Amazon just got some bad news. The Wall Street Journal reported today an investigation found that over 4,000 products listed on Amazon are actually banned, mislabeled, or not allowed for sale in the United States. Many of these were products, including toys and safety gear like helmets, for example, were deemed unsafe for children.

If your company's brand is that it's the place to go to buy just about everything, the last thing you want is for consumers to think you can't be trusted

As bad as that news was, the bigger story wasn't the products themselves but the ways Amazon handles its listings. The Wall Street Journal headline said Amazon had "ceded control" of its store, and the report claimed the company operated more like a "flea market," failing to adhere to its own policies.

An Amazon spokesperson I spoke with said a statement on the company's blog was the only comment it would be making. That statement didn't deny the Journal's report outright, but laid out what the company calls it's "industry-leading safety and compliance program."

That program includes vetting sellers when they create an account, scanning listings on the site for ones that might cause problems, and removing products in violation of Amazon's policies or government regulations. According to the Journal, Amazon removed 57 percent of the listings brought to its attention by the investigation. 

Sometimes things go wrong.

Of course, all of that is great, but clearly it doesn't always work. And look, Amazon receives plenty of criticism, much of it deserved. But in this case, I'm not 100 percent sure it's entirely Amazon's fault. Then again, that's not the point.

Every business gets bad news. That's reality. Yours probably has before, and most likely will again. Sometimes it's your fault, sometimes it isn't. But even when it isn't your fault, fixing it is still your problem. Why? Because customers don't necessarily care whose fault it is when something goes wrong. They just want to know whether you're willing to fix it. 

It's your problem, even when it's not your fault.

Take Amazon for example. Items you might buy on its site are increasingly sold by third-party sellers. That means they aren't actually sold by Amazon itself, but by mom-and-pop stores or manufacturers, including individuals with side hustles out of their garages. I'm not knocking side hustles, by the way, just pointing out there's a huge diversity in the types of businesses you might buy from via Amazon.

Some of those businesses aren't completely above board. Sometimes they try to sell stuff they shouldn't, and sometimes they don't take care of customers the way they should. Sometimes they aren't honest. While Amazon has laid out extensive policies that govern how it handles these situations, when it happens, it's ultimately Amazon's name at the top of the site.

How you respond is everything.

That's true in your business too. It's your name at the top, which means it's ultimately your problem when something happens. Maybe it's an employee that mistreats a customer. Maybe it's a customer who has a bad experience because of another customer. 

Maybe it's totally out of your control, like the time I stayed at a hotel in NYC and the city shut off the water on a busy morning, meaning no one on the whole block could take showers. That was great.

When it happens, whatever 'it' is, it's your job to address it, fix what you can, and put policies in place to make sure--as best you can--that it never happens again.

Published on: Aug 23, 2019
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