Amazon Deletes My Feedback About Questionable Marketplace Seller

Consumerist reader Wade recently bought a new Alpine Car Stereo from a third-party marketplace seller on Amazon. Or at least he thought he had.

Wade says that a few hours after placing the order, the seller called him to tell him that the order was canceled. The seller, who has an excellent rating on Amazon, said that the item for sale, described as:

CDE-HD138BT – Alpine Single-DIN CD/MP3, Built-in HD Tuner Receiver with Bluetooth and Sirius XM Ready (New)
Seller note: BRAND NEW, FACTORY SEALED WITH 1 YEAR WARRANTY, SHIPS SAME DAY WITH TRACKING AND INSURANCE.

was actually for a faceplate, not an entire stereo. The seller offered him an actual stereo, for a higher price. Wade declined the offer.

But he did take his complaint to the seller’s feedback page, where Wade left the following comment, along with a 2-star rating:

“This seller listed Alpine Car Stereo for sale and I purchased. They called and said listing was for faceplate only, not stereo. The listing was very clear that it was for full stereo. They blamed Amazon for mistake. They then proceeded to try to sell me something else; classic bait and switch shop. Stay away.”

Then yesterday he gets an e-mail from Amazon telling him that his feedback had been removed.

According to the message, his feedback was removed, not because of any allegation made by Wade in the comment, but
because, “Feedback submitted was a product review and not related to seller.”

According to Amazon’s own Feedback Guidelines, these are what buyers should focus on when reviewing sellers:
Order fulfillment: How satisfied were you with how your order was packaged and shipped?

Customer service: If you contacted the seller, did you get good customer service and prompt resolution?

Repeat business: Would you buy from this seller again?

While this is what the guidelines say about inappropriate product reviews in feedback:
Product reviews: It is more appropriate to review product on the product detail page.

“There is no way anyone reading my review could come to that conclusion,” Wade tells Consumerist. “I believe this is an instance of Amazon protecting a 3rd party seller from negative reviews, which degrades the whole feedback system.”

We don’t believe this is a deliberate attempt on Amazon’s part to protect sellers; it reeks more of a knee-jerk auto-response to a filed complaint, much in the same way that the site briefly pulled that Michael Jackson biography when it received enough complaints about the book being defective.

But we do agree with Wade that such instances give customers reason to doubt the site’s feedback system for marketplace sellers. If a seller can get a bad review removed simply by filing a complaint — one that has no bearing on the actual feedback — then the system appears to be weighed too heavily in the favor of sellers.

This situation reminds us of the contractor who tried to censor a client’s Yelp comments before they had been proven libelous in court, in that Amazon is presuming a violation has occurred before getting to the truth of the matter. Either that, or whoever reviews feedback complaints does not know how to read.

UPDATE: We haven’t heard back from Amazon regarding Wade’s issue, but reader Dave, who is a marketplace seller on Amazon says that he knows of several occasions where an Amazon glitch has switched out the image or text for a seller’s item, meaning the customer is seeing incorrect information and the seller has to cancel the order.

“They may have just been fixing their error and sending the reviewer back the closest reason for the feedback removal,” he explains.

While that might be a valid explanation, there is no reason Amazon could not simply have a form letter in which it admits the error was Amazon’s fault and that’s why it is deleting the negative feedback.