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Sellers printing counterfeit books and selling under Amazon's brand (twitter.com/billpollock)
590 points by dash488 on March 21, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 309 comments

Counterfeits in comingled inventory has become pretty common on Amazon these days. "Fulfillment by amazon" has led them to comingle inventories on common products, meaning every seller's product gets jumbled together.

I've gotten counterfeit huggies diapers from amazon (invalid serial number for huggies 'points' and different build quality), Mach 3 razor blades, GE MWF Water filters, even a counterfeit baby bath.

The baby bath counterfeit was obvious I got a box with only chinese characters on the box:

Here is there response: " We had a recent issue with an Amazon seller selling “knock-off” Blooming Baths on our Amazon account. We have since had this seller removed entirely from Amazon, as these are counterfeit items and NOT the Blooming Bath. The product you have received is not ours, I suggest returning it and ordering again from Amazon or from www.bloomingbath.com. Just make sure the seller you buy from is “Blooming Bath” if you buy from Amazon.

Very sorry for this inconvenience. "

I no longer trust amazon for anything health related - it just seems too easy to get counterfeit products into their system.

I've been running into his problem personally. About 25% of our business now is done via Amazon. We sell to Amazon retail directly and also use Amazon FBA internationally.

The problem is that "other sellers" keep beating us to the buy box for certain SKUs. Amazon keeps asking us to sell to them for a lower price. The funny thing is, Amazon already gets the lowest price, by far, compared to all other distributors. I know, we are the manufacturer. Some of the SKUs we don't even sell to anyone else anymore but Amazon, yet still these random businesses seem to be selling our products. Some are fake, some are watered down. Some are… I don't even know. I have a lot of trouble figuring out who these people are and how they are getting our products or look-a-likes at prices low enough to resell, since we don't sell them to anyone at these prices!

Amazon needs to double down on the vetting they do for new sellers.

Starting in 2018 I'm going to re-SKU/UPC every product we sell to Amazon and start closing the listings on old corrupt ones. It's going to be a pain in the ass, but I see no other choice. We have about 300 SKUs and trying to manage them all and fend off all these shitty sellers is becoming a huge burden on me and our brand.

And ideally, actually, I'd like Amazon to offer a feature that essentially "bans" third parties from listing a SKU at the manufacturers request. I'd gladly pay to few thousand a year to ensure that the only one that can sell our products is Amazon themselves.

They do a lot of brand gating, but not on demand like you'd want.

I don't think you'll gain much from re-skuing products. You'll lose all your reviews and ranking, and at best will get a few months until the counterfeiters find the new listings.

Also, you can't fully close the old ones, so people will still sell on them, there will be multiple search results, bad customer experience, etc.

The better approach is to go after the sellers through Amazon, send infringement notices, etc. Might take some time, but once done they'll be gone forever.

If you'd be interested in having a conversation with me about these issues, we can set something up, email's in my profile. I'm heading back from the ASD show right now and I'll be swamped for a few days but email and we can work something out.

> Might take some time, but once done they'll be gone forever.

Won't they just open a new account? I doubt a new identity and bank account are major obstacles to counterfeiters.

It takes a few months before a new account can get the buy box. You can get a seller shut down quicker than that.

And it may be possible to get new identity and accounts, but they aren't easy or unlimited. Scammers will go after the lowest hanging fruit.

I run a few Amazon stores with about 10,000 SKUs -- don't re-SKU, what you want to do is brand gating... IF you are the brand owner and/or manufacturer. I can give you a few tips if you just need some advice. I'm guessing you don't have a vendorcentral account manager, but if you do, they can VERY effectively start banhammering the 3P knockoff companies.

Also, check out sellercentral forums for a community of folks there too. It's not HN but it's pretty active.

If even very large, legitimate brands like Apple, Energizer, Sandisk, Huggies, etc can't seem to get control of counterfeits sold on amzn, than it seems the solution might be a bit more complex.

Apparently even worse at alibaba:


Apple earbuds are probably the best case example. Look at the reviews. The volume of fakes is enormous and it's impossible to spot (as Amazon).

You would think hat Amazon would just tell everyone who isn't Apple who is trying to list that SKU to get lost.

Currently using Vendor Express for retail. Not sure we are big enough to get a vendor central AM.

Hey, you don't have contact info on your profile, so I'm trying this. Any chance you have time to talk about your experience, tomorrow? My email is smann@inc.com

(If the answer is no, you don't want to talk about it or don't have time, that's obviously totally okay!)

>Some of the SKUs we don't even sell to anyone else anymore but Amazon.

It seems crazy to me that they don't have an easy process to support this. Amazon must have as much to gain by being the sole reseller as you do from them blocking other suppliers. I don't see why they don't offer a one-click agreement that a manufacturer can sign saying essentially "we won't sell this through any other channels if you won't accept any other sellers"

No: Antitrust.

There's no excuse for Amazon selling and profiting from counterfeits though. Buck stops with them.

It wouldn't be antitrust if YOU are the manufacturer. Amazon does this for some products already, particularly their own. They don't let 3rd parties list AmazonBasics products or Kindles.

Other retailers do this all the time. In fact, that used to be the status quo—signing an exclusive with a retailer.

Consider the possibility that your factory is manufacturing your product for their own account. This is a common problem where I live. Unauthorized, nighttime manufacturing runs are often the source of these problems.

Not happening in our case. We are much smaller than people realize in that respect.

>And ideally, actually, I'd like Amazon to offer a feature that essentially "bans" third parties from listing a SKU at the manufacturers request. I'd gladly pay to few thousand a year to ensure that the only one that can sell our products is Amazon themselves.

Isn't this what owning a trademark is for? Can people advertise that they have M&M's for sale without the permission of Mars Candy Inc?

>Can people advertise that they have M&M's for sale without the permission of Mars Candy Inc?


Lets say I buy a box of M&Ms. I didn't get around to eating them. Next month I decide to change my diet and get rid of the M&Ms. Copyright and trademark does not (and should not) prevent me from advertising "1 box M&Ms, $10" and then a buyer giving me $10 for my M&Ms.

The first sale doctrine gives me this right. Retail would be totally and completely non-functional otherwise.

Amazon, however, is free to disallow someone from selling something if they want to.

In the OP case copyright laws are sufficient.

So yeah is it to much to ask from amazon to respect trademark and/or copyright. Specially considering they are the dominant online book sellers.

I think people should start considering that when the DOJ hitted hard on Apple last year as they proposed an altenative to the near monopoly of Amazon maybe they hit the wrong target.

No. Neither copyright nor trademark prevents someone else from selling or listing your stuff. It does prevent people from making knock offs, but you have to PROVE that.

It's a massive burden to hunt these people down. You have to buy product from them and inspect it. They often hide behind a series of LLCs. You have to work with the site listing it to get it taken down and prove you are the manufacturer. It becomes a full time job very quickly.

Rode, the microphone company, has taken an approach I like which is that they don't sell on Amazon FBA at all. Even still, they have problems. I'd like to get big enough that we can just eliminate Amazon and go direct, but we aren't there yet.

>"Fulfillment by amazon" has led them to comingle inventories

The key phrase I look for that I haven't seen discussed in this thread explicitly is: "Ships from and sold by Amazon.com."

(That is the current status shown for the No Starch book prompting the thread.)[1]

Based on some youtube videos[2] showing FBA stocking bins at the warehouse, I can see where multiple 3rd-party seller using FBA Fulfillment by Amazon have comingled inventories.

Is there also evidence that 3rd-party sellers have contaminated Amazon's internal inventory? The short tweets from No Starch doesn't make it clear that you get counterfeit books when even when you choose "Ships from and sold by Amazon.com."

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Python-Kids-Playful-Introduction-Prog...

(If the amazon product page returns 404, this is the screenshot of what it looked like: http://imgur.com/a/gzrxF)

[2] https://youtu.be/dAXdeqcHBp4?t=4m21s

Yeah, I do that too. You used to be able to filter by seller and only view items sold by Amazon I was exceptionally irritated when they removed that ability.

You can do it but only by filtering down to a specific department. Once you do that you can choose Amazon.com as the seller filter.

I've stopped using Amazon for:

  - Anything eaten
  - Anything that consumes or stores power (too much fire risk)
  - Anything worn on the body (even socks)
And now, based on this article, it appears I'll have to stop using them for books, as how can I be sure it's word-for-word the same?

What's left?

I can't believe they let this go on while trying to market groceries. There's no way I'd ever consider buying anything edible from them. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't even realize they're being sold counterfeit goods.

Doesn't look like they commingle things with expiration dates.

'fire risk': oh noes. . . I bought my searzall and fire extinguisher off amazon.

> fire extinguisher off amazon.

I literally just had mine delivered yesterday from amazon. Now I'm a little woried

- Anything that consumes or stores power (too much fire risk)

So, where do you get, for example, external batteries for phones from? Amazon, eBay and Alibaba are pretty much the only online sources for these things, and I trust eBay and Alibaba even less than I trust Amazon.

I use Amazon for all of these things on a regular basis and have experienced zero problems, to provide a counterpoint to your anecdote.

You may not have had a problem (or at least not realized it), but plenty of other people commenting on this article have, and there is now a new article at the top of HN that shows how big the fake / counterfeit problem is getting:


Amazon is due for a reckoning. They've let this get completely out of control.

Crap, "fulfilled by Amazon" was my last line of defense against crap products, variable shipping, unacceptable state at arrival, etc etc.

Even at that, I recently bought two books, both arrived damaged. Returned them (I really don't want to have to do that, and I thought "fulfilled by" would reduce that likelihood), and the replacements were damaged. I gave up.

I bought a pair of dress shoes from Amazon on Cyber Monday.

The first pair arrived in a plan white box, and were damaged (not due to the courier).

I returned them to Amazon for replacement, and the pair I got back were in a fully branded box, with a lot more accessories than the first pair (storage bag, shape retainers).

So I'm left thinking that even though these were "Fulfilled by Amazon" there must have been some counterfeit mixed in with legit inventory. Otherwise I can't explain how the first pair seemed so... illegitimate in light of what I received as a replacement.

Fulfilled by amazon is and always has been the red flag. If you thought it was a line of defense you were mistaken unfortunately.

Shipped and Sold by Amazon is your last line of defense and I'm still convinced it's a trustworthy way to buy. What Amazon better do is assure that it remains that way AND give us an option to filter out EVERYTHING else.

Hmm. I wonder if I meant shipped and sold by. Those damaged books I mentioned were from December, and I haven't shopped there since; I might not be remembering correctly.

Regardless, it was a bad experience.

While "fulfilled by Amazon" can no longer guarantee something isn't counterfeit, they still do and process the return and will get you your money back at least (and the issue/loss will absolutely land in the sellers lap). At least they are still providing that safety net at the moment. But once they start pushing back on Prime members and this process things will nose dive at Amazon. I'm certain their are people scamming Amazon and seller's abusing that process too. It's only a matter of time until something changes...

We recently ordered 6 iPad mini's fulfilled by amazon. They were shrink wrapped and we use them as promo contest swag. After we had sent one out to a customer/prospect they called us and told us they received a piece of plastic that looked looked an ipad mini. Like a prop piece. We immediately opened the remaining 5 we had in our office and they were all fakes. We can no longer trust fulfilled by Amazon which greatly reduces the value of their Prime membership and "free" shipping. The good thing is that we were allowed to return them and get full credit. The down side is we will have to rip the shrink wrap and physically check these out from now on, regardless of who we buy them from before sending them out... which kind of sucks because now the box is opened. If the items were co-mingled who knows how/where they got in the supply. If the seller wasn't doing co-mingled and was doing drop shipping and wasn't actually intentionally trying to screw people... well they got screwed by someone.

If Amazon is knowingly selling fake items, that is a criminal offense, and the company should be prosecuted and put out of business.

While this may not be a perfect solution for you, you may be able to purchase locally and price match - I know I've use Best Buy's price matching policy on multiple occasions.

You might also find it worthwhile to simply find other providers who may be slightly more expensive but with better reliability - places like B&H Photo Video come to mind.

Whoa. So when I individually choose to get a product from a particular FBA seller on Amazon, it is not necessarily the one that originated from that seller?

It depends on the seller. Sellers can opt-out of commingled inventory, but it incurs additional labeling/packaging costs for them. If they've done this, then you're getting the physical item they've sent in to FBA. If they haven't, then you may get the physical item they sent in, or you may get some other item that someone else sent in under the same identifier.

As far as I know, there is no way to know whether an FBA seller uses commingled inventory before purchase. The only option is to ask and hope they're telling the truth.

It's not 100% guaranteed, but if you receive a product and the barcode has been covered with a sticker with a code starting with X e.g. X123456879, then it's most likely from that specific seller.

I got a counterfeit laptop power adapter. The thing had the brand name on it, and also the model number. But the counterfeiters decided to be clever and put in several model numbers on the same device. These numbers corresponded to completely different adapters listed on the actual manufacturer's site.

I guess amazon has a new brilliant business plan where thy make money from returns. Or Bezos has given up on AMZN and decided to buy UPS stock.

Amazon offers the option to NOT commingle inventory, but the FBA seller has to opt-in. Somewhat counterintuitively, if you know that the third-party seller has done this, you're safer buying from the trusted FBA seller rather than Amazon.com. Amazon.com will ship you anything that an FBA seller has submitted under the same product identifier.

Amazon is getting very strict re: counterfeit and knockoff products, as they've absolutely flooded the marketplace, and they're starting to take the reputation hit from it.

I will believe that when we see a solid policy designed to actually address this.

I don't think Amazon is going to make a lot of noise about this, because users who are unaware of this issue (which are still the vast majority) would then start to worry. They've sent out some light PR around it in business-oriented press outlets like Forbes.

Ask any FBA seller, especially those who do product arbitrage, and they'll tell you that Amazon is getting very aggressive with account suspensions and requiring a lot of documentation that the seller's original supplier is either the brand owner themselves or an authorized distributor.

I know a guy who did arbitrage with imports (authentic products, but "not authorized" because they were factory overruns). He made some good money for 2-3 months, but almost all of his products got removed for lack of verifiable paper trail and he ended up in a pretty bad spot.

>authentic products, but "not authorized" because they were factory overruns

These are counterfeit products. When you contract with a factory to make 10K units with your brand on them, they aren't allowed to use your brand to sell any number of "overruns" past that.

I'm not familiar with the legal definition of "counterfeit" so you may be correct. I'm using the common definition of counterfeit, meaning a falsified imitation product that is usually low-quality and always produced by a third party who has "reverse-engineered" the target product.

To most people, "counterfeit" does not mean literally the same product, produced by literally the same people, even if the company who commissioned the build didn't want some of those units to be released onto the market.

Personally, I dislike the suggestion that an identical product is "counterfeit" merely because the company that commissioned the product is seeking to constrain supply and keep their price point artificially high.

The contracts between the manufacturer and the client are unknown to buyers. If the contract is being breached, the client would probably be wise to seek to enforce the agreement.

I understand there are potential trademark implications (but afaik they're not necessarily cut and dry, IANAL), but IMO this doesn't classify something as a counterfeit product, at least as far as general usage is concerned. I make no comment on the legal classification/terminology.

The legal situation is fairly straightforward. If you have a trademark, it means that anyone who who uses places it on goods for sale without your consent is counterfeiting.

>To most people, "counterfeit" does not mean literally the same product, produced by literally the same people, even if the company who commissioned the build didn't want some of those units to be released onto the market.

And gone through the same quality control process, and subject to the same defect rejection standards? A huge part of why consumers trust the trademark is that it puts the reputation of the marking company on the line with the product - the manufacturer is saying that they stand behind the product and have ensured that it's to standard. Following the same process with the same tools and using the same people doesn't have that, and it's fraud to represent that it does.

>Personally, I dislike the suggestion that an identical product is "counterfeit" merely because the company that commissioned the product is seeking to constrain supply and keep their price point artificially high.

Being able to claim the benefits of your brand by controlling the supply is incredibly important to functioning market economies. If you make a widget with a novel feature that customers like, you can capitalize on it adding your trade mark and commanding a price premium. This pays for things like creating novel features, or adding to build quality, or going through more stringent defect rejection, or whatnot.

Consumers want and are willing to pay for these features. If the manufacturer can get undercut by a marginal-cost-only supplier that doesn't have to amortize the development of these features, then we end up not creating the high quality products that consumers want.

As a fellow layman I disagree with your anecdotal definition. I definitely consider this excess production to be counterfeit.

It's counterfeit branding but it's not counterfeit production. It's worth distinguishing the two, at least in terms of consumer harm.

I would disagree. It is counterfeit production. The entire notion of factory overruns being of the "same quality" as the original brand is very dubious to me. When the ODM ordered X instances of a part, the factory delivered X instances to them. There's no reason for them to create X instances for the order and an additional Y instances for themselves. Factory overruns, therefore, are instances that the original brand rejected because they were out of spec in some way. Now, that might be fine - the rejection might have been due to a quality issue, such as the silkscreened logo not being in the correct spot. Or, it might not be fine - the rejection might have been due to the chip not living up to its specified clock speed or memory capacity. The problem is, as a consumer, I have no way of knowing whether the "factory overrun" I'm buying is of the first sort or the second sort. That's why I'd consider it counterfeiting.

And when I file a warranty claim on this overrun product and the manufacturer sees that the serial is not on file and refuses to fulfil it what then?

If access to a warranty is what qualifies something as counterfeit, then almost everything we buy is counterfeit!

To be eligible for warranty claims, one frequently must register the product in advance and provide proof that it was purchased from an authorized retailer. There are a variety of other conditions that disqualify products for warranty coverage, so much so that it's practically always a crap shoot whether a given manufacturer will process the warranty claim or reject it with a flimsy justification.

Second-hand purchases are also generally not respected for warranty claims, but we don't consider everything sold used counterfeit.

If you anticipate utilizing warranty coverage, you have to cross all the is and dot all the ts. That's a class of consumer that isn't just going to buy from a third-party seller on Amazon without making sure that they're authorized and legitimate.

I'll also take this opportunity to note that this entire tangent arose out of a parenthetical statement where I indicated that I know someone who was selling what I consider to be non-counterfeit items from factory overruns. Nitpicks over the definition are not really related to the claim I was originally making. The anecdote remains valuable in its original context, which is that Amazon is policing FBA sellers more and more aggressively. Didn't mean to trigger a long subthread about the precise definition of "counterfeit" and whether or not a product has to be eligible for warranty to be authentic. ;)

I upvoted you because I think you have a reasonable position even if not everyone agrees with it. Disagreement is not a sufficient reason for downvoting.

> if you know that the third-party seller has done this

Is there an easy way to determine this?

/u/dalfonso suggests checking for a sticker that starts with X covering the package's original barcode [0], but that only works after you receive the item. I don't think there's any way to tell before you buy, other than asking the vendor or other customers.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13927309

After having received several counterfeit items (cheap electronics, chef's knife, household stuff) I avoid Amazon altogether. Funny thing, nowadays I trust Aliexpress or Gearbest (Chinese markets) more than Amazon or eBay -- at least I know what I pay for, what to expect and as a bonus, free shipping.

Wouldn't this be the perfect time to do a chargeback?

Not as long as amazon is perfectly willing to do a refund when you receive a product that wasn't as-advertised. And i haven't seen any evidence that amazon is unwilling to give a refund.

Not only will doing a chargeback destroy your amazon account, issuing a chargeback without first asking for a refund is probably against your credit card's ToS. A chargeback should be a measure of last resort, not the first solution you jump to.

Just make sure you don't have any Kindle books or AWS resources tied to the same Amazon account, in case Amazon cancels your account over the chargeback.

Ugh... there's a bit of stallman is right in the thought of avoiding seeking legal recourse because someone can take your ebooks away. (I know they "weren't mine")

Just strip the DRM from your ebooks when you buy them; then nobody can take them away from you.

Inventories are not "commingled" they are completely separate in the warehouses. Just because multiple vendors sell the same product and use the "fulfilled by Amazon" service to fool you doesn't mean Amazon is accidentally sending you an item from the wrong seller.

If you purchase from Amazon and don't check that it's "shipped and sold by Amazon" then you are asking for trouble.

The biggest issue is that Amazon has allowed, because of corporate greed, Amazon to become the new Chinese Ebay. The crap you have to wade through to find trusted sources is ridiculous. Amazon has lost a huge amount of trust because of this.

That said if you take the time to verify who the seller is you WILL get items from that seller and NOT from some other random seller. They are not just tossed into inventory together.

„...That said if you take the time to verify who the seller is you WILL get items from that seller and NOT from some other random seller...“


Source: Amazon seller

Mostly wrong. Amazon does not put all the inventory together into one bin, but they explicitly tell FBA sellers that they will ship a different seller's product with the same SKU if it is in a warehouse closer to the buyer, for example. Then, they make up for this by taking one of your product and putting it in the other seller's inventory. Thus inventory is commingled, both at shipment time and then in the inventory to make up for any commingling that happened at shipment time.

This is 100% untrue. What is your basis for this post?

If a seller chooses commingled inventory when setting up their account, they have no obligation to re-label the product, as amazon uses the existing barcode on the product. If you order a pack of pencils from XYZ_Pencilmart and they are using commingled inventory, amazon will just grab any old item from all the commingled sellers, then deduct an imaginary unit from XYZ_Pencilmart's account.

This is why commingled inventory is a nightmare for resellers - it's your reputation on the line, but someone else's inventory.

Amazon says that by default they are comingled: "Important: Items in your inventory that are identified and tracked using manufacturer barcodes are commingled with items of the same products from other sellers who also use manufacturer barcodes for those items."

- https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=...

My apologies... I violated my own pet peeve and spoke as if I knew when I hadn't taken the time to actually research for the truth... the truth being, as you all have said, that Amazon does commingle inventories. It's a sad day for me as it's just another mark against Amazon and it further erodes my trust in them as a consumer friendly company.

Its ridiculous the amount of energy and effort you have to waste in order to find a product that you don't suspect as being counterfeit on Amazon these days. The other day, I wanted a super bright flashlight that ran on AAA batteries and was of decent quality and price. I had to pour over the millions of listed flashlights, most looking physically identical, with the exception of the brand name printed on the flashlight itself. Then I read about how these flashlights are all mass produced by the same manufacturer and re-branded after distribution, so essentially 100 different flashlight brands are essentially the same flashlight (sorry, did a google search on this, don't remember exact link).

Anyways, I used Fakespot on a lot of these listings and it was pretty interesting to see just how many had questionable and outright blatantly fake reviews. Found the one I wanted, almost $20 and a couple of hours later. The flashlight definitely lived up to what it promised but I can't help but wonder if it would've just been easier to do this at a brick and mortar retail spot, like Fry's Electronics.

> The other day, I wanted a super bright flashlight that ran on AAA batteries and was of decent quality and price. I had to pour over the millions of listed flashlights, most looking physically identical, with the exception of the brand name printed on the flashlight itself. Then I read about how these flashlights are all mass produced by the same manufacturer and re-branded

You need a trusted third party to collate all of the information about a product category and then filter out all the crap. I have conveniently already done this for flashlights:


(Yes, I run it and yes it uses affiliate links.)

Also, AAA cells are terrible for flashlights. A single AAA cells is okay for a compact penlight but many use 3xAAA cells and 95% of the time 3xAAA lights have the worst engineering of any flashlight.

"trusted third party"

Who can guarantee the third party is either trusted or impartial?

> guarantee

Of course that is not possible. At best you can grade someone's past behavior according to a set of criteria. Though in this case most of https://reddit.com/r/flashlight/ would probably say that I am trustworthy and impartial ^_^

Yeah. A variation on my own story: http://seliger.com/2017/01/09/tools-continued-careful-buy-am... . It's definitely changed my buying habits. For example, I just got a Fujitsu SnapScan... from Office Depot. There's no way I'm buying a moderately expensive electronic item from Amazon anymore.

Agreed that Amazon should make it clearer when it is the actual seller, but, in your example, you knowingly bought from a third party. Why would this affect your future purchases from Amazon when Amazon is the seller?

What I dislike is when something has prime listed on it and when you look closer it's not even sold or shipped by amazon. Just some company that "meets the requirements". I use amazon's prime because their warehouse in 30 minutes away and I get stuff same day or overnight.

I used to get my stuff that quickly, now they just wait a day or two before shipping it so it's still 2 days before it arrives.

Yeah, they've been doing this forever with super saver shipping. They literally will not ship a product for 5 days if a warehouse is close.

Commingled inventory means that Amazon can sell and ship a knockoff sent in by a third party seller.

>Then I read about how these flashlights are all mass produced by the same manufacturer and re-branded after distribution, so essentially 100 different flashlight brands are essentially the same flashlight (sorry, did a google search on this, don't remember exact link).

This is called a "private label." You can find the exact un-branded product and order direct from China from either Alibaba or Ali-Express or eBay for like half the price of Amazon (if you don't mind waiting for something to ship from China)

When I buy phone chargers from Amazon I intentionally avoid the manufacturer branded ones because I know it's going to be fake. I usually choose a well known 3rd party brand with good reviews.

poor experiences with cheap phone chargers/etc are the reason I've been sticking to the Amazon Basics line.

and then Anker, because the cats won't chew through those.

>poor experiences with cheap phone chargers/etc are the reason I've been sticking to the Amazon Basics line.

This is a brilliant strategy on Amazon's part.

> This is a brilliant strategy on Amazon's part.

Indeed. I was recently in the market for a small mono/tripod to bring with me on vacation.

Looking at the "Best Sellers" for this category, it's blatantly obvious that Amazon is just taking the existing top 3 models, copying them almost 1:1, and then undercutting the original product price with their "Amazon Basics" branded product.

How are you supposed to survive selling a product when even Amazon is out there copying it and selling it for less?

Are you sure they're not just buying them in from the manufacturers and rebranding?

They might be, but what would the manufacturer's incentive be to compete with "Amazon Basics" ?

Amazon is selling it for less, and putting their branding on the product.

I'm hardly a widget manufacturer, but to me this would be a nonsensical choice for a them to manufacture as an ODM for Amazon when they're also selling their own product through Amazon.

So what's the over/under on when Amazon will be cluelessly selling commingled counterfeits of "Basics" items? A week?

Amazon Basics is amazon's line of products, you can't sell them yourself because they'd always be counterfit (or used)

By the same process in which Amazon has sold counterfeit NoStarch books, Amazon could also sell counterfeit "Basics" products. At this point, we're pretty sure it has something to do with commingling...

Why would Amazon let anyone sell an Amazon Basics product? It's not a "Basics" category, it's the "Amazon Basics" brand. Nobody else could produce those.

Hey man, sometimes the system just does what you tell it to do, rather than what it should have known you meant. b^)

If they aren't the only alternative that comes to my mind is someone /buys/ an actual Amazon Basics product, doesn't open it, and somehow sells it elsewhere while 'returning' a counterfeit product or defective unit to the inventory.

However if they (Amazon) are doing their job then the risk to reward ratio should be far too high on this.

If Amazon doesn't have good controls to prevent people from selling fake Apple products, I wouldn't assume they have good internal controls to prevent the seeking off their own products either.

They could create a well done fake listing.

It really is. There's at least some level of trust there as well.

At least I was pretty sure they're Apple MFI certified. I've never had any issues with them at all, they're well priced, and so far, reliable. And they have a 1 year warranty, which is nice for a cable.

the Amazon Basics line has a lot of stuff. Dishes too!

There's a product called "Grannick's Bitter Apple" that you spray on cords to prevent the cats from chewing on them. It's labeled for dogs but it works on cats (in my experience).

Let me guess, those millions of listings of the same flashlight also ranged in price from $1.55 to $67.99, right?

Yep, super sketchy to say the least.

It was especially hilarious during the hoverboard craze-- there were hundreds of versions of the exact same item, being sold for $200-$1500.

Were there any hover boards that weren't private labels?

I wouldn't be too confident about quality or authenticity of products in brick and mortar retail spots

I wonder about that too. How do I really know that a pair of Levi jeans at Target is genuine?

It doesn't matter. Levi's these days are trash. Bought a pair at the official Levi's store which lasted all of 6 months before there were holes in the pockets. (to replace a 5 year old pair that was fine except I was too fat for it.)

Agreed, I've had the same experience with clothing. I have a 15-year old sweater that is still in better condition than the ones I purchased one or two years ago.

It seems to me that most stores either sell counterfeit products, or all mid-tier brands have given up and sell low-tier products for the same old prices. It's no surprise then that consumers are flocking to low-price, low-tier stores: at least they know what they get.

If you're still on the market for cheapo whatever jeans, I've had good wear time on jeans from Round House. I've seen others recommend Pointer brand from LC King, though I don't have personal experience with them. Both USA-made.

They're almost guaranteed to be 'genuine' Levis.

But you can't be sure Target hasn't asked Levis to counterfeit themselves.

What do you mean by "counterfeit themselves?"

Do you mean selling the same exact product made by Levis under the Target label?

Levis (may) make products specifically for Target with the Levis brand, but with inferior quality and materials to get the price down to fit Target's desired profit margin.

Interesting perspective.

Thanks for FakeSpot. I used to use the "honest and unbiased" check. If your review is "honest and unbiased" you're probably reviewing a bullshit product.

Ah ha, it looks like FakeSpot is fooled when Amazon removes the bad reviews. Have a look at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B010NEW9JM/. That's obviously some low quality bullshit. Find in page for 'honest' and it has the trigger phrase.

> I received this set at a discounted price in exchange for my fair and honest review.

> My wife and I review products that we receive either free or at a discount in exchange for our honest and unbiased reviews.

> Disclaimer: I received this product at a discount in exchange for my honest/unbiased review.

I wish we could kill these products and sellers with some secondary review process.

Also, Amazon should understand that we generally don't want these reviews removed because that effectively creates an antibiotic-resistant version of fake reviewers. Much better to leave them in so I can killfile them.

I ran into this recently while shopping for SLR filters. The listing on amazon.ca [1] looked pretty legit but price was too good and a few reviewers claimed these were fake. What threw me off in particular is that the seller for these B+W filters is B/W. However once I checked what else B/W was selling alarms went off immediately as it's all kinds of stuff with "BW" in the name, like these cheap security cameras [2].

I'm not sure how the average person has a snowball's chance in hell of spotting stuff like this on Amazon. It's getting very sketchy.

[1] https://www.amazon.ca/XS-Pro-Clear-Filter-Multi-Resistant-Co... [2] https://www.amazon.ca/BWND4S-Definition-FormatTVI-Vari-Focal...

Yeah, it's terrible. I pretty much won't touch anything new on Amazon unless it has: been recommended by a friend or been well-received on /r/BuyItForLife or Sweethome/Wirecutter.

Not a handheld flashlight, but if you're still looking, I highly recommend the Black Diamond Spot found here here: http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-headlamp/ . Super bright, but adjustable, durable, good spread and throw distance, and sips power at reduced brightness settings.

And related, I've had very good luck with just going with The Wirecutter's/The Sweethome's picks when I don't feel like poring through a bunch of reviews on things. As a warning, though, I'm normally immune to the desire to buy random crap I don't really need, but they seem to break through that for some reason.

I had a similar situation with multi-tools. I was looking for other brands outside of the big ones (Leatherman, SOG, Gerber) to set what my options were. On Amazon, there were a bunch of nearly identical multi-tools sold under different brands names. That turned me off from wanting to buy there at all.

Ending up buying one directly from Leatherman's website.

I only buy when is sold directly "by amazon" if the seller is not amazon then all bets are off.

My understanding is that Amazon mixes their stock with items from other sellers as long as they have the same sku. If this is true there is no benefit in buying things sold directly from Amazon.

That doesn't work at all to solve this problem.

I've had the same problem with kitchen strainers, bike seats, and microphone stands. Hundreds (thousands?) of nearly-identical products on Amazon, all private-labeled, most with questionable reviews. Zero confidence that it's a good product.

If we are at the point where Amazon is being compared to quality at Fry's, things have gotten really bad. Fry's has so many issues with returns, etc. and just slapping them back on the shelf.

Also the funny thing is that most of these fakes have extra-ordinary specs :). So the real ones have lower but true specs and are listed at much higher prices. The consequences is that you can't even see real item until you get to 4th or 5th page!

This is where Amazon loses out for me. I've started buying things on sites devoted to that item - a camera and lenses on FredMiranda, flashlights on Candlepower forums (highly recommend it for flashlights), and so on.

Out of interest, what torch did you end up buying?

J5 Hyper V Tactical Flashlight. Was really bright as advertised. No complaints but its hard for anyone to understand how bright a flashlight is until you actually use it, but youtube videos definitely help and so do legit reviews.

These specific flashlights can be bought from AliExpress for two or three dollars a piece. I totally agree that they're a great light, just don't pay more than a couple bucks for one. I bought a pack of five for ten dollars.


Sorry, I can't seem to find a link. It's been a year or so since I bought them, but I've got one of these flashlights in every room where I spend time, and a couple in my hiking/camping gear. They are not stupid bright, but the light is bright and very uniform. I'd keep checking AliExpress. I'm sure a pack of them will pop up again sometime. Sorry I couldn't find a link.

All those rebrands are coming from alibaba. Just go to ali express and buy direct if you want one. The "entrepreneurs" using jungle scout are flooding amazon with rebranded alibaba stuff.

This is go-to strategy for /r/entrepreneur's crowd. If I remember correctly, Tim Ferris even recommends it in "4 Hour Workweek."

It's the go to of the (small-business) entrepreneurs all over the web (TheFastlane, /r/entrepreneur, etc.).

I'm fairly certain it started around 4 years ago with Matt Clark's "Amazon Selling Machine." A friend who paid the $1000 let me watch the course and it was a pretty simple (and old) tactic.

Buy wholesale and sell at markup. Except this time you would have it under your own "private label" (i.e a Chinese factory would slap your logo on a generic and sell it to you).

Apparently he made a killing doing the same thing with silicone spatulas.

> $1000 ... course

Wow. Surely the best advice such a course could possibly give would be 'convince people you can teach them to make money, and charge a lot for it'.

Yeah a few years ago it was SEO courses , now Amazon selling courses which are way overpriced, next ... ?

Who gets rich in a goldfish, the miners or the person selling the tools?

If you're in a goldfish I think you're already out of luck

I think he's trying to say "you can't teach a goldmine to ride a bicycle".

Edit: Humorless. Sad.

I didn't downvote, but I just don't think people understood the joke (I for one didn't)

Pure goldfish, thanks for that.

No, meant goldrush, not sure why I typed goldfish..

> Who gets rich in a goldfish

I think it must be the diver because he found the treasure chest, assuming that it isn't counterfeit:


Historically, the people who got rich during the gold rush were the ones offering services and selling goods to the miners.

So the answer to your question is the latter.

The private labeling strategy is also getting to be a thing in the travel hacking crowd too.

See, for example, http://www.frugalhack.me/2017/02/23/private-labeling-101-int...

It works if you have an audience. I suspect very few of those who are just sticking the stuff up on Amazon are successful unless they happen to find a niche without a lot of other people doing the same thing.

Yes, its those Americans ripping off books and printing them for near free, ruining English artists and writers. Remember the HMS Pinafore- what a royalty massacre, by those lawless Bösentals!

There is only one way, to bring those evil-doers back to the light of justice. Tax them for whatever they stole! Oh, sorry, wrong century, wrong villain!

I assume you're trying to imply that danjoc is racistly assuming that these "entrepreneurs" are Chinese? It seems to me you're the one who brought that assumption in. Alibaba is Chinese, sure, but the "entrepreneurs" in question are not necessarily.

I try to relive the historic moment, when printing without royalty was common place- also know as enlightenment. Im not implying racism, its just the anger of the has-something over the ladder climbers beneath taking the same steps, his grandfather took, to get "up". I mock, what every book on the history on printing could tell you- that this joke was here several times. Although never this cheap before. People who laughed at historys repetition, also laughed over..

Impressive Markov work, dude.

There is plenty of room at the bottom. Yesterday they screamed for the singularity, for information to be free, today it is free, and they yell for protection, of their minds hard labor, so completely different from the protection they deny those who work with their hands. Tomorrow, some Namibian kid, learning with cheap ripoff books, will cure there cancer, allowing them to scream on for the centuries to come. To get downvoted by this, this is praise.

There's no way to report a counterfeit on Amazon unless you're claiming a violation of your own IP rights. I've complained about fake solid state relays. There are lots of fake "Fotek" solid state relays. UL has noticed.[1] The fakes are usually marked with much higher amp ratings than they can handle safely. Look at this "100 amp" fake "Fotek" relay on Amazon.[2] Fotek doesn't even make a 100 amp relay in that packaging. [3] 100 amps requires bigger terminals.

These things tend to fail into the ON state, which is not good. Or they melt down or catch fire under full load.

[1] http://www.ul.com/newsroom/publicnotices/ul-warns-of-solid-s... [2] https://www.amazon.com/Commoon-FOTEK-24V-380V-SSR-100DA-Modu... [3] http://www.fotek.com.tw/center1.asp?classNo=4&class2_sn=16

Apple has filed suit against an Amazon supplier as well [1]. Even Apple can't police Amazon's cruft.

The issue here remains, if Amazon profits from fake items, why are they not responsible for the outcomes?

Do they live in some alternate reality where they don't have to play by the same rules?

[1] http://www.computerworld.com/article/3133627/technology-law-...

Yes. They are a "tech" company. It's not breaking the law it's "disrupting". See Uber, Airbnb, etc.

They're not ripping people off, they're Moving Fast And Breaking Things!

They're not screwing investors, they're "failing fast".

Seems like a smart lawyer could make a good chunk of change from Amazon if they can reliably acquire counterfeit goods and sue on behalf of the brand.


This actually seems to be an edge case that falls through the rules as written. You can't know that you're peddling counterfeit goods without violating the law, but you can negligently "whoops-didn't-mean-to" sell counterfeit goods. And as soon as you officially know, you put a hard halt to things there. So the manufacturer has to play whack-a-mole with the counterfeit suppliers to various points in the supply chain.

Yea, this annoyed me when I was buying a camera. Blatantly fake products that even had things in the description like "navigate to www (dot) spamhackwebsite (dot) com to purhcase![sp]" but I had to send a general support ticket to report.

Oh yeah, there's a charger which has a fake ETL Mark, Intertek put out a notice http://www.intertek.com/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=34359... but the product is still out there.

"There's no way to report a counterfeit on Amazon unless you're claiming a violation of your own IP rights"

I feel this is problematic - one would think that AMZN would want to at least have a 'heads up' with respect to these issues very quickly to look into them, you know, to protect their brand?

Because if Amazon is selling you 'XYZ' and it's a knock-off - they are part of the crime.

Rather odd.

I ordered a pair of SD cards from a FBA Amazon seller which turned out to be counterfeit. I used Amazon's contact form to report these, and was told to just initiate a return.

I think I chose "Item not as described" as the reason in a drop-down, and entered "Counterfeit" in a comment box, but someone later changed it to some benign-sounding reason. I got a refund on my credit card, but now have the impression that Amazon just does not care. That experience and stories like this here convinced me to first look elsewhere when I need something.

If you want to ding the seller further, leave a negative feedback response (for the seller) on that order.

Mark the reason as "item not as described" and don't add any additional text that would allow the seller to claim the feedback was "product related / a product review".

Speaking from experience as an FBA seller for the past seven years, those are nearly impossible to dispute with Amazon's seller support staff...even when the buyer is incorrect (ie they contact you via the messaging system and admit to buying the wrong product or misreading the product description). Enough negative feedback ratings and the seller's account can go under review and/or be closed.

But if the item was commingled, then it wasn't that FBA seller's fault and you're punishing someone who's innocent...

Guess the lesson here is, if you're a FBA seller and you don't want that risk, opt out of comingling.

If you wanted to be sure it was warranted, take a look at the seller's feedback prior to leaving yours. If there's a hint of buyers with similar issues - fire away with a clear conscience.

If you've opened a dialogue with the seller via the messaging system, you should attach a picture of the item with its packaging. IF the seller is innocent (and consistent in their processes re: labeling), they might be able to open a case with Amazon along the lines of "this was commingled inventory - we always apply our label vertically over the item's barcode and our customer received an item packaged with the barcode applied horizontally...therefore you sent the customer another seller's inventory."

That would be a semi-tenuous case to make, but would have a flying chance of working, particularly if the seller had an inbound shipment for the same SKU that was due to arrive at an Amazon warehouse and had left prior to the customer's issue surfacing.

In general though, if there's a shred of doubt...don't worry about the innocent seller. The seller (hopefully) has enough sales volume that your feedback will be lost in the crowd. If not, well, maybe they aren't a good fit for Amazon and you're doing everyone a favor.

The seller is responsible for delivering the product you paid for.

If they use a fulfilment service which cannot reliably achieve that, it's their problem, just as it would be if they used an unreliable courier.

Well - if it said 'counterfeit' then they would be in legal trouble. So at very least, they 'changed it' for that legal reason.

It's possibly 'they may care' but are overwhelmed, and just ignore the little stuff, or can't reasonably hunt down every entity.

It's also possible that they don't care, and will only clam down on it enough to stay out of jail.

It's also possible they do care, and they make money from it.

For direct sales though - this is a problem. If it's some 3rd party - that's one thing - but from their inventory? Bad. Very bad.

Noooooo, they definitely would NOT want to know about this. It turns unknowingly trafficking in counterfeit goods (not a crime) into knowingly trafficking in counterfeit goods (definitely a crime).

So if some layer gather enough evidence of "redacted" return complains this should provide a ground for a big class action?

Amazon is turning into a mine field for legitimate sellers. I have a customer I work closely with to integrate their customer products into Amazon. They have a catalog of 3,000 stock parking signs listed on Amazon. We took considerable time to buy custom SKUs and get them listed. We discovered in the last month two separate Chinese sellers utilized the Amazon buy box feature and listed on our product page for less money than our items. This is impossible to do since they don't make the same signs at the same specs and design. In fact how could they have my customer's artwork?

We soon discovered these people were actually hijacking our high resolution main image and actually using that to make their own signs. Amazon is strict about watermarking so we went very conservative on the markings on the files. When they received an order they printed out the high res file of ours and stuck it to a parking blank. The reviews they were getting it was obvious they weren't selling good quality, but people were confusing them with US! Almost worse than any of it Amazon puts so much power into other sellers using the buy box feature that if you searched for my customer the Chinese sellers would often default to the preferred seller.

In the end Amazon has banned the two sellers, but moving forward it is difficult to police 3,000 listings so we have not been expanding what we are doing on there.

It's a minefield for buyers as well. I have ordered products from Amazon's web site for many years, probably more than 15. Recently, I am getting reluctant to buy because there are so many counterfeit products.

As an example, I wanted to by a genuine Lenovo charger for my X230 laptop. If you want to share my pain, try finding the real McCoy on Amazon.com. I also had to replace my keyboard. That was even worse than the chargers. The products say they are manufactured by Lenovo but they are clearly not. In the end, I suspect the keyboard and charger I got (which I paid quite a bit more than the clearly fake items) are still fakes. They have Lenovo's brand marks on them but they don't look exactly like the originals.

Another good example of counterfeits are cell phone batteries. I tried to buy a replacement battery for a Nexus phone. I had to give up because wading through the endless listings of counterfeit products is just too time consuming.

I don't think Amazon is doing nearly enough to stop this.

Yeah, I ordered a Lenovo laptop charger that seems to be fake. It is lighter and the cable is thinner than the genuine item. It also has a manufacturing date on it of 01/2013, although I received it in early 2017. But it was like $12.

I would have bought this one: http://a.co/7XcZoUf

Is that one a fake too? Going by the "Lenovo" seller and the fact that the seller also sells a ton of other Lenovo branded stuff makes me feel better, but who knows...

I bought this one: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006OQJO4C/ref=oh_aui_sear...

I'm not sure it is a fake or not. I looks a little "off" to me. Maybe real but intended for a foreign market? Hasn't burnt my house down yet, so that's something.

Upbright makes cheap PSUs, so I suspect its a fake.

>In the end Amazon has banned the two sellers, but moving forward it is difficult to police 3,000 listings so we have not been expanding what we are doing on there.

Does the API still return offer count? If you're truly the only legit seller, set up an alert if offerCount >> 1. Even without the API this should be pretty trivial to scrape.

But the first sale doctrine means there can be other legit sellers. There's no way to be certain whether a third party seller is selling a counterfeit (except by buying it).

First, my suggestion was more an attempt to simplify the "how do I keep an eye on 3,000 listings" process. Second,

> first sale doctrine means there can be other legit sellers

This is not necessarily true on Amazon.

There are larger brands that make deals with Amazon, preventing their products from being sold as new by anyone but themselves. Other people can sell it, but it must be listed as used. An end-run around first sale, but that's the way it is.

One could just buy a certain percentage of those allegedly resold items that have a lower-than-suggested price, and then report every one that turns out to be counterfeit.

That's definitely an option, and possibly a business opportunity. Downvotes are unwarranted.

Other options would be to require bonding or otherwise validating sellers, particularly over a certain volume. Amazon (and other retailers) might collectivise or bundle sellers, with an intermediate serving as a vouchsafe for quality and origin, if necessary.

Otherwise, this whole situation is a massive trust breakdown, for both sellers and buyers, and a major problem for Amazon generally.

It has also become harder from for legitimate sellers because Amazon are trying to respond to counterfeits. I suspect almost every seller of volume would get counterfeit claims made against them, having a buyer use the word fake in their correspondence is enough to trigger one. Get a few of these and your account gets suspended.

I'm curious. Did you ever send an order to China?

So if I make a thing that can't be digitally copied easily I'm safe???

Bespoke everything is the future of retail goods.

Imagine if every product on Amazon was custom made for you. A Chinese seller could do it sure but you might get suspicious of the 4-6 week shipping time and it would be blatantly obvious where it was coming from.

With the cost of 3D printing, CNC, and laser engraving dropping faster than a Miami facelift it's inevitable.

I think you're vastly underestimating the economies of mass production and the complexity costs of even templated or made-to-measure items.

Yes, you'll see some degree of custom manufacture, as exists now in furniture and a few other areas. But in too many cases, the costs of mass production and available efficiencies are simply too great to compete with.

Apple's devices, as an example, are not custom-specified, but are offered from an exceptionally small number of variants.

To answer your question no we don't ship to China. Ripping off our main image was enough to recreate our product (poorly).

As a "Content Creator" and frequent advocate for U.S. Copyright Reform, this is one of the few instances where I think the full willful infringement penalty is absolutely justified. There's only a paper thin "Well they didn't inspect every book!" defense, which immediately falls apart when Amazon is making money by way of the transactions and doing market harm to the actual Copyright holder. It's not "incidental" infringement like photocopying a chapter from a book and emailing around the office or the Amazon corporate mailing list. That's more innocent. This is some straight up commercial hustle we're talking about.

I'm tired of the refrain "It's too much effort / money / investment to check X, Y, Z on our system" when that system is the only goddamn reason a company exists in the first place. Want to be a Middle Man? You get the Profits and Responsibilities of one. Caveat venditor.

Indeed, this kind of thing is what copyright was originally designed for. The fun thing is that even back then they were making mistakes such as the long copyright period in Berne Convention.

Do you also advocate that eBay should verify every item it sells is not counterfeit?

I was under the impression that "under Amazon's brand" meant that the item is being "sold by Amazon" rather than a merchant using Amazon as a platform.

I think eBay should verify items that are being sold by eBay, and Amazon should verify items that are being sold by Amazon, but eBay shouldn't be responsible for items being sold VIA eBay, nor should Amazon be responsible for items being sold VIA Amazon.

I'd be interested to have more detail than the tweet to understand the specifics.

If they are saying Amazon is producing and selling these themselves, then that's a big deal. If they got a shipment of them that are counterfeit and are selling those, then it's a slightly less big deal IMHO, but still a serious problem.

The problem, as I understand it, is that Amazon mixes inventory from various sellers as long as its the same product. Or appears to be. It makes sense on paper but obviously doesn't work when counterfeit products slip into the stock.

If that's the case, ironically enough counterfeit sellers might actually end up having original products shipped / fulfilled by Amazon, which might add to the confusion, e.g. positive customer reviews on a bad listing.

Yes, Amazon is producing and selling these. That is what makes this so outrageous.

That was the case with Linux Command Line. It appears to be the case here as well

If you consider my perspective is that eBay / Amazon / et al are acting with the least amount of policing effort they can legally or financially commit, then yes, I would like to advocate that a marketplace such as eBay should attempt to verify every item it sells is not counterfeit.

I'd like to avoid being unrealistic in that I don't think a marketplace can 100% verify every item and grow to scale, but I'm also extremely annoyed at the "all or nothing" kind of false dichotomy you've presented.

I'm not trying to be insulting or glib with the following, but if you'd like to peruse several different threads in this discussion it appears Amazon has more than enough reasonable data to address an issue, but has heretofore turned a blind-yet-financially-beneficial-in-principle-eye to the situation. If a bunch of humans sitting around and spit balling can hammer down a half-dozen examples and concerns out of altruism then I think any attempts of offloading that 'check and balance' into the Amazon system is quite significant.

If they get around to it, I'd classify their pragmatic motivation as akin to "I'm sorry your feelings were hurt" moreso than "What I did hurt you and was wrong."

Totally sympathetic to the author here, and believe that the counterfeit should be taken down IMMEDIATELY (checking amazon it looks like this is the case)

If the book was digital then I would say preemptive verification should be done. However, for a physical paper book how could you verify legitimacy at scale?

It's a hard problem. I can't think of a way that doesn't involve destroying a physical copy to OCR, and that's a lot of manual effort.

What would you propose? Not trying to be confrontational, legitimately curious!

It's a hard problem. I can't think of a way that doesn't involve destroying a physical copy to OCR, and that's a lot of manual effort.

I've worked at places with serious quality management systems, the problem isn't hard. The answer is easy and obvious: incoming inspection.

Unless "scale" means the percentage of product that passes through inspection is zero. In which case the problem is only hard because the problem isn't how to do something, the problem is how get the benefit of having done something without doing it (whether through inspection, not co-mingling, etc...).

In the case of No Starch Press, the build quality issues were noticeable without scanning the book. And even cutting the spine and covers off of a book to scan it isn't that much manual effort with the right hardware. One of the offices at my college had the cutter and bulk scanner, it was so not a big deal for them to use that they'd digitize a semester's worth of course textbooks for anyone who asked.

Certificates of provenance or authorisation.

If Amazon require a machine-readable mechanism, they've the heft to provide one.

PKI or Blockchain-all-the-things.

In both cases a five year old child could tell the difference in an instant.

What annoys me is that they do not share that data with consumers. Just rely on people to self report issues in feedback which is not the same thing. If the seller takes two weeks to reply to a query from a customer then that should be reported.

If it passes through eBay's hands, then I would.

Ok, then you are saying the shipper should verify every product they ship?

I mean, Fulfilled by Amazon is providing a storefront and fulfillment services for things people ship to them. If you are making the argument they should verify every item they ship then that should extend to all fulfillment providers, no?

Don't get me wrong, I think FBA and 3rd party sellers are a huge mistake for Amazon as a whole. I just disagree that the onus should be on Amazon to make sure the items people fulfill using their services are not fakes.

Amazon is directly selling these not acting as a third party. They are the counterfeiters in this case totally different than buying something from someone on ebay and ebay facilitating the deal.

I'll be extremely surprised if that is the case. I'm going to wait for the official response before passing judgement. Amazon can easily afford a $150,000 fine for copyright infringement, but the damage to their reputation would be colossal.

That was absolutely the case with Linux Command Line and it appears to be the case here as well. I say appears because I have yet to receive the product but the manufacturing looks exactly the same as the last counterfeit. The same traits.

> I think the full willful infringement penalty is absolutely justified

Out of curiousity: how much is that? How much should Amazon pay? Would you support the same penalty if your local bookseller was found to have purchased a batch of counterfeits? You realize that happens all the time in retail, right? Many smaller retailers have little to no ability to control their supply chain in the way you're demanding from Amazon.

I mean... this is bad. It should stop. Vendors need to be careful. Amazon's partner programs create some bad incentives that put too much of the risk on consumers. All of that is true.

But guys... the Amazon hate in this thread is just out of control. Counterfeits happen. A lot.

> Would you support the same penalty if your local bookseller was found to have purchased a batch of counterfeits?

The difference is that Amazon a sophisticated, knowledgeable seller with a lot of smart people who undoubtedly understand the problem and how to solve it quickly (eliminate co-mingled inventory). I would say a local bookseller is likely to be much less sophisticated when it comes to counterfeit products and how they enter the supply chain.

Also, the damage that a local bookseller can do to the copyright holder is pretty limited in comparison.

> how much is that? How much should Amazon pay? Would you support the same penalty if your local bookseller was found to have purchased a batch of counterfeits?

No, Amazon is a huge multinational company, selling 1000s of this crap every singe day. Can you say the same about your local bookseller, moving 20 books in total a day?

Willful infringement? I assume you have proof that Amazon knew something was counterfeit and still sold it?

He said willful infringement was justified, not that he had an open and shut case for it already.

It's quite a stretch to assume that Amazon is unaware of the breadth of counterfeiting happening on their platform, and yet they continue to provide the platform. So on the whole, it seems they are willfully infringing.

Amazon does indeed print books through its Createspace print-on-demand division. It’s been used by hundreds of thousands of self-publishers but also indie presses seeking to sell additional copies without investing in a big offset print run.

If the pirate attempted to use an existing ISBN (required to match up the listings) I am pretty sure Createspace would automatically flag it [ETA: Not so sure anymore. See http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,248831.msg3466774.htm...]. There is no Amazon or Createspace branding applied to the book; the only clue that it’s POD is a barcode on the last blank page with “Made In USA” (digital short run and offset do not have to do this).

Another POD service, Ingramspark, also feeds into Amazon via third-party sellers but there will definitely be a block if an existing ISBN is used.

Another possibility is the pirates are using the POD services and a different ISBN, then make the Amazon listing using the original ISBN and ship the copy themselves (that is, not using fulfillment by Amazon). They could sticker over the bogus ISBN or not; nobody except for victims bothers to check.

Or, perhaps the pirates are using a cheap independent digital short run service and put whatever they want on the cover (printers don’t care) and then sell it on Amazon as the real thing.

In the case of the counterfeit copies of Linux Command Line sold through Amazon, those were printed by CreateSpace in violation of copyright. That is certain. From what we can tell that is also the case here.

This is terrible. The infuriating thing is if Amazon actually does anything, the scammers still get off with no penalty other than having their seller and Createspace accounts suspended.

If you don't mind me asking, is there a POD block printed on the bottom of the last blank page? Typically it's a barcode and something like "Printed in USA, Lexington KY" and the date.

Also on the Twitter thread someone mentioned that the contents were copied from a PDF you sell on the site -- are they the same press-ready PDFs used for the book, or PDFs formatted for 8.5 x 11? I ask because we sell PDFs too for letter-sized paper, and I always assumed it would be difficult to pirate for a 6x9 how-to guide.

I haven't seen these counterfeits. I've only seen the photos. The first counterfeit looked like it was printed from our PDF but it's hard to tell. There's a bar code on the back but not the POD code you're referring to. But we know the first one was printed and sold by them. About 1200 copies.

If there is no POD code on the last blank page, it might not be Createspace, because they (as well as other US providers such as IngramSpark and Lightning Source) have to include it.

It's possible it's someone doing digital short run and then selling it as a third party seller. If the price is low enoughI think that helps them get the buy box.

Interestingly Kindle Direct Publishing does/did do some sort of content check. They flagged me because some of the book content in something I was publishing a few years back was adapted from various blog posts that I had written. I just had to send them some links and confirm that I was the copyright holder or otherwise had rights to use the material.

As far as I remember though, the same book wasn't flagged by Createspace.

I seem to recall an article that exposed Kindle authors who plagiarized old trade paperback romance novels and sold them for a profit, which might be why Kindle Direct Publishing does check content.

There's nothing wrong with selling public domain works for profit in general. (KDP has some restrictions - https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A2OHLJURFVK57Q) Were those authors pretending they were original works?

That actually makes sense although, in practice, it's still a bit of a mess. They basically don't want a bunch of 25 cent versions of public domain books clogging up the site in various forms of unreadability that don't add anything to the free versions.

Depends on how amazon's lawyers looked at it. I suspect they assumed that section 230 of the CDA, and the DMCA would cover them. However because physical paper copies are being generated that voids both the protections provided by both laws. Amazon is most likely criminally and civilly liable here.

I am not a lawyer and nothing here should be considered legal advice merely personal opinion

While I'm not a lawyer either, my understanding is that neither section 230 of the CDA nor the DMCA safe harbour provide protection for companies that actually sell copyright-infringing works, regardless of whether they're digital or physical.

IANAL also, but to get criminal case here a prosecutor would have to do something like find an email from an Amazon executive saying "let's keep selling fakes."

Counterfeiting is a huge problem across Amazon. Since they started commingling inventory, it's been used by bad actors to launder counterfeit goods.

It's even worse for the Fulfilled by Amazon people-- there have been DVD resellers selling >$40k/mo legitimately getting banned because pirated items are being shipped to fulfill the same listings.

I've chosen to buy from smaller sites to be more assured of quality-- especially for commonly faked items like batteries and replacement parts.

It definitely sucks, I never used to have to doubt the quality of amazon products, now I'm having to make sure I only buy amazon basics products or run reviews through some fake review spotter to try and make sure I'm not buying a lie.

The story that usually gets thrown around is very misleading. The guy was buying back DVDs from random people online, no vetting, of course counterfeits got in. Amazon said the problematic items weren't commingled.

I know plenty of 7 figure sellers who only do commingle with no issues.

It seems that these large distributors that aggregate from many sellers are once again having quality issues. However, they'll still get my business because of their many conveniences. I'm just less likely to use them for critical things like medicine or heavy equipment.

I just went through something similar with some kitchen equipment purchased through Soap.com. I tried to claim warranty with the manufacturer, and they earned a new customer:

    Thank you for your inquiry. Soap.com is not an authorized retailer of our
    items and we have had some problems with counterfeit <REDACTED>
    that are having this type of problem. That being said, we can honor the
    warranty and replace it with the genuine article, however in the future if you
    choose to purchase our items please be sure that you are purchasing from
    someone we have authorized to do business with. Is the address you list below
    your current address to receive the replacement?

"if you choose to purchase our items please be sure that you are purchasing from someone we have authorized to do business with" - That's funny because, how do you, Joe Consumer, know what random companies are authorized to do business with what other random companies?

For a situation like this, I would hope (and assume, given their messaging) that they have a page on their website listing them.

Soap.com (Quidsi) is an Amazon subsidiary.

It took me a while to understand that buyers are actually getting pirated books which has Amazon branding and are poorly produced (uneven binding, poor printing, missing content.. etc.)! I was incredulous, surely this is not part of Amazon's business strategy!

Then saw that maybe one of the Twitterati has guessed it right:

@marziah: Wait, how? Is someone copying the book and using Amazon as the printer? And they don't screen their direct prints?

These have no branding other than our front cover.

Google is doing the digital version:


First result. Google docs. Free book.

Edit: Not sure if modded down for pointing out Google is pirating the book in nearly the same way as Amazon (HN loves Google, it can do no wrong) or if it's because I linked to Google's pirate link (Oh no! You're bankrupting the author, dirty commenter!).

The difference is that Google isn't pirating the book. It is being hosted on Google Docs. This is no different than if someone put the PDF on Dropbox and made it public. It isn't Google's pirate link. It is a link to a pirated file that just happens to be hosted on Google Docs. The difference here is that Amazon is actually printing the pirated book. Google is just hosting a file that happens to be made publicly viewable.

I'm not sure I personally see much difference. In both cases, the hosting corporation is reproducing a pirated file. One does so physically and one does so on an electronic screen, but both processes are automated piracy.

We're having a problem with GitHub forks hosting a bunch of pirated copies of our books. GitHub wants us to point to them all -- but they're forks!

One does so physically, and will charge you money to have the book shipped to you, and is trying to make you think that you're getting the legit book.

> The difference is that Google isn't pirating the book. It is being hosted on Google Docs. This is no different than if someone put the PDF on Dropbox and made it public. It isn't Google's pirate link.

Google has just exploited a loophole in the law that allows them to provide all the technical expertise and infrastructure to profit from piracy, while remaining legally non-liable.

It's not a "loophole", which implies an unitended gap in the law; the entire intent of the DMCA safe harbor, which was a centerpiece of a debate about the law itself, is to protect online content hosts from liability for copyright violations resulting from digital distribution of user-submitted content in cases like this, so long as they abide by a specified takedown process.

It's a very good loophole. The alternative would be making any site hosting user content legally liable, which would kill user uploads and content.

How is Google profiting from this piracy? There are no ads on the search results page. Considering that one can purchase Python for Kids on the Google Play Store (at least in the US), Google is actually losing money by allowing this.

>The difference is that Google isn't pirating the book.

Neither is Amazon as I understand it.

>It is being hosted on Google Docs.

Amazon is just printing the book.

>This is no different than if someone put the PDF on Dropbox and made it public.

This is exactly what's happening on Amazon. Someone uploaded the pirated file, as their own. Amazon is simply printing the book, and helping you find it via a search interface. I'm still failing to see a distinction here between what Google and Amazon are doing, beyond the fact that Google's approach is digital, and therefore zero cost.

Both Google and Amazon benefit from the piracy. Amazon directly through sale of product, Google directly through search ad revenue. Both Google and Amazon provide the platform for the piracy. Both Google and Amazon provide search discovery for the pirated product.

Analogies are dangerous, but perhaps one will help here.

The book on Google Docs is similar to someone's cocaine falling out of their pocket and hiding in your couch cushions. You didn't know it was there, and when your partner finds it, you flush it.

The book being printed by Amazon is you finding the bag of coke, cutting it and selling it, splitting the take with your friend.

I'll note that "benefit from" is a construction that can do a huge amount of work. I have "benefited from" some truly horrific historic crimes, despite having nothing to do with them (or even having been born yet). I bet you have, too.

Using less attenuated language that makes clear what's going on is a lot more convincing. It also tends to expose differences, like what is going on here.

Both absolutely would be copyright violations ("pirating the book"), but what Google is doing (until it recieves a proper takedown notice, and even after that assuming it properly complies) is within the DMCA safe harbor. Amazon's action has no comparable safe harbor, because digital hosting of user-submitted content is protected, but hardcopy printing and distribution is not.

Is Google profiting by the piracy of this book? Also, doesn't Amazon get a cut of this seller's sales? So it would seem Amazon is profiting from this piracy.

this is reductive to the point of being meaningless.

The "digital version", provided takedown provisions are observed, is protected by the DMCA safe harbor.

We won't stop selling DRM-free but this is the second time we've had a problem like this with Amazon.

I've stopped using amazon for products that are easy to counterfeit. Beauty products are especially bad. It's really hard to know that a shampoo is real just by looking at it, and if you can sell a bottle of colored foam for $40, counterfeiters are immediately drawn to that.

I used to order an expensive conditioner (olaplex) through Amazon but got burned by this. The company that produces the shampoo started selling direct through their website (at amazon's price with free shipping) because they were losing out on sales through fake inventory that was being sold to amazon.

This sucks, doubly so because it's No Starch Press. They've got some great stuff and their books have a better feel than a lot of other tech books. Something about the cover, binding, and the paper they use feels really nice.

We put a lot of thought into the paper and cover finish on all of our titles. I like to produce books that I would buy. These cheap-looking knockoffs are painful to see.

And the smell. I can identify my No Starch books by scent.

I can't but only because I can't really smell much any more. Other than bourbon.

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