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Amazon makes good on its promise to delete “incentivized” reviews (techcrunch.com)
267 points by TheAntiEgo on Nov 25, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 141 comments



Amazon is now at 50% of sales being third party listings.

Aside from the review mess, the quality level of the 3rd party listing themselves, customer service, shipping speed, and products...is really hurting them. And, of course, separately, the issue of counterfeit products.

My non-techie friends are taking notice.

Amazon really needs to deep dive into this before they hurt their brand in a way that's hard to recover.


Yes, but the problem is they are still actively encouraging so-called "private label" items.

I became a seller on Amazon two months ago, because I'm developing new (unique) products and I thought it would be simpler to have them distributed by Amazon.

But making said products is taking much longer than anticipated, so in the meantime, and as a learning process, I started selling one product in "private label" mode (ie, a product that I buy "as is" from a Chinese factory, with my brand printed on it). It's kind of selling, although the competition makes it hard/impossible to turn any profit (since all products are virtually identical, competition is on price and maybe listing quality/exhaustivity).

But what is amazing to me is that a service called "Amazon coach" regularly sends emails to encourage me to sell more PL products. Today, Amazon coach recommends selling a meat tenderizer on amazon.de: there are already over 350 different listings for meat tenderizers on amazon.de, how many more do they need???

Some time ago I used to regard the "ships from Amazon" or "Prime" logo as markers for quality, because I figured, somehow, that Amazon did some kind of vetting before accepting a product for shipping. That's completely wrong. The sign only means that the product is stored in their warehouse (and will therefore probably be delivered on time); but it has no meaning whatsoever regarding the quality of the product. There is zero curation.

Selling on Amazon is teaching me to trust Amazon less.

And of course, the ocean of similar products makes shopping much harder; meat tenderizers are not the worst case by far: if you're looking for a corkscrew in the Home & Kitchen category, you're looking at 2,500+ options on amazon.de alone... and 16,000+ on amazon.com!! Crazy.


> I used to regard the "ships from Amazon" or "Prime" logo as markers for quality

You need to look for (or limit your search to ) "Sold by Amazon". Not so say that Amazon doesn't sell some duff products, and they have some "private label" products of their own (Amazon Basics), but all of those will have had some degree of vetting.


Even Apple power adapters sold by Amazon and not by a third party are 90% fake:

https://9to5mac.com/2016/10/19/amazon-fake-apple-chargers-ca...


Does Amazon commingle third-party stock with their own, or are their vendors selling them fake chargers?

When I was looking at selling my creations on Amazon, they had an option to commingle stock with other sellers of the same item, but I don't know if that includes Amazon's own stock.


Yes. They have a webpage somewhere describing this. They do not commingle select categories, such as food. Everything else is fair game for commingling. Sold By Amazon is no guarantee of authenticity or even an indicator that your product came through a legitimate supply chain.


Amazon will happily continue selling Aukey chargers with fake ETL (UL Labs competitor) marks, even after I notified them of this! You just can't trust amazon for electronics.

Link to my original post: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12832605


This. Only if the product is "Shipped from and Sold by Amazon.com" is there a good chance I will buy it. Even at 1.5-2x the lowest price from other vendors (FBA, direct shippers etc.). I'd rather trust Amazon directly than anyone else on amazon.com


You certainly pay for that trust. Last week, I found a product that I bought on Amazon was available locally for 11% cheaper. Fast forward to today, I was about to buy something else on Amazon (prime item sold by 3rd party), and decided to check eBay. The manufacturer was selling the item direct on eBay for 30% less. Amazon does provide a lot of protection value to the buyer, but its previous value proposition (save by ordering online), doesn't seem to apply any longer.


I have found that it's always worthwhile to check eBay before making an Amazon purchase.


It's true that they will have some vetting-- All products that Amazon sells itself are evaluated through becoming a seller through Vendor Central. Just because a product is labeled as 'Ships from and sold by Amazon' does not mean that it's not a private label product; Vendor Express is available for exactly the purpose of getting vendors to sell directly to Amazon. I am a mid-volume seller on their platform and I probably see 2-3 offers a week from them encouraging me to list my products with them.

Another trick for the best price is to not always go with the buy box by default. Amazon doesn't give up the buy box unless the competitor's price is significantly lower than theirs. It's always worth taking a look at what else is listed in the 'Other sellers' box, especially on products where Amazon is the vendor. It's likely their the cheapest, but that's not always the case.


This is reminding me of the last few years I used ebay. At first it was great, and by the end I was constantly worried about quality.


The quality listings are easy to find on eBay though and impossible to find on Amazon. eBay still has a lot of quality.


Care to elaborate?


This has been very enlightening. I buy a ton of stuff on Amazon and have had the same incorrect assumptions.


Hear, hear. The thing that messes me up most is probably the category spam (also frequently seen with third-party sellers on Newegg). Just as an example, go into Home & Kitchen:Vacuums & Floor Care:Vacuums:Upright Vacuums. Think you'll find the cheapest upright vacuum cleaners if you sort this category by Lowest Price? Ha ha ha ha. No. First you'll need to go through at least 3 pages of miscellaneous parts, fuses, extension cords, and shop vacs before you even get to the first actual upright vacuum cleaner. Amazon's pagination system makes you do this one page at a time (at least on my browser). This is one of the better categories. Most categories related to cell phones are such fucking disasters that it's hard to even gauge how bad the problem is.


It's gotten bad enough that there are entire product categories I completely avoid on Amazon due to the likelihood of counterfeit. If I'm looking for a specific brand of electronics (say, Anker or Apple) I'll buy it off Newegg or direct from a brick and mortar. If I can't be bothered or it's not at the store, I'll order it from that store or manufacturer's website (Home Depot, Fry's, etc.).

For a lot of other things, the price is so close or the exact same, I'll just buy it from the store. I do a lot of woodworking, so I buy a fair amount of stuff from a number of brands that people aren't really counterfeiting (yet)- for those I'll buy using prime, unless it's at one of the woodworking/hardware stores in the area. Then I'll just go get it myself, the prices are always within a small percentage of each other.

It feels like, for me, I do my window shopping at Amazon and execute my purchase locally, just because Amazon has gone downhill for me. I would be interested to know if other people are slowly coming to the behaviors I have.

Pretty much I get random small electronics components that don't need a great level of quality and just random other things that I don't care all that much about quality or origin. They've become my Alibaba in a way.


Acutally I trust Anker an Amazon because Anker is running the store, so their reputation is on the line.

I still shop Amazon for many categories, but my guard is always up. But for some categories like apparel, the Amazon experience is so horrible that I don't even think to look there.


The problem is that Amazon commingles stock, so an Anker-brand X could actually be supplied by company Y and come from counterfeit manufacturer Z.


I just checked a couple of their items, and they say "Sold by AnkerDirect and Fulfilled by Amazon", and it's very much Anker's option to not commingle their inventory, and I would expect they've chosen that option, they have a brand to protect.


Anker was probably a bad example because they seem to do a pretty good job and seemingly don't allow commingling of their product.

This discussion does highlight the issue though, we all had to go check, and check a number of different options, and are we still REALLY sure that we're getting an Anker product? Now, if you're my mom and you're not checking the right boxes and looking for the 8pt font of who it's being fulfilled by, what's your success rate with high counterfeit categories?

Bottom line, if I'm buying a brand, there should be NO DOUBT that's what I'm getting. Do you doubt the brand that you're buying when you walk in to Best Buy? I don't. When the prices are the exact same, I'm buying from Best Buy. If the price is significantly lower on Amazon, then I get super suspect about the authenticity.

Just bought a part for my Dyson vacuum cleaner and I found a number of suspect listings before I got the the one that seemed authentic- catalog shots, posting copy, lack of "Engrish". I was completely expecting to have to return it when I got it, but to my relief, it came in an "Authentic Dyson" labeled box and the fit, finish, color, and production seemed exactly the same as what came off my vacuum.

That's too much doubt for my liking.


How do you know Anker doesn't commingle? I don't think FBA vendors have any control over it.

edit: here is some discussion. FBA vendors appear to have control:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=hel...

But I still don't think the amazon customer can see if an fba vendor allows commingling.


I don't know, as I said, "I would expect they've chosen that option, they have a brand to protect." They have a brand so good in this domain they've be absolutely insane to commingle.

But, no, we can't tell if a vendor commingles, we can only infer it in special cases like Anker as manyxcxi noted, or pick out vendors with high ratings and otherwise cross our fingers.

It's a colossal mess, and nowadays, if I'm not buying used books (where I go with < 95% rating and Very Good quality), I find a BS detector honed for decades, literally about 4 and half, is the single most useful tool in navigating their swamps. Which for me confirms they indeed have big problems, and that's not even counting their search engine, which as others have noted is bad; for me, by far the worst I regularly use, and like others I often use Google's instead.

All this implies to me that if AWS wasn't such a money machine, Amazon's stock holders ought to be very nervous. The company really need to get serious about these problems.


This would be less of a problem if the Amazon search weren't so terrible. You should just be able to choose "sold by Amazon" and all those problems go away. "Prime shipping" gets you closer but nowadays a lot of junk is prime shipped too.

At the root, the problem is that Amazon's stock is not discoverable. Their search engine is terrible, I've had situations where I knew the exact listing I wanted and wanted to see if anyone else was listing it cheaper, I searched a few keywords and had the listing I knew about plus a sea of other listings, then I added more words from the listing's title and suddenly the listing no longer appeared in the search results. What in the actual fuck is going on there?

To be honest nowadays I just google search "[item] amazon" because the Amazon search is such utter trash. If it doesn't pop up in the best sellers list and you can't manage to filter down by "prime" and "ratings" it might as well not be there according to Amazon's search, it's just lost in a sea of junk listings. The terrible search is one of the major reasons why nobody buys low-rating items, and that's why people bought ratings in the first place, so really it all comes back to the terrible search.

For starters the results need to be weighted by number of items sold though that listing. The brand new listing from a brand new seller yesterday gets the same weight as the item that's been a #1 bestseller for years. But other stuff, like items going away when you try to narrow down to them... I don't even know what's going on there.


Amazon has long had a reputation for high engineer turnover and brutal office climate. I wonder if a constant talent bleed is finally manifesting in the quality of their product.

It's pretty bad that some third party startups are offering products to determine if Amazon reviews are likely fake and Amazon with all of their resources doesn't seem to be doing it themselves.

This feels like MySpace all over again. It's clearly possible to build a superior product, in contrast to something like Google who have constantly reinvented themselves to stay on the top of the curve... it doesn't look good..


Yeah, the horrible state of their search, which in many cases is clearly costing them serious money, tells me something is wrong with that part of the company, and since it's so critical, it says nothing good about the company as a whole.

Perhaps it's a bad thing they started with books, where counterfeits certainly exist, but aren't quite at the same level of problem, shouldn't be any problem when they were sourcing from that big wholesaler of boos, and ... how long did it take them to enter the used book market with third parties? And, again, that was a well developed market before they entered....


I recently ordered a cheap product from a vendor in china. As I found out later this vendor has 99% negative reviews that all say the same: money taken, product not delivered, and this has been going on for months. At least I got my money back after a comlaint. I find it unbelievable that you can scam for months and still be a vendor on amazon.


I had almost a completely identical experience. Ordered, waited a month and nothing.

Went to look at the seller's reviews .. and they were all 1/5 negative saying the product was never delivered. The A-Z guarantee got me my money back but I wasn't impressed the seller was allowed to continue doing this for so long.

After I complained, the seller appeared to have all their items removed from Amazon.

As an aside, you can generally trust the FBA items from 3rd party sellers.


Not sure why you single China out. It can be any vendor. I bought an intervalometer for my camera for $30 2 weeks ago. Took 8 days. Works great. Done the job. Chinese brand and shipped from china.

Bought some clothes from UK. Never arrived. Amazon refunded.

Amazon is great. But any vendor can be as dodgy as any eBay seller.


Maybe they single out China because they're relaying their personal experience with a seller who happens to be from China.


I think the point is that the "from China" is actually unneeded information. Worse, it can help build xenophobia.

Consider, the story is just as powerful with "I ordered from a vendor who had a ton of negative reviews for not delivering products." Even better, that instructs to start paying attention to reviews, and not origin of vendor. :)


Nah man. Amazon is full of crappy quality Aliexpress/Futian Market dropship Chinese vendors. It is an actual problem. Point it out. Stop making lame comments like you feel it is racist.


China has a well known problem with not honoring other country's intellectual property. I don't see how it's racist at all to comment about the negative effects of a countries IP policies. Were not talking about Chinese here, were talking about the IP government policies of China


It's rather amazing how when you call out people's preconception they hold strongly, you'll easily get downvoted here, regardless of how well founded or supported that preconception is.

If the original comment had mentioned how the purchase was from a black vendor, or a gay vendor, people would be up in arms about what that unjustly implies, and how without any sort of data to back that it's just stereotyping (at best). Do it for China, where people already have a strong preconception of the types of vendors present, and all that rational separation of anecdote and data and needing to justify your statements goes right out the window.

This isn't to say you can't call out vendors from China if you suspect they are a problem in higher proportions than other vendors. The original comment could have included "I suspect this may be a problem exhibited more often from vendors from China, but don't have data to back that up" or more strong statements with some data, but did not. Instead we have a statement that only adds to the comment when combined with your own preconceptions, since it adds nothing to the circumstances of the described situation without your own preconceptions.


Ordering from a black/gay vendor is not as unrelated as ordering from a different country, with different consumer laws and regulations.

> rational separation of anecdote and data and needing to justify your statements

No statement was made though. An anecdote simply provided additional data, and you objected on the basis of what people might assume.

> but don't have data to back that up

You might also assume that from no data being provided, and indeed, no claim being made.

> we have a statement that only adds to the comment when combined with your own preconceptions

or allows another thread on the topic to emerge, in this case if it's relevant that China was involved, causing someone with knowledge on the topic to comment.


There is a huge statistical difference in product quality from Chinese brands. Making this more than just random antidotes. Japan and even the US had a relatively brief period of making low cost crap, but China can't seem to move up the manufacturing quality ladder.

If you manufacture in China you find huge legal and social issues with maintaining quality. It's still possible just far from the default.


If you manufacture in China you find huge legal and social issues with maintaining quality.

I've read, without adequate if any sourcing, that this is a pattern that's at least centuries old, specifically, building things to the required specs, then backing off on quality until the buyer complains....

If so, it's interesting it survived the harshest decades of Communism and the attempts to do away with the old ways, then again, it could well be aligned with the incentives that were force back then. Although I'd hate to be issued a weapon or ammo that was from a factory running along those quality lines. Although back when we were allowed to buy ammo from the PRC, that sort of thing was not apparent from what I remember, but I'm not sure I would have noticed since I was never in the market for those particularly types.


This.

RS and Farnell in the UK use parcel force and UPS respectively. The success rate for me is higher on stuff shipped from China.

I've had some stuff from Leeds to London end up in Belgium for two days.


Farnell seems like a weird vendor to pick out as being slow or unreliable. I've always been amazed by the delivery of stuff I've ordered from Farnell - often you can order it at 7.50pm and it'll be there the next morning. In fact in probably 50+ orders I've never had one go missing or arrive more than a day late.


But are the mail services comparable? Specific companies versus "China"..


The design of listing supposedly identical products by multiple vendors under the same entry needs to be revisited.

It's great for competition and price pressure, but completely fails when dealing with generic items and vendors aren't held to account for outright fraud.


Well they have your cash during the time between the purchase and the refund and may have a 20% no complaint rate so it might still pay to let them sell nothing.


They also get a monthly fee from the seller, even if the seller sells zero products.


The monthly subscription is optional. You can pay $0.99 per sale instead and nothing monthly.

https://services.amazon.com/selling/pricing.htm


We are showing self-made (because the widgets amazon offers are crap) widgets for the products our articles talk about.

Luckily we have the prices from other merchants to compare the amazon prices to, and could implement a filter for unreasonable prices (way over uvp or way below what other merchants ask for).

Amazon is full of scammers.


I definitely wrote things making fun of Jet.com, but now I order household goods from there rather than Amazon. I even see a strong appeal of physically going to Target now verse trying to buy sheets from Amazon. On Amazon, for every item you add to your cart you have to consider:

- What is the likelihood this description matches the product being sold?

- Are the reviews real?

- Is this item safe?

- Is the price double what it is from other retailers?

Perhaps Amazon is having a similar moment Google did when Demand Media just obliterated the quality of their search results. It really is going to take a multi-pronged approach to clean things up. Depending on where their cashflow is coming from, this could be a very punishing task.


Amazon used to be brilliant because you knew exactly what you were getting. The fast and cheap shipping was a (very nice) bonus.

All my recent purchases have been disappointing, from futons of 'odd' sizes or misleading descriptions, "no assembly required", or products which just aren't good quality with 4-5 star reviews.

I've got to the point where I'm going back to only buying direct from amazon (if I can even still tell, it's not as easy as it used to be). Even sticking to "known" brands is difficult since brand licenses are often re-sold cheaply to different qualities of third party manufacturers in an era of globalization and cost-cutting driving down margins.

What can be a completely "buy it for life" quality item one year can in as short a time of 5 years have "sold out" their name and the products a shell of their former quality.


I was just on Amazon and checked out the "fine art" section which had some interesting items. I selected "framed" and was surprised to see stuff in the $20 range. So I clicked on one and while it said "frame" in the title it didn't say it in the description. I suspect that it meant that it could be framed and that they aren't selling a frame with it.

I suppose that's an issue when you sell tens of thousands of art items and try to do categorize automatically. It just makes me trust them less.


> Is the price double what it is from other retailers?

This is even worse in Canada. There appear to be tons of listings which consist solely of people finding things on Amazon.com that aren't on Amazon.ca and listing them for absurd prices. Example: a 4-pack of Kraft Dinner for $20 ($5/box), or a 12-pack for $48 ($4/box, a discount!).

Likewise, lots of people seem to take advantage of absurd shipping rates from American companies. I wanted to get my wife an iShower for her birthday, and while it was about a hundred bucks in the US (from them or Amazon.com), I was looking at $170+ Canadian from Amazon.ca (and this was when our currencies were almost at par). Tried to get it shipped from the US and the shipping was FedEx only, and it was something like $50-60 to get it shipped.

Now I order from Canadian retailers whenever I can, and I just get junk from Amazon when it's on sale.


> Is the price double what it is from other retailers?

How does physically going to Target help with this?


Because Target's prices might not be 2x what other retailers are?

I tried to buy some dishwasher detergent on Amazon recently because my local store is almost always out of the brand I like. It was $16/12oz on Amazon, versus $3.99/12oz at my local store. I assume that's what he's talking about.


Amazon has done an amazing job of priming people to not comparison shop, just hit that buy button assuming that you're getting the best price. It's amazing.


Good point. Turns out, the "prime" in "Amazon Prime" is a verb.


It really works on a lot of people I know. Always buying tons and tons of stuff because "Prime." It's like "buy," "buy," "buy" all the time. I just find it amazingly fascinating.

Couple years ago. I was looking to buy a couple staples on Amazon once to spend enough for free shipping. I love Kraft Mac and cheese and it's a commodity item. Amazon was selling them for 3x the cost of the grocery store. Decided to check Walmart.com out of curiosity. They were normal grocery store price at Walmart.com, if you needed to order it online. I wonder if people actually think Kraft Mac and cheese actually costs that much.

I also noticed that the price of many toys skyrockets during December.

As an aside I've ordered Kraft Mac and cheese from jet.com at normal price since. Their prices and inventory change a lot though so you can't always get the same stuff and the same price.

http://www.npr.org/2015/06/04/412046900/retailer-arbitrage-h...

COHEN: So this is interesting. This is a Babies R Us 800 baby wipes.

GOLDSTEIN: The wipes are in one of those displays out in the middle of the aisle. They're selling for $16.99. As the father of two young kids, I feel like I have some insight here.

Baby stuff - I know how much baby stuff costs.

COHEN: OK. Is this a good price?

GOLDSTEIN: Not great. It's not great.

COHEN: Seventeen bucks for 800 wipes? It's a value box.

GOLDSTEIN: I mean, buy it if you want. I don't think there's a lot of margin in it for you.

COHEN: I think you're wrong.

GOLDSTEIN: Sam has brought along one of his employees, a guy named Jay Freiday, to help him with the shopping. Freiday pulls out his phone and looks up how much this $17 box of wipes is selling for on Amazon.

JAY FREIDAY: This is currently selling for $46.

GOLDSTEIN: Wait a minute. People are paying - what did you say?

FREIDAY: $46.

GOLDSTEIN: For 800 baby wipes?

FREIDAY: Yeah. It's a lot?

GOLDSTEIN: It's a lot.


If it's the same price as Target, then you know it is double the price of other retailers. Simple really.


Hmm? AFAIK Target sets prices and shopper experience just a smidgen or two higher than Walmart. Although perhaps there may be some localized differences, I have never known it to be the Whole Foods of big-box general merchandise.


Probably a local phenomena. I've done some comparison shopping in my town and the price of most identical items at the Target here is +50% over the Walmart. Not 100%, but plenty overpriced.

It's probably just because the locals don't want to be seen as "rednecks" for shopping at Walmart. (Of course there are plenty who don't mind, and I guess, better deal for them)


Do you see that regularly? At least online, I never see target more than 15% more than walmart and usually about the same.


Yes. I keep thinking/hoping it's a temporary thing. Target is on my commute and Walmart is about 5 miles out of the way. I would much rather go to Target but I can't justify spending that much more to save the 15 minutes (unless I am buying only a few cheap things, in which case it's worth it).


Order from walmart.com? Above $49 you get free shipping.


I notice my local Target regularly prices in-store items higher than their own online price, as much as 25% more. I've gotten them to price match without much hassle, but I'd rather shop at Walmart than have to deal with it.


That's one of the single best things about Wal-Mart, they don't f* around with prices, "Everyday low price" is both a motto and a method (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everyday_low_price), which also helps them keep their prices low, since they aren't engaging in all sorts of frictions in marking prices up and down, advertising sales, etc. etc. Probably also helps keep their logistics sane, they only have to deal with the normal ebbs and flows of demand, not artificial demand created by sales, or lack of demand created by people waiting for the next sale.


I've said this a few times here, but applying a simple filter of 98% feedback or so and at least 25 feedbacks will avoid 99% of the issues. You can also look at the expected shipping speed.

There are plenty of good, large sellers, and they didn't get that way by skimping on quality. You don't need to take a chance on smaller sellers if you don't want to.

(Also, many sellers use FBA which avoids most of the issues, the only concern there is really product quality, which again is something you don't need to worry too much about if it's an experienced seller. Commingling can cause problems, but it's very rare, if Amazon saw a significant number of problems from it they'd have stopped the program.)


The seller followup emails are one of the more annoying day to day things I've noticed needing to deal with more with the shift to third party listings. I completely understand why they send them, because it is the best way to encourage reviews, but on a given eclectic order I may end up with 5 emails from different sellers.


This has always been their strategy. Do you know how hard it is to make any margin selling a TV or any electronics product? The sellers take most of the risk. Amazon collects their cut (which is substantial) without lifting a finger so to speak.

Personally, I avoid buying any electronics or valuables from Amazon due to counterfeit risk. They have the ability to curtail this activity but they choose not to. Also, the fake reviews damage the integrity of the marketplace. It really shows how much they care for their customers.


Finally cancelled my prime membership after 7 years. I just don't feel like Amazon is delivering the same level of service quality they used to


I've been on th fence on cancelling too. Only thing keeping me subscribed is prime now. I've found it immensely helpful and the restaurant delivery far better than the other delivery companies.


So which better alternative did you move to?


Trying not to buy as much. Shopping around before ordering. Waiting until I've got enough in my cart for free shipping.

I still use Amazon, I just don't pay them $99 a year for the privilege or treat them as the first store I go to


I've been doing this too, though if I'm going to buy a new video game, I sub Prime's monthly option for the month, because they give you $12 off the game, and the Prime is $11 for the month.

Note of warning: You'll discover a lot of random items are now "Prime exclusive" for no reason other than spite. No special discount, they just will refuse to sell you odd and end items unless you buy Prime.


I wonder how many of those are such low-margin items that they effectively don't make a profit off them unless they restrict sales to people with prime (who are paying for the privilege)?


It's so random it's hard to tell. Like random Blu-ray discs, regular household staples like diapers or shaver blade replacements, etc. And they'll come and go from the exclusive list every couple or weeks or so, it seems. There's a huge long-running thread on Amazon's forum about it.

What amazes me, is given Jeff Bezos' general attitude towards providing excellent customer service, is that Amazon has said nothing about this practice, and it's decidedly anti-consumer. If it was just a Prime discount or something, it wouldn't bother people nearly as much, but Amazon will outright refuse to sell without Prime for a lot of these items, unless it's also being sold by a third party seller you can buy from instead.


I recently bought Olive oil and a Nintendo wii game via Target with prices cheaper than Amazon. The web experience with Target has vastly improved. I am not sure what's Walmart experience is like.


WalMart.com is very good. Same prices as in stores and for what I buy from it, staples so far, those have been quite a bit cheaper than Amazon/Amazon Pantry, reasonably quick free shipping for orders > $50 (several days but less than a week as I recall), double layer corrugated boxes (!), adequate packing in the two shipments I've received so far (albeit don't buy dry laundry detergent since they won't bag it and some will get on the surfaces of everything, although that's just annoying), and 3% off if you use one of their cards.

You'll pay local sales tax since they have stores everywhere. Wish I'd started using them when I recently bought a case of Sapporo Ichiban Miso Ramen, Amazon, which I think had a slightly lower price, was out, so I went with a 3rd party which a high rating, which had the brilliant idea of unpacking the case and stuffing it into a Medium size Priority Mail box, which can comfortably only hold half as many. As long as none of the soup base packets were punctured by this stunt I'll come out OK, but....


Wal-mart pickup for groceries is amazing, too. You don't even have to get out of the car, and everything is cold and fresh (they have separate fridges/freezers for pickup orders).

... of course, you still have to carry the stuff in and find space in the fridge yourself ...


Oh, wow, I didn't realize that about that service.

Recent Real Life developments have resulted in logistics limiting me to cold stuff I can put in an insulated backpack with a ice pack, but, yeah, I could use this to get cold and frozen stuff without much hassle. Thanks!


In my one (and only) experience with Amazon Pantry I ordered several boxes of Near East couscous and several boxes of Bounce dryer sheets (amongst other things). They packed them in the same giant box. I had to throw out all the couscous because it tasted like dryer sheets.


Yeah, well, perfume is utterly evil, says this life long sufferer of allergies. So that powdered detergent, it was in theory perfume free. But not entirely, Procter & Gamble i.e. Tide and it now seems Sun Products Corporation i.e. All don't bother to clean their machinery between running off lots of normal and "free" of evil stuff, one reason I gave up Tide and switched to All, but fortunately the All is not too bad, at least as of yet.

Also had to give up on Vanicream soap when I assume the company they contract with to make their stuff massively dosed two quite separated in time batches with perfume. Which also taught me to try 1 of every new batch of stuff I buy (I tend to buy stuff like that in April and October when the weather is mild, and increase my inventory to ~12 months so I have plenty of time to find a new brand or solution if the old one goes bad or is discontinued).

Hay, save the nose of the allergy sufferers in your life, get the perfume free stuff by default! At least if it doesn't cost any more to speak of....

And, yeah, I gather the whole shtick of Amazon Pantry is that you buy enough stuff to fill up one big box, no doubt by weight as well as size, which I assume they've worked out deals to ship cheaply. Haven't tried it yet since I've found WalMart.com to be so much cheaper, while there's some Pantry exclusive items, or, say, they're available in quantity 1 that way, I just haven't been able to come close to filling up a box. WalMart doesn't care, except in giving you a strong incentive to buy at least $50.01 of stuff at a time, which isn't hard.


> Trying not to buy as much.

This. Amazon makes it very easy with it's "frictionless" 1-click buying functionality to buy loads of crap that you don't really need. I make it very hard on myself, and put barriers to buying. Sometimes I will add something to the cart (since they force you to do it to show price for some items) and then let it sit there for days. Many times, I've come back and wondered why I even added something to the cart in the 1st place.


Yeah. Without a doubt I've saved money on shipping with prime, but I've also bought so much shit I don't need.


Why do you think they did? Maybe they just do without. That's a perfectly valid option. If you don't think you're getting value for your money at Amazon, don't spend it there. This is no way implies there's something better. It's just smart money handling.


Target.com has been pretty solid for me (Red Card required).


Totally agree on Red card which gives you 5% discount and donates to your kid's school.


I'm curious why they want to turn into eBay basically. Is there profit in that?


They really want to turn into a logistics company.

Amazon packs, warehouses, and delivers your package acting as payment manager, and customer service while hosting your IT infrastructure.

They want to sell pickaxes and do laundry for gold miners.

The part where Amazon isn't packing and shipping your product is a weak link – killing fake reviews helps this though.


For what it's worth eBay does turn a profit most years: http://www.marketwatch.com/investing/stock/ebay/financials


There's a lot more profit in being a platform than a retailer. Amazon is letting other parties use their platform to do the high-capital, low-margin, race-to-the-bottom retail side and taking a massive chunk out of each sale. This is much more lucrative than sourcing, building, buying, and storing items directly.


I don't know if it is new but lately I have seen more brand-new-sellers advertising low priced products on Amazon that never ship... You don't usually need to do anything to get a refund, but it wastes people's time and is especially bad if you miss out on a good deal on black Friday because of it...


Conterfeit products? There are brand owners who will have any resellers of their products removed. They threaten to shut down my store. Meanwhile it's easy to find a counterfeit iPod. Nobody seems to care.


+1. It's almost as if we're going to need "buyer's agents" before too long, the way Amazon is going. Independent curators for hire who can wade through all the crap listings for us.


Yes, this! Also (being from the smaller EU country), half of those listings on amazon.de now greet me with "This doesn't ship to your country.".

Of course, no filters to what does ship to me. One year ago that somehow wasn't even an issue. It seems that Amazon is turning into same crappy service as Ebay :(


You should provide numbers, not anecdotes. As the number of third party vendors grows, the long tail of bad vendors will fill itself out. That is not evidence that the mean/median experience has gotten worse.


As long as I can filter those out, I am good.


But you can only do that when you have time. I was recently investigating a product with very good reviews. They looked quite good. Then I noticed that most of them used very broken german which, when you compared them showed a pattern and looking into the users showed clearly that they were faked. But I can not trust that they are always that easy to spot, so the only possibility for me to check remains to check several low star reviews and look whether they complain about valid problems or just nonsense. The problem I see is that those fake stories are getting better and at some point will be indistiguishable from real reviews. And you will certainly not notice it when you are just quick checking several products or sellers in 30 seconds each.


I recommend checking the review analysis on [1] before making a purchase on Amazon.

[1] www.fakespot.com


How are you doing that? There are some things you can filter on, like brand, that come close, but not specifically "no third parties".

Edit: Answered my own question. You can find a place to restrict seller to "amazon.com". It's not 100% useful for all searches though, as you filter out sellers like "Apple", or "Bose". Would be nice if you could filter seller down to "Manufacturer or Amazon.com" in some easy way.


TweetDeck for Amazon: I See A Great Need.


The days when I thought of ordering from amazon as a hassle free experience are long over. I now largely think of Amazon as a more expensive AliExpress.

a. Their search is broken.

b. Same item is listed by different sellers as different SKUs.

c. You cannot rely on reviews anymore.

d. You cannot filter by merchant and rely on receiving an item that is genuine since Amazon will comingle inventory from multiple merchants for the same SKU. Ie buying a product from Amazon has no guarantee that it is actually an item stocked by Amazon.

e. Their price competetiveness appears to have eroded. Best Buy etc no longer feel like a complete rip off in comparision.

f. Other retailers (Macys etc) have much more hassle free return policies.

Prime is the single thing that Amazon gets right in the whole selling experience - which is why I now think of Amazon as more of a logistics company than I do as a retailer.


> c. You cannot rely on reviews anymore.

The problem with reviews on these sites in general is that they're not written like editorial reviews. You've got to take them with a grain of salt whether they're incentivized or not.

The negative reviews can be useful only if they identify specific problems, but I see a lot of negative reviews by people who just didn't spend time reading the manual.

In terms of the "purge", some people on the reddit product testing forums have noted that many of their incentivized 3 star reviews were deleted while their 5 star reviews were not.

The new rules also don't ban reviews on products that were received for free. The catch is that there must be no obligation to write a review at all, and that the sample provider does not try to influence positive votes by making future samples conditional on those reviews.

You'll notice that the "I received a sample/discount in exchange for an honest review" has been replaced by "I received a test sample with no obligation to provide a review here. I am doing it on my own, bla bla".

There are a lot of honest incentivized reviewers out there. They may slant toward positive reviews, but if you read the text of their reviews, you can tell if the product is good or not. Full disclosure, I've done my share of incentivized reviews. Having said that, I spent way a lot of time writing those reviews (and doing photos/videos for them) than I did for my verified purchases. Mainly because I wanted to dispel any notion that my reviews were complete BS.

I actually look at other incentivized reviews for the products I've written, and about half are honest, and the other half are hyperbolic BS. I always do disclosures, but the #1 ranked reviewer in Amazon in my country does not disclose his incentivized reviews (he has gotten the same samples as me around the same time) and does not appear to have been penalized for that. I'm sure I get downvotes on reviews just because of my disclosures in my reviews, but I'm not going to leave out the disclosures just to boost my rank either.

In terms of "positive" reviews. I accept only stuff I want that doesn't look like it's crap in the first place. That already tilts me towards a positive review. Next, I always ask myself "is this good for the price". Most of the stuff I get is very low priced compared to their competition. Am I supposed to treat a $20 set of Bluetooth earbuds with the same critical ear as a $150 pair? I don't think so. So yeah, my bsr to hit 5 stars is pretty low. As long as it's well made and performs well for the price, I'm not going to be particularly harsh.

Finally, I buy a lot of stuff from Amazon and have a Prime subscription. How do I evaluate products I want to buy? I look at all the reviews, including the incentivized ones. I read them carefully to determine if the reviewer knows what he/she is talking about and whether they bring up any insights that the other reviewers don't mention.


> but I see a lot of negative reviews by people who just didn't spend time reading the manual.

One star - Amazon screwed up the delivery.


All your problems can be addressed by filtering by items that are sold by amazon, and not buying from 3rd party sellers.

I can buy the complaints about Search (though really it's a problem of having too much selection). However, I've had universally positive return experiences, so I have no idea what you're on about there.


Please see point d. Specifying Amazon as the seller merchant does not mean what you think it means. Let me give an example in the form of a question / answer

a. If Amazon sells a 64 GB Sandisk card

b. Merchants A and B also sell the same card

c. Merchants A and B have opted into the fulfilled by Amazon program.

Question: You purchase the 64 GB Sandisk card and pick Amazon as the seller. Whose inventory did the card come from?

Answer: Undefined.

For semantic purposes we can think of the following mental model - For a given SKU Amazon takes the memory cards from its own inventory and inventory from all other resellers who have opted into the "Fulfilled by Amazon" program (in our example A and B) and puts it together in a giant heap in its warehouse. When a order comes in a card is picked at random from the heap and shipped out to you.


And this definitely isn't a theoretical problem. People have had countfit items delivered by Amazon.com themselves because of the comingle issue (and third party vendors suspended because a different vendor tried to sell fakes, and they got comingled).


> For a given SKU Amazon takes the memory cards from its own inventory and inventory from all other resellers who have opted into the "Fulfilled by Amazon" program

No. Sellers have to opt-in to co-mingle, so it's certainly not "all other resellers".

Besides, I think co-mingle only applies to resellers's stock, ie Amazon stock and 3rd party sellers' stock aren't put together in the same basket -- although I could be wrong about that.


Answer: Amazon's

If you buy the one that's sold by Amazon it will come from the stock that's bought by Amazon.


That is not what this article claims =>

http://www.wsj.com/articles/on-amazon-pooled-merchandise-ope...

Do you have any sources which specify that Amazon treats it own inventory seperately?


They have no reason to. The idea of commingling is they can pick the best warehouse to ship from when a customer orders instead of (potentially) shipping across the country. They actually like commingling because it helps their logistics.


Generally Sandisk items are restricted, i.e. only authorized resellers are allowed to list them on amazon. (There's also a $1000 fee payable to Amazon to be allowed to sell them.)

So for Sandisk specifically this isn't a concern, although your comment applies to other, unrestricted brands.


Not sure that policy is working.

This listing came up in the top 10 when searching for "Sandisk 32GB": https://www.amazon.com/SanDisk-microSDHC-Package-Extenders-A...

The seller is "VP Distributor" and the brand is "Sadnisk" (sic). I don't see any links to see more info about the seller.


Click on the seller to get https://www.amazon.com/sp?_encoding=UTF8&asin=&isAmazonFulfi...

98% positive and 2250 lifetime feedback ratings means it's probably a good seller, just not authorized for sandisk and listed there to get around the rules. If someone took the time to report them the listing would be removed.

OTOH the same seller lists https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00M55C0VU, which I've confirmed on my account is restricted. So maybe they are authorized, and just listing on any ASIN they can find that matches the product? I've done that sometimes.

It doesn't look like customers are being harmed in this particular case, it's possible some unauthorized seller created the listing and VP distributor simply jumped on it at a later point, the first seller could be suspended now.


There's a d., the seller has to agree to co-mingle their inventory. Which a lot don't, since that means they can get dinged by another 3rd party's bad inventory....


I've been a Prime member for years, and I order stuff very often so the free shipping definitely is worth the membership fee.

I always use the "Amazon Prime" filter when I search, and I've never had any issues with those items. Sellers have to share a little more profit with Amazon to be listed as Prime, but I think that's enough of a bar to eliminate the fraudsters.

The only times I've had problems were with non-Prime sellers, but luckily those were just long-delays rather than outright fraud.


Why do you feel Amazon search is broken?


Amazon needs to also stop disallowing bad reviews. I put up a bad review once, with no profanity or anything obviously worthy of rejecting other than a bad review of a product, and they refused to post it citing something "against their policy". All I can think of is the fact that i accused the product of being a fake/counterfeit which was most certainly true.

Of course the real moral of that story is never buy anything made of any kind of fabric from a China seller. You'll get something 2 sizes too small and only roughly similar to what you saw in the picture, and in my experiences anything you think you're getting from China which is a "name brand" will indeed be a knock off (fake) one.


I've had bad reviews rejected because they mentioned things unrelated to the product. If I do a negative 1 star review on the product, never had the review rejected.


This thread has given me a big lack of confidence in Amazon as a retail outlet.

I see a lot of "you're problem is solved by doing X", and maybe that's fine for me if I care to remember the advice but I'm not the big spender in my family, and I certainly don't care to put in the effort to keep up-to-date on how not to get screwed by shopping at a particular website.

From what I can tell, there's are issues with fake reviews, fake vendors, and counterfeit products being commingled with genuine products. Why would I put myself in a situation where I know any of these are potential problems?

Add to that when I have had problems with Amazon, the support channels have historically been unclear and they have an extraordinarily poor reputation for how they treat their employees.

What is the logical path that would make me want to spend my money with this particular vendor?


Two thoughts:

(1) It's always been standard practice in the publishing industry to provide free Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) to reviewers, and I've noticed that many independent ebook authors on Amazon have adopted this practice. Am I to understand that Amazon will now disallow providing ARCs to book reviewers? Because that would fly in the face of standard industry practice -- a practice that I think very few people have ever complained about over the years.

(2) Isn't this exactly what the Amazon Vine program does? I.e., provide free products to people so they can review them? Are they stopping Vine? (Maybe they already did.) Are they admitting that the Vine program led to inflated reviews?


Amazon seller here- Amazon Vine costs something like 4k per SKU. That makes it dead to most sellers.


Are there sufficient number of good engineers left with Amazon yet? I wonder.

Look at their search quality. Terrible even at its best. I searched for laptop and wanted to see the cheapest so selected "sort by Price low to high", lo and behold, I was flooded with a never ending list of wired and wireless mice, keyboards, usb cables, and what not. I had to click on multiple pages before I could get to the first laptop entry.

This is ridiculous or do they prevent their engineers for experiencing this pain?

They are better off outsourcing their search problem to Google, just as Apple learnt to outsource the maps problem to Google. No offense intended.


Amazon has lost a lot o appeal lately. Since they moved to Amazon Logistics from DHL here in Berlin, I had several lost or non delivered items, items were delivered at 8pm to a business address or on Saturday - this all being a Prime customer. Working with customer support was a pain.

Several people I know - including me - wish for a real Amazon alternative, and I've been a customer right from the beginning spending 90% of my online money at Amazon.


Sounds a lot like the OnTrac carrier in the Bay Area. One time they left a package for me at the Subway next to my building.

I stopped using Amazon same-day shipping (even when offered for free!) because it almost always used OnTrac and I would have about a 50/50 shot of actually getting the item the same day.


I've stopped getting any expiedated deliveries from Amazon via OnTrac sometime in the last year in SF proper. I think they've shifted it to in-house logistics (I think via Prime Now ICs or via Prime Fresh trucks).


UPS in the Bay Area has "pick up points" for packages. One was a gas station down the road from me. I had ordered a $500 product so I was glad it wasn't on my patio until 7pm (got to the gas station at 730p), but it was unclear where the clerk was storing packages besides under the counter.


They use LSO around here for same day and it's been pretty unreliable. On the bright side I've gotten a few months of prime and about $100 in credit back.


Try to have them deliver to a PackStation. Only DHL can ship to those :-)


Good move, but the damage has been done. My recent product search have 'incentivized' reviews and it has been very hard to make any decisions, so I have been double checking the reviews from other sources. Due to this, I also found that Amazon prices are no longer competitive and my recent purchases have been via Target with either free shipping or local store pickup with cheaper prices.


I bought a bunch of crap on Amazon based on these reviews. I feel lied to and it will definitely make me rethink next I recklessly binge purchase items based on the star ratings.


IMO. Amazon.com has became a poor ebay.

On Ebay, it's clear that you're only buying from a 3rd party seller and you can see who it is and what's his reputation.


That's a good point. On amazon, you have to know to click on the seller link to drill down to reputation. EBay has that information front and center on the listing.


One of my hobbies when bored is to look at (unusually) expensive items on Amazon (say, a GBP 40K Hasselblad camera) and all their reviews. 99% of the reviews are jokes, all of the same predictable form: 'I spent my life savings on this, now I live in the box it came in'; 'Such good value I bought ten'; or attributing ridiculous properties to the product. [1] I then flag each review as inappropriate, and mark them as unhelpful.

I know this is not going to fix the problem, unfortunately. I just find these puerile attempts at humour rather sad and don't understand why they are tolerated; both by Amazon and even other site users, who mark the reviews as helpful, and comment approvingly. Amazingly, some of the approving comments are even voted as helpful. I guess that everyone who can afford to spend GBP 20K on a TV are probab;y not influenced by reviews.

[1] https://www.amazon.co.uk/review/R2DQ4KXJL8RIJR/ref=cm_cr_rdp...


In the past couple of weeks, I've searched for several categories of items on Amazon: umbrellas, paint brushes, and acrylic paint. Almost every product's page was dominated by five-star incentivized reviews.


In order to make this claim, Amazon, TechCrunch, and the researcher they cite must be able to accurately identify the population of incentivized reviews. How is that possible?

Incentivized reviews, if I'm using the term correctly, are designed to be indistinguishable from 'real' reviews. The reviewers aren't going to reveal which ones are incentivized.

If you think you can identify them, what you mean is that you can identify the ones that you identify; it's literally that much of a tautology. You have no idea of your accuracy, how many true and false positives and how many true/false negatives.

What Amazon is done is the same; they remove reviews that meet certain criteria. Amazon claims the criteria are an accurate proxy for incentivized reviews but I doubt they can confirm that.

At best they are raising the bar so that only better written incentivized reviews remain, and incentivized reviewers will adjust to the new standard. Users, no longer seeing incentivized reviews that they can identify, will assume the situation has improved. Really, they are still being conned but now don't know it.


It's funny how whenever the topic of machine learning comes up Amazon is mentioned as a world class leader. However, their search is quite poor as many have mentioned. It still seems like "search" is a technically hard problem to get right.


Naive question - Does anybody know how the Amazon reviews datasets available online have been generated? Is it web scraping? (on millions of reviews?!) Or partnership with academics? Or something else?

Looking at https://snap.stanford.edu/data/web-Amazon.html and http://jmcauley.ucsd.edu/data/amazon/, I can't find any mention on what process they used to generated these datasets.


For stuff like this, Millesime imperial for men, I cannot be sure I am buying the real thing or a counterfeit. This is totally the opposite of what I expected amazon to represent, i'm not quite sure when this decline started to happen.

https://www.amazon.com/Creed-Millesime-Imperial-Spray-4-0/dp...


There are a bunch of domains where you should just avoid buying anything on Amazon that's sold by a third party, and this strikes me as one of them.

And if it's sold by Amazon itself, hope it's either in one of the categories where they don't commingle, like food, or that you luck out. I'd hope anything you ingest or put on your skin like this would be in a "No Commingling!" category....


If I'm purchasing a physical item where quality matters and I don't want to end up with a shoddy product or cheap knockoff, I don't buy from Amazon. Exceptions are books and the occasional AmazonBasics cable.

It's a shame, because they had a great service, and their delivery infrastructure remains great. But I don't need same day delivery if you're delivering junk.


While I like the sentiment, and have seen my trust of Amazon and reviews at Amazon plummet in recent years, I suspect this will just push the practice underground. Unscrupulous vendors will continue to utilize their network of "reviewers", but will no longer instruct them to include a disclaimer about the reviewers being given free products in exchange for (almost always positive) reviews.


With the effect that it will just screw amazon further. Because of this problem I've started buying products directly from the brand stores or walmart/costco/target. I completely stopped buying from ebay years ago because of similar problems.


I guess curation (of products, content, reviews, vendors, everything) remains one of the big problems of the internet age, where there's a million of everything and it's hard to know who to trust.


After many years of turning no profit, Amazon has finally found its business model. Would not be surprised if they moved out of retail altogether.




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