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Amazon's Tepid Response to Counterfeiters Frustrates Sellers (inc.com)
669 points by exolymph on March 25, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 356 comments

I purchased Quickbooks Pro 2017 (PC) on Amazon last week, said it was "sold by Intuit" so wasn't even supposed to be an FBA (fulfilled by Amazon). Figured if it costs no more I might as well get the physical disk.

What showed up was a DVD case with a very clearly photocopied cover for a Mac version with a Verbatim CDR inside and a hacked version of the software.

Amazon processed the refund just fine but didn't seem particularly interested or concerned that they had just sold me pirated software. Not a big deal for Quickbooks, I can just buy the download version. I also want to buy a new Ipod Touch and, for the first time ever, don't feel like I can buy it on Amazon.

Long term Amazon customer since 1999, Prime since the first year, this counterfeit issue is a real problem that's going to cost them seriously if they don't get a handle on it.

Amazon isn't going to take this seriously until a major company gets burned and the FBI gets involved. Then Amazon will experience what every other company does that gets burned for selling counterfeit goods... the FBI will raid their warehouse and hold all the inventory as evidence until they complete their investigation. Like you said, Amazon doesn't seem concerned that they're selling counterfeit goods -- probably because they don't understand that's a serious crime.

8 out of 10 people cannot spot counterfeit goods. I bought a major brand perfume, Sold and fulfilled by Amazon. When i used it after 2 months i was suspicious a. One day i was in Macy's, saw the same perfume (on same price). I tried the tester and i realized that perfume at home is a cheap knock off.

Initially i though that Amazon did not store it properly and warehouse heat must have destroyed the smell. Then i saw one star reviews. For last 6 months people were complaining and getting refund for this perfume. My refund windows was already closed. Anyway, lesson learned. Amazon is a hit or miss these days like eBay.

Here is one example, 84$ Magpul sights. If you have never seen the original product, you cannot spot the difference.


edit: Added "Sold and fulfilled by Amazon"

That Magpul sights link is a great one. Many negative reviews that call out fakes, and name the sellers.

The reviews are from fall of last year, so plenty of time for Amazon to address the issue.

The sellers mentioned are still selling the sights. So, either they were selling fakes, and Amazon doesn't care. Or, they weren't, and it was a commingling issue, but Amazon hasn't fixed the reviews....Innocent parties are being blamed.

Has to be one or the other. Either way, Amazon isn't doing the right thing.

Never buy perfume from Amazon. It's one of the most commonly counterfeited items out there. Go only to the site of the manufacturer or an authorized retailer.

Not to mention grey market items, which are a commonplace in Amazon UK.

If you buy many items from Korea or Japan, expect to get some plain plastic bag without instructions or traces of original packaging.

When I followed your link it says:

Sold by MSP Sales LLC and Fulfilled by Amazon.

Amazon does not allow one to create a permanent link to a specific seller. You can only link to the ASIN, which will determines the seller to display on-demand.

Unless the product category or brand is "gated" (and to be fair, many are), meaning it requires pre-approval to list on Amazon, anyone can hitch onto any ASIN by telling Amazon they have that product in stock (if FBA, by sending in "that product").

I don't know about that particular product but Amazon's inventory can go in and out of stock. Also they do not give themselves the buy box all the time, they do share it with third party sellers.

It changes frequently. I tried the link this morning and it is "Sold by HandAProduct and Fulfilled by Amazon."

Amazon seems to be untouchable. They didn't even get in any trouble for selling illegal and prescription drugs but Bodybuilding.com did.




I hope Amazon doesn't become another HSBC case. Given the extent of the fraud, I'm already disappointed that the FBI doesn't seize a warehouse for investigation.

There is probably a calculation that the feds will be reticent to do that to an Amazon warehouse as they're generally major employers in the areas they're built in.

There was a great Bloomberg Decrypted podcast a couple weeks ago weighing the costs and benefits for a small town in offering a multi-million dollar subsidy for thousands of low-skill Amazon warehouse jobs. Is it really worth subsidizing at all when the government will have to fund various welfare programs to cover the difference between the ~$10.00/hr paid and a livable wage? But since towns compete and prestige is awarded to politicians who win deals, towns race each other to near zero expected value.


But they already have to pay welfare for those people, right? Or is Amazon bringing new low income residents?

Exactly. It's $10/hr less that has to be covered than before. Plus the ware house drives local commercial traffic, workers have to eat, etc.

So they weren't eating before?

No the point is that even at $10/hour it's better than the same people not working at all.

Do you disagree?

The New York Times also did a big piece showing that these deals were almost always bad ones. The thing is that politicians have a simply ideological commitment to not intervene more directly.

The politicians do intervene directly

>cities compete to offer the biggest tax

So it would be actually better if they did less intervening, by not offering tax breaks to Amazon.

When I say "intervene directly" I mean more like directly employing people.

Makes me wonder if political deals to bring in military-industrial complex jobs at military bases and arms manufacturing plants and the like are any better. They at least provide better compensation to the workers, right?

Towns like to attract military bases because they bring in a large population that is employed requires no loca services (since it's handled by the armed forces), usually well behaved which spends its income locally. Bases also bring 100s of civilian jobs and support local businesses.

Yeah, but military Keynesianism also involves a lot of the taxpayer dollars lining the pockets of arms manufacturers and contributes to belligerent foreign policy. It's worth asking whether the same money could be used to employ people to do something other than building more F-35s.

You're thinking large-scale, not small-scale. Locally, building more F-35s is good for the local economy and keeps people employed, and the negative effects are minimal if any. Nationally, it's a different picture. Why would local politicians care about things on a national scale, rather than what's good in the short term for their little town where they're trying to get re-elected?

Military bases also pay no local taxes so they don't increase their tax revenue.

They pay certain taxes e.g sales taxes, they pay salaries to civilians that work on base and they do not really use any of the local services that are tax funded, police, fire department, medical and social services all provided by the DOD.

No, the federal government does not pay state or local sales tax. Bases also open and operate large sales tax free stores for service member and family use (base exchanges).

Military housing, as long as owned directly by the federal government, doesn't pay property taxes and the residents do use local police, fire dept, and schools as well as drive on local roads. Any local or state services are fully available to to them just as any other resident. I've also personally seen both local and state police respond to emergencies at the base.

Service members can also elect to file income taxes in the state they lived in when they were called to active duty rather than their duty station location.

I'm not saying military bases don't add to the local economy, they do, just not anything like a civilian operation of a similar size.

>Bases also open and operate large sales tax free stores for service member and family use (base exchanges).

Those aren't accessible to all the civilian workers and contractors who work on-base.

>Military housing, as long as owned directly by the federal government, doesn't pay property taxes

Civilian workers and contractors are not military, and don't use this housing. They live off-base, and pay property taxes and sales taxes. With the generous paychecks they get (relative to the locals who work at Walmart), they can afford to buy or build much larger houses and nicer cars, so they pay a LOT more in property taxes.

>I'm not saying military bases don't add to the local economy, they do, just not anything like a civilian operation of a similar size.

No, what you're really saying is that you have no clue at all what goes on on a military base, and you have some ignorant idea that everyone there is in the military when in fact it's usually a small minority of people on-base who are active-duty military.

It's certainly not the most efficient way to generate employment but these guys know where their bread is buttered.

Mother Jones did a major piece on this several years ago.


I guess I'm curious how you came to the conclusion they're major employers where their warehouses are. As far as I can tell each warehouse is about 1,000 full-time jobs. If I look at a list of warehouse locations:


They're pretty much universally a rounding error for total population and jobs in their respective metro areas.

That's tens of millions of dollars in salaries injected into the local economy from one employer, not to mention the other additions like local taxes and utility spending. 1000 jobs is significant.

Wait, WHAT? The average Amazon warehouse worker makes $13/hr. That's ~$27,000/yr BEFORE taxes. In other words: any employee making that salary and actually trying to raise a family is collecting more from the government than they're paying in. They aren't contributing anything to the local economy, they're draining it just like Walmart.

How does an Amazon warehouse drain money from a local economy? Purchases at Wal-mart export your money outside of a local economy, but the presence of an Amazon warehouse doesn't really change the number of purchases you'll be making at Amazon in your town.

So we wait until 990 of those jobs are lost to automation ... then we order pitchforks from Amazon ?

Then Amazon can locate its facilities even farther from population centers where there is no municipal or even county government to speak of.

1,000 full time employees is pretty big these days. The highly touted Carrier deal amounted to maybe 700 jobs. Elizabeth Warren made an announcement about the big new Amazon distribution center in Fall River. It's supposedly Amazon's biggest, and I recall it was about 1,000 jobs. So they are doing more with the same headcount.

1,000 jobs is about what the American economy creates every two hours. Politicians tout these deals because they know that most voters are clueless about the magnitudes involved.

You can't​ directly compare 1000 jobs in the entirety of the US and 1000 jobs in a small town with nothing else going on.

I can when national-level politicians are devoting time to them and then bragging about it.

That's true but my point was that jobs are no longer created in fleets of tens of thousands at one throw. Even the largest distribution facility of the world's eighth largest retailer has 1,000 jobs in a facility that probably operates two or three shifts weekdays and weekends. That's a very lean crew on each shift.

It's about name recognition, not job count. Amazon is seen as a cutting edge, high-tech employer. It looks goods when politicians say "Welcoming $COOL_COMPANY_X into our area!", it helps people feel important. It doesn't really matter whether they're bring 50 jobs or 5000; what matters is people can say "Yeah, Amazon is just up the street".

Fall River is also extremely economically depressed. I thought that was a typical case but the list of locations suggests maybe that's not entirely true.

Pretty smart on Amazon's part. Locate in depressed areas: the work doesn't require any real skills, the wages, working hours and conditions can be poor because there's no other real competition for employment, and dispite all that the local politicans love you for being an improvement on what they had before.

It's a tried and true formula.

Massachusetts isn't as big a boomtown as some areas, but population grew about 4% in a region better known for losing population. Fall River isn't as much a backwater as it used to be.

Do you mean Fall River? I'm certainly not arguing that Massachusetts, as a whole, is economically depressed.

Fall River may get commuter rail. Then cheap rents will be over there and in New Bedford, which are both on the ocean. To get really economically depressed areas, you have to go to Springfield, which is still our meth lab capital.

The whole state is a backwater. The part inside 495 just happens to be dying more slowly because they've got higher education medical and some tech industry.

Hopefully you're right (for the employee's sake). But given the Bezos/Trump feud, if I were Bezos I'd be very cautious about giving the feds any valid reason (with lots of precedence) to shut down any warehouses for an investigation.

That's why this is done by the Feds rather than local cops. They don't have to care about local employment.

I am sure that other significant business losses will also cause Amazon to take action, like understanding how many sales they're losing for lack of trust. So I ask everybody reading this: next time you get ripped off, make sure your contact understands that you aren't just returning the product, you are re-purchasing it elsewhere because you can no longer trust Amazon with this.

As someone else here pointed out, most people don't realize they're getting counterfeit items.

Anecdotally, most of the people I've spoken to regarding this haven't even considered that something they get from Amazon might be counterfeit. Many don't really understand the 3rd-party seller system, Fulfilled by Amazon, etc.

You think Amazon is clueless? They're not. They know they're shipping counterfeits. They've done the math, and it's making them money.

I don't think we'll see a significant change unless there's a lot more bad publicity, or the government gets involved.

>until a major company gets burned and the FBI gets involved.

Or until consumers start to become unsure enough about whether they are getting legit goods on Amazon that they become wary of shopping there.

>they don't understand that's a serious crime.

Oh, they understand this well. They are a multi-billion dollar company with teams of lawyers.

But, as long as they can get away with a passive response--like processing refunds when requested--without taking too much of a reputational or legal hit, they will continue to do so. Effectively, it's cheaper to outsource the policing to customers vs. trying to vet vendors at scale.

> hold all the inventory as evidence

With the FBA situation, why would amazon even care?

Amazon will just tell the seller, "X from your inventory was just sized by the FBI, talk to them if you want it back"

The seller has no leverage against Amazon, Amazon is out no money, Amazon will just get another shipment of counterfeit widgets the next day.

> Amazon will just tell the seller, "X from your inventory was just sized by the FBI, talk to them if you want it back"

No, if you have FBA, once your item enters their system, it's their item. If it's seized by the FBI, AMZ will pay you fair market price for your item they've lost the possession of, or will replace it with a likewise item.

I mean, if they had any actual idea/proof that you're the one who supplied them with the counterfeit, they'd not put it into their space in the first place; once it's on the shelves, it's all shared property, and sellers don't own any individual stock.

What is the fair market price of perfume that has been identified as counterfeit by the FBI?

Yeah, just because they pay you for inventory they lose doesn't mean they pay you for inventory that was seized for being counterfeit.

Amazon might care when entire warehouses are locked down for investigation. It's systemic after all.

I find it unlikely to believe that they would lock down entire warehouses for any significant period. I think this is the equivalent of shutting down an entire port because of a (or a few) containers of cargo are counterfit.

...That sounds like the FBI we know and "love". They do so love to make a point.

Amazon is a powerful company with friends in high places.

Don't forget about enemies in even higher places.

I believe FBA stock is comingled with other FBA and Amazon.com stock for the same SKU in the warehouse.

Then how would they know when to credit a seller for a sale? I believe the seller doesn't receive the money until someone actually buys it.

Amazon credits you when someone buys your item, but the item Amazon ships the buyer might not be yours, but an equal equivalent.

And, before you ask: Yes, this results in situations where 100% legitimate sellers on Amazon can sometimes ship (via Amazon/FBA) their buyers counterfeit goods. Shitty situation to be in as a seller.

Sellers can opt-out of commingling, but many don't because a) they don't understand the implications, as Amazon doesn't really make it clear; and b) because it requires them to individually add a separate sticker/identifier to each unit of their product, adding significantly to preparation and packaging costs.

I think Amazon charges more for storage fees if you disable commingling too.

I'd imagine fulfillment would be pricier, too, since items could no longer be located at every warehouse at no extra effort.

Not correct. They do however make you pay for a tier above their "small and light" for handling.

Not true; depends on whether or not you use comingled inventory. It's easy to make it not comingled. That's what we do.

>Then Amazon will experience what every other company does that gets burned for selling counterfeit goods... the FBI will raid their warehouse and hold all the inventory as evidence until they complete their investigation

You'd be surprised what being a big company can do to protect you from such actions by the FBI.

From my experience working at Amazon, they do take it very seriously. They've got multiple teams working on automated detection of counterfeit using rules, machine learning, etc., and hundreds of investigators looking into cases.

They allow return of counterfeit and will reimburse you fully, and they'll have the item return to them for inspection.

If they know you've frauded before, they try and block you from the platform by fingerprinting you and your accounts.

The issue is that there's too many sellers and too many product, it's a really hard problem to solve. Counterfeit has improved considerably too, sometimes it even comes from the same factory, they call it the "night shift".

And while we try to prevent it, we also have to balance out false positive rates, not to hurt the seller's buisness without real cause.

I'm afraid most websites will suffer from this, if you want to be sure, try to buy straight from the manufacturer, but even then, make sure you double check the website, not all manufacturers sell directly and online, so that could also be fraud.

It's not hard to solve.

It's hard to solve under Amazons business model whilst retaining Amazons profit margins.

It's a problem they chose to ignore for a long time because they could.

I think Apple sued them recently about counterfeit chargers. Let's see if that will do anything.

interestingly I almost got a counterfeit yesterday. I bailed at the last second when I saw there were many sellers shadowing the manufacturer and reading the comments that one guy got an unbranded version of the good, so I went to the manufacturer website itself and bought from there.

while amazon will not see the individual user receiving counterfeits, it will feel the bottom line slowing down, rest assured.

edit to add: if I wanted counterfeit goods, I'd go to aliexpress and at least save a buck.

"the FBI will raid their warehouse and hold all the inventory as evidence until they complete their investigation"

Considering the strained relationship between Bezos and Trump, I can actually see that happening.

Try buying any Apple accessories. I wanted to buy the genuine Apple headphones, but it's absolutely impossible to on Amazon. "Sold by Apple" product shows up from a seller in Boston, clearly counterfeit. Report it to Amazon and they suggest mailing it back for a refund. Zero concern that the seller is labeling their goods as genuine Apple and then sending knock-offs.

Prior to this I got a set of grey market Gillette blades that were fulfilled by Amazon.

Like you, I've been with Amazon for nearly 20 years, but I've recently started being more selective about what I order from them. I'm surprised that they aren't tackling this more.

Amazon gets those reports all the time, and they have very low-skill people reviewing them. FBA sellers have many horror stories in the opposite direction: they're falsely reported as counterfeit and they don't commingle, but some Amazon lackey is just clicking through the cases and assuming that suspensions are justified, probably without even reading them.

The long and short is that Amazon is not popular with anyone these days. They're not responsive to complaints about products from either buyers or sellers. You have to learn how to play their game. They're acting very monopolistically despite the fact that there are many well-qualified and well-capitalized wolves looking to poach their marketshare.

FBA is just so obscenely profitable for Amazon (the fees alone are huge, usually ending up to be 35-50% of the sale price, depending on the product). I think they are trying to straddle and put off anything that will cut into that margin as long as they can.

Sellers are punished for returns, buyers are stuck with an inferior product and either never notice or send in a return, which hurts the seller, not Amazon. They obviously don't need to carefully tend their reputation as they're already the default for a huge number of people, as long as they do enough to prevent a mass exodus. There's not a lot of incentive for them to aggressively pursue counterfeit sellers or put an overnight stop to it, because they're profiting handsomely in the meantime.

I think the problem is, Amazon is still growing like crazy, so any attrition due to bad products is drowned in the sea of new customers.

Eventually that will change, but it could take a long time.

Apple does not sell any products through Amazon. All Apple products listed on Amazon are through third parties.

This isn't very clear when you see pages like this - https://www.amazon.com/Apple/b/ref=w_bl_hsx_s_wi_web_2528944...

Also, some Apple products are shipped and sold by Amazon, not third parties - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00W5Q06VU/ref=s9_dcacsd_b...

I'm surprised Apple hasn't taken any action against them for this.

Apple is certainly aware of it at least, they've sued one of the sellers on Amazon http://www.computerworld.com/article/3133627/technology-law-...

Apple taking action against one of its biggest merchants in the US? you must be joking right?

> Apple taking action against one of its biggest merchants in the US? you must be joking right?

Apple is pretty aggressive about how it combats counterfeit products, so it's not unreasonable to think that they'd pressure Amazon into to eliminating counterfeit Apple products.

Apple sells directly online and through its own stores. They can afford to lose Amazon as an outlet.

Report it to Apple, not Amazon.

How do you know the razor you got was grey market?

I don't even buy from any third party sellers, including fulfilled by Amazon, for this reason.

Amazons response has been wholly inadequate thus far. Brands are destroyed because people get counterfeit crap and review the entire product/brand.

Why can't Amazon show the merchant used for every review and let people aggregate the reviews of each product by the merchant and product? Right now you have to check the overall merchant and hope you can trust it. This would be a good data point to watch too (if reviews for one merchant are significantly different than others for the same product). That should trigger a review of the merchant by Amazon.

Instead, Amazon conflates all product reviews as if they all came from the same place. Which is another reason reviews are hit or miss -- people reviewing how the seller got it to them, how fast, or in what condition.

> I don't even buy from any third party sellers, including fulfilled by Amazon, for this reason.

Except, according from the information in the article, this doesn't matter:

> Shipped and sold by Amazon.com means that the product is shipped and sold by Amazon Retail (via Vendor Central or Vendor Express) directly. Basically, the manufacturer sends product to Amazon.com at a set price through a traditional PO process. This inventory is commingled with all other FBA inventory.

Even if you buy only items that are shipped and sold by Amazon, if those items are also _available_ from other retailers on Amazon via FBA, then the product you get as the consumer, could have come from one of those retailers, because they're all mixed together at the Amazon warehouse. In other words, you could still be getting counterfeit items when you purchase products that are shipped and sold by Amazon.

This is the same reason that, as far as I can tell, with their current logistics, tying reviews to merchant wouldn't work. They'd actually have to keep each merchant's products separate in the warehouse and _they'd_ have to know which merchant's product they sent you (which they don't currently unless the merchant opts out of commingled inventory, which costs the merchant extra).

This is all assuming I'm interpreting the info in the article correctly. One thing I don't understand is why Amazon would not keep all of their own "shipped and sold by Amazon" inventory from the manufacturers separate from ones that come from 3rd-party merchants. I.e. why wouldn't Amazon opt all of their own direct-from-manufacturer inventory out of commingling? That's the part I'm wondering if I'm understanding incorrectly.

EDIT: To further clarify my last question, it seems unwise to willingly mix products sent to you by a 3rd-party in with your own trusted inventory, such that you don't know what's trusted and what isn't. This seems analogous to allowing a SQL injection or XHR attack by not sanitizing user data on input, and then displaying it in the site, trusted as your own content without any sort of escaping.

You're right, but that would be easy to fix for Amazon: don't let new vendors commingle.

New vendors should have a probation period of, say, a year, where they can only sell their own inventory (through FBA if they so choose, of course); then the reviews would reflect their real quality.

Amazon is extremely strict on vendor identity: you can't have multiple accounts tied to the same business or bank account or credit card -- but they don't mind if you sell utter crap or counterfeit goods. That's strange.

You still run into vendors selling a legit product (or high quality product) during the initial period, only to drop to crap quality after they've gotten plenty of reviews.

I bought a set of wire cooking racks that were highly rated, and the product used by America's Test Kitchen (highly rated there, too). I should have sorted reviews by 'recent', as every recent review was 1 star. The racks completely rusted over after a single use. The manufacturer had changed the metal or stopped coating the racks, presumably to make a cheaper product, and coast by on a 4+ star review from the 100s of prior, but old, ratings.

I don't think that means that buying direct from Amazon can get you third party inventory.

>I don't think that means that buying direct from Amazon can get you third party inventory.

I've sold on Amazon via FBA. Yes, it does. If you are selling a new item, you ship it to Amazon warehouses. Amazon informs you, the seller, that your item is not distinct from that of Amazon's or other sellers' FBA items. Inside their warehouse, it is just an item with no seller attached to it. If someone buys it, they just find any that match the SKU (or whatever it is called) and ship it.

Wow! I do a lot of shopping on amazon but this gives me pause.

Same here. I always assumed buying direct from Amazon I was buying products sourced directly by them.

That's why you specify that you don't want your inventory comingled.

"You" the consumer don't seem to be able to do that.

Oh. Well then I was misled by the wording of the article.

Buying direct from Amazon can get you third party inventory. Amazon mixes their inventory for many product verticals with third party vendors and will ship out counterfeit goods "sold by Amazon" according to numerous product reviews on their own site.

It does. Many commodities are comingled. That's a big reason why DVD and Software piracy is a huge issue.

It sounded like they were saying that "fulfilled by Amazon" inventory is mingled with other inventory in the same category, rather than that it is mingled with "sold and shipped by Amazon" stock.

"This inventory is commingled with all other FBA inventory"

Yes, I think the person's assertion was that FBA inventory != "Shipped and sold by Amazon" inventory.

That how I understood what the article was saying, yes.

Right, I make a point of avoiding 'FBA' sellers on Amazon, this one was listed 'Sold by Intuit' but what I received was (I hope) a co-mingled inventory item that was counterfeit and, in the case of software, possibly downright dangerous had I tried to install it.

I bought a phone battery on amazon. Looked legit, was the top result for my phone. It was counterfeit and wouldn't work. I don't even know how to get a battery because the phone stores didn't have it anymore. Can't trust amazon.

That's scary. Yesterday the building across the street from us nearly burned down due to a lithium ion battery catching fire. Fortunately, it looks like the damage was limited to a couple rooms of a single office, and the firefighters put it out quick.

It was a good reminder that lithium ion batteries are dangerous. Not sure I'd trust buying them on Amazon.

Same thing happened to me.

The funny thing is that the Samsung website sends you an Amazon seller.

I noticed this the second time I needed a battery. The batteries look identical. The only difference was that the counterfeit battery only lasted a couple months.

While I agree that buying phone batteries is a lottery on Amazon, in this case you might have got a genuine battery which had simply been in storage for a long time (which applies to batteries for any phone that's out of production).

Li-Ion batteries won't necessarily work after being stored unless they were charged to a specific level and stored in a very specific way. And you have to go back and check the charge and maybe recharge them regularly. More in this article:


Needless to say none of this would have happened if it was sitting on a shelf in some warehouse for 3 years.

Now here's some piece of legislation that could e.g. be made part of "right to repair" bills:

When a product with batteries gets EOL'd and uses non-standard (e.g. AA/AAA, CRxxxx coin cells, 18650 Li-Ion) cells and/or proprietary controller chips, the specifications (mechanical, electrical and EC firmware source) must be made public.

To ensure that this gets followed and e.g. devices from insolvent manufacturers don't end up without reasonable possibility of new batteries, any manufacturer / importer of any device into the country must deposit said information at a public library/archive, similar to FCC/CE certification records.

Mine actually was counterfeit. I could tell because the phone comes up with the message "please replace your unauthorized battery with a genuine battery" and the phone wouldn't work. My phone is at that point where it starts working slow for no reason despite all the free memory. I've been using samsung phones since 2005 but now I'm never getting another samsung.

Try ebay. They seem to take negative feedback more seriously.

I've bought several batteries for Samsung phones from Ebay. Look for "Samsung OEM" and find a seller in the US. Check the feedback. I can't guarantee it won't be counterfeit, but it's a better bet than Amazon.

I've bought cell phone batteries from batteries.com. I haven't gotten anything from them in years, so my experience isn't current, but they had the batteries I needed and they worked OK.

This entire phenomenon is very very worrying. I've been a buyer on Amazon for a while and bought quite a few things from there, my life is so hectic that I don't get time to do due dilligence on everything I buy so it's even possible that I probably own some counterfeit products and don't even know it.

This will come back to them one day, and hopefully soon. Obviously not all disruption is clean, in fact, it rarely is, but this is one area where they cannot afford to be lax and let things like this slide. I for one will be much more vigilant in the future about what I chose to buy on amazon and where specifically I get it.

You should report these incidents to your state attorney general as a fraud.

Eventually they'll raid an Amazon DC. Losing a day of revenue will get their attention.

I've been a long term customer as well. From what I've seen they just really don't give a toss about their customer. They make a lot of money and don't have to do anything via their market.

Only solution... stop using Amazon. Go elsewhere for everything.

I was a bit confused by the article, but it sounded like unless the seller opts out and pays extra fees, it is always FBA.

Correct to not comingle your stuff with others costs extra.


And that's where I think Amazon open themselves up to fraud charges. They should never comingle goods under any circumstances, and they certainly shouldn't be deriving revenue from doing so.

Amazon seems to be acting as a counterfeit goods launderer.

They like commingling because it allows them to ship goods faster. Your product ships from the closest wearhouse.

"I also want to buy a new Ipod Touch and, for the first time ever, don't feel like I can buy it on Amazon."

I have, twice, had to return "new" phones that were obviously repackaged/rebuilt ... dust specs under the screen protector ... awkwardly applied hologram stickers on the packaging.

I have visited the shenzhen mobile phone markets several times and see what people are doing in those stalls ... I have no intention of ever buying a phone from amazon or ebay.

Can't the review system help deal with this problem? I always check reviews of the product and vendor to make sure it's legit.

Only a few could get burned before the vendor is flagged as a counterfeiter which would stop further purchases. That should reduce the amount of money you could make scamming people and make it a less viable criminal business. Amazon also seems diligent in refunding people as well.

So the solution might be that Amazon should invest more in shutting these accounts down faster but I'm curious if reviews are an immediate stop gap solution here until they get around to regulating each bad seller.

The problem is that it can say "Sold by Amazon" and still be co-mingled stock some third party seller tossed the same SKU on.

So there is no way to even know who the actual seller is. Amazon could end this particular fraud literally overnight by no longer co-mingling, but I suspect that would be wildly expensive for them to do.

Your method is fine for actual accounts selling scammy things - the problem is when those accounts send in product to Amazon and Amazon decides to mix it in with the legit stuff.

Right. My bet has been that they've done the math and handling returns works out to be cheaper for them than stopping the comingling issue.

Another aspect is that it's not always obvious that you wound up with a counterfeit. I've had products where the longevity was not what I expected and when I look more closely it was in fact a fake. However by that point it isn't worth returning.

"they've done the math and handling returns works out to be cheaper for them than stopping the comingling issue..."

It may be cheaper in terms of short-term profits (which is what they can measure), but in the long run, it could be doing irreparable damage to the Amazon brand (which is much harder to measure).

I've been an Amazon customer since they first started out as an on-line bookstore, but at this point, I'm hesitant about every item I buy (even though I haven't personally been the victim of a counterfeiting scam). At this point, I'm ready to start exploring their competitors.

To your point I backed off of a purchase on Amazon today specifically because I was afraid of counterfeit. I wanted to purchase a bag in a particular color which no longer seemed to be available on the company's site nor their Amazon store. Another vendor had the bag I wanted in that color for half the price.

Perhaps it's legit. Perhaps I could have gotten what I wanted and saved $50. We'll never know.

My bet is that they do it for speed. "Hey, an identical item exists in a warehouse much closer, fast delivery means happy customer, what could possibly go wrong." That does not have to the explanation, but the commingling could be the logical outcome of tying the bonus of a really successful person to a single metric.

If they co-mingle they need to adjust there process and slap a custom tracking barcode or rfid sticker on the items when they arrive to track specifically what seller sent the item in. Then when they ship a co-mingled item, they need to scan the barcode or read the rfid chip to know who's item actually got sent. This won't address fraud by buyers claiming an illegit item though.

They could comingle and still solve the problems whenever they get stock from a seller they slap on an Amazon barcode that identifies both the UPC and the Amazon seller. That information gets included in the purchase details and when problems are identified with a product they pull those products and identify people who got the bad product. To cover the cost of that problem they can require sellers to insure their product or put down a deposit to cover the cost of a recall.

They effectively do require a deposit in case of returns in the way they pay. When you ship a product sold on Amazon they take the money immediately, but they don't pass on your cut until a few weeks later, allowing them to issue refunds if neccesary without losing anything themselves.

FBA sellers can opt-out of commingled stock. If you know an FBA seller sells authentic goods, you're better off buying from them than from Amazon.com or an unknown FBA seller. There is no way to know before buying whether an FBA seller uses commingled stock or not; it would just be a matter of recognizing the merchant from past authentic purchases or credible word of mouth.

Amazon needs to signal co-mingled and non-co-mingled stock so buyers can purchase with more certainty. The problem is Amazon doesn't want to admit to their co-mingled mess yet. It will hurt their brand admitting that there is a material difference between co-mingled and non-co-mingled stock.

If they clearly label commingled stock, they might as well call it "genuine" vs. "counterfeit." There'd be no reason to buy the commingled stock since odds are it'll be fake.

Touche. Which is also why they won't do it. And as a sibling comment says, they need to fix and get rid of co-mingling items.

Yes, I think they're going to have to disable commingling all together in the next 12 months or so. It will greatly simplify enforcement and help stop the bleeding on their reputation as a reliable marketplace.

Right now, the only option would be a third-party service which verifies and track this, but I'm sure Amazon would shut them down ASAP. It would have to be decentralized and anonymous.

Or, upon receiving goods from a seller, they could add an additional label-sticker number indicating the real provider of the goods so they could be readily tracked down, and singled out.

You get to review the product but when the sourcing is all thrown together all you're really doing is dragging down the rating for the overall product (Quickbooks 2017 in this case) and not the source of the specific item you were shipped.

My issue had nothing to do with the product itself although I suppose if enough 1 star reviews start to build up then Intuit and other larger publishers that might actually have some leverage with Amazon will start to take notice.

I find the lack of granularity that Amazon allows to define what you are reviewing in general a problem. Good luck trying to give the Kindle or paperback version of a book a bad rating while recommending the book as a piece of writing.

> My issue had nothing to do with the product itself

You sound hesitant, but I don't think you should be. Your issue has to do with the product you received after clicking "buy" on an amazon product page. That page may say Quickbooks 2017 from Intuit, but there's no necessary relationship between what the page says and what you're buying, and when they're different you should rate what you were sold.

I totally get your point, my concern is someone deciding that Quickbooks Pro (or whatever product) is not a good product because I was shipped something that doesn't even resemble the product. No love lost for Intuit here for other reasons but still doesn't seem right.

With no way to differentiate between product and product supplier then you're right, the review page really the only outlet I have.

Agreed that this is a good practice to inform other buyers that there are counterfeit sellers on the product, but do be aware that it impacts the overall rating of the product, meaning that when you're shopping for something, a 3-star product may actually be the thing you're looking for, since the real rating is drug down by counterfeiters (Amazon eventually kicks the counterfeiters off the listing (usually after a few returns), but afaik, the rating damage for the ASIN lingers).

That's correct. One issue we've faced is that people will give the counterfeits one-star although most people reviewing the book give it four or five stars. That just ends up hurting us unfortunately. It took Amazon over three months to remove those one star reviews from one of our counterfeited books.

Wait... So Amazon removed legitimate reviews from people who bought the product being sold on the page being reviewed because the product being sold is sometimes counterfeit ? How are other people attempting to purchase that item from that page supposed to learn that the item may sometimes be counterfeit and act in a rational way or with a correct risk assessment when valid data is being expunged without any other changes ? The valid 1 Star reviews should stay !

The valid 1 Star reviews should stay !

but those should be reviews of amazon, not reviews of the book.

One star reviews damning our book should stay, lowering the overall book review? How is that not blaming the victim? We're not the counterfeiters.

I never indicated that anyone should be "blamed" here. People purchased something, then reviewed that purchase after it was completed. They are not just reviewing the book, the book's contents, or your work in publishing it. They are reviewing the entire purchase, which includes the transaction where they bought something, and got something.

They are reviews of the purchase, which includes both the product, the mechanism of purchase, and everything else involved in the purchase.

The problem is that the counterfeit products are being mixed into the legit ones too. It's nearly impossible to determine ahead of times if you're going to get a real one or a fake.

No, because the reviews are comingled. The review is tied to the SKU, not the specific seller.

You can check for yourself. If you find two listings for the same product, you'll find that they share the same reviews. Learned this the hard hard way when attempting to buy an e-book on Amazon. I was confused with the reviews until I figured out that half the people bought the wrong version.

It's done. Reviews for both products and sellers already exist.

Commingling inventory entirely muddles things.

It's not always possible to tell you received a counterfeit, especially if you were not expecting it as a possibility.

Is there anyone here who can shed some light as to why?

It's impossible for me to believe that it's part of Amazon's strategy to encourage, or even allow, counterfeits -- it might be fine for a smaller company, but it appears to be doing real brand damage at this point.

Yet Amazon shows no signs of stopping it -- this has been going on for years. Is it just a really hard problem for some reason that isn't obvious? (Like you catch one seller, and they'll immediately re-register under a different name? Or false counterfeit claims outweigh real ones?)

I mean, I still can't wrap my head around why Amazon would comingle FBA merchandise with merchandise Amazon bought directly from the manufacturer, and thus unknowingly sell counterfeits directly. People say this happens, that buying "Ships from and sold by Amazon" can still be counterfeit -- does that happen really? People certainly say it does... is it really something common? It's hard to believe Amazon could be so dumb to do that... why on earth would they?

I feel like this just doesn't make sense. Amazon isn't Uber. Shady practices don't seem like their thing at all. So why is this still happening?

Amazon is likely stats blinded: their internal metrics say "all good", so they ignore the stories people are telling as anecdotes without ever doing the analysis on how often those "anecdotes" happen. Further, that their stats are ungrounded (not tied to any hard-to-attack real world tests) and fail to capture data which would demonstrate the issue.

I believe the FBA and FMA teams are a fundamental blunder opposed to Amazon's core values (and the business model they espouse), and that while the people on them are clever, they're not very prudent.

I think that the idea could be salvaged with some genuine mea culpa and revamping of FBA/FMA systems. I just don't think anyone at Amazon with the political capital to do so understands or acknowledges the issue.

Honestly, Amazon should just send someone on the team out with $50,000 in $50 giftcards to one of the shopping centers in downtown Seattle and hand them out to anyone who orders something on Amazon for them (on Amazon's dime; shipped to Amazon HQ). Will you get a disproportionately high number of bad purchases? Yep.

But that's sort of the point: isn't it a problem if a large fraction of 1,000 people know how to get bad purchases out of regular items, but you still operate your store that way?

This is one of the most insightful comments I've read on HN and it explains the factors at play when a big company won't respond to issues the outside world can plainly see are problems: The stats are good, the stats measure the wrong things, and whoever inside the company first suggests that a change is needed will probably limit their career.

It's also a good explanation of Apple's non-response to their increasingly poor software quality and their de-facto abandonment of the content-creator market.

It's a good comment but anyone who has worked for really large retailers has experience of been on the side of "This policy is really stupid, you are pissing customers off!" and head office standing with it's fingers in it's ears going NerNerNer can't hear you, figures all look good from here.

From the outside, Amazon projects an image of utter-efficiency and professionalism, but the reality is different.

I've been a seller for about 6 months (in Europe) and their systems are quite bad.

When you call support, most of the time the person on the phone, while very polite and "competent sounding", gives you advice that does the opposite of what they say it will do. When you point it to them they say "hmm, let me check" or "I'll get back to you" and then you talk to an "expert" who many times isn't sure either of what to do.

The problem is not that support is incompetent; the problem is nobody's sure how the system actually works, because it's too complex with too many layers added on top of one another.

I really think the system was built for a much smaller operation with fewer sellers, and it is now stretching beyond capacity. They have a huge team of people maintaining it but that only goes so far.

Or perhaps they do know exactly how bad the problem is and have decided that fixing it isn't worth it.

I had considered that, but that seemed the less likely scenario: that they'd intentionally let their business get damaged, rather than having issues that most large corporations face.

I mean, they clearly don't have a handle on a wide variety of bad actors in their ecosystem, but keep putting out awkward attempts at solutions. This suggests they're trying to fix perceived problems, but are avoiding the core of the problem because they either don't see it or don't have the political will to fix it.

>Is there anyone here who can shed some light as to why?

Its expensive to check each good if its counterfeit. I think an easy solution would be to require all new sellers to put up a bond and slowly decrease the amount required as they become more trusted. Amazon is big enough to demand this and trustworthy enough to not abscond with the bond money (unless they are caught with counterfeit goods).

> this has been going on for years

I've been aware of it too, but speaking for myself, I don't remember any mainstream or tech news stories about how it's been impossible to trust Amazon until just recently.

My theory: It's a big company, with lots of inertia and perhaps arrogance, letting things get worse and worse, until it reaches a boiling point, which is now.

It used to be confined to certain categories of goods, like camera equipment for example. Now it seems to have spread so that anything ordered on amazon has the possibility of being fake.

My thinking is that it's a lot easier on the logistics of fast delivery times. When someone comingles inventory with Amazon it means someone else paid the initial shipping cost from manufacturer to Amazon warehouse. It could even be in Amazon's best interest (on paper only, thus the quality issues) to preferentially ship the commingled inventory before dipping into their direct purchases to maximize profit per sale by reducing pressure on Amazon itself to keep their inventory topped off, since, as I'd bet any business owner that sells physical product can tell you, money tied up on warehouse shelves is not doing you any good.

If Amazon ships commingled goods, their own products get virtually transferred to that seller, and Amazon's stock still goes down. I don't think what you're saying makes sense.

>Shady practices don't seem like their thing at all.

Ummmm... Is this sarcasm? They are so shady "Amazon controversies" has its own Wikipedia page!!



A combination of wanting 1) the best price 2) fastest shipping times 3) the world's largest catalog and 4) profit.

You're buying some item. You're in New York City. Other websites sell it for $20. You go on Amazon.com and see that it's $14.99, here's where #1 comes in. Why is it so low?? In our scenario, let's assume "Fugazi FBA seller" just shipped in a bunch of counterfeit merchandise into Amazon's warehouse in Tennessee that cost them $5.00, $14.99 is a major win for the seller.

Now, Amazon matches the price at $14.99 and you buy it "ships and sold by Amazon". This is where #2 comes in. You're a Prime member. You expect to get it in 2 days. You're all the way out in NYC. The closest warehouse that has Amazon's legit inventory is in California.

Amazon says, "Hey we need to get this customer his/her item in 2 days. It's way FASTER and CHEAPER, if we just pick one unit from Fugazi FBA seller's stock that's in Tennessee and ship that out." - #2 and #4.

Once this product is end-of-life or Amazon can't source it, #3 comes into play and Amazon stops selling it "ships and sold by Amazon" and sellers (legit and illegitimate) are left to fight it out.

Because Amazon wants to have the best price overall for each product, and the way to do it is to have many sellers competing on price alone for each product.

Then commingling is just a logistics trick, it makes inventory more liquid and so lowers costs and shortens delivery time.

Amazon likes to think of itself as the arbiter of a fair marketplace between sellers. It's not that they don't care, it's that they are proud of doing things the way they are.

Manufacturers selling direct via ecommerce is a very new phenomenon (last 10 years). Before Amazon, there was an entrenched network of distributors and exclusive contracts in both directions of the supply chain. Amazon has busted this wide open.

It is important to understand that FBA largely pushes the administration and supply chain overhead down to small time individual resellers, utilizing their willingness to do free labor.

Amazon encouraged this behavior, gave blind eye to counterfeiters, and making ecommerce too hard to ignore for mfgs to compete on directly.

IP has never been efficient to enforce, old school exclusive/protective contracts masked this, but now the emperor has no clothes.

Not exactly accurate.

There is eBay that is a big player and allows anyone to distribute products. These days 90% of sales are done by professional in fix price format (not an auction).

eBay has a proper reputation system, sellers are clearly identifiable and so is the location of the product.

Amazon doesn't do any of that on purpose.

It's ironic, I got burnt a few times with ebay in it's really early days in the UK and swore off them and then Amazon got popular and I was a happy customer for years but recently I've been buying bits from ebay (I prefer Buy it Now, I don't want to maybe win, I'm happy to potentially pay more to know that it's on it's way) and it's improved leaps and bounds since I used it a lot.

If Amazon keeps down this track it's going to kill the golden goose for eking out that extra tiny bit.

eBay and Amazon have very little in common in terms of how they area organized. Amazon's "customer facing database" is SKU-based. eBay's "customer facing database" is seller-based. Two completely different worlds.

Well sure, but AFAIK eBay doesn't do fulfillment so there's no possible issue of commingling, etc.

Amazon doesn't do fulfilment either.

Or well, sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. It's impossible to figure out where a product will come from.

I'm not sure their brand really is being damaged. Here, we know what's going on, but I doubt the general public knows much.

It's trivially easy to run into counterfeit products on Amazon. Here's an example I pulled up in 2 minutes of searching:


I see two sellers offering an iPhone charger, ostensibly genuine and new, as low as USD 3.19.

Compare with the Apple listing for the same item for USD 19: http://www.apple.com/shop/product/MD810LL/A/apple-5w-usb-pow...

There is no way you can be selling the genuine product at that price and be making a profit. I don't know what Apple's wholesale price for chargers is, but it is presumably more than USD 3.19.

Amazon has lost at least two orders from me recently because I had no confidence that I would receive a genuine product.

This is actually a different scam that's been going on recently. These "just launched" sellers show up for about 1/10th the actual price and when you buy from them they just won't ever send anything. Their strategy is to delay as long as possible and hope Amazon gives them their first payment before they finally get shut down.

I sell on Amazon via FBA and the counterfeiting and scamming is unbelievable. I'm glad to see these stories come out to raise some awareness because Amazon has done nothing to fix the problem.

Even better than that, some of them offer products at the normal price and then don't send anything, while dragging out the complaints process as long as possible.

Had two of them in the past 3 months ...

Yeah, this is practically an epidemic with Amazon's hotter items. For instance, check out this seller page for Nintendo Switch, which is comprised almost entirely of "just launched" sellers: https://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B01LTHP2ZK/ref=dp_ol...

If you look, the same listing has 5 fulfilled-by-amazon shippers as well :-)

Apple doesn't have a wholesale cost since Apple does not sell parts wholesale. What you are getting is a Chinese knockoff.

For phone accessories, I'd recommend sticking with a reputable 3rd-party brand. Anker, Puregear, IXCC, and several others make good-quality chargers and cables.

And buy them direct from the vendor, not via Amazon. If scammers are counterfeiting Apple gear, they can just as easily do the other vendors.

Solid review from the link: "The item came in a Ziploc bag and more importantly, it's a fake."

>There is no way you can be selling the genuine product at that price and be making a profit.

Am I missing where the ad says it's a genuine Apple product? I see that it says "compatible", but that's clearly a fake to me. Not that it wouldn't trick some people, but I can't really blame Amazon for that. It's a knockoff.

I think if someone goes onto Amazon and buys a phone charger for half the price of a genuine charger, that's a different problem than paying for and receiving a "genuine" charger that turns out to be fake.

The name of the product says "Apple" and includes an Apple model number. I see nothing, other than the shady price, to indicate it's not genuine.

The listing says, and I quote: "Apple A1385 USB Cube Adapter ..." (in the title) and "Includes 1 Apple certified charger cube". I'd bet that neither is true.

If the only place I ever bought something was Amazon how do I know if the charger was "half price?" Especially if you didn't know counterfeit chargers were a thing? These chargers are some of the best selling products on Amazon's charger category. In most cases they outsell the genuine versions.

Four or five times in a row, I bought what were supposed to be genuine Samsung batteries for my SGS4, and every single one was a counterfeit. Each time I had a chat conversation with Amazon, explaining the situation and each time I was told "an investigation" would be done. Ex: https://www.amazon.com/review/R1OV6G6YE4TXFZ/ref=cm_cr_rdp_p...

Similar story, but with 3 consecutive large capacity HGST hdds that were sold as new (SMART told a different story), switching sellers each time. Ultimately just went to Newegg.

The problem with the fake replacement batteries isn't new. In 2015 the german computer magazine ct bought 12 "samsung" batteries at amazon and all were fake. https://www.heise.de/ct/ausgabe/2015-10-Amazon-verkauft-nach...

Yep, I buy from Aria in the UK, the prices are always in the ballpark of Amazon's give or take (and occasionally a lot cheaper), they have genuinely knowledgeable about computer gear staff and I've never had an issue with a single aspect of them as a company (bar a postcode problem with a shipping address which wasn't their fault and they did get sorted).

It's not an entirely fair comparison since aria specialises in technology but when they do that and match price then Amazon has no competitive edge.

Somewhat related - I use amazon price alerting services (camelcamelcamel.com and keepa.com) for some items that are on my wish list.

In the past few months I received much more price drops alerts than ever before. Most of these are by new stores that have no reviews.

Knowing that I'll be covered by Amazon, and tempted to give what I guessed would be a scum a chance, I ordered two items from different stores and as I expected I never got the items. Eventually got a refund from Amazon.

I'm not sure why Amazon isn't putting more effort to prevent these stores from popping up. Most of them I've noticed publish dozens if not hundreds of items for ridiculous prices. Even a simple capping mechanism for new stores would have made this much more difficult than it is to set up this scum.

While Ebay does not excel in that regard either, it does cap new sellers sales volume as well as allows buyers to report suspicious activity. Ebay's algorithm isn't especially smart - I often notice stores that were inactive for years yet retain good feedback record, pop up back to life with new low priced supplies and eventually turn out to be a scum (most likely hacked accounts).

You mean scam, not scum.

Yes, too late for editing now.

There used to be plenty of counterfeit Intel network cards on Amazon.co.uk (and .com). Unsure about other Amazon subdomains.

After receiving a chinese knock off card instead of the real thing, I complained to Amazon. Even after rounds of communication with them, trying to alert them to the problem all they did was tell me to contact "Trading Standards" (the uk body). I've barely bought from Amazon since then, and I used to buy a lot from through them.

Instead I reached out to Intel Legal, who looked over things, then opened an investigation.

Now (some months later) it seems like there are almost no counterfeit Intel cards on Amazon. So at least some places do seem to have enough clout.

In case it's interesting, this is what the counterfeit card looked like:


Obviously using Intel branding (there are other photo's in the same directory, mostly just other angles though).

Amazon didn't care.

The article makes a good point that aside from enforcement issues, Amazon leaves the seller of the genuine item in a bad spot. Like one-star reviews of the product (due to fakes) staying for months. The whole product listing being taken down instead of just the seller with fakes being shut down. The lack of real communication with the seller of the genuine product, and so on.

Edit: Perhaps some additional manual effort to protect good sellers would stem the bad PR tide. The news stories all seem to start with a frustrated seller.

Our seller was pretty ticked when we kept getting copies of 'Where's Wally' instead of 'Where's Waldo' for a friend's birthday this fall. The former is sold outside the us. someone was finding them cheap, and damaged, and dumping them. We were trying to purchase from legit seller, and returned 3 times and then ran out of time....

Ah, so not a fake, but a bad substitution. Does show, though, that sellers can't get attention when it is needed.

Grey market imports can be a serious problem, and they're definitely more toward the counterfeit end.

Despite publisher attempts to stop it courts have ruled that it's legal to import cheaper foreign editions of books and I personally have done so intentionally to buy textbooks. Certainly a problem if they are not labeled though.

Amazon already has some serious issues on the side of returns and issues like this. They accept basically anything - return fraud was another huge issue that came up earlier this year.

Scammer would buy something like an iPhone, take out the phone, fill the box with clay or something, send it back to Amazon.

Amazon just accepts the huge majority of returns and the seller is who gets hurt. (Obviously matters much more to companies not the size of Apple)

This has been the norm far more than a year - sellers I know have had to deal with things like high-end GPUs replaced with a 10 year old model and/or brick and returned as "broken" for 3-4 years now.

Pretty much any marketplace (including banks and credit merchant accounts) puts the vendor 100% at risk for consumer fraud.

I private label. Amazon's respose process for this is completely broken. Right now we are having several entities jump on; as part of our process for getting counterfieters off of our listibgs we make test buys; probably 10 buyers have sent exactly the same email, including a weird space between a word and a comma.

Want to know how truly bad it is?

Look at this listing: https://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B00DVKJXFE/ref=dp_ol...

What conclusion should be drawn from that listing?

I'm not the OP, but I am suspicious of most of the sellers being 'just launched' or having very few instances of feedback. Also the seller names don't look like anything I would pick it I wanted to name my business.

What, you mean "Cockers in Larsworld" with two 5-star reviews isn't your first choice retailer to buy this $50 pillow from for $2.78? If that's not your style, you could always shop with "HOLE'S HUMAN ANATOMY AND PHYSIOLOGISTS" and pay $8.07.

Wow, seriously that is insane.

Wow, I hadn't noticed the sellers' names, thanks for the laugh.

Amazon's crazy to let that happen with zero oversight.

The bigger issue is that a large swath of this could be fixed easily. Many of these fake sellers are jumping on with 97,000+ items for sale immediately. Putting a gate in place (something similar to eBays process) could at least increase the effort (and cost) required to scam at this level.

It seems like not allowing they extremely obvious scams would do a ton. Both scam buyers and scam sellers.

Amazon is a cluster all-around. They can't keep counterfeits off (I just recently got a 'samsung' battery that would only charge to 80%), and they can't police legit products correctly either. I've seen tons of horror stories from owners of FBA private labels who'v had their products pulled by Amazon for being 'counterfeit' because one of their competitors reported them in an attempt to reduce competition. Takes weeks or months to get your listing restored. And don't even get me started on their review system. I used to review certain subsets of items prolifically, without accepting freebies, but I gave it up. Amazon would regularly pull down my reviews for things they didn't like. For instance, I've had several battery reviews pulled for including a measured capacity (mAh) divided by cost 'value' graph because it implicitly includes pricing information. Give me a break. Know what replaced my well-thought out & researched review? A review from a 5-star shill that shot from 0 helpful to over +1000 overnight (to those of you that have never reviewed on Amazon ... that does NOT happen unless you're cheating).

Amazon's reviews are crap. Amazon's inventory control is crap. Amazon's seller support is crap. The only things they have going for them are good customer service and a near monopoly on online sales.

Walmart, however, also has great customer service, has brick-and-mortar stores that will help you deal with problems, and now has free 2-day shipping. I've been making a conscious effort to do more online shopping there lately, because Amazon needs to feel like they have a little competition.

Be careful jumping on the Walmart train. Their online marketplace has recently started including third-party sellers as well. I'm not sure how they police them or if they're any better than Amazon, but you're not implicitly free from these concerns just by going to Walmart.com instead of Amazon.com. I would guess that Walmart doesn't commingle stock from third-party sellers, since it's such a bad idea, but I don't know.

Jet.com also does third-party sellers, but I hear they are very strict and work hard to make sure that all their sellers are authentic.

Amazon has made itself the de-facto e-tail platform. We're already seeing a Google-like effect from them, where if Amazon is not happy with you, your business can be destroyed overnight. There are consultants similar to SEO consultants who try to ensure that your products always "win the buy box", some of which is certainly done through attempting to hit competitors with false negatives as you've described, much like the negative links that competitors try to register against one another to hurt their Google ranking.

I really hope that some of the other players in this game can get together and do something to stop another monopolistic pre-eminence. Between Shopify, ShopRunner, Walmart, and other brick-and-mortars who are jealous of Amazon, it should be feasible to create an Amazon-ish experience that will at least keep one or two other big competitors in the game. Let's do it before it's too late!

Jet seems to have very similar inventory to Amazon (even on obscure or niche stuff, like springs for my 2015 Ford Taurus), eerily so. What is more, several times I have been credited money to my account because Jet didn't have the product they claimed to have (the springs...). Weird.

Can you elaborate on the actual claim you seem to be dancing around? I'm not completely following...

I can't speak for the OP, but for me I've noticed this looking for hard-to-find specific products as well.

You will find that what appears to be wide availability is usually 2 or 3 third-party vendors spamming the same thing multiple times to multiple sites. This becomes especially apparent once you actually order something, and it takes 2 weeks for the vendor to say it's not in stock. Repeat that process across 4 or 5 major sites like amazon/jet/walmart/sears/newegg/etc. and it gets a bit tiring. Seemingly everyone now has a "marketplace" section and purposefully makes it difficult to filter it.

Basically it seems the "long tail" of on-line retail shares the same very few number of marginal-at-best players who take an approach of spamming tons of low quality listings in the hope of fulfilling even a fraction of it.

Once you look for it, you notice this pattern (e.g. a spelling mistake in a given part listing you need) quite often and realize it might even be a single "root" vendor after you get through the chains of middlemen.

Allow me to grant phil21 the ability to speak for me retroactively. These were exactly my thoughts.

If the rules are to not include pricing information and you include pricing information, how do you possibly get upset over it being taken down?

Reviews are long-lived, that pricing info is probably out of date in a few months, but the review will live on for a while, and lead to confusion (Especially since, I assume your reviews were well written, giving them more credibility, and thus leading to more confusion)

There is also the problem of confusion over price of a product and its legal implications... if you go to a store that relies on box stickers for pricing, and the stickers only have a price, and there isa box there with a wrong (lower) price on it, the store has to sell it at that price in most states... im sure the law wouldnt kick in over a comment, but you cant blame amazon for guarding against the swarm of people who's sole purpose in life seems to be to get one over on other people

Reviews clearly have to take the price into account. You expect different thing from a $40 grill and a $300 one. If Amazon doesn't want explicit price info displayed and they make that clear, fine, but a review can't be accurate under arbitrary price movements.

Its one think to differentiate between $40 and $300, of course.

Its another to list actual prices of various products side by side in a comparison chart, that data becomes stale real fast and is factually inaccurate at that point.

There is a vast difference in saying "For $500 I expected more" and saying "Product a works out to $4 per plumbus and product b works out to $3.50 per plumbus and product c works out to 3.75 per plumbus" ... that data becomes factually misleading as soon as one of those prices changes.

The actual plubusses were batteries, and the actual data was mAh/$. I have found that the relative mAh/$ for various brands stays fairly stable over time even as the price changes, so the data is valid. I've a plumbus change positions relative to another once over two years since I wrote most of my battery reviews.

I'd rather have that data than not have it. But of course, it's Amazon's platform.

You would prefer inaccurate information to no information?

Please dont take this as an insult, but you are saying you'd rather be stupid than ignorant...

Wouldn't Amazon be potentially liable if they sold a counterfeit battery as something it isn't and that battery ends up hurting someone?

In theory yeah, if they clearly didn't do their due diligence and knew/should have known. Probably won't in reality.

They've been fined lately a bunch of times for improperly shipping hazardous materials that have injured people.


>They can't keep counterfeits off (I just recently got a 'samsung' battery that would only charge to 80%),

Are you sure that it is counterfeit? 80% is a common charging cutoff point for Li-ion batteries to minimise wear-and-tear. Usually it is enforced in software.

They're shipped at 60%, though any charge cap would still be reported as 100% by the logic in the battery. I know my MacBook doesn't say 80%: Full! ;)

But my Thinkpad does say 80% full, because I've (deliberately) capped the battery charging at 80% to prolong the life of the battery.

So you're charging only to approximately 64% of the actual battery capacity?

No, I'm charging to 80% of the battery capacity.

I've been uneasy at the whole "FBA" concept for a while, and I've certainly used Amazon much less as a result.

I'm not sure what they are thinking here, to be honest. I don't want to use another eBay; I stopped using it entirely due to scammers and paypal. I previously had some trust that Amazon was buying and reselling genuine products, and I no longer do.

If FBA was restricted to original manufacturers who provide their own inventory, I'd have little to complain about. But thousands of unknown vendors acting as yet another middle man and pushing cheap counterfeit crap add no value at all, in my opinion. They do nothing but tarnish Amazon's reputation.

It's worst than that. As someone already pointed out, buying software on Amazon is down-right dangerous. And Amazon does not care.

Yet, beyond that, counterfeits and scams are rampant on the platform. Scammers take advantage of genuine seller's good rank, insert themselves at lower prices, destroy the genuine seller's revenue stream and deliver cheap knock-offs or even dangerous products to unsuspecting buyers.

And past that, Amazon does something really crazy. They allow anyone to leave reviews on any product, whether they purchased the product or not. All you need is an Amazon account. You don't even need to have ever purchased anything at all. You don't even need to have a verified credit card on file. And so, what happens is that there are scammers using fake bad reviews as weapons of war to knock good sellers down in ranking and capture what would have been their sales. And, again, Amazon does not care.

On Amazon's advertising platform there's a similar issue. They will charge sellers for any click on ads. This means you don't even need to be a verified active Amazon user to click on ads and burn seller's advertising budget with zero ROI. Amazon does not qualify any click on their ads. Logic would say a seller is only interested in genuine Amazon users. A simple definition of this might be someone who has had an Amazon account for N months, has purchased an average of N items per year/month, has a credit card on file and has had product successfully delivered to their address. Seller's are not interested on clicks from someone in China hired to burn through their ad budget. Again, Amazon does not care.

Not sure where this mess is headed but these issues need to be addressed or it will get really ugly.

>> And past that, Amazon does something really crazy. They allow anyone to leave reviews on any product, whether they purchased the product or not. ... And so, what happens is that there are scammers using fake bad reviews as weapons of war to knock good sellers down in ranking and capture what would have been their sales.

How does leaving a bad review for a product have any effect at all on the ranking of a seller? Reviews for a product are wholly unrelated to seller reviews.

You are allowed to leave feedback (including a star ranking) for sellers, but that option is only available from the summary page of your actual order, i.e., it is not possible to rank/review a seller without having purchased from them.

My language was not precise enough in that quote. I meant to say that the products sold by good sellers are knocked down in ranking by bad product reviews. Thanks for picking that up.

They penalize and hide non verified reviews mostly now unless super helpful.

The issue is that reviews affect ranking. And ranking can have a huge impact on sales. Attackers only have to get through a few times to create enough damage to require hundreds or thousands of 5 star reviews to fix. It's a matter of very simple math.

The only reviews that should be permitted should be from actual Amazon customers. They should also be weighted based on what I am going to call "karma". By this I mean that it should not be possible for someone to setup an account, buy a product and then leave a 1 star negative review within a few days.

We have seen reviews posted before the product was delivered to the buyer! In addition to this, the buyer's "karma" needs to have an element of seniority validation. Someone who has been on Amazon for ten years and regularly buys products is not likely to post face reviews. Someone who just joined Amazon 30 days ago and only bought a handful of products should not be trusted.

Non verified reviews should not be allowed at all. The key word here is "review", which should mean "I bought one, I used it for a reasonable period of time and this is what I think of the product.".

Reviews also need to have a certain amount of minimum time from purchase built in. Say, 30 days. And, within this time, sellers ought to have access to buyers in order to try and make it right. In other words, just like a Walmart customer would when buying something from the store and don't like it. There's an opportunity for excellent customer service here and Amazon is not allowing it to happen.

That's a review. An unverified review is a fairy tale. It's fake. And it can be fake both in a positive or negative direction.

Amazon needs to put in basic provisions in order to ensure that reviews are from actual buyers with enough "karma" to be trusted.

"Helpful" is easy to game with enough fraudulent upvotes.

but lousy broken English still (fortunately) gives away these reviews as false.

As bad as it sounds, I dismiss most reviews unless the punctuation and grammar is correct.

Have you found any alternative to online shopping?

I generally just roll the dice with Amazon on anything that is not food or electronics. The convenience trumps the money wasted on buying a bad product.

For electronics, I've looked at Walmart and Jet.com which have shady 3rd party sellers that are worse than Amazon sellers.

I believe BestBuy gets all its inventory from authorized sellers so I trust them, although they have limited selection.

I haven't found a solution for food (mainly specific branded supplements like magnesium/vitamin C/etc. that can't be found in regular grocery stores)

The ideal situation would be if Amazon didn't conmingle its "Sold by Amazon.com" inventory with 3rd party sellers and charged a premium for it (to make it economically feasible for them). Right now the current incentives aren't pointing in that direction.

Most customers don't know about the conmingling. If we could spread awareness of conmingling, the economic incentives could lean in that direction.

Food is not commingled, or anything with expiration dates. Buy from a seller with good feedback and you'll be fine.

That's great to hear, but source? I've bought food from Amazon, but I'm really hesitant to do so anymore

This is unsettling. Not only are many counterfeit goods being sold through Amazon, but Amazon's policies (co-mingling inventory, lack of ability to signal counterfeit goods in complaint, lack of ability to review a counterfeit seller of a good instead of the good itself) are directly encouraging this situation. And Amazon's response seems to be a collective shrug.

The news media's response is probably just as much to blame - they're more interested in writing fluff pieces about Amazon's hypothetical drone delivery than in informing the public about the current major threat to consumers posed by Amazon's policies. I'm willing to bet a lot of customers have received faulty counterfeit goods and don't even realize it.

This also underscores one of the problems with quasi-monopolies - once they feel they have a captive audience, they're only more than happy to screw over their customers in order to make a bit more money. If everyone gravitates towards one company, we end up in a very precarious situation when the company invariably decides that we have no where else to go and then can do whatever they want to us.

Counterfeit products seem to becoming a near universal problem. It's not just amazon, but other marketplaces (eBay, taobao etc). Even seems like major electronic component suppliers fall foul of this sometimes (digikey).

I can really only see three solutions:

1. We just buy everything direct from the supplier. Companies like amazon manage distribution. 2. We provide tools to allow the consumer to track the supply chain process. Products shipped with unique QR code, printed at the of manufacture? Users able to verify that this product was actually manufactured by the stated supplier. Could be an interesting startup idea? 3. Consumers get better at evaluating products on their own merits. Verifying battery capacity, performance etc.

3 is basically what you have to do if you purchase anything in Shenzhen markets. You can't just trust a particular supplier, or even that one batch has the same performance characteristics as the last.

A lot of Chinese manufacturers use authenticity codes hidden under a scratch-off panel. The authenticity code can be verified on the manufacturer's website; the website will confirm that the code is genuine and alert the user if it has been previously used. It's a cheap and reasonably effective method.

http://blog.vapeclub.co.uk/how-to-check-your-vape-device-is-... http://www.skyrc.com/antifake/indexen.php http://sjcamhd.com/safe/

That's neat, but it feels like it would work better with a trusted central authority. I guess there are a few reasons:

1. The central authority takes pressure of the manufacture to build a verification system. 2. They could provide a single unified interface to consumers. Single QR validation app etc. 3. They could help track a product though resales. Which maybe more in the consumers, rather than manufacturers interests. 4. They could proactively investigate counterfeit claims. Potentially across different product lines.

This is actually exactly what our company (assembly.com - YCS15) does.

We're now at the stage where we provide effectively a full supply chain solution. It works like this:

1. Product company has an issue like this and contacts us

2. We work with the factory, setup our quality control hardware+software.

3. The product company defines all of the procedures for validating that a product works and is legitimate. All of those are performed by our team on the China side. Individual units are serialized with QR codes and photographed and videoed during inspections.

The combination of unique QR in our system and natural markings on products is usually enough to validate authenticity. We have a few other systems we use to further validate the product, but on a high level and as the most cost effective part of our solution, this already helps far more than doing nothing.

We've helped prevent a large amount of fraud that was previously occurring for some customers. Interesting to see this start to become a larger issue on Amazon's side.

4. We're currently working on moving the serialization and validation to more steps in the supply chain, continuing to validate authenticity + quality closer and closer to the customer.

Interesting! At what price point (for the end user) does this start to make sense?

Even #1 isn't 100% safe. Ubiquiti had counterfeit product get mixed into their own fulfillment chain. Let me repeat that, they had counterfeit product make its way into their own fulfillment chain, which was then sold legitimately to customers.

Then again, this is the same company that fell prey to Nigerian spammers. Wouldn't go near any of their products as they definitely have some roomtemp IQ's in that joint.

Ubiuiti products seem really nice. However I've heard many bad things about their management culture.

I really don't get how you can get fake product into you own fulfillment chain. But I guess if you sign off on fake invoices that could happen. :)

I'm assuming it happened when buying from their FBA store. That would happen because they didn't tick the box preventing Amazon from commingling inventory and someone else listed a fake "Ubiquiti router".

This happened outside of Amazon. Counterfeit product literally made it into their distributor's warehouses and was sold as legit. It's well-known, look it up on $search_engine: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ubiquiti-plunges-on-struggl...

Just listing it wouldn't have been enough. The counterfeiter would have had to ship product to amazon through FBA.

> Ubiuiti products seem really nice. However I've heard many bad things about their management culture

I want to know more about this. I'm not interested in buying from companies that have a tradition of having abusive or exploitative relationship with their employees, whenever it is possible to do so (I rightly acknowledge that its pretty hard to do. Almost every large company has been sued or been reported to have some sort of x y or z issue with their employees. I also try to be judicious about how I make exceptions. Its hard nowadays.)

Its one of the reasons I walked away from amazon.

edit: for what its worth, googling around with various search terms led to not much. The Glassdoor ratings also showed up at 4.x out of 5 (can't recall the exact number). So i'd be interested to hear more about it if you have anything to share

Glassdoor reviews appear to be routinely faked. At least in my experience.

Once company I follow on glassdoor, after having an average rating of 2 for years has been getting a new 5 star review once a week for the last 2 months. This seems to be how companies get round any filtering glassdoor has in place, they slowly post good reviews over a period of months.

I wouldn't trust their review averages. Maybe look at the baseline number of negative reviews, and see if the comments seem valid.

I think this is the case for anything where anyone can write a review. The same happens with restaurant reviews, for instance: people affiliated with the restaurant will write glowing, positive reviews to try to drown out the angry 1-star ratings from pissed-off customers.

The thing to do with any kind of rating system like this is to weight the positive reviews far less than the negative reviews. Also read the positive reviews with a critical eye; the ones by "plants" are usually somewhat obvious.

It's well known companies have shill Glassdoor ratings.

Software support longevity can be iffy on certain product lines. Maybe 1 update, but not much beyond 6 months.

If you're dumb enough to fall prey to Nigerian scammers to the tune of $39M....

Well that's good to know after buying a bunch of their aps off amazon. Although I feel it would be really easy to detect a fake with them.

> 2. We provide tools to allow the consumer to track the supply chain process. Products shipped with unique QR code, printed at the of manufacture? Users able to verify that this product was actually manufactured by the stated supplier. Could be an interesting startup idea?

Yes, it does sound like a fantastic opportunity! How would it work though? Every single instance of product would have to have its own id that would "expire" as soon as it's verified by an end-user, to prevent counterfeiters from copying a number and running with it?

Even then, it would be possible to copy numbers from products not yet delivered, and use them on counterfeits. Or you have to have a destructive process to reveal the number (like a scratch-off).

There would still be many ways to cheat: opening the boxes and replacing the genuine product with a fake, or the used market, etc.

Still, an interesting problem!

Because this particular cheat has happened to us and we added systems to prevent it:

We already do serialize each unit for customers. So when cases started appearing like this we would also apply another code to the box the unit is placed into. Our system then associates both of them - taking photos of each when that occurs.

This prevents the changing of what unit is in a box.

Peeling off the sticker is actually pretty easily prevented entirely by the photo, humans aren't very good at placing stickers exactly the same way as they're initially applied. Compounded by our use of self-destructive stickers where possible.

I would say a peel off tab covering the code might work so you know it's been tampered with.

A few thing could be used to prevent copying. Users could be allowed to register a name on the verification page. If you try and register a product and it's already registered you know it's fake.

I don't think it would work in every instance. But it would increase costs to the counterfeiter. Hopefully to the point that it becomes economically unsustainable.

The method you describe is already in widespread use by Chinese manufacturers.

Your solution #2 is one of the major selling points of "blockchain".

Unfortunately the hard part is getting everyone along a supply-chain to participate in a new tracking standard that could easily reveal valuable information to competitors. So it's probably not going to be adopted except in cases where counterfeiting is an obviously greater threat.

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