Just to pick you up on the part about Amazon penalizing someone for having a variation…that’s partially true, but it’s not because they simply have the variation set up.
It’s actually usually a causation of the fact that variations cause consumer confusion, and they don’t convert as well as single product listings. If customers have choices, a certain percent of them choose neither and go look at another page. Over the course of time, this will harm the ranking and metrics of the products, and therefore you are essentially penalizing yourself and telling Amazon to not make you as relevant as other more well-converting pages.
Amazon is just reflecting the reality of the customer purchases. 🙂