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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:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/18/business/alibaba-fake-mer...


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?

Yes.

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:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13955981

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...“

Wrong.

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.




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