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More than 90% of ‘genuine’ Apple chargers and cables sold on Amazon are fake (9to5mac.com)
284 points by Lio on Oct 19, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 250 comments

Over the past year I've gotten increasingly frustrated with the overall Quality of the Amazon shopping "experience."

I used to be able to trust Amazon. I could simply type in the type of item I wanted, search for the highest reviewed / rated and click buy.

Now, I have to:

1. Wade through the Ads and crap products to find what I actually searched for.

2. Read all of the comments, perform some type of judgement whether these are fake reviews, sponsored reviews, etc.

3. Figure out if it is "Fulfilled by Amazon" or sold directly (I only recently realized all of the "Fulfilled by Amazon" items get commingled, so I'm getting basically god knows what).

4. If Fulfilled, now I have to research how reputable the selling company is. Just yesterday I found a company selling baby formula, whose domain name was registered last month, and via a privacy service!?!!? If you can't list your business address, I'm not buying from you.

5. Now I need to determine whether the sold by Amazon item is fake or legit. Lets hope some other sucker buys it before me and posts a good review.

At this point, I would rather just goto Target or Walgreens, CVSm etc and buy the damn thing. Taking 20-30 minutes to research every purchase is getting very old.

...But hey 2 day shipping for $8/ month right!

Yes. For a long time, I felt like they were on my side. But that was before the introduction of ads, obviously manipulated reviews and star scores, and vast arrays of garbage products. Now I feel like they are starting to see me as an object of exploitation.

That, alas, is the natural outcome of a metrics-driven management style. If you use short-term measures and see revenue increases as good, then you inevitably stop seeing your customers as people; human relationships are subtle and long term.

For a long time no competitor could have gotten my interest, because I trusted Amazon. But now I'd be willing to switch.

Additionally if you have an issue, they often want you to ship the item back.

Personally, I do not own a printer. If the 20 dollar Amazon Basics backpack I buy requires me to metro to a library, print a shipping label, find or buy a box to send it back in, then walk to a post office, that can be 1-2 hours of lost productivity - often more opportunity cost than the item itself cost.

Now if something isn't urgent, I'm more likely to just go to a CVS or Walgreens - at least if the item fails I can return it.

To be fair, they do allow you to get a label mailed to you for just a dollar. They also allow you to get UPS pickup for free on returns due to their error (and a nominal fee for your error).

Finding a box can be troublesome but I think this can be mitigated by saving whatever box you receive your item in until you're fairly certain you won't be returning said item.

All in all, I can't think of a more ideal return system. If you've ever tried returning something to other online merchants (e.g. Newegg, TigerDirect), you'd know that Amazon has the best solution.

I used to have to print a label, but the last time I returned something (about a month ago, in california), the ups / fed-ex guy brought the label with them.

Then you have to wait around all day for the FedEx guy, who will pull up, not see a labeled package and speed away. He is a victim of metrics driven management as well.

Is this the way it works in US? Won't the shipping company / post office provide a box and print the label?

"UPS pickup: We contact UPS and arrange for them to pick up your package from the address it was originally shipped to. This is ideal for large or heavy items that are hard to carry, and if you select this option before 9:00 p.m. Pacific time, UPS will attempt pickup on the next business day. This option allows you to track your package on its way back to us."[0]


That's an additional cost.

Given how much I've been burnt with that, I wish Amazon sales could plunge and become a study case for "what not to do" in management. Ideally we'd make it a verb: To amazonize your company = To drive it with so short-term metrics that you chip the credibility.

Alas, that behavior is so much part of American business culture that I can't imagine people noticing. Indeed, Amazon is famous for being more long-term than most. It's why they'll take big gambles, like Prime and Kindle.

That long-term thinking has let them get so far ahead of their competitors that even with experience quality declining, I'm sure they'll still do well for quite a while.

But the shipping is so great...

> Over the past year I've gotten increasingly frustrated with the overall Quality of the Amazon shopping "experience."

Me too, and I can add:

6. Spend time figuring out if the product is available locally for the same (or better) price. I feel like sucker buying from Amazon and waiting a minimum of 2 days to get something I could have gotten locally in 20 minutes for the same/cheaper price.

7. Deal with Amazon's new, terrible delivery service. Using untrained, un-unformed randos to deliver packages in their personal vehicles means my deliveries get screwed up much, much more frequently. I've had these people fail follow my package delivery instructions that are posted on my door (deliver to the apartment office, rather than leaving at the door), even after I've talked to them personally. No other delivery service has this problem. I blame Amazon for this experience far more than the drivers.

It's gotten to the point where I only go to Amazon for less-common long-tail stuff. If it's an item that may be reasonably available at a retailer, I just shop locally.

I had 10 packages in a row not get delivered by them (there was stuff shipped by USPS and UPS in between them), and every time I called up, they would give me the same "free month of prime" and promise that they would know the directions next time...

Many of the occasions they would call me asking for directions (one time a driver called me 5 times in a row from a washington number, never left a message. I was in a work meeting and though someone died...), then literally minutes later would mark the package as undeliverable.

I finally spoke to someone there one night named Sara and spent over 2 hours on the phone with her while she refunded the whole order (like $100 of random "IoT" stuff), stayed on the phone with me while she got GPS coordinates from me (with my offering them from an app on my phone), put my address in their system, put a bunch of notes about how to get to my house, made sure the package would be delivered the next day. The packages are finally getting delivered (i made sure to call back and make sure her manager knew how much she helped), but I still have issues where the drivers just won't deliver it, or will beat the crap out of it.

Hell just a week or 2 ago I found a bubble mailer blowing down the road, by chance I decided to pick it up to throw it out assuming it was trash, only to find it was addressed to ME! Turns out it was something that should have been delivered a few days ago.

I'm not reupping my prime subscription when it's up. I already don't go with amazon if I need anything quick, because there's like a 50% chance it will take 4-5 days to get to me, even with prime.

> Deal with Amazon's new, terrible delivery service.

Oh my god, this. I also never seem to get same-day delivery, despite it being "guaranteed". Amazon seems to have a completely different definition of what a guarantee is. I have also had more damaged items from their own delivery than even FedEx, which is pretty sad when you think about it. I wish they would just buy FedEx and turn it around rather than use their existing rag tag delivery service.

I've started writing them immediately after I order something.

"Guaranteed 2 day shipping" - ordered on Tuesday. That would mean Thursday, right? Wednesday, Thursday.

So why does it say that it's coming Friday _immediately_ after? Ridiculous.

2 day shipping means the shipping takes 2 days, not so ridiculous.

Well actually, Amazon will say: "Have this item by Thursday(two days) if you order in the next 2 Hours"

And having done that, still not fulfill the guarantee.

Was the service you were receiving before they offered two-day shipping any better? Or just more consistent leading to less disappointment?

> Deal with Amazon's new, terrible delivery service

God, this has bitten me more times than it should have before I stopped buying from Amazon. Several times they marked an item as delivered even though it wasn't (I was home all day and nobody came to the door for any reason, no trucks on the street), presumably because they have a package quota and they aggressively overstuff their drivers. Once they delivered it, but left it right at the head of my driveway. What a huge pain.

> Deal with Amazon's new, terrible delivery service. Using untrained, un-unformed randos to deliver packages in their personal vehicles means my deliveries get screwed up much, much more frequently.

I was noticing a lot of my deliveries were defaulting to this last year, but we've had mostly UPS/USPS since then. I had assumed that AZ had shifted away from them, but maybe just in my area.

>6. Spend time figuring out if the product is available locally for the same (or better) price. I feel like sucker buying from Amazon and waiting a minimum of 2 days to get something I could have gotten locally in 20 minutes for the same/cheaper price.

I don't have this problem. The only place within 20 minutes I can drive to to buy stuff is Walmart, so if Walmart doesn't carry it (and they frequently don't have the greatest prices), then I'm looking at a substantial amount of time just to go buy something. I live a couple miles from work (about as far as the Walmart), so this means I only go to farther-away retailers on weekends, usually as part of an all-day excursion, so if those retailers have crappy hours (very common), then that makes it even harder to visit them. On top of this, there's a $6 toll bridge in the direction of the nearest area with a lot of retailers. Because of all this, I get a lot of stuff online when I can: it's usually no more expensive, and it's far more convenient.

That said, I've been becoming more and more disappointed with Amazon over the last year as well. There's just way too many scammy sellers and Chinese sellers on there (and they don't make it that easy to tell which ones are in China either).

> sing untrained, un-uninformed randos to deliver packages in their personal vehicles means my deliveries get screwed up much, much more frequently

Lasersh*t strikes again

Don't forget OnTrac.

Out of curiosity, is it an issue of the apartment office being far away? I can imagine not following the instruction if it's something heavy and I just searched and walked a long distance, only to be told I have to go find the apartment office.

No, these are light items and the apartment office is less than a minute walk away from my door.

I think the main issue is that there's only one lady staffing the office part-time, so it's sometimes closed when the driver gets there. That's not a problem for the major carriers: their drivers are professionals who know their route and when to be at the office; and if they they're late, they just put the package back on the truck for tomorrow. Amazon probably pays their randos on a piecework basis and they're not incentivized to follow the instructions and return the package to the shipping depot when I'm not at home and the office is closed.

I have communicated the office's hours to Amazon Logistics, and they said they'd enter it into their system, but that has done absolutely no good: the problems persist. A good carrier would have drivers that could read signs and update and retrieve notes from their own systems without requiring customer intervention. Amazon Logistics is not a good carrier.

Edit: Did some Googling and found this: https://www.reddit.com/r/amazon/comments/53ybde/amazon_logis...

> Amazon put enormous pressure on drivers, the reason drivers put parcels in recycling bins is due to the fact that we are reprimanded for returning to the depot with parcels. They expect 100percent delivered everytime.

No wonder they suck.

Fedex, UPS, USPS, etc. have a small, relatively stable set of people delivering packages to particular addresses. If there are oddities in delivering to your building - like a mailroom, gate code, etc - they only have to be discovered once per package carrier (less if they use internal notes).

Following those instructions is part of your job. Are you saying you can understand not doing your job if it's hard?

Amazon is inching more and more towards a giant fraud operation every day. I'm glad this is getting more attention, however I fear it will continue unabated until someone is seriously injured or killed due to a dangerous knockoff causing a fire or other life-threatening hazard.

It's also rather unbelievable to me that big companies like Apple haven't come down on them like a ton of bricks for such large-scale facilitation of trademark violation. It's good that they are finally going after one of the individual vendors, but that's whack-a-mole at the end of the day. How big does the problem have to get before there is pushback against Amazon itself?

> It's also rather unbelievable to me that big companies like Apple haven't come down on them like a ton of bricks for such large-scale facilitation of trademark violation.

Well, it would be like a ton of bricks coming down on another ton of bricks.

The outcome of such lawsuits depends in a fairly large degree on the size of the bank accounts that support the litigation. So they would be fighting an equal.

> The outcome of such lawsuits depends in a fairly large degree on the size of the bank accounts that support the litigation.

So Oracle underpaid their lawyers?

I bought a cable recently from a company. They said the delivery was 6-8 weeks in the future. Ouch. 2 months later I try and lodge a complaint and they're no longer on Amazon. I review them and find 100's of 1 star reviews from people saying they never got their order.

So, someone set up a fake account on Amazon and got a lot of orders, then they disappeared.

I'm very disappointed that the "marketplace" has come to this.

Happened to me twice recently. Seems to be a new kind of scam.

You will eventually get your money back, but still, Amazon get your money for months on end, and you have no product.

If you complain to amazon and they don't refund your money in a reasonable amount of time (2 weeks?), then just get in touch with your credit card company and do a chargeback. To do this, it's best if you keep a record of your interactions with amazon to support your chargeback request

Does this not get you banned?

As soon as I complained, they refunded me.

Worst part is that most sellers are labelling themselves as whoever they like. You will find several cables with sub heading "by Apple" only to find out in fine print that it is some Chinese company faking it. There is no concept of "verified dealer" on Amazon. You can basically put up an underwear on Amazon and say its "by Apple". One reason GoPro is down is because tons of knock off directly sold by Chinese firms at fraction price and which clearly undermines all their investment and effort in design.


> ...But hey 2 day shipping for $8/ month right!

Depending on the category, they're not even competitive on cost anymore. "Free shipping" has basically been baked into the costs, such that small items like groceries, home supplies and hardware routinely cost more than what's available at the local big box store. There's still bargains to be had on more expensive things, like electronics (as long as you catch the price flux wave at the right time), but you've got to do your homework.

At this point, Amazon is coasting on their market share. They're basically renting out their reputation to anyone with something to sell.

And with brick and mortar retailers like Best Buy price matching Amazon, they're even losing the lead in electronics.

The best is when you can showroom on Amazon but then go buy at a real store for the same price, no shipping wait or cost.

For a lot of things. I admit Best Buy has got a lot better.

But there's still pain points. A lot of hard drive SKUs are tied to retailers, so the same Toshiba hard drive will have an ever-so-slightly different model number, despite being the same drive (and I know there are legitimate reasons for the same), allowing the retailer to deny the price match.

"I know these are both Toshiba X300 5TB 3.5" SATA 3 128MB 7200rpm drives, but this is the X300-BBY, not the X300-AMZN, sorry".

I've actually found that Best Buy is pretty reasonable when it comes to this if you point out the specs being identical. But I'm sure it is going to vary depending on who you get and what kind of day they've been having.

A recent scam is for sellers to pop up who have long delivery times and no intention at all of delivering anything. They earn a few good reviews somehow at the beginning (paid? from mad people?) so look respectable. If you order from them, it'll be a couple of months before you realise they are a scam and before you can get your money back from Amazon.

Here are a couple of such sellers (I suspect in fact the same seller appearing twice). I was conned by both when ordering some bicycle parts, despite checking their feedback very carefully at the time of the order. I still haven't had a refund from the second one.



> They earn a few good reviews somehow at the beginning (paid? from mad people?)

This shouldn't be too hard. Have a few friends order a "product" you never ship or even pay a few people on Fivver to do the same. Costs $25 tops. Hell, you can ship them an empty envelope to put some tracking on it.

If I were the scamming type (and I'm not in the least) I think a decent scam would be create a really good quality private label product. Sell for six months at a very small profit margin. After the good reviews and best seller rankings pour in replace the inventory with shitty quality product at a huge profit margin. It would take a long time for the sales to stop. The initial sales inertia would take some time to slow down.

Maybe that wouldn't work, who knows.

I know you keep saying the word "scam" but I think a lot of legitimate companies work this way.

My dad used to say "The secret is to remove the quality faster than the reputation drops."

Um, this is not a new idea, this is actually the way many large and "respectable" companies work. Just look at HP for a prime example. Or Amazon for that matter (for service quality, not product quality). A lot of people claim Toyota is doing this now.

I got bit by something similar, bought this garden hose adapter from someone who wound up never shipping it but indicating they would ship it in some ridiculous far out shipping window. Amazon is degrading into the wild west of eBay experience that turned me off from that platform a while back.

I got really sick of Ebay a while back and didn't buy much on there for a rather long time. Interestingly, now that Amazon's been going downhill, I've gone back to Ebay and have been getting a LOT of stuff there. I'm now finding it to be a much better place to get a lot of small stuff, such as parts for rebuilding small engines for yard equipment. It's not the easiest interface to work with when buying a bunch of small stuff, but they do let sellers consolidate orders and reduce shipping prices, it lets me keep track of my orders easily, and so many sellers are there with the lowest prices (lower than going to a dedicated parts-selling website, in my experience). Plus, it's easy to search by part number because the sellers list the part numbers right in the title. It's much harder to find this kind of stuff on Amazon for some reason.

What happens when you file a chargeback?

The one thing Amazon has generally been really good with is customer service, and easy returns/refunds.

I didn't try a CC chargeback. However Amazon gives you the money back. The catch is you can't do that until the unrealistically long delivery time has expired, and that's usually 2 months. So they have your money for that time, and you have no product.

I'm not actually sure what the scam is. Does the seller disappear with Amazon's money? Or earns interest? Or maybe they speculatively list many lines and only manage to source a few?

It might be try and get the small percentage of people that forget about the order or who can’t be bother doing the charge back.

Right up till they close your account for returning things, their customer service is excellent.

Were you using tor or similar when buying stuff?

No, just hit some secret limit on returns.

I'd be curious to find out what the limit is. Anybody know?

>3. Figure out if it is "Fulfilled by Amazon" or sold directly (I only recently realized all of the "Fulfilled by Amazon" items get commingled, so I'm getting basically god knows what).

Well, speaking as a Amazon seller, this isn't quite true. Commingling is optional for third party sellers (and unavailable on some products). Also your third party sellers items get commingled with Amazon inventory so buying "sold and shipped by Amazon" doesn't prevent you from getting a commingled product.

>..But hey 2 day shipping for $8/ month right!

Free shipping is prepaid shipping and encourages you to buy a ton of crap to "get your money's worth."

Honestly, personally, I don't understand the appeal of getting my stuff in 2 days vs say 4days or whatever. If it was an immediate need I'd either buy locally or pay the upgraded shipping when I need it. That's just me though

Yea, you as the seller can tell whether your items are going to get commingled.

As a buyer I have no idea (unless there is a way to see this now, as a buyer..). So I kind of have to assume that everything fulfilled by Amazon is.

Yeah, absolutely. I was just saying how it works.

I also misunderstood what you said, I thought you meant buying sold and shipped from Amazon avoided commingled inventory. You actually said the opposite.

As a seller I can tell if an item is allowed to be commingled if I add it to my inventory. You can't tell before you add it to your inventory as far as I know. Buyer has no idea. It seems random for what they forbid to commingle. Like one particular hard drive but not others.

If you buy from a third party seller you have no idea if they opted into commingled inventory or not.

> I don't understand the appeal of getting my stuff in 2 days vs say 4days or whatever. If it was an immediate need I'd either buy locally or pay the upgraded shipping when I need it.

It's killer for me and my family. Everything we get online instead of going to a store means one fewer trip out in traffic either 1) with the kids or 2) at night after they've gone to bed but we're tired.

I buy most things online and I still don't see the appeal. Would you otherwise spend $80 on shipping a year? That's an awful lot for just shipping.

I guess I see it this way: If I buy a whisk, or a hard drive, or a vacuum cleaner, or a video game I don't need it this second, I take the free or saver shipping and I get it when it comes, which is 2-4 days 99% of the time. Like the old fashion "put it on the shopping list" method. There's no urgency in me to get it in two days.

The non-perishables like toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo, etc. I stock up on when they go on sale so I don't generally run out so there's rarely urgency. But paying attention to your stock accomplishes the same thing.

The few times I've needed something earlier, like when my phone broke and I ordered a new phone, I paid $6 to upgrade to two day shipping. That's the one case I can think of when I could wait two days but not four.

The typical Prime buyer basically never comparison shops or wait for sales. It encourages this behavior.

I get people have different proprieties than me though even though I can't personally understand it. When my brother moved into his own place he bought a bunch home type stuff and ordered it all off Amazon because "Prime." Later on I mentioned something about comparison shopping and he told me he didn't even think to comparison shop for any of that stuff. He was like "oh... I should have done that" (On a related note, ordering directly from the manufacturer on some of that sort of stuff gets you the best prices)

I think of Prime Video as having some of the value of Prime for me. Call that worth at least $3/month.

Then, for packages I don't need right away (which is a lot of them), I can pick "no rush shipping", which typically gives me a $1 Amazon Digital credit. Stack up a few of those per month and Prime becomes almost free. (We rent movies occasionally from Amazon.)

Then, extend Prime by a month everytime Amazon misses a guaranteed delivery date and Prime has basically no net cost to me. I was already ordering from Amazon multiple times per week before Prime was created. I'm sure Prime has increased that somewhat, but I still cross-shop Ebay, BestBuy, and others as well as checking camelcamelcamel.com on anything of non-trivial cost.

I'd pay $8 / month just for the non-shipping benefits, especially Prime Video. The fact that I also get free two day shipping is awesome.

My big pet peeve are add-on items. I don't understand why they don't just give me the option to pay for shipping. I don't mind paying $10 shipping on a $1 item. It's still cheaper than driving to a store.

I haven't tried this myself (maybe it doesn't work) but why not just order a physical $25 Amazon gift card (like https://www.amazon.com/Amazon-com-Amount-Amazon-Shipping-Bir... ) and then the addon will ship with it for free.

Edit: Just tried it, didn't work. Khaaaaaaaaaan!

Some of us don't have a local option. I live in the countryside and it's a 30 minute drive in to town, which I only do twice a month. I do probably 2 or 3 Amazon orders per week. They give me a $1 off a digital movie rental if I opt for slow shipping so I usually rack up a free movie by Friday night. But it's nice to do 2 days if it happens to be something that I really need. I would go way over $8/mo if I had to pay for shipping.

Or the local option is Fry's which is just a physical Amazon with worse-quality Chinese junk parts, all a disorganized mess, with pushy sales people who can't actually help you find anything, but want their commission cut when you do.

> Honestly, personally, I don't understand the appeal of getting my stuff in 2 days vs say 4days or whatever. If it was an immediate need I'd either buy locally or pay the upgraded shipping when I need it. That's just me though

I agree and when I order never concern myself with prime shipping. However I do find a slight distaste anytime I receive shipping information to find it won't be here for 3+ days. I'm not sure why but something about immediate item receipt is rewarding and waiting for more than a few days I am less excited about receiving said package.

I don't mind if it takes a while to get to me once it's shipped but I am sorta annoyed when it takes 3 days to ship it.

I don't understand 2 day either. In the UK it is 1 day, for some stuff same day. That makes a big difference. But 2 day for me tips it over sufficiently that often if things are not available with Prime shipping I might as well pick it up the next day when out and about.

Their customer service has gotten just downright crap.

Oh you haven't gotten thing you needed, you had to do the following up, and we screwed up? "sorry?".

I've had better experiences with my local stores and Aliexpress.

I canceled my prime membership (of 5 years) this past Feb and I've been happy about it.

Note.. if you want to let it lapse you have to cancel at the right time or strip off the CC on the prime account. If you completely cancel you prime membership it's gone right then and you don't get a prorated refund on the time it had left.

I have spent more than 15 hours on the phone with Amazon and UPS customer service in the last month.

I cancelled my Prime membership (after 10 years) last week after spending 2.5 hours on the phone trying to figure out where a package 2 days past it's guaranteed delivery date was and if it was going to arrive or if I had to re-buy it.

I have no regrets about it. Everything I bought on Amazon I can buy from other websites, and when I have an issue I don't have to spend hours verifying my name and address with someone whose accent I honest to god can not understand (I am not a native American, it is very difficult for me to understand Indian accents).

>I am not a native American, it is very difficult for me to understand Indian accents

Not sure if you're mixing up American Indian and Indian sub-continent Indian, or you think Americans can understand Indian accents. Either way, I'm amused.

An American is going to have an ear trained on quite a variety of accents, and likely will find it easier to make allowances for variations, don't you think?

> 15 hours on the phone with Amazon and UPS customer service in the last month.

I've had the same issue. Amazon packaged and shipped everything, it got lost in UPS. I did the legwork to track it down. The best I got from them, they could refund so I could get repriced on the items I needed.

You're spot on. I haven't purchased anything on Amazon besides Kindle books for a long time now. I used to buy from Amazon because the buying experience was easy and I could be fairly confident I was getting something close to the best price. Now the experience is terrible and pricing often mediocre. I might as well hit up B&H, NewEgg, Target, Micro Center, or whoever else instead, and buy from whoever has the best offer there.

I hate the "Fulfilled by Amazon" or rather the lack of it. If I wanted to pay extra shipping I could just buy it from some other webshop. And don't even get me started on why are all the things that can't be delivered to my country among the results

I don't understand how they think this can be in their long term best interests.

We're probably among the more technically savvy Amazon users, but navigating through all the crap is still a nightmare. They can't expect everyone to sift through fake reviews, sponsored reviews, fly-by-night companies pedaling cheap knockoffs, "fulfilled by Amazon," etc.

People order "five star" products on Amazon, and pieces of junk show up on their doorstep two days later. It's Amazon's reputation that will take the hit.

Amazon shopping experience is slowly turning into that of the Buy.com, if anybody remembers that site.

Too much focus on ads, cluttered design and not enough good products?

I have to wonder if there's an viable alternative to Amazon? It sucks to ask because there's plenty of third party sellers on Amazon that are better than Amazon. It just seems like the baby and bath water situation for me.

I've actually had really good luck with Ebay recently. Also Ebay seems to stock some much more obscure stuff which Amazon wouldn't touch, and even when both have it Ebay has exactly the same thing for cheaper.

Except that ebay has issues with the same fake products that Amazon does. A good chunk of the cables, memory products, silver ingots, etc are fake on ebay. The one difference with Amazon is that if you buy from a specific seller you trust, you know you're getting it from that seller since ebay doesn't have the co-mingling of merchandise issue that Amazon does.

eBay all the way. eBay bucks and shopping portal cashback are icing on the cake.[1]

eBay Daily Deals are often good. Sometimes for electronics refurbs and last model items are on the Daily Deals but often new current model stuff too. Got a great deal on my current model phone from an eBay Daily Deal. I buy several 10% off gas cards too when they come up.

(New) hard drives are usually cheapest on eBay.

Lots of traditional retailers have eBay stores as well. I've bought from Newegg's eBay store more times than I can count, for example. Manufacturers also have eBay stores.

There's a lot of room for niche products but it seems a lot less overwhelming than Amazon is with all their private label stuff and poor search results.

Lots of good selection of used stuff as well. Do I really need a new Chromecast? Nope, used is half the price and works just as well and is better for the environment.

I also hear it's a good place to get uncommon sized bras.

eBay has its flaws too though, avoid Chinese megasellers like the plague. Its usually a lot easier to spot a fake or shoddy product on eBay than on Amazon. I've found eBay's customer support to be good when you have a problem and an unreasonable seller.

[1] The good thing about eBay cashback portals is they rarely have restrictions other than giftcard restrictions. Target.com may have 2% cash back but excludes Apple products and Bose products. I've never seen brand exclusions on eBay's cash back through shopping portals. There's usually a 1-2% cash back portal for eBay and eBay bucks are a minimum 2% eBay gift card as long as you have over $5.

>eBay has its flaws too though, avoid Chinese megasellers like the plague.

This is a flaw with Amazon, not Ebay. Ebay makes the Chinese sellers very, very easy to avoid: you just look at the selection list on the left side, and click "US Sellers only" or "North American sellers only". Voila! No Chinese sellers in the search results. Amazon makes this completely impossible: it's very hard to tell where a product is being shipped from on Amazon, and usually you have to go through checkout to see the shipping times and infer from that.

For me, my biggest pain point with dealing with different vendors is the checkout process,having to create a new account and constantly provide credit card information (I avoid storing my info, if possible). I'm really looking forward to Apple Pay for the web being more widespread. A few weeks ago I was looking for a vacuum part and found it cheapest at newegg.com. Got to checkout, and to my pleasant surprise, there was an option to pay with Apple Pay. It was such a stupidly easy process that newegg got a far more loyal customer out of me.

Once you know, you Newegg

Not sure if that applies anymore.

Recent HN story: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12711353

Go follow the link to techpowerup and you will see 89 comments. Most of them quite negative about the current state of Newegg. The complaints seem to date to before Newegg was purchased by a Chinese company.

Ironically, many of the complaints there say that Amazon is better. Ha. It seems like they all suck now!

3. Actually only some categories allow commingling and surprisingly only the largest sellers tend to use it. The reason they use it isn't because of the inconvenience of labeling items inhouse, it's because if a claim comes back to them as damaged or other issue they can point and say "how do you know it's mine?" and they 'win' the dispute with CS. FTR Amazon claims it sickers all commingled inventory to track back to FBA sellers, I have my doubts as internally they use the UPC for scanning. 4. This is where .UK is nice. All seller pages have business listing info as well as VAT numbers.

Last point, a lot of the product you buy on A is sourced at those very same stores.

I never buy anything on there now without looking at this website first to assess the quality of the reviews and the likelihood they are fake: http://fakespot.com/

Bought a $300 turn table that was being sold directly by Amazon. Package turned up with the box beat to hell. I opened it up and found that all of the accessories (the cartridge, platter, etc.) had been taken out of their factory packaging and put in zip-locks and were just commingled in the box.

Amazon picked it up and returned it for free and the second one came factory sealed. But it definitely ruined my evening plans and I ended up waiting four more days for an unopened package to arrive.

I'm still pretty sour on it, and Amazon has pretty much lost out on any big electronics purchases from me in the future.

Why are you even considering buying baby formula off Amazon? Are you nuts?

Can't you ask your pharmacist or something?

One of the most unfortunate things about baby formula is that it is expensive. And as a former pharmacy employee, it is more expensive at those outlets. There isn't much the pharmacist can do except perhaps order a specialty formula that isn't on the shelf.

Additionally, having a trusted source to send formula as a helpful gift so someone far away doesn't seem like a bad idea.

Make your own, I'm sure it's not as hard as it seems and you can probably buy all the ingredients at New Leaf / Trader Joe's / Whole Foods.

It is a theoretically good theory, but not a good idea. In general, doctors recommend folks not do this. [1] A few sites I visited warned folks not to tell their doctors they were feeding the baby homemade formula. One site even said I needed to watch a bunch of additional things, such as whether or not the baby is urinating properly and enough [2]

In addition, not everyone lives near those sorts of stores - when I lived in the states, I would have had to drive an hour or two to get to such places and I'm not certain the ingredients are readily available there. Furthermore, there is the issue of time. I'm pretty sure workplaces in the states must allow employees time to express breast milk, but do not allow time to make formula. Recipes range from all day to hours at a time: I'm unsure of the spoilage times on these.

Furthermore, not one of the recipes came from a site I would trust at first glance. I don't trust myself to know the nutritional needs of children enough to do this, let alone a lot of other parents uneducated in this area.

Also, I don't have children. I'd personally only buy this as a gift to help a friend, and only after asking first.

[1]http://wholesomebabyfood.momtastic.com/homemadebabyinfantfor... [2] http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Homemade-Baby-Formula

Most parents probably couldn't even manage to parse the research literature to develop a formula of comparable quality to the commercial ones on their own (the published recipes I've seen on the internet certainly haven't even tried), much less source or prepare the necessary ingredients.

And if you haven't researched, developed, tested, and manufactured an adequate supply of your homemade formula before your kid is born, you probably aren't going to want to do it afterwards, even if you have the required skills.

My wife and I have prime but (for whatever reason) have not linked our accounts, so when she orders something she doesn't get "prime" shipping. We have noticed that over time, her shipments take longer and longer. Used to be the case, even without prime, we'd be promised, say, 5 days and get it sometimes in 3 or 4. Those days are long past (per our experience).

I don't have Prime, and when I make an order with free shipping, it just sits there for a week in "not yet shipped" state, and then does a 2 day shipping to arrive on the delivery date...

On the bright side, at least they're honest - I've cancelled the orders a couple of times while they were sitting there because I found what I wanted for a better price somewhere else.

Totally with you on the paid and sponsored review system. One of the great strengths of Amazon has been allowed to degrade into a biased and untrustworthy advertising system. I used to feel like i could trust reviews but now I'm actively looking for other options--anyone have any recs for product review sites? I'm willing to pay a membership fee for decent information...


Consumer Reports magazine comes to mind.

Let me add:

- A number of recent Prime purchases that have not come within the promised 2 day window (reiterated for/upon that particular purchase, by their site / purchase flow).

- Products now consistently poorly packed. Prone to rattling around in their packaging, or being crushed into packaging that's not really appropriate (e.g. "fold-over" cardboard wrappers as opposed to actual boxes). Frequently manifesting at least minor degrees of damage or "dings".

- Amazon Basics as well as other products that don't do what they are advertised to do, e.g. an USB C / USB C cable I just purchased whose page says it supports fast charging. Nope.

I already have Prime, and so far Amazon has never leaked my credit card information (something that concerns me with many other sites). Aside from that, for physical products, they are... hell, they already have -- turned into a crap experience. IMO.

Would anyone be surprised if a high fraction of similar goods at Target et al were also counterfeits, though? The supply chain can be long and complicated, full of opportunities for an enterprising person to skim a few dollars.

The same. Exactly the same.

Unless it's obvious that it's Amazon and only Amazon that's selling something, I just won't buy it. Buying at Amazon was supposed to be, and used to be, easy and worry free.

Free returns? I want it to work and be in excellent condition when I take it out of the box, and then forget about it. I don't need more work for no pay.

I will often peruse Amazon to discover if something exists, and what its variants are. If I can get in my car and get it this afternoon, then I do that.

>4. If Fulfilled, now I have to research how reputable the selling company is. Just yesterday I found a company selling baby formula, whose domain name was registered last month, and via a privacy service!?!!? If you can't list your business address, I'm not buying from you.

Come on, basically every registrar forces private registrations on by default now.

It's very easy to lie in whois data, those that want to conceal their identities will just lie instead of using a proxy service.

Yeah I recently bought a hard drive enclosure there that is barely functional. I'll admit it was cheap, but it was also one of the first ones to come up in search and had good reviews. It's not the first time either, lots of the electronics I buy turn out to be no-name knock off brands. Including some Apple chargers that claimed to be real. Sometimes you pay more at a dept store, but they also typically don't sell straight up garbage.

Something that I've noticed over the last year is that there is sometimes a disconnect between the overall rating of a product, and a summation of the ratings given by the individual reviews. Like a product with have 4-stars, but the majority of reviews seem to be 1-star.

While returns are still pretty easy to do on the buyer side, I used to trust amazon a lot more than I do now, and am considering dropping my prime subscription.

Poster child of the rotten ratings right here:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01B6ZHV7C?th=1 (rated 4 stars but 87% of reviews are 1 star)

I just looked into why that is the case and if you hover over the little dropdown carrot for the "3.8 out of 5" you see this:

Amazon calculates a product’s star ratings using a machine learned model instead of a raw data average. The machine learned model takes into account factors including: the age of a review, helpfulness votes by customers and whether the reviews are from verified purchases.

So a product would just need a small percentage of 5 star reviews in the beginning of the review period.

Oh wow, that is absolutely blatant rating inflation!

Or just buy the damn thing and return if it sucks, instead of stressing out over all these things. Most of what you listed can be casually inferred from the seller, the review rating, and the number of reviews.

> Or just buy the damn thing and return if it sucks

...or when the fake charger you unknowingly received catches fire or ruins your phone?

And for that I reference you to the second part of my comment. It is highly unlikely that a highly reviewed, frequently reviewed charger on Amazon will light your phone on fire. As for the second point "what if there is no reviews?" Simply don't buy a charger that doesn't have reviews.

If every charger sold lit users phones on fire they wouldn't be in business for long. The dangerous chargers generally have bad QA and inadequate insulation and separation between the mains and output, so almost all of them will work at first but a few will do nasty things like dumping 120V on the output, either immediately or some time later after the insulation abrades or dirt bridges the gap.

Are you confident enough that a seller who is willing to sell counterfeit chargers is always going to send the same exact counterfeit chargers? I'm not.

No. I am confident enough that if something has over x number of 5 star reviews (500, 1000, whatever makes you feel confident), the statistical likelihood that I will have a bad experience is small.

Well, just return the charred little bits from the smouldering ruins of your house. People today are so entitled.

Returning things sucks.

* It requires a printer, which I'd rather not even have in the house given security concerns and/or planned obsolescence costs (ink carts)

* It requires keeping the original shipping box around for a month

* It requires waiting around for the shipping people to show up, because they can't be trusted to pick up a package left for them.

* It requires waiting days for the funds to reappear.

Going to the damn store, receipt in hand, is actually easier.

> It requires a printer, which I'd rather not even have in the house given security concerns and/or planned obsolescence costs (ink carts)

For the ink cartridge thing, I'd look into a cheap laser printer. I have a Brother duplex model that I paid $80 for new. The smaller packed-in toner cartridge lasted me more than a year, and I don't expect to need to replace the full-size cartridge for years.

I got clothes from American Eagle online recently and then returned part of the order to a store when I had to. It was great, no return shipping hassle. No printer needed, I don't have one either.

I'll defend Amazon on this one: UPS will pick up the order and the delivery person will have the sticker to put on the box. Last month I ordered some Nest Protects from Amazon and one was defective. I filed for a return and the next day had a replacement, plus the UPS guy picked up the box for my return. Couldn't be easier.

Only if your local UPS is friendly and competent - mine is neither. You know those videos where drivers spike packages on the ground, over fences, the ones where they got the nickname "Untied Package Smashers"?

That's happened to me. There's a reason I use FedEx anytime I have a choice :(

Beyond Apple accessories, Amazon is getting more and more unusable. With electronics and fashion, it's due to wading through fakes. But in virtually any category, the problem is wading through tens of thousands of results.

The reviews can't be trusted. I've seen so many products with a seemingly five-star rating, but the top three up-voted reviews are 1-star. Yesterday I was searching for bedsheets. The term "bed sheet set" returns over 600,000 results.

I just want the top 5 or 10. I don't want to wade through this many. Problem is, if I can't trust the reviews, how do I sort the shit from what I actually want?

With some products, of course, this isn't a problem—books, for instance—but that's only because I know what title I'm looking for or my search is so niche that I'm only going to get a tiny handful of results.

There's big money in someone taking Costco's model of picking the handful of products in a category that will work for most people and applying it to Amazon. Either search needs to get a hell of a lot better or someone needs to bring in curation.

(I used to be skeptical of business models like Casper but now I get it—a lack of options can be a luxury)

> a lack of options can be a luxury

Definitely. I worked for a couple of years on a startup that aimed to help people make better shopping decisions. In user interviews and tests, we really saw the pain. The technical term for this is "tyranny of choice". [1]

One important distinction here is that shopping behavior tends to fall into one of two modes, optimizer and satisficer. [2] Satisficers just want to pick something adequate; optimizers want to pick the best thing. Everybody does both, but people tend toward one side or another.

People here surely skew toward optimizer, so the problem is especially painful for us. Amazon's reviews have become so reliable that my first stop will often be something like Consumer Reports, Wirecutter, or SweetHome. Knowing that some other optimizer has already done the research lets makes me more comfortable making a satisficer-style choice.

[1] http://www.economist.com/node/17723028

[2] http://abundancemeasures.blogspot.com/2012/01/choice-part-ii...

I'll confirm your anecdote RE: using other websites for curated reviews. I recently needed a new router; instead of wading through the innumerable search results on Amazon, I simply chose Wirecutter's recommendation.

In Europe (mostly the German and English speaking parts) there's a search engine for "stuff", formerly only computer-related things, that is often used for this: http://geizhals.de/

Their unique features are curated filters (boatloads of them, extremely handy to narrow choices down) and accurate, non-fake reviews and ratings.

This removed 95 % of the annoyingness in buying hardware for me: 1.) Define requirements 2.) Apply filters on gh 3.) Check reviews for the few resulting choices 4.) Buy.

The same thing for Ukraine is hotline.ua

I'm surprised there's no service like that in US.

100% agree. The Wirecutter rocks.

I usually look through a few brands that haven't irked me yet on OpenWRT's HCL since I'll stick that on anything I'm likely to buy anyway.

I've been doing that too. My experiences have generally been good, but I do feel a bit of unease at basically giving them somewhat blind trust.

> Amazon's reviews have become so reliable

Did you mean unreliable here?

Maybe an ironic inversion.

I absolutely did. Thanks!

Also, how do you tell a crap restaurant from a great one? A crap one has 400 items on the menu, while a great one has 5.

Do you have any numbers or reports on population distribution that fall into each type, optimizer and satisficer? I have never heard this before and find this topic very interesting.

I don't have that handy, but I'd start with the book "The Paradox of Choice" and the author's academic work. The phenomenon also goes by the name "maximizer vs satisficer", and you might check the psychological literature for that.

Amazon's search system is terribly broken, in many way. For example, if you try to sort by price, perhaps to find the cheapest option, then the results will be filled with random other items from completely unrelated products, no matter how exact your search is, or whether or not you are searching in one department/section or another.

Sorting by best score is equally useless. You get random products that have one 5 star review that are often nothing like what you actually searched for. A better method would be the one described here[0], which reddit uses for its "best" comment sorting.


I think it's a problem with 3rd party sellers being chronically incapable of listing their products correctly.

Overall the platform would benefit from at least a small amount of manual curating.

God, yes. Searching by price gives you a price-first ordering of every possible result for any part of your search term.

I think for me the main issue is the lack of a decent search. Take for example buying a power supply from Newegg.com or Amazon.com:

I want a 750W PSU, made by Corsair, Seasonic, Antec, or NZXT with at least 4 Molex, at least 1 GPU power (8pin) and a Platinum efficiency rating.

With newegg I can set those filters, then sort by lowest price or highest reviews or re-evaluate the filters.

With Amazon I can search for 750W Power supply, and then maybe have some of the choices on the left, but not every vendor lists their product correctly.

This makes me a bad person, but I just go to Newegg to search and then buy from Amazon.

Newegg leaves a bad taste in my mouth. "Pay $3 extra to have your order processed _today_!" Do they still do that?

That said, B&H is quickly becoming my favorite photo/electronics store. But you have to buy from somewhere else when they go on a 2 week vacation (or sundown Friday to sundown Saturday ;)

B&H is the best. Their search and overall UI is great, their browsing taxonomy is incredible (especially when you're looking for something in their wheelhouse; if you're shopping for, say, a very specific type of camera lens, it's effortless to narrow to exactly the choices you want), and on top of all that, they're usually price-competitive with Amazon.

Their closing on orthodox Jewish holidays takes a bit of getting used to, but I just consider it part of the brand now.

It's nice that people don't give up their heritage to make a few extra dollars.

They did something I have yet to understand (unless their plan was to allow non-verified reviews to flood products): they changed the “smart” average filter they had before to something that sucks. Before, if you chose to sort by “Average Customer Reviews”, it would intelligently throw first results as the ones with most reviews, and of those the most positive. Now it just sorts by “quality” of those reviews, so you item may have two five-star reviews and appear first than a thousands four-star review average item. It sucks. Also, I don’t see the option to filter further by verified buyer reviews from the search: I have to go to the item itself and do it on the customer reviews section.

All in all, yeah, Amazon is starting to suck bad on quality of products, or rather, quality of searching of products.

Also the way Amazon averages reviews is... interesting to say the least.


tl;dr version: http://imgur.com/a/eXWFE

> I just want the top 5 or 10.

Why not go to a normal shop, or that shop's website?

You probably know which shops sell budget, middle and high-end furnishings. They've made the effort to filter 50,000 products to the 10 or so which they sell.

For example, Ikea have 138 bed sheet sets. An obvious filter, like "green", leads to about 10 different products.

My local fancy department store has 160 sets, "green" filters that down to 18.

>Why not go to a normal shop

Amazon Prime is a lifestyle.

People are increasingly choosing to forego cars and live in trendy urban neighborhoods. Ground-level storefronts give these places energy and atmosphere and "walkability," but the practical retail (bodegas, drugstores) tends to be overpriced, and the rest of the retail tends not to be practical (my block is a "lite" version of this and includes boutique clothing, $10,000 furniture, and "tasting room" that could be mistaken for a bar except it closes at 9pm).

People want Target, Kohl's, IKEA, and other suburban shopping mall products at their suburban shopping mall prices, but when you're car-free, those stores are hard to get to and really hard to get back from with cargo. So you do your shopping on your laptop and let the UPS man do the hauling for you. Amazon Prime's delivery speed softens the blow of delayed gratification, so you prefer it whenever possible.

You might feel like a helpless child dependent on the real adults to bring things to you (or drive you around) - I know I did when I lived this way - but I have to admit the efficiency of a few rarely-parked usually-full delivery vehicles buzzing around beats acres of cars languishing in parking spaces until their owners' next shopping trip.

Hmm, I don't have enough experience of America.

In Europe, trendy urban neighbourhoods and depressed urban neighbourhoods both have a good selection of local shops. The former will have the more expensive shops, naturally.

This includes food, furniture, electronics and so on. There's not likely to be a single store selling everything, but there probably are stores selling most electronics, or most furniture.

US suburban stores can afford to have low markup and enormous selections because the square feet are basically free, and proximity to customers isn't much of a disadvantage because customers drive by default.

Once you've gotten used to this, paying the markup and dealing with the small selections necessitated by urban real estate costs is painful. It'd possible you'd find it perfectly normal, but someone raised in the US suburbs would probably not.

Depressed neighborhooods here are often considered food deserts as they have only fast food and convenience stores, but no supermarkets for miles.

Well, yeah. That's what I'm going to end up doing because Amazon is such a disaster at this point.

Well, to be fair, Ikea has 138 bed sheet /patterns/.

They have three different underlying sets (not counting size combinations).

Similar with furniture, for each item there's typically a low-end, medium-end, and high-end option/style (relatively speaking) and only color variations for each.

Sheets and Apple chargers are two great examples of Amazon at its worst. The chargers have been a problem for years, and have been posted about many times before.

Just recently there was a big controversy about Wal-Mart selling "Egyptian cotton" sheets that were sourced from Egypt. Good luck buying "Egyptian cotton" sheets on Amazon that aren't poor quality microfiber.

(I used to be skeptical of business models like Casper but now I get it—a lack of options can be a luxury)

There are also outfits like The Wirecutter and The Sweethome that attempt to wade through all the stuff and find what's actually good. I wouldn't call either perfect but they are pretty good and a good place to start.

Places like Blue Apron are also now opening "marketplaces" that have specific stuff (https://www.blueapron.com/market) that seems somewhat better than randomly picking off Amazon or Google.

Yes, I agree that reviews cannot be trusted. When I was shopping for a probiotic, the 5 stars products were mostly filled with paid reviews where the reviewer gets the product at a discount for their "honest" review.

>There's big money in someone taking Costco's model of picking the handful of products in a category that will work for most people and applying it to Amazon.

They're more or less attempting to do so with "Amazon's Choice", no?


> With some products, of course, this isn't a problem—books, for instance

Don't be so sure. I've run across counterfeit books on Amazon before. The quality of them was vastly inferior (covers printed on inkjets and laminated, basically), and of course no money is actually going to the author. I'd much sooner buy a real softcover book than a fake hardcover book.

It's too bad, it used to be incredibly useful, not it's just a way I pre-shop before I look at some place I can trust to make an actual purchase.

> Problem is, if I can't trust the reviews, how do I sort the shit from what I actually want?

Purchase only "Best Seller" items?

This whole article is about how the "best seller" chargers and cables are fakes that can burn your house down and destroy your electronics. I just checked and the 2nd best selling item in laptop chargers category is a fake Macbook charger.

As a loyal Apple user, I humbly suggest that maybe this would be a lot less of a problem if Apple itself sold better cables for a more reasonable price? I have no problem going into an Apple store to buy overpriced things. I would just never buy their cables or chargers, as virtually every cable I have from them is wrapped up in electrical tape. The funny part of this story to me is why people would buy even cheap cables that are branded Apple when you can get quality, very high-reviewed cables from vendors like Anker.

edit: In retrospect, I don't have any complaints about the chsrgers. I've never bought a store charger because the ones that come with devices work just fine. It's the cables that I have issue with. Even with things like the HDMI-lightning adapter ($50), they go to pieces without being under heavy use.

Here's a good teardown of an Apple charger which shows where the cost is in the design.


What I don't get is how come the cable part is such lousy quality compared to the sophistication in the PSU part.

Apple cables always fall apart because they use the thinnest insulation possible and don't put on proper strain reliefs. Probably just another example of design over common sense.

It gets especially bad when you wrap the cable tightly around the sharp plastic hooks on the MacBook power adapter that are supposed to keep everything organized.

They also seem to be very weak to UV exposure.

Yeah I agree. I stupidly said "cables and chargers" when I just meant lightning cables. I haven't had a charger fail on me in any noticeable way. I've never bought a new USB charger because I have so many others lying around that can fill in for a pinch, but I've never considered looking for a third-party laptop brick adapter when needing to replace a lost one.

> What I don't get is how come the cable part is such lousy quality compared to the sophistication in the PSU part


The counterfeits are being sent to shoppers who were specifically looking for genuine apple products (I agree I've heard bad things about Apple's strain relief) so presumably the quality isn't the problem for these buyers.

If people are walking by an apple store every day, but go bargain-hunting on the internet when they need an Apple product, then sure. Lower the price, get the customers away from Amazon, and you can make sure they get the genuine item.

But if customers are going to buy from Amazon anyway, it's impossible to drop the price far enough to make counterfeits unprofitable, because counterfeits can always be more profitable as they can target lower specs.

If a 2.5A fast charger costs $10 to make, and a shitty 500mA counterfeit costs $5 to make, the counterfeiter will make 100% profit even if the legitimate manufacturer sells at the cost of production.

I would just never buy their cables or chargers, as virtually every cable I have from them is wrapped up in electrical tape.

I ask this a lot of times that I see someone complain about the quality of Apple cables: what the hell are you doing to your cables? I've still got 30 pin cables with cracked plastic on the 30 pin end, but they still work. After over 10 years of buying Apple devices that have cables, I count one cable that has gone bad.

More of a rhetorical question I guess, as we're just trading anecdotes. But I find it interesting that some complain about the quality of Apple cables, whereas I have piles of them that just refuse to die.

I see a lot of people unplug their MBPs at the end of the day, and wrap the cable so tightly around the power brick it's like they're trying to protect its chastity

And twisting the cable as they wrap it instead of rolling it up.

Same question. I abuse the hell out of the half-dozen Apple cables in my house (2x macbook, a few ipad/phone)—roughly bunch them up and toss them in a bag or drawer all the time, yank them out of walls with little care, et c. My usual position for my Macbook at home puts the cable at an awkward, crimped angle and I really ought to stop that.

Plus I've had my kids tripping over them, folding them, playing tug of war with them. At least once a week something happens to one of my cables that probably ought to break it. Not one has broken.

WTF are people doing with their cables that's worse than what I do?

I've only ever had three chargers start pouring out smoke. Two of them were Apple chargers for a Macbook where the wire near the magsafe shorted so badly that the plastic had melted before I'd gotten it pulled. The second of those chargers were the one I received as a replacement for the first one. It was a clear design defect - the sleeves were too short. Despite insisting it was not their fault, I noticed the second replacement I received had a sleeve twice as long.

Since then, we've not had chargers that turned out that bad, but multiple iphone charging cables have broken quickly with normal use.

That said, I have plenty of failed micro USB cables for my Android devices too; there it is usually the plug that gets too loose to connect properly.

2 of my Apple laptop chargers have died in the same way: There's a little rubber clip on the cable for if you want to wrap the cable up. I never use it because my cables live on a desk or next to a sofa. But after a year or so, that rubber in that clip has reacted with the plastic sheathing of the cable so if you touch it, the whole cable just splits at that point. They use some tensioning in the cable to keep it from tangling, and once there's a tiny split in the sheathing, the cable is doomed.

It's definitely erratic. I've had (genuine) MBP chargers that I toss in my backpack with relatively little care be entirely happy, while others that sit 24/7 in a cable shelf under my desk, comes up through it and lives their life in a channel/cable holders so there's zero tension on the connector fray into a lantern pattern of rubber.

Absolutely nothing, after about a year every one of them starts to break into pieces (and they also tend to stick like a gum). I've been using iPhones since the 3G. Now, I'm buying only cables not made by Apple. I think they're biodegradable and something triggers that faster, but I don't know what.

The 30-pin cables have a fixed orientation for the connector, but the Lightning cables can be inserted either way.

This leads to a lot of bending near the connector end because you can plug them in any which way. And then you get splits of the cable near the connector.

My 30-pin cables never went bad. My most used Lightning cable (of five) has.

I feel silly contributing to this tale of anecdotes, but ~50% of my Apple cables have gone bad.

While this may be true for lightning cables, apple power bricks are definitely worth their price. Yes they are expensive, but after I tried 3 different 3rd party bricks in the span of a year, it's apparent a high quality alternative can't be made for much cheaper.

The circuitry in the brick may be quality, but the cables attached to it certainly aren't.

I consistently have to replace those bricks due to fraying cables.

Apple could go a long way by making the cables on both ends of their adapter cheaply replaceable.

I guess this could happen if they move to all USB-c ports on the laptops.

They could change the design to put the MagSafe part on the 'brick'.

I'm not sure how well that would compare to the current system but I bet it's been considered.

Not sure if this is a reliable Apple perk, but I recently took a failing power supply into the store, expecting to pay $50-75 for a new one (because I did not trust the shady looking wares Amazon had to offer), and they replaced my 6 year old Magsafe T style with a sleek L style for free.

I'm pretty sure they are incentivized to do this because of all the shady knockoffs.

I looked for genuine Apple cables 1-2 months ago on Amazon. Couldn't find any. All offbrands and suspicious stuff.

Consequently, I ordered direct from Apple.

That's typical for my shopping on Amazon: I buy specific known brands usually, when I'm just browsing for something, it's pile after pile of crap... gotta sort it for the gold buried there.

I don't buy a lot of cables... in fact I don't remember the last time I bought one. I was going through apple headphones entirely too frequently and at one point decided to get the protection plan with some. Best money I ever spent. Every few months I trade in my falling apart headphones for new ones.

> why people would buy even cheap cables that are branded Apple when you can get quality, very high-reviewed cables from vendors like Anker.

same reason you would buy almost any apple product i imagine.

it's not the outdated, overpriced hardware; its the experience and the fit and finish.

We sell esports merchandise (t-shirts, hats, etc) with our team logo, and there's a lot of counterfeits out there trying to use our brand on print-on-demand sites (Redbubble, Zazzle, etc) and generic shopping sites like Alibaba and Amazon.

Out of all the sites we've investigated and sent takedown notices to, Amazon has by far been the worst. The marketplace is full of counterfeit products, and we've been having a very hard time trying to get them removed, even though we have copyright over the design and trademark on our brand name.

Quote Amazon on our latest batch, "We respect a manufacturer's right to enter into exclusive distribution agreements. However, we do not help to enforce these agreements. This is a matter between the manufacturer and the distributors.".

Yeah, if you want to buy the genuine article it sucks that you end up with a knock-off. It's very hard to tell the difference on Amazon where the photo on the product page isn't guaranteed to match the product you will receive. Happens with a lot more than just cables and chargers. I've even seen it with things like kitchen tools.

But that's distracting from the real problem. That problem being that even genuine Apple cables are overpriced and shitty. If Apple provided quality durable cables of various lengths at reasonable prices, nobody would buy buying them from Amazon instead of from Apple. Every time someone goes to Amazon to buy a cable, it's because their Apple one disintegrated.

As for chargers, the Apple ones are just fine, but they only charge one device at a time. There are plenty of small, inexpensive, and high quality charging devices available that can charge 5x or even 10x devices at once. The third party products are just better.

Yeah... If Apple oh, I don't know, halved the price of their cables, and maybe went outside the mould a bit with lengths and multi-chargers as you mention, I for one wouldn't bother looking elsewhere.

It's definitely not every time. I haven't had any problems with Apple cables for example. But I still buy more on occasion because I have misplaced them, or because I need extras for traveling, for the car, for the office, etc. I am really curious what everyone complaining about Apple cables manages to do to theirs in order to cause so much damage. I suspect most people could benefit from learning how to properly coil a cable. https://www.wired.com/2013/08/tnhyut-coil-cable/

For longer cables I often find this works even better.


The advantage is you can get at both ends, and add remove length at will, plus you avoid having excessive tension. Downside is you can't really throw long cables and have them unwind which can be really useful.

I am now very wary of buying some products from Amazon due to counterfeiting. I seem impossible to buy genuine razor blades as one example.

I bought my wife a Nutribullet from Amazon (marketplace seller) only to find it was counterfeit. It even cost more than my local store. Amazon weren't consistently helpful either. After being really supportive speaking with them, they just didn't follow through. They then asked me to return the item to the seller, but I refused as the seller would only list it again. If it wasn't a safety risk to others, I wouldn't have cared as much. I did get my refund after a lot of effort.

When it comes to power adapters I don't risk cheap third party makes.

I will only buy from third-party sellers if the brand is operating its own store. Anker is a good example. I never buy from third parties selling name-brand items.

But since Amazon commingles many products there are no guarantees. However, at least it is easy to get refunds on items Amazon fulfills.

How did you figure out it was counterfeit?

I saw a BBC report suggesting the dangers of this product being counterfeit which made me think. Then I compared online images to the product and the thing that convinced me was there is a missing registered symbol on the logo. The logo looked a little out of alignment as well. Then after buying a store brought version I compared them side by side and you can tell all the differences really easily then. It was a very, very good copy though.

I have an increasingly growing list of things that I'll never buy on Amazon because all of the listings are through 3rd-party vendors participating in Prime. The risk of receiving counterfeit and/or defective product is too great.

- any peripheral for Apple not directly sold by Apple or Amazon

- Gilette razor blades (yes, I've tried straight razors, my skin and hair are awful)

- SD/MicroSD cards

- Condoms

I know Amazon will instantly refund me and pay for return shipping if I do get a fake, but I'd rather just spend a bit extra and buy it somewhere else where I know it won't be an issue.

In my experience their customer service indeed refunded and paid return shipping on counterfeit products. I had to request a refund due to fake products 2-3 times over the many years I have been a happy customer there. No problem with Amazon's service with such issues, ever.

Counterfeits have been a problem on Amazon for several years. There was a time when only places like eBay or Rakuten had these issues. On Amazon you could just clearly see which products come directly from their warehouses and which you thus could trust 100%, and which from e.g. their Marketplace sellers (which has always involved a little risk). I am really puzzled when / why they decided to mix both worlds up, in visual disguise. Apparently at some point they have made the bad decision to become the Western Alibaba-like marketplace.

I had hoped that they, having some very intelligent employees, will eventually solve this issue; but I don't see this happening right now. In online shopping trust is extra important, and regarding the counterfeits they are gambling with their strong customer trust quite a bit.

>Gilette razor blades (yes, I've tried straight razors, my skin and hair are awful)

Get a double-edged safety razor. It takes some practice to learn to use it well, but it's worth the investment. Personally I like the Edwin Jagger razor handles.

> Condoms

So Amazon babies are a thing now?

counterfeit condoms? That's horribly scary!

Anyone who's into blockchains take note. As fun as tracking complex financial logic may be, accurately tracking physical supply chains is probably the quickest route to notably improving the lives of people in general.

In the case of tracking counterfeit Apple products, how would a blockchain solution be better than a simple database of serial numbers maintained by Apple for example?

A SQLite file doesn't get you VC money.

The small addition of hashing updates to the database with a hash of the last snapshot provides a sense of history that can't be tampered with.

Otherwise you risk headlines like "Counterfeit devices flood market after Apple registry hacked, AAPL down XX%".

One little trick I've found: Once you select something a couple levels down the tree of categories, then the "Seller" is a filter available on the left side of the screen. There are some searches where I just filter to what's directly sold by Amazon, because 90% of everything is the random sellers direct from China like you find on ebay.

All the counterfeit crap on Amazon has another unintended effect: it makes the reviews less accurate. For example, when looking at the review of shirts the other day from Lucky, some of the reviews were normal, then others said things like, 'Stitching came apart, material flimsy, but may have been a knock off. Shame on you Amazon for not preventing that.' Roughly paraphrased, I've been seeing reviews like that of late. It skews the average rating of the product and hurts the manufacturer.

It not only makes the reviews less accurate but it turns shopping into something of a gambling experience. Here is a current example... I was shopping for a Sony DK52 charging dock on Amazon UK. Even though this device is the only official dock from Sony for many of its current devices on sale, Amazon doesn't sell it (anymore?). It is only available new from one of 31 third-party sellers. And most of the prominent reviews on the product page [1] complain that the device they received was poor quality and likely to be fake!


I appreciate Apple pursuing this, they have the resources and it does give them a black eye when something seems legit and then blows up.

And Amazon has definitely changed in terms of the sketchyness of its store experience. I expect that is a change in leadership and I really mourn the fact that Wall Street has rewarded them for it by boosting their stock price[1].

I observed Ebay trying to "get to Amazon's level" and of course Amazon has been coming down to Ebay's level and they are meeting somewhere in the middle, a global cutthroat marketplace with the buyer having to seriously up their game in order to avoid scams.

But the case in point is counterfeit Apple products being sold both by Amazon and by people using Amazon as a sales platform. It would be useful if there was some blowback on Amazon itself for facilitating fraudulent sellers as that would provide some incentive for them to crack down on it. In much of these cases when it is a lot of disconnected individuals getting hurt there isn't an effective feedback mechanism to get it corrected.

[1] Disclosure I do hold AMZN stock but not very much.

Shopping on Amazon has become terrible and I've stopped doing it unless it's the only option (which is very rare). There is seemingly just no quality control at all in their catalog; it's like shopping in a flea market or junkyard and they need to take responsibility for it.

Two screenshots from last year, when I was trying to shop for electrical receptical covers:



The first is categorized under "Tools & Home Improvement > Power & Hand Tools > Hand Tools > Pliers > Snap-Ring Pliers".

The second is categorized under "Musical Instruments > Drums & Percussion > Folk & World Hand Drums > Timbales".

How does that even happen? Can't they use some machine learning to detect that this is so obviously wrong?

Machine learning wouldn't help there, because it will learn from the existing categorizations. Garbage in, garbage out.

(1) Why would they train on the existing categorizations? You train on a smaller, known-good dataset.

(2) Outlier detection is a thing, even if they included the bad data. It would be trivial to detect that a small percentage of things categorized as "musical instruments" have extremely dissimilar facets/descriptions/images to all other things in that category, and very similar to things in a completely unrelated category.

Amazon is using dark practices in more than one place now. For instance in their Prime video page the listings and search results will include movies / shows you are not allowed to watch. (for some reason some content is only available for select devices or for certain regions). This makes the catalog look a lot larger than it really is. From a user point of view it is frustrating because you click through on many results before you find something you can watch. I reported this as an issue to them sometime back but havent seen any changes.

this is poor form from amazon, but this rattles the cage of the bees in the bonnet of my bugbear because of the subject matter of apple proprietary standard cables

why doesn't apple just use a generic standard? its in the best interests of everyone involved. they can still make official cables...

i'd also give them a bit more credit if they made these things to a decent quality standard - like actually earthing my macbook when its plugged in instead of lacquering over the connector so it looks shiny but can't possibly work. i've never owned anything that so frequently gives me small shocks - and i've heard the same story from everyone who uses these things in the uk... (maybe other regions get some better quality... our plugs are after all their own special type)

they are getting better though, the new iphone 5 and later charger cable actually has a practical level of build quality. unlike the previous generation of official apple cables, which seemed almost designed to fail.... that weak connection on the charging end that always wore out, always developed kinks, and in the hands of the naive would end up as frayed wires... and thats after a mere 6 months to a year of light use. worse build quality than any usb cable i've ever owned.

This headline is misleading—it’s not that 90% of all chargers/cables on Amazon are fake, it’s that 90% of the suspicious ones that Apple purchases/tests are. They’re not going to buy ones from Belkin, Amazon Basics, or other manufacturers that are Apple-certified. They’re going to focus on ones from unknown manufacturers, or ones with prices that are suspiciously low.

I don't think Belkin et al. sell their products as 'genuine' Apple products, do they?

Good point. But still, it's not that 90% of all listed products are fake—it's 90% of the ones that Apple selected to purchase and test. Given that they only purchased 100 different products, this isn't a huge sample.

It would be interesting to know how many they looked at on Amazon and decided not to purchase (presumably because the appearance and price were not suspicious). That would shed more light on the true percentage of "Apple" chargers/cables on Amazon that are fake.

i have always kinda hated Amazon. There service is just badly made and run, there products are pretty crappy too.

Last purchase I made, took them ten days to get it to me, even though it was supposed to be next day delivery. I wasted three seperate days waiting at home for it all day, while there tracking showed it was out for delivery, only to find that it was far far away from me and had arrived at the wrong depot that morning (Why did nobody call or alert me of this?)

They kept blaming the delivery company but it was Amazon's own delivery company that finally delivered the item. Even then on a different day than they promised and luckily someone else happened to be home.

They then offered me a free month of prime, I couldn't care less about prime. It's a total rip off, basically a next day delivery service with a few half assed add on services, that if you wanted, you would pay someone else for a real version of the service, ie Music - Spotify etc, Movies - Netflix.

I'm currently waiting for a package ordered in september with a "2-3 days" shipping time. Apparently everyone and their dog are running drop-shipping businesses nowadays, and ordering from amazon gets you the same reliability and speed as aliexpress.com does.

I bought an Apple case at a retailer in my country (sort of like Radioshack). While the case was Apple priced, I have a bad feeling it was a fake (case has minor blemishes). What is bad is I have no good way of verifying if it is real or fake.

I'm waiting for Amazon to spin off its still-reliable store for physical books as a separate premium brand. (Although the only reason there's not much fraud there is that bookselling doesn't pay very well in the first place.)

They should check Woot too. They have "Genuine(TM) Apple Chargers" on there every other week. I wouldn't be surprised if some, or more likely all, of them fell in this category as well.

Woot is now owned by Amazon so its possible its from the same sketchy inventory.

Just send the counterfeits back. Amazon will catch on fairly quickly.

That only works if you can reliably detect them.

Counterfeits are not always easy to detect, especially not right away. A counterfeit Macbook charger fooled me at first.

They ran out of fucks to give a long time ago.

So are we coming full circle? Are malls going to be popular again?

Interesting that Apple is concerned about the fire and electric shock hazard of the knock-off charger cables when their own cables are brittle as hell and subject to the same issues.

Almost entirely across the board, Apple's hardware hardware quality is absolutely unmatched or comparable with industry leading standards except for their flimsy cables which routinely fall apart for so many people. Whichever person inside their company fetishizes thin cables is 100% evil. Not just in terms of deliberately designing a failing product that needs to be replaced after a year or so, but in terms of putting people at risk for fire and shock. This is a well known problem with Apple's products.

The idiotic knock off companies should forget trying to copy Apple here and just make some normal slightly thicker cables with proper strain relief that don't break if you look at it wrong. You eliminate your lawsuit risk from Apple and you sell to a growing market of people who hate Apple's cables.

> Whichever person inside their company fetishizes thin anything is 100% evil.


However 'fake' they are, they seem to be working well.

Power adapters break all the time and there is a very real risk of burning down your house when they do. Electrical fires are not rare. Take a look at an Apple charger vs a counterfeit. The lack of proper circuit isolation on the counterfeit is a prime example of how to cause a fire when a component fails.


There are hundreds of obscure branded power adapters on Amazon, and they are likely to be just as dangerous as a counterfeit Apple-branded adapter. So the real problem is the lack of electrical safety guarantees for products sold online, not the existence of counterfeit products. A counterfeit handbag never killed anyone.

> So the real problem is the lack of electrical safety guarantees for products sold online

I disagree. Not all products have this problem. I may be in the minority here, but I actively throw away my crappy power plugs because of the risk they pose. That's an uneeded risk I don't take.

Looking in my apt I have:

- Anker chargers for my USB stuff

- An Apple power adapter for my mac

- A Vizio TV with built in PSU

- AudioTechnica PSU on my speakers

- General Electric Microwave

I'm sure I'm missing some PSUs that plug into the wall (as opposed to internal ones) somewhere. But the point is, I have a reasonable guarantee of safety when buying from an established brand. General Electric is over 100 years old. By allowing counterfeiters, my expectation of good engineering when buying from established brands is eroded. It diminishes my safety. If you don't use crappy PSUs, then crappy PSUs are not a problem.

Well at least it is following the Sturgeon's law :)

There is a more interesting conclusion we can draw from the data, which is that 90% of people who bought Apple-branded chargers & cables sold on Amazon either:

- didn't care that the products were fake, or

- couldn't tell the difference between the two

They perhaps didn't notice or care, but counterfeit chargers and cables can be very dangerous, as they usually have a complete disregard for electrical safety. It could kill you, or kill your device, or burst into flames.

I've had a counterfeit laptop charger explode. Luckily nothing (besides the charger) was damaged. It wasn't a particularly big explosion or anything, just a pop and some smoke, but...

Between that and the USB-cable-review-fiasco, I now no longer trust cheap knock-off cables. The chance of them destroying your devices or catching fire is just too great.

Surely the problem isn't counterfeit goods but the fact that there is no practical way to guarantee the electrical safety of goods purchased from Amazon. Why isn't it easier to test electrical safety, or why aren't all cables and chargers spot-check tested for safety?

The problem IS counterfeit goods, as when they fail, which they will, the consumer thinks that it's from the brand themselves, which causes them undue hardship.

Why is it "undue hardship" for a brand to face competition from imitators?

Because it's not fair competition. If you competed against a brand with your own brand, and made it clear that you were not associated with that brand, then it'd be ok. But that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about jackasses that imitate the brand, so the consumer thinks it is the brand that they're dealing with. So when things go wrong, they don't blame the rando counterfeiter, they blame the brand itself.

Is the second one really that interesting? I have a hard time distinguishing, and I'm a professional in this industry and have been screwing with computers for 30 years. The average Jane or Joe has no chance.

That's the whole point of trademark law: the average person can't reasonably detect whether a product is genuine or a ripoff based on its physical properties, so we make it illegal to pretend.

But if the counterfeit is as good as the genuine Apple product then what is the real difference anymore?

The same isn't true for counterfeit products in other categories of goods such as designer clothing or accessories, which often use inferior materials, and are easier to detect for the average person.

They're not as good though. The outside looks remarkably similar, but the insides are poor imitation.

This blog has down a tear down of a number of different knock-offs: http://www.righto.com/2014/05/a-look-inside-ipad-chargers-pr...

How do you detect whether the components inside a counterfeit Apple charger have the same expected life or failure rate as those inside a genuine one? How do you detect latent manufacturing or handling defects? Just because they perform exactly the same out of the box or for the first few months does not mean they are equivalent in materials and workmanship.

That's the new thing about counterfeit electronics these days. It's much easier to sell fakes directly to large numbers consumers but it's harder and harder to spot a fake. And most electronics counterfeiters seem to be targeting Apple products.

I agree that it doesn't matter to the buyer if the counterfeit is just as good. The trouble is that there's a huge middle ground between "just as good" and "obviously crap the moment you pull it out of the box." If a cable frays into uselessness a year after you buy it, or your power adapter is terribly inefficient, or some bit of shoddy construction starts a fire, how are you to know it's because it's a counterfeit and not just because you got a bad product from Apple? Even if you could know, it's too late, they already have your money.

"But if the counterfeit is as good as the genuine Apple product then what is the real difference anymore?"

They never are, so this is a worthless question to ask. And if the person actually wanted a genuine Apple product, then the person is still being defrauded.

You're going to have to do a lot better to explain why some rando on Amazon should be able to sell their product as "genuine Apple" when it is not.

> They never are, so this is a worthless question to ask.

I agree that defrauding people is wrong. But why can't counterfeit goods match or even exceed the quality of the so-called originals? We all know there is a huge markup on "original" products that has nothing to do with cost of materials. So they should be capable of at least matching the quality of the original and selling at a discount.

Nobody is saying that they're incapable, they simply don't bother.

"But why can't counterfeit goods match or even exceed the quality of the so-called originals?"

Because they don't care enough about that. They want to pump and dump.

"So they should be capable of at least matching the quality of the original and selling at a discount."

But why do that when you can do what they're doing now, and make even more money? Especially because you know there is no consequence for doing so.

Of course there is a big difference, your perfectly packaged charger is more than likely a fire hazard and you might not be able to tell based on the exterior or the first few weeks of usage.


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