews on top of that with these. I mean [00:17:39] spk_1: why would [00:17:39] spk_0: you even risk it? Use it as additional sales? Don't worry about using it for reviews. If you don't combine rebates and reviews, you're going to be in great shape, it's gonna be awesome. So yeah, and so another misconception is that if you give a rebate that you can't request a review, that's absolutely also not true. You can request a review. It just cannot be worded in a way that, that says that it's, you know, a change in exchange or an expectation. You can say, hey, if you like, you know, actually no, that's a bad example. You can say, hey, we would love if you left us a review, that's it. Like there's no implication there of like hey, if you liked it, go leave a review, You know, like you can't use that type of garbage, you have to say, hey, we would love, we are small business. We would love if you leave us a review, that's it. Like, you know, just be really, really careful with your, and you can't say a positive review. You can't, you couldn't even see a negative review, right? Because what if you're somebody who like, you know, buys 10 of your competitors products, but it puts it on a rebate platform or something that our facebook group and then you go tell those people leave, you know, negative reviews. So you know, you, once again, there's a lot of common sense that you have to use their, um, in terms of rebates discounts, you know, even even, you know, when you're hiring somebody to push your product on Tiktok or whatever, just make sure that they are well versed on, you know, kind of what you expect and you know, what to do and not to do rolling into. Now, Jeff, you talked a little bit about search find by there's a, there's also a ton of debate on search find by whether that is, uh, you know, manipulation. I would love your feedback on that because I knew my opinion, but I want to hear yours first [00:19:15] spk_1: search find by, um, I don't know that there's a world that search line by exists, that it's not manipulation if there's some sort of financial instead of tied to it. So if you're telling somebody to go to amazon and search for this term and then buy your product and then you give them a rebate, I think that they have a primer fashion case right there for, for rank manipulation. If you're just telling them, hey, we really want you to buy our products and this is the best way to find it. There's no rebate involved. I think you're probably a little bit safer. It's still in the gray area. Um, you know, but it's, it's, you know, it's safer than having the rebate as well or, you know, any other sort of reimbursing. And I was gonna also say one thing about rebates. Um, I don't know if rebate check. Do you all do it by Paypal or by check [00:20:02] spk_0: by check? We've avoid Paypal because there's so much, uh, you know, contradictory information there and not only that, but like, you know, we wanted to be as natural as possible and as above board as possible to me wants to bring people in and there's a lot of rebate companies that are doing like, you know, five days and we'll give you like, no, like we want our, We want a legitimate shopper and a legitimate seller. Right? And so like we don't cut checks either until 35 days later, which some of the shoppers who are used to maybe some of these other platforms, you know, they get frustrated with that. I'm like, hey, look like, no, we're not gonna let people that are gonna come scam our sellers onto our platform. We also make them, you know, verify their cell phone. Like we really want to protect, like I said, both sides because I'm a seller myself. Once again, that's why I'm the, you know, the chef in the kitchen like I know what it's like to get scammed on uh you know on with using discounts and promo and things like that. So you know, we feel like we're super above board there. So yeah, as of right now we're only doing checks. Were thinking about paypal for overseas when we expand to like you can, things like that, but we're going slow and I'm trying to research as much as possible on that because we want to make sure that we keep our sellers as safe as possible. [00:21:14] spk_1: Smart. Yeah. No, that was that smart I was gonna say because um the rebates that like with the companies where they actually go back on amazon and issue a refund into the customer order. That's one of the more riskier ones because that's where amazon then starts to investigate why do you have this type of percentage of customers being refunded? So the rebate jet taking off amazon for the rebate is at least a good saver for sellers. [00:21:38] spk_0: Yeah, absolutely. Like I said, yeah, we're trying to keep it as safe as possible. It's not as convenient for the shopper is of course, but you know, we feel like it's a nice balance between, you know, the shoppers and the seller. So uh I'm awesome. I'm glad to hear that. I'm glad to hear that we're all on the, you know, on the, on the free and clear because there are a lot of other rebate companies and rebate services that are doing some shady stuff. Like I said, uh I got burned early on with my other company that agreed to a fairly large clip and then got burned by the amazon change of terms of service. I never liked the discount for reviews, but it was what everyone was doing. But once again, you know, it's one of those things where if you just use some common sense and and some you know, uh just think about like as a seller or a shopper, you know, what would, what would I be frustrated with or what would I think is a little bit shady? I think if you stick with that then you're gonna be all good. [00:22:28] spk_1: Sounds good. Yeah. [00:22:31] spk_0: Thanks for tuning in to part One of this episode, join us every Tuesday at one PM pacific standard time for live Q. And a and bonus content after the recording at cellar round table dot com, sponsored by the ultimate software tool for amazon sales and growth seller. S. C. O dot com and amazing at home dot com.