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Amazon Dark Patterns (netinstructions.com)
1056 points by handpickednames 55 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 272 comments

Prompted by this post, I wanted to check what happened to the 1-star review I have left 6 months ago. (Product worked for 3 days and then stopped, and after a replacement, the same thing happened). Sure enough, I have 0 comment in my profile, and I just checked, it has also disappeared from the product page.

This is shady as hell, because I am 100% sure I wrote this review. I even wrote it twice, once on amazon.com and once translated on a local amazon site. This is slightly infuriating.

As someone who worked for a third party used bookseller, this was 8 months ago, we would always and I mean always dispute anything below a 3 star review. Many get thrown out. It was generally in the 40-50% range that we could get removed. Not much rhyme or reason...just dispute all of them.

Why? Isn't that a little dishonest?

More than a little, but I think the "why" is obvious.

Cause people have to sell to eat in our culture of step on the next guy to have a life.

And it encourages and even facilitates shady shit.

>Cause people have to sell to eat in our culture of step on the next guy to have a life.

A bit hyperbolic, but also applies to pretty much every culture which has ever existed.

Wait... living organisms have to get food in order to eat? Next you are going to tell me that they are in competition for finite resources.

Not only that, but if they don't eat, they starve.


You forgot to switch accounts.


Ok, I'll accept that, but you have to admit it looks like you're responding to your comment there. If you want to engage in constructive conversation you have a bit of work to do. Start with A) realizing you probably don't know as much as you think you do, and B) don't get so emotional when someone disagrees with you.

Because people write crappy reviews. I remember seeing a 1 start review for a video card that was basically "I ordered the wrong one and it didnt fit my system" reviews should be taken with a grain of salt.

Sometimes the reviews also don't match the rating. I see this happen all the time, not only on Amazon: "Great service, great product. No complaints." 1 star

I confronted someone who left this sort of my review on my mobile app to ask why they gave me one star if they were so pleased. It was the only review under five stars.

They said that they wanted their review to appear in the "top negative review" column since it didn't have a shot at the "top positive review" column.

I was dumbfounded.

I had a similar story - user said that even though their review is wrong, "I'll let it stay because I don't feel like changing it".

Really makes you question what is going on in the heads of people around you.

I noticed my ex-girlfriend rating our Uber driver 3/5 stars once we arrived at the airport. I asked her what was wrong with him. She said he was fine but it was just an average ride, nothing exceptional. And that she's only given out one 4/5 and zero 5/5's.

Not her fault. What choice do you have but to assign your own arbitrary meanings to each star, and how aren't those going to vary from person to person?

I never looked at 5-star rating systems the same.

I agree it's frustrating that most sites leave it up to each individual user to decide what each star rating means.

On the other hand, I don't think it's really a problem as long as users are consistent. It doesn't matter how "harsh" they are as long as everyone has similar odds of getting a harsh reviewer.

I do tend to leave slightly below-average ratings because I like leaving room for truly exceptional products/experiences to get a higher rating.

I used to see this very commonly on a site with a dropdown rating system. I believe people were selecting 5 stars and then trying to scroll down the page. Since they'd be focused on the dropdown it'd change their rating to 1 star. That was my hypothesis anyway.

Just because some people write crappy reviews is not an excuse for challenging all of the bad reviews.

Race to the bottom. Who will win?

Consider the other side of this argument: should reviews be timeless?

Many times a (good faith) vendor will make small, incremental changes to a product that addresses concerns that low-star reviewers point out. However, the product page remains the same - it does not distinguish between "Seattle Coffee Beans - Batch A" and "Seattle Coffee Beans - Batch C". It simply says "Seattle Coffee Beans".

So if you leave a review for Batch A, but the product being sold is now Batch C, should the review still be displayed?

Even if there are some charitable explanations possible, the least courtesy would be to warn you that your comment had been removed and why. You could mark the comment as "outdated", it won't bother me (assuming something has really changed).

Here, it creates the impression that my comment was swept under the rug for some dubious reasons. And this is probably the last time I ever comment on Amazon. That does not really create a great trust in the system.

Steam does this to an extent with game reviews. Old reviews aren't removed, but they show separate ratings of "Recent Reviews" and "All Reviews", effectively reducing the potency of old reviews.

That said, video games these days can change a lot from one year to another, whereas almost all of the products on Amazon will not do so.

They actually have quite powerful tools, with a graph of reviews over time, the ability to select a custom time range from that, ..., I quite like their system.

I believe that got added to help people recognize and filter out review-bombing.

To others' point it could be in Amazons interest to have completely fake but real-looking reviews to promote their preferred products so this would then feed into that dark pattern.

Sure they can, but what about some of the products on Amazon which are mostly immutable like for example: Books.

A bad book is a bad book. Batch B of the said book is mostly a new "product" listing on Amazon with its own set of reviews and ratings.

Also if Batch C is being sold or something similar (to batches), a better idea would be (IMO) to have the product owner comment on the review, saying we have fixed this in batch 2 or batch B or something

This is OT but books can vary in quality too - specifically the paper used and the print quality. I was looking at "Physically Based Rendering" (http://a.co/bL8bjUw) after seeing the post here about rendering a scene from Moana and was disappointed to see comments about bad print quality. Hopefully this is fixed in a later print run.

>Also if Batch C is being sold or something similar (to batches), a better idea would be (IMO) to have the product owner comment on the review, saying we have fixed this in batch 2 or batch B or something

That is a good idea, but that still does not fix the aggregate data. When someone searches for "Coffee", the aggregate number of reviews is still considering that low-star review. So the "Seattle Coffee Beans" overall rating for Batch C could be a 4.5 / 5, but for all batches is a 2.5 / 5.

The easiest way to fix this is to remove old, out-of-date reviews. This should apply to positive reviews too, but I have no idea if Amazon is doing this.

Another approach is what Steam did - have a long-term rating and a "recent" rating. See "No Man's Sky" as an example [1] - a product that started poor, but improved over time. This helps prevent product brigading and gives vendors an opportunity to bounce back from negative reviews.

[1] https://store.steampowered.com/app/275850/No_Mans_Sky/

Not necessarily. The album Pinkerton by Weezer was critically panned at release but now regarded as perhaps their best album.

Tastes change. That said, you can still find those old reviews. Not so in all cases on Amazon...

Steam handles this by displaying the average from strictly recent reviews and the average over all.

For example, No Man's Sky was one of the biggest letdowns in recent gaming releases. It was later patched to be much better.

Check out the reviews here: https://store.steampowered.com/app/275850/No_Mans_Sky/

I don't know if Amazon has this feature, but I've seen sites that let the seller answer back to reviews - for cases where the seller has addressed a reviewer's feedback, they could reply and say that this has been fixed.

Or make a new listing, and in the description mention what has been fixed.

Amazon has that feature.

This happened to a Firefox extension I wote. I wrote the extension and published it to the FF extension store and got valid criticism in reviews pretty quickly. I addressed the issues and uploaded a new version of the extension. There was nothing I could do other than reply to the reviews to show I had addressed the issue. This doesn't get reflected in the overall rating. After the reviews nobody seemed to want to try the extension. Maybe it was because of the bad reviews, maybe not.

I was doing this for free, so I just shrugged my shoulders and moved on. I'm not gonna fight the system, but there is money involved I could see how someone would.

Deleting older reviews isn't the only mechanism for handling stale reviews. They could add a decay function to the weighting in average review rating and leave the contents of the original review in place, for example. New versions of products could be treated as unique products, and thus reviews could be forked.

If Batch C is different enough from Batch A that the reviews don't apply, then should it even be the same product?

In some cases, yes.

Books for example. Some print runs are terrible. So even if the content is great, terrible print quality or construction can lead to bad reviews.

Some books have numbered editions. But if the content is unchanged, should they be different products?

i think the point is that had the review been 5 stars it would still be there...

I think they could do like ebay does: reviews in the last 4 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, ...etc. Or a similar mechanism. Sometimes I am not interested to old reviews, esp. technical books, as they become very quickly outdated. Deleting them implies deleted forever, though. Such information will be always lost, while it might still apply. I would simply give it a different weight.

Aren't those time limits on reviews only for reviews of sellers, though? Does Ebay also time-limit products reviews, reviews that are divorced from a seller? Do they even host those kind of reviews?

Uh maybe you are right. It's been a long time since I've stopped using ebay.

However, I am quite sure I have seen elsewhere this feature. It's not bad. It allows to have more recent opinions about the item.

the google play store does this -- reviews left on older versions of applications will be denoted as such. the developer response to comments is also made public, so a bad review on a 1.0 release could have the dev apologizing and saying it's fixed for 1.1, with the current version being 1.1.5, and one could infer (with enough faith in the developer) that the issue is resolved.

If a batch is different enough to warrant new reviews, it's a different product and should be sold as such. Consider beer and wine. Industrially manufactured beer doesn't vary much from batch to batch, so it's sold by brand. Wine varies a lot from batch to batch, so it's sold by brand and year.

Amazon already accounts for the date of the review to some extent. If you hover over the overall rating for a product you can read:

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

The App Store does a good job with this, showing reviews for a new version while maintaining old reviews. Of course products aren’t often “versioned” so this might requiring revisiting how products are posted/managed.

Its a serious issue if Amazon does not have this feature and still deletes reviews.

Yes. Because it represents how you've chosen to run your business. You are allowed to judge the business based on their previous behavior.

You can pick a cut off date. Like only reviews in the last 18 months used to calculate score and are shown.

Only verified purchases should count as well. A lot of people review stuff just out of spite or PR reasons.

Same for me. I wrote a 1-star review about Shelly Walling's book "The Entrepreneur's Guide to Keeping Your Sh*t Together". It simply disappeared.

Not only Amazon does that. Few times I wrote a review of a restaurant on TripAdvisor, and all of them are removed :( Good ones are still there. If they can't do that, what is the point of having user reviews.

> what is the point of having user reviews

Selling a marketing tool for businesses and products.

This happened to me directly on Logitech's website. It's why I'll never buy their products again. I received a wireless headset that didn't keep a full day charge longer than 30 minutes. I had to use it plugged in (powering) 24/7. I submitted a 1 star review stating my problem and they removed my feedback without even telling me. It was just gone a few weeks later when I checked it, hoping they hadn't removed it.

I once wrote a 1-star review on amazon for a top-selling product that had almost only positive reviews. The review was published but they quietly changed its contents. They replaced some words (I guess it was too strong language like "crap" or something) but even worse they removed at least one whole sentence and after that the review didn't make much sense anymore and it looked like I wrote it like that.

Then I watched the statistics about how many people found this helpful. At that time this was in two numbers: people who think its helpful and people who don't. Over months that ratio kept the same. Started with 1 helpful, 3 not helpful. Then 10 helpful, 30 not helpful. Then 30 helpful, 90 not helpful. I found that highly suspicious.

Since then, amazon reviews are dead to me.

Wait amazon edits your reviews? That's shaddy as hell, I can understand removing a review for "strong language" but changing its content without asking the author is borderline scammy.

I couldn't find similar stories online (although admittedly that's pretty hard to search for). I'd think it would be a big deal if Amazon was caught doing that, wouldn't it be?

I don’t think there’s anything borderline about it. Sounds like outright fraud to me.

Yes, this should be criminal behavior and carry a prison sentence. I don't know if this is legally fraud, but it definitely should be.

I don't know if they do that regulary but in my case they did. It was my first (and last) attempt to write a review. Maybe the amazon employee just had the best intentions and didn't want to disencourage me because it was my first review... they achieved the opposite.

Obviously a retailer like Amazon wouldn't outright edit user reviews because it would be incredibly easy to catch, and would be a massive scandal if true.

The guy you're replying to probably just forgot what he wrote.

> Obviously a retailer like Amazon wouldn't outright edit user reviews because it would be incredibly easy to catch...

To be fair, you're also giving them the benefit of doubt on this, for which the dark patterns don't seem to justify. It could just be a scandal that hasn't broken, yet.

> The guy you're replying to probably just forgot what he wrote.

No, definitely not. But this was almost 10 years ago and I never saved my original writing so I can't tell the exact differences. I guess for the censor at work they where just minor changes but I remember how upset I was because some things I wrote became out of context.

test1235 55 days ago [flagged]

I find that hard to believe. Any chance of a link to the review? Otherwise this comment could easily be written by an Amazon competitor looking to sway opinion.

Who are these Amazon competitors that have shills working for them to damage Amazon's reputation?

Yes, apparently its too shocking to believe that Amazon will lie in its reviews, but its perfectly reasonable that Walmart PR staff would troll HN and lie in comments.

Lets take the next logical leap and blame Russia for creating bots that will divide America between Walmart and Amazon

Jet.com and/or Walmart.com?

I have no idea of that's true but certainly there are competitors. And Walmart is certainly know for shady tactics.

I'm really surprised by this. When it comes to Customer Feedback (as opposed to Product Reviews), Amazon institutes an all-or-nothing policy. If any part of a Customer Feedback is out of policy, the entire feedback will be removed (if a seller reports it, that is). So it's quite surprising to me that they'd treat Product Reviews differently and actually edit the reviews.

An alternative explanation for this is that Amazon is struggling with identifying fake reviews, which could explain both why there seem to be many fake reviews and why one would get blocked from writing reviews (basically falling victim to a false positive of their fake review detection).

Obviously there is also some bad UX thrown in for good measure (being able to write a review without being able to send it), but we aren’t necessarily looking at dark patterns here.

This could just be Amazon struggling with and failing at a task (avoiding fake reviews).

Not all bad UX is a dark pattern, sometimes it’s just bad UX … (a dark pattern is bad UX with a positive consequence for the person or company offering up the UI or maybe just and intended positive consequence, even if the UI doesn’t achieve that goal)

I think it’s a stretch to argue that Amazon is really benefiting from any of this and long term this erosion of trust is not at all good for Amazon. I do honestly think that if Amazon could snap with their fingers and remove all fake reviews they would do it. (Which is not to say that Amazon does not employ dark patterns elsewhere.)

> An alternative explanation for this is that Amazon is struggling with identifying fake reviews

I seriously doubt this.

I review most products I purchase and most of the time I leave a description and written review. I tried to leave a 1 star review on an Anker Auxilary Cable I bought that was an "Amazon's Choice" product. I tried for 3 days and every time I receive an error trying to review the product telling me reviews were unavailable. I then tried giving it a 5 star review and it was immediately accepted, at which point I immediately changed the review to 1 star and explained why.

* So oddly I just tried to review a piece of electrical safety equipment I purchased through Amazon a few months back. I tried to give it a 3 Star (and 5 star) review and received the "Sorry, we are unable to accept your review of this product." notification.

Oddly this product has zero reviews. Are sellers allowed to disable reviews for their product listings? If so, do the existing reviews remain visible?

If your maybes are valid it simply means that these Amazon guys are new in the business and will figure out how to design user interface once they have the resources.Lets give them a slack, aye?

Seriously though, I canceled my prime after I got a fake SD Card that was sold by Amazon. There was no straightforward way of returning it, had to contact customer support.

Later I looked closely and I noticed the reviews warning against fake SD Cards but these were buried in enthusiastic 5 star comments celebrating their new SD Cards and trying to tell the world what a good purchase that was.

Maybe it’s just due to the scale, maybe it’s in the business model but dealing with fakes wasn’t working for me. If I wanted the eBay experience I would have been buying my SD Cards from eBay.

It's not necessarily a resource problem, from my time there there is an institutional lack of respect toward UX and front end and this is might still be the case.

There's also a myriad of custom Perl templates that are essentially impossible to maintain. I once had to investigate where a feedback form sent feedback to, the answer was nowhere for about a year.

When were you there?

You are throwing together different issues.

Amazon has lax standards as to who can use them to sell their wares (leading to fakes being sold). That’s not UX or a UX dark pattern, that’s a business strategy. (Which doesn’t make it necessarily better or worse than if it were a UX dark pattern if you are judging it morally, it’s just something different.)

Amazon makes it hard to initiate returns. That might be a dark pattern. (In my experience the returns process for things Amazon sells directly or more or less directly, returns are straightforward and simple. Third party sellers are here, again, the problem. And that’s then more a mix of UX and business strategy, where third parties either cannot or are not required to use Amazon’s returns process but have to provide their own, e.g. fall back to writing emails back and forth.)

Reviews are overly enthusiastic, even though the sold product is not genuine. This might be an issue with fake reviews or uncritical customers (themselves unable to recognize fakes) or both – but it’s not really a UI dark pattern.

I would also argue that Amazon’s way of surfacing negative reviews (with the stars histogram and ways to filter reviews by number of stars) doesn’t suggest that it’s Amazon’s intention to hide negative reviews …

O.K. Look, when a website tells me that I'm purchasing a "32Gb Kingston UHS SD Card" by "Kingston" I expect to receive a 32Gb Kingston UHS SD Card.

There are details like "Sold by SomeScammySeller" or "Fulfilled by Amazon EU S.à.r.l" on the page and there are caveats like showing the same reviews for the same item sold by different sellers.

After the title, there would be a clickable link with the brand name after the title making the impression that you are buying something from that brand.

It Makes it very hard to know WHAT and from WHOM you are buying from and what are all these reviews about. Sometimes you change colour and everything changes.

You need to study the title, you need to study the comments, you need to study the Amazon's way of doing business and have understood what Fulfilled means, What is Amazon EU S.à.r.l, What is their relationship with the sellers and what guarantees they provide.

I don't know how dark or light coloured are these design choices but, in my personal opinion, these create a lot of cognitive loads and combined with not providing a return option and requiring to go by the customer support looks sketchy to me.

What companies need to start doing is digitally signing their products (e.g. put a unique code on each box that is generated from a private key). Then Amazon and/or sellers can go online and verify this key to ensure their wares are not replica.

I'm curious how you think that would work. They could sign the serial number, I suppose, but I don't see why the fakes wouldn't just recycle serial numbers at that point. For fast moving parts, they could include a date, but you could still just copy some other one from recent checks.

I think how it would work (if I amazon wanted it to) is that the supplier would send the list of signatures for the next 200 products to amazon (which would then check for duplicates). Presumably these signatures could be scanned from a barcode format programatically.

Also, consumers believing they had a fake product could then go to the website of these manufacturers, who would have an incentive to make a web-ui to reveal duplicates/phonies.

I'm not gonna pretend I've invented a perfect end-to-end solution here, but if I'm getting 90% of the way there in 10 minutes then let's not pretend it's unsolvable.

Apologies if my tone made it sound dismissive. I'm genuinely interested in how this could be made to work.

I agree in thinking a full on handshake would be required. Not sure how instrumented all of the suppliers would be. And I'd imagine that is where a lot of the pain to build a solution like this would be.

Any other approaches that you could think of that don't require cooperation from every party?

There is also the question of cost and basic reach. You assert this gets 90% of the way there. Do we really think the fake problem is over 10% of traffic today? I'd be surprised if that is the case. I don't have numbers, but I would expect this to be in the .1% range. At the scale of a large store, that is still a giant number.

Put the serial number under a scratch off. Once the serial number is registered by a customer via an online database, future verification would show other purchases as counterfeit.

It has some drawbacks:

- You need a significant number of people to start registering their purchases online, which no one does

- I've heard counterfeiters sometimes operate from the same factory. Legit serials could be generated for fake parts.

- Customers will obliviously try to pursue returns with the victim manufacturer instead of Amazon.

>I've heard counterfeiters sometimes operate from the same factory. Legit serials could be generated for fake parts.

A few years ago I ordered 60 computers from Dell with office 2016. About half of the 2016 serial cards were from the US, they all worked. Of the other half from China, half were already registered under office accounts. These were cards with scratch off covering part of the serial.

What? They make returns very easy to do. There's a form that pops up and many choices for reasons.

There was no return option on the SD Card, it was marked as "not eligible for return" so I had to deal with the customer support.

I actually went ahead and dug out the conversation for you.

This is my refund request: https://imgur.com/bthMMoN This is the response from Amazon: https://imgur.com/xWK8FVH

Yeah, they refunded me without a fuss but I prefer an experience where the items arrive in expected quality and I keep them.

I think I actually kept the Prime membership for a while but I found myself disillusioned and felt uneasy when shopping at Amazon and later canceled as I was no longer buying stuff from Amazon.

So all it took was an email, they didn't even require you to return the product before refunding you, and you're unhappy with that for some reason?

Absofuckinglutely. Anytime you end up with a fraudulent counterfeit it's a hugely unhappy situation for a number of reasons. The biggest for me would be: What if I hadn't caught it? Maybe I'm using some inferior counterfeits right now that I don't know about that Amazon ripped me off on, that might fail catastrophically. And also, there's plenty of times where you need a product by a specific time, and not having it at that time because you wasted a whole shipping cycle on a counterfeit is painful.

When you end up with a counterfeit, you are being defrauded. How could anyone be happy in that situation just because your money was refunded? I just wanted what I was trying to buy. I didn't want free junk that wastes my time.

I spent all day thinking that my raspberry pi zero was faulty, trying to figure out why it’s not booting(FYI, very hard to obtain).

Yes, I’m unhappy. A happy purchase is not one where you get a refund for low quality product, a happy purchase is a purchase that you end up spending your money on a product that satisfies you.

I don’t care about 7gbp, that’s not the issue.

Returns through Amazon have become increasingly difficult and spiteful in the past two or three of 20 years I've been using them.

Last week I returned a rotary airer that was damaged upon delivery. Amazon online 'help' told me I had to find a courier that could take the outsized parcel AND I had to pay out of pocket for it. They insisted that it be returned. They didn't refund the full postage cost or the cost of packaging.

Amazon are throwing away their hard-won reputation by penny-pinching and treating customers as badly as other retailers. I'm out.

Yeah, I mean, he got a refund and didn't even have to return anything. How dark is that pattern?

Having said that, Amazon's product mixing is causing a lot of problems and trust issues for a lot of product types. I really hope they fix it.

Me not getting a refund would have been a fraud. I would have filed a chargeback against that fraudulent purchase.

A dark pattern is not about taking someone's money an running away but it's about impacting their decision making by designing processes or interactions that exploit common behaviour.

An example of a well known dark pattern is adding things to the shopping cart just before check out. Another one is starting a subscription with a click of a button but requiring documents to be faxed for the cancellation.

On my specific case with Amazon, the dark pattern is to make it hard for me to spot a fraudulent item and not making the standard refund process available therefore increasing the chances of purchase and decreasing the chances of refund by making it a hassle. Well, maybe it was not intentional, maybe it was a screw-up but that's again a lot of maybes.

Go do some digging on Amazon and look at all of the obviously fake SD cards out there. Then ask yourself, is this helping Amazon's business? This is a problem, and they treat it as such, they simply haven't found a suitable solution beyond simply making refunds with almost no questions asked. Unfortunately for their business, this actually enables a different kind of fraud that is also a real problem for them.

That is vastly different from dark patterns about trying to inflate review scores or encouraging subscriptions to unwanted services. They do those things too, and pretty effectively.

Any sources on your claim that they are actively trying to solve that problem and that they are failing at it?

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-11-28/amazon-ge... among others.

I don't think they can really solve it without a complete top-to-bottom shift in how they track and inventory products internally. Most of the fixes that I've seen proposed just lead to the vendors and merchants gaming the system in different ways.

Of course they will say that they are cracking down on fakes.

The only thing Amazon is struggling at is prying open their checkbook to pay for oversight and accountability because it would eat into their phenomenal profits. AWS alone generates $20+ million net profit a day (while we perpetuate the rumor it saves money LOL). It wouldn't cost very much to solve all of these problems with human labor, but not solving problems is incredibly important to companies too just like not paying taxes and not having toilet breaks for your warehouse workers.

One situation I found where AWS saves money is in over-capacity situations. If the a company builds a data center that is too large, they are incurring costs for under-utilization. Paying a 50% premium on 100% of resources might still be better than paying 0% premium on 200% of resources. The cloud versus on-premise discussion has many variables, so it all depends on the situation.

Amazon has been removing reviews and locking listings from receiving new reviews too while they investigate the past couple of weeks. This is probably the reason.

I've also heard that if a listing receives too many reviews in one day, they will prevent it from receiving any new reviews. I think certain unscrupulous sellers have also figured out how to take advantage of that, which is a little funny. Just post all your fake reviews before your unhappy real American customers wake up...

Well, this bad UX has a positive consequence for Amazon, unintended or not.

Products with good reviews generate more sales than those with comments stating problems with the product or delivery process, specially among infrequent buyers. (Frequent buyers may learn to ignore comments altogether, or at least spot valuable comments from fakes).

So the bad pattern is not allowing fake reviews as much as it is rejecting legitimate negative reviews.

I would, however, postulate that Amazon is aware that fake positive reviews only buy them short term benefits with long term disadvantages.

Having a cheap/free way to evaluate products by letting the customers do it is an advantage, especially if your goal is to sell everything (so you have no hope to evaluate it all yourself) – but it’s only an advantage if some useful signal is provided.

With strings of negative purchasing experiences customers might begin to look somewhere else. That’s why Amazon has a vested interest to provide reviews that are more signal than noise.

Except, will they look elsewhere? The current trend seems to suggest otherwise.

Also, will the sporadic negative experiences be enough for users to leave the site, if they are distributed among all the infrequent buyers?

Maybe not leave the site, but at least distrust negative reviews. I recently bought some towels that had amazing reviews. The towels sucked. That won't make me stop using Amazon for things in which I already have confidence but it will stop me from relying on their reviews. I will buy things like towels elsewhere.

This episode of reply all show how hard it is to identify fake reviews and what seller are doing to fake it. Really interesting in my opinion. https://www.gimletmedia.com/reply-all/124#episode-player

I actually didn't like that episode because she very clearly said she spent no time looking at the product and just clicked buy. But there are legit reasons to want a UK plug in the US (maybe you're traveling and want to have it with you when you leave). The fact that the seller is trying to game the rankings is more an issue with the rankings system than with the seller.

Gaming the rankings/listings isn't an issue exclusive to amazon, every single website has this issue, in fact even phone books (remember those) had to contend with people listing their name with leading A's to try to get to the front. Gaming listings is as old as lists and until we can come up with a solution to that problem we're always gonna have problems like this.

If the person who wrote the post could immediately identify the clearly fake reviews I see no reason why Amazon could not use the same method.

I did a lot of work on anti-botting some years ago. It's not as easy as it looks. Often you spot a pattern that is obviously fake, like here, but discover it can't generalise without huge numbers of false positives.

For example I would expect lots of legitimate users to review the same small set of TV shows or video games if they buy into a series or franchise.

FakeSpot and ReviewMeta seem to do a decent job of identifying obviously fake Amazon reviews.

I suspect that Amazon just have an incentives problem - purging their site of fake five-star reviews would go a long way to restoring trust in their platform, but it would negatively impact sales in the short-term. From what I've heard, Amazon has a very decentralised and data-driven management culture, which is antithetical to the short-term pain/long-term gain implicit in fixing their reviews problem.

How do you know what their FP rate is?

But equally - does it matter?

I would rather have less, but more accurate, reviews than have all of them but many of them being fake.

It seems like a use-case where a high false positive rate would be acceptable. Unlike say, medical diagnosis or something.

The problem is that very few really "good" reviews actually get produced. If you accidentally filter out the really thorough and useful ones, you can end up with "real" reviews that aren't well written and don't really focus on actual product issues.

Take, for example, the review of the weights in the article. I would have ignored his review, even if it had been posted. He reviewed Amazon's warehouse rather than the product on hand.

If legit reviewers have their work deleted because of FPs they get annoyed and won't write more reviews, they may even stop using the site entirely.

Deletion is not the only option. They can weight the contribution of reviews to the overall score. They can weight the display order of reviews on the product page. They can weight the display order of products in SERPs. Assigning reviews, reviewers and sellers a "fakeness probability" allows you to do all sorts of subtle, useful stuff that clearly isn't being done right now.

They could shadowban the reviews - so the reviewer would think it was being displayed.

A bit deceitful but maybe better for UX.

If I want to ignore fake reviews because they don't provide me with useful information is it unreasonable to think I would also find reviews that have the same characteristics as a fake review unhelpful? I don't want to spend all day looking through reviews so I think the false positive rate isn't as big a problem for this application as some others.

I would expect that the reviews which are a result of purchase would be treated differently? Especially if not returned, or if the customer is returning less than X/Y products? Amazon has the advantage that their users are known (to them), so it's a lot easier to fight fakes.

As in employ someone to go and trace users who post reviews to see if they’ve reviewed the same products?

Maybe you meant make a system that can do it, and do it without false positives to not upset legitimate users when their own reviews are removed.

I’m confused about the ease people expect this problem to be solved. It’s so easy to solve it exists on every popular platform: see the paid, fake reviews on the Apple App Store.

are you kidding me? the algorithm for "top" reviews is approximately synonymous with "hide negative reviews". a stretch to see how it benefits amazon? of course reviews influence purchasing, that's why they're there

I cannot buy any argument along the lines of "maybe it's just bad UX." Amazon has the resources to study and hire the best UX people in the business. There is no excuse for them having a UX problem except that they don't want good UX.

I was looking for a 2nd USB C charger for my new MacBook and found one[1]. It had 378 5 star, 'verified purchase' reviews. All filed on July the 12th, 2018!

I reported this to Amazon via Twitter on July the 18th [2] (Sorry, German).

I checked yesterday and despite Amazon promising to look into this, all reviews where still there. So I tweeted to them again and, at last, they're deleted today.

But why is this not detected automatically? 378 verified 'customers' that all review the product, with five stars, on the same day?? What are the chances?

And the language of the reviews was also so similar that even a Markov model could be used to detect they must be from the same person (or bot). No machine learning needed.

[1] https://www.amazon.de/MAOFINE-MacBook-Adapter-Charger-Replac... [2] https://twitter.com/virtualritz/status/1019741791422173185

>378 verified 'customers' that all review the product, with five stars, on the same day?? What are the chances?

Depends on the product. For a highly anticipated release like a video game or an iphone, pretty high.

I would say that this sort of thing should raise an automatic ticket in a moderation queue, but I wouldn't autodelete the reviews.

And now all of those reviews seem to have disappeared ... Maybe it's more effective to complain on HN.

The company makes 378 real purchases then mails 378 real products to random addresses scattered throughout the US. This allows them to leave verified reviews.

There's a whole industry around this - The Reply All podcast interviewed people who make these reviews. They talk about the economics of reviews and Amazon's reluctance to admit there is a problem.


An interesting dark pattern (albeit unrelated to the review flow) is during the standard checkout process. on the last screen before the purchase, the Amazon logo image / header no longer links back to the Amazon homepage like the rest of the site.

I guess keeping the user captive leads to more sales

Recently I wanted to purchase something from prime now, I added the product and during checkout where I put in the OTP ( 2FA is mandatory in India ), I changed my mind about purchasing and quit the app, knowing the purchase would fail. Amazon then quietly changed the order from prepaid to cash on delivery without asking me and went through with the order.

I thought that was a shady way of closing a sale.

> 2FA is mandatory in India

Well you did just show that it's not :)

mandatory for card transactions.

Unless you were joking, in which case, whoosh me.

I must have misunderstood your comment. I was under the impression that 2FA was mandatory for all purchases, not just card transactions.

So I thought you had figured out a way around that.

> changed the order from prepaid to cash on delivery without asking me and went through with the order

Hah, joke's on them. When the item arrived I'd honestly say, "I didn't order that," and shut the door without paying.

How...is that even allowed???

I’ve also noticed that they don’t let me ship a lot of products (mostly food, but also random harmless electronics) to shipping points or Amazon boxes in my city (in Spain), telling me they are full (they are not, they let me ship other products there and it tells me it’s full with literally any shipping point or Amazon box). They only let me ship it to a home address.

I can’t prove it’s not a bug, but it seems such a blaring issue that it’s impossible that they haven’t been noticed, specially since some people can’t ever ship to a home address.

Understandable why they won't ship food to Amazon boxes. No idea about electronics though, and they should have a better error message than just "it's full".

I don't like to defend Amazon because they are getting shadier all the time, but I always ship to a Correos office near my flat from amazon.es and haven't had this problem (yet?). Maybe it isn't the same thing as the box though. I've seen random 3rd party items that can't be left at Correos, but they do tell you at the start of the process.

Is your Correos box a regular PO BOX? I tried getting shipped things to a Correos P.O. Box with Amazon and they often sent by SEUR or similar and they were unable to ship it to a Correos PO Box and requested manual pickup.

I agree with other commenters that this behavior is not very dark and probably mostly bad UX, but it stuck me as they maybe not telling me that due to regulatory/shipping/safety issues it was better or more economic to ship directly to home.

What benefit would they get from this though?

Potentially they are worried about food going bad while left in a drop-off box. I don't think that is very sinister, but they could have a better UI for it.

this is the classic pattern that has been used by ecommerce sites for over a decade now. Once the checkout process starts, the number of links that may distract your checkout process drops dramatically.

I've found this to no longer be true.

Now a dropdown pops out and asks if you're sure you wanna leave checkout, you can choose "back to cart" and "continue checkout".

This is for US desktop. could be different for other devices/locations.

> I've found this to no longer be true.

Still true over here (outside US).

This rant is not well written. The first issue looks like a bug on Amazon's side. I'm not going to assume malice without something pointing in that direction. The author writes "What would have happend if I had left a more positive review? Would that be allowed?" Well, would it? I see no indication it would.

Those reviews are indeed suspicious, and Amazon should do a better job of detecting fake review accounts.

The third issue is the author complaining about the shipping in a product review. An understandable mistake, but Amazon is right not to publish it. When trying to learn about a product it's annoying to scroll past shipping reviews like "Arrived quickly, five stars!"

In total, I see no dark pattern at all.

I can actually verify and tell you why. Amazon will not allow you to criticize Amazon or their platform in a review (they said as much). Only the product. They probably do automatic sentiment detection for negative phrases containing Amazon and don’t allow them to be posted.

The platform and shipping are relevant in a product review.

To a certain degree. There really should be two ratings. Shipment rating and product rating.

I don't want to get a TV that gets shipped badly, sure. But if the only problem with shipping is that it is slow, maybe I'm still interested in the product because I don't get it anywhere else and I can wait. In that case I'm mostly interested in the product review.

Which is why you, as a human, can read the review and ignore the part where a reviewer says “the shipping was slow”.

I recently ordered a poster through Amazon. They sent me the wrong item 3 times. I gave up. And I can’t post a negative review despite it clearly being Amazons fault (not the shipper). I tried. Couldn’t. At least they have excellent customer service, they didn’t jerk me around and each resolved the issue as best they could.

> you, as a human, can read the review

Yes, you can, if you ever get to the review page. The ratings on reviews average out into the product rating. If there is a zillion one star "shipping is slow and Amazon customer service sucks" reviews, the product (which might be of very high quality otherwise) will have a one start rating. So you are not likely to see the product, since it will not make it into any sort of rating based list and even if you do see it you are likely to ignore it based on its one star rating.

It sounds like you think there are more products hidden by one star reviews on shipping than boosted by fake 5 star reviews. The former is not presently a problem on amazon (because they block shipping comments). The latter is a real problem that you will face every time you search for any product where there is any competition.

> To a certain degree. There really should be two ratings. Shipment rating and product rating.

Amazon does actually have a system for that, but it's only applicable to third party ("Marketplace" in Amazon lingo) sellers. For third party sellers, you can review products with the usual Product Reviews, and then for things like shipping issues (and customer service issues, and anything else that isn't the product itself) you'd mention that in your Seller Feedback. When you buy from a third party seller, there'll be a "leave seller feedback" button when you view your order. You can view a seller's feedback by clicking on their name when you see it in the product listing.

There's no "leave seller feedback" button when you place an order from Amazon though.

I want Amazon and Amazon fulfillment reviews separate from my product reviews.

I've ordered enough stuff from Amazon to know how I feel about the shipping and platform. The only thing I care about in reviews is the product itself. A product shouldn't be penalized if Amazon stuffs up the shipping.

> The platform and shipping are relevant in a product review.

Totally disagree! The product should be the same every time, but each customer is going to have a completely different shipping experience based on stock levels, warehouse proximity, carrier selection, and even based on whether the warehouse employee packing your order had enough sleep last night.

You saying the shipping was good, bad, fast, or slow, tells me virtually nothing about what my shipping experience will be.

It would be cool if there was a meta-item in Amazon inventory to represent Prime or the "Amazon experience" where you could leave reviews like this, but they don't belong on individual item listings.

It's a weird omission because it would have been so easy to increase the star rating and try to post the review again.

Yeah, I wish the author looked into the first issue more. What if you review it from your "past orders" page instead of searching for it in the store?

Having recently unsubscribed from Prime, I can say their dark patterns don't stop there. About 5 pages to complete the process, in which the CTA to confirm bumps around the page, gets less prominent, and is given such lousy loss-aversion labels as "Give up my prime benefits".

Strangely it wasn't so bad for me, I live in the UK. I wonder if EU rules are different?

I have to say for all the people complaining but still staying with Amazon, there's a simple solution that will force their hand if enough people act:

Stop buying from them.

Personally I cancelled my Prime subscription because no service is worth enough to me to force other human beings to pee in bottles to avoid work breaks for fear of being sanctioned.

I'm from germany, cancelled two days ago and can confirm that the process was bafflingly bad.

[cancel prime membership]


"do you want to terminate your membership?"

[ask me later][keep me signed up][terminate]


"you'll lose [x], do you want to terminate?"

[ask me later][terminate][keep me signed up]


"but even shipping will cost!"

[keep me signed up][ask me later][terminate]


you're now unsubscribed

[sign me back on][ok]

Same. Amazon Logistics is a horrible thing and not worth the money.

They've really ramped up selling Prime in the checkout process. It's no longer easy to order from Amazon; it's this adversarial "spot the 5 traps" obstacle course where you have to avoid clicking the "sign me up for Prime" trick buttons.

I've noticed this as well. The trick is to _remove your credit card_ from your Amazon account. It significantly reduces the "traps" and prevents them from automatically subscribing you to Prime. I now purchase Amazon Gift cards instead (also, free shipping when using a gift card).

Oh hmm, the gift cards thing -- are the gift cards no-overhead? Like, can you buy a $100 gift card for yourself for $100, and then use it to buy things with free shipping?

Yes, exactly! In Japan there's also no fees or sales tax on Amazon gift cards (physical ones), and you can purchase them in arbitrary amounts I think max 100,000 JPY (~$1000 USD). Amazon.com provides one-day free shipping with gift card purchases, but could have a surcharge for oversized, heavy, or international items. I'm not sure if any of this applies to digital gift cards though.

For me there was no procedure. It just ended and I got an email asking me to pay again.

The dumbbells being damaged during delivery reminds me of an other annoyance with amazon reviews: they won't let you distinguish between actual issues with the products and issues with the delivery/Amazon after-sale services etc...

I can't count the number of low-star reviews where it says something like "the guy tried to deliver at the wrong time" or "I bought the wrong product by mistake and Amazon wouldn't take it back" or whatever. That doesn't help me at all.

You can't blame the users though. If I have a bad delivery experience, I'm going to leave a bad review. It's Amazon's problem that they don't let you differentiate between product issues and delivery issues.

Oh yeah, I'm definitely blaming Amazon, they should let the user categorize their complaints.

And I'm going to mark it 'unhelpful', because I don't care about your bad delivery experience. The only people who need to hear about your bad delivery experience work for Amazon customer support.

I bought Quickbooks from Amazon a couple of years ago and what actually showed up was a very clearly burned DVD with "Quickbooks" hand-written on it. Best case was I'd received a pirated version of the software. Worst case is who knows what kind of malware might have been on that DVD. Had no choice but to leave a 1 star review to warn others but that really doesn't help anyone who wants to know if Quickbooks is good software to run a small business on or not.

Between this and a few more incidents, I no longer buy anything on Amazon where getting a valid OEM brand version of an item is important to me.

The good news is that for the few years I was pretty much Amazon exclusive the rest of the internet got really good at ecommerce too so it's a much better ordering from other companies online now.

I think they're correct to dismiss this type of review. I know when I'm looking at reviews and someone writes 'the product arrived faulty - one star', this tells me nothing about the product when it's intact, which presumably most of them are.

Whoever receives a faulty example, they'll obviously get their money back, and I find this type of review misleading when trying to evaluate a working version of the product.

Damage during delivery can be part of the product. I recently bought a window A/C unit, for which about 30% of the reviews claimed damage during delivery due to poor packaging (it is delivered in the manufacturer's packaging, not repackaged).

Since it was otherwise well-reviewed and cheap, I took my chances. Sure enough it was minorly-damaged when I received it, but worked out ok.

I also had to implement this pattern for app reviews.

Show a custom review dialog, if the user gives 4-5 stars send them to the app store for the real review, if not just say "thank you" and close the dialog. Repeat until one day they'll give you a good review.

Unless I'm missing something,that kind of masking behaviour is what typically causes me to exit an app and manually give it a low review. Are you saying you are actively gating the reviews? :-/

Pretty much exactly what Meriton was just fined AU$3m for today: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17649912

As far as I know, the rule is, you can only show the native app-store review dialog once, if the user cancels, you won't get any review ever. So the idea is, to show your own until the user finally decides to review.

But now the growth hackers of the world had the brilliant idea to treat bad reviews like "the user isn't ready for a review"

It's good that android doesn't allow this. And it doesn't give a way for the app to find out if I actually rated also. So I just click yes i want to rate. Then come back and continue as usual.

Same with iOS, but I guess chances are good that people don't behave like you. (Even if I also think they should, haha)

Same with browser permissions. Websites would ask you if you're okay with the authorization and only if you answer Yes, they would trigger the browser auth prompt.

Pretty much.

Some app-store marketing guru told the startup I'm contracting with, that this is the way to go, because you're pretty much f*cked if you get reviews below 4.

This is an important point.

Basically, once some start gaming the system - the others have to follow or they are dead.

It's similar to how irregular migration or general screwing over of workers works: if some farmers are paying 'under wages' or some factories are 'undercutting' ... then the others stand to lose business and are sucked into the same practices.

It's one thing when a massively successful entity like Amazon does shady stuff, but for most businesses ... it seems to often be kind of a quandary.

everything naturally will gravitate toward people gaming the system. Its not just limited to shopping and reviews. Politics and social media behavior is not too different. If the option exist its going to be exploited, you either follow through or get left in the dust

Its sad that this is the way things are done but what can you do about it really? You can't fight every battle you need to pick what matters

I used to work for f2p game companies and they also used this as a standard trick. On top of suppressing negative reviews they would only ask you to rate the game immediately after something good happened in the game. You leveled up, or got a good prize, or whatever. They would craft these entire on-rails onboarding experiences where you seem to win a jackpot early on, then ask you for a review. They'd build out these flows and user test them and iterate until it psychologically produced the intended ratings

I’m not sure if it’s still the case, but Tinder used to ask for a review right after a successful match

I hope you at least anonymously reported that behavior to appropriate authorities. And started searching for a new job.

You don't always have the choice of just up and go. I developed a system for an american startup that gathered everything it could get its hands on through their Gmail accounts. Did I think that's unethical? Yes, but just quitting wasn't an option and it was perfectly legal. I switched to a new company when I could afford it and am now much happier. But suggesting to just quit the moment your company behaves unethical is a little optimistic.

It's not perfectly legal if you ever do it to an EU user, now. This is why GDPR has some upsides -- it changes what was formerly just unethical into being illegal, which means that we as software engineers can push back against it more strongly.

We actually developed a GDPR module for about three weeks to catch that case. So we are legal again, since we provide all the tools you need to delete your data.

What "appropriate authorities"? Shouting into the void at some google user forum?

Hacker News.

I'm only half kidding. I once had an issue with a Google product that they only fixed after ranting about it here.

Sadly this isn't against the rules. Probably because the users still can go to the app-store and give you a bad review, haha

I believe recent iOS SDKs have implemented a system-controlled UI to ask for reviews to prevent apps doing this. I assume it's enforced via app-store review.

Yes, and you only call the system-controlled function if you're sure you'd get a good review.

They should prohibit that function call completely and ask users randomly for reviews, maybe when they pause or close the app...

I'm more sympathetic to this behavior and developers in general than I used to be.

Just seen too many quality apps get relegated to obscurity because of a few 1-star early reviews from people expecting perfection from a free or cheap app. Or needing functionality that just isn't part of the app. I don't have any apps in the store, so this really isn't personal for me.

What I don't understand is why more devs don't use the API for the in-app overlay review versus a weblink that forwards to the app store. Clearly they're tracking the behavior, but not sure what is tracked via that means that can't be done in-app.

I Was recently purchasing Macbook Battery from Amazon.in it was Rs.3100 and when I checked out and reached payment it showed 4199!

I said WTH did it happen? I cancelled payment and found that Prime Membership Renewal was added to the cart without my permission.

When I didnt want to renew it why did Amazon add it on its own?

One more similar experience with AWS: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17652134

This is better than what Google play music does. It just auto renews. Fuck 2 factor auth. At least Amazon gives you that chance.

Why wouldn't you expect a subscription to auto-renew?

I just don't like the loss of control. At least in this case, my approach seems to be beneficial. I didn't have to deal with the hassle mentioned here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17651882

I love how Microsoft does charges for their Office/Onedrive package: they notify me about a week in advance to let me know they're planning on charging me.

I wish every service would give me days notice before a scheduled fee hits. No surprise auto-renewal would even be possible that way, no undesired continuation of subscription, all it would take is a courtesy email days in advance.

I have a trick - looking at 4 star reviews. They are overally positive, but at the same time - talk about shortcomings (some of them may effect my decision, while others are not an issue). Typically, these are balanced. And totally unlikely to be faked.

For the same reason I avoid 1 star reviews on some services (especially recommending books or movies). They are often related to a strong, emotional reponse, rather than a balanced option that can be reused.

In general people use maximal, and minimal, score in a diffrent way that all other options. For a stricking example, see: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2322441/ratings?ref_=tt_ov_rt

A company I know was aware of this tactic, and bought their own items (through proxies) ~20 times, and two of those had to use 4-star reviews.

At first I thought the only way to genuinely avoid these kind of bots is to have reviewers posting videos, maybe hosted on YouTube to save costs. Videos are the only thing that can't be faked as easily (but they can with 'deep fakes'). But this won't actually solve the problem. These reviews may be fake but they're probably real people being paid to write them, and those real people can just as easily make real review videos.

I don't think there is an automated solution to "liars will lie for money". I think the only real solution is brand trust. We have to go back! Back to a time when you knew something was good because it proved that it was good, and word of mouth spread to let you know it was good. Don't trust anonymous word of mouth either.

Or only allow paying Prime members to leave reviews. That would cut out the fraud pretty darn quickly.

No, a scammer can say to 10 people "here's $10 to buy get an account, now leave 100 reviews and I'll pay you $1 for each" and that guy himself gets paid $10 per review directly from the seller. The people each made $100, and he spent $110 on each of them, losing $1,100 total, but he made $1,000 of each, so $10,000 total. At the end of the day he made $8,900 by acting as a middle man.

You're not factoring in the fact that if a Prime member participated in this, Amazon could suspend their account without any reimbursement. For most people, chump change is not worth nuking your $99 Prime account.

Also, the idea that sellers would pay $10 each for a 5-star review is laughable.

It's easy to make something economically viable when you're numbers are complete drivel.

I also see this very often with Apple’s App Store. About 30% of the time, my negative reviews are deleted. Even when I re-submit the reviews, they’re often deleted. This doesn’t happen to any of my positive reviews.

I opened up several helpdesk tickets about this and got no answers. In fact, they had the audacity to tell me that it’s impossible to remove reviews and that it was probably user error.

I may be mistaken, but I heard reviews are deleted when the dev pushes an update to their app.

Yes this is correct. Apple added the option last year so developers can choose to reset all reviews when they release a new version or keep the old reviews.


Sometimes this may make sense. I know of an app that decided to start from scratch due to the amassed bad reviews. Too bad for those who already paid for the buggy version, no updates now.

Whenever I see one- or two-star reviews on Amazon (or Newegg) I make sure to read as many of them as possible to gauge what the problems with the item might be. This allows me to judge whether the people reviewing the items are overreacting or if there is a legitimate defect common to all the reviewers. The fact that Amazon is removing or not posting critical reviews in the first place is a red flag for me personally.

I'm the same way. a 5-star review saying the item works like you expect is almost useless but a 2 star review pointing out that some product uses non-standard dimensions, or uses non-replaceable batteries with a terrible lifespan is massively helpful.

I always tell people who ask me for store/product recommendations that I can't really give an honest opinion of something until they've fucked up some how. Its pretty easy for a business to look good when everything goes well, but when something goes wrong it is extremely telling about how they respect their customers by how they work to remedy the situation.

- Company shipped the wrong item? Keep it and we'll ship you the correct one! --> Great!

- Company shipped my product with the wrong service (when I paid a premium)? Here's your refund! --> Also good!

- Company failed to send half my order (or it got lost during shipping)? "You're a liar, get bent" hangup --> Avoid avoid avoid!

yes, I often read the 1-2 star reviews on Amazon. It's particularly useful for books - a positive signal for a book is "1 star - author used too many big words and complex ideas!". :-)

> Note that I only got this message AFTER trying to leave a 2 star review. What would have happend if I had left a more positive review? Would that be allowed?

This is highly speculative, and without evidence it's pretty shady to suggest it, imo.

This skips/avoids another really important but bs thing they do: Reviews that mention counterfeits ALWAYS get pulled. Seemingly by some automated system, even. It's like a forbidden review topic or phrase.

Yea, that's not shady at all

This seems to be BAU with Amazon these days and why I no longer trust their reviews en masse. You can still field high fidelity reviews, but unless it is for a large purchase it seems to be a waste of time. Amazon bolsters cheap (cost and quality) products. I wrote a 1 star for a set of poorly constructed LED bulbs where one exploded and created a fire hazard. This review was accepted, however a review of a product I purchased that came with the wrong model product (mistake or deception?) in the box was removed and it didn't matter what I tried Amazon would not give me a reason why.

Amazon is a machine running off of too many fake reviews and so I've been significantly cutting back supporting them by purchasing from. I'm sure, eventually, my return requests will be revoked due to a low review or when their algorithm shows my purchase cadence declining. At that point I'll be done.

I work at a sleep company and reviews are super important for our ecommerce site. We use: https://reviewmeta.com to ensure that we remove fake reviews. Just paste in the Amazon link and it will check all the reviews and give you loads of stats.

Amazon's big dark pattern: "No, I don't want to save $25.72." You get that every time you order and don't pay for Prime. Also, the non-Prime "Free Shipping" option requires you to back up and click shipping type to get it. The default path makes you pay for shipping.

One thing where they are right is your review of your weights. What has the seller/packaging to do with the product itself? You weren't reviewing the item, but the seller (which isn't allowed when the seller is Amazon itself). Unless you think that the neoprene was bad quality.

This guy is having some truly strange experiences with amazon.

Why would he have to ship the damaged weights back? Amazon essentially never insists on that.

This one seems to be random. I've had them insist i ship a fucking mattress back

I wonder if amazon is struggling with fake reviews and would rather have false positives on the negative side of the spectrum. To a seller there's no diff btwn their product getting a positive review and all their competitors getting negative reviews. A bot can just as easily do one or the other. But forcing the bots to be positive review bots benefits amazon in two ways. It makes all the products on their site look purchase-worthy and it contains all a product's review-warfare onto the product page itself, so they can clean it up later if they want.

No need to look so far for dark patterns, the whole trick to get you to click to become a member for Amazon Prime, constantly, using all the dirty tricks in the book, should deserve a whole page in itself.

I see similar behavior on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, even Netflix - not necessarily review gaming, but just unfriendly user patterns and opaque algorithmic behavior.

To me the core issue is poor communication. They could easily explain all of the processes, ML models, logic, and human interactions that are in place for review posters and readers. Then it'd be trivial to compare that with (for example) OP's experience and identify possible improvements.

But the fact that they don't at all is very telling. Clearly not impeding growth or revenue.

Although they should have let him write the review, I don't think people should leave reviews for damaged/broken items before they've tried to remedy the situation with the supplier.

Why? When I receive a damaged product, this causes me substantial hassle (communicate with customer support, send item back, order replacement, ...). It seems very natural to write a review that reflects the poor quality of the product in this situation, and this review would be a useful signal to others.

My take is that damaged and broken items happen, particularly when items are new. I'm not saying that this information is irrelevant, but as a review of the product it isn't valid (as it's a review of a damaged product) and as a review of the supplier it isn't that helpful either (as I'm more interested in how the supplier responds to this situation: any supplier can send you what they have in stock, the true test is what happens when things go wrong). So, as per my original comment, I think you should seek remedy before reviewing, not after.

If a product is poorly packaged from the manufacturer or (more likely) poorly packaged by Amazon and that leads to a lot of people receiving a damaged product, then it is clearly beneficial to see that in the reviews before you purchase.

Or maybe the product just has poor QC, again, it should be allowed to show up in reviews.

If it's just a one-ff then it will be watered down by all of the other reviewers anyway

I haven't said otherwise. You haven't explained why you're writing a review before dealing with support rather than after.

Also, perhaps a higher percentage of people with bad experiences will write bad reviews than people with good experiences writing good reviews, so the watered down argument isn't perfect. I would have left out the word 'perhaps' but I don't actually have any hard evidence.

And if you return too many of these garbage products, they close your account. The ultimate dark pattern.

Same happened with me. Brought this shity fitness tracker called goqii from Amazon. Tried to leave a 2 star review and got the exact same message even though Amazon knows it is an amazon purchase. Similar to this article the same thing has more than 22k positive reviews which is unbelievable considering the extremely unlikely considering the quality. Also forgot to mention Amazon was also running a lightning deal on the same.

Maybe we should build an independent, decentralized review page, where you can trust (PGP style) your friends and family and they can do so too.

When suspicious reviews appear, everybody can track down the accounts which abuse our trust (and let the bots in). That way we could provide blacklists for accounts that are untrustworthy and everybody can decide who (or which blacklist) he wants to trust.

This. I always have thought of something like this. Only trust person your know IRL and friends of friends... That way we could compute a "trustworthy" coefficients.

Needs a good business model though

I love this idea. I don't see it being implemented because I don't think it's in Amazon's best interests, but I'd love to see someone do it.

Goodreads does something similar, at least out to the first degree. When you're looking at a book, it shows all of your friends' reviews (if any) before all of the reviews by randoms. It's really useful because there's some of my friends whose opinions I really trust, and who I know have similar tastes.

Goodreads is owned by Amazon now, it's worth pointing out.

I no longer consider Amazon. Too many issues to note, but here's a few of them...

  1. Counterfeits mixed in with legit supply
  2. Fraud everywhere
  3. Fake prices ($.99 with $30 shipping)
  4. Fraudulent reviews
  5. the article - Dark patterns everywhere
  6. Not competitive with other e-retailers
  7. Scammy and fraudulent pricing (raises prices by 10% to have a 10% off sale.. Prime Day)
I've migrated to the following for my stuff:

walmart online (order and pick up at store for no shipping cost) eBay for random assortments aliexpress for a direct pipeline of electronic chinese stuff mcmaster carr for hardware that lowes and menards doesn't have Misumi for aluminum extrusion IRC topic groups (like freenode #reprap) for 3d printing specific stuffs from individuals Craigslist, but this is obviously realllly spotty

Amazon is unreliable, obfuscated, and scammy. I can't even guarantee that what I order is what I'll get. It's just not worth the effort or time.

I recently bought some new wireless headphones. After seeing a minimal amount of bad reviews, I bought them. When they arrived, I opened the package to find a note which said if I gave them a five star review, I could use this code for a 40% discount on any of their products.

Pissed, I wrote a one star review and how this was explicitly against Amazon's rules. It was up for a few weeks, then it just disappeared. I figured it would at least generate an apology via email, or something from Amazon about doing a better job of taking care of companies who do stuff like this. Never heard anything from either the company or Amazon.

I guess it was easier to just take down the bad reviews or keep a few negative reviews so it doesn't look completely nefarious. Seeing as how both companies and Amazon has a vested interest in keeping companies on board, I can only assume they're passively allowing this to happen.

Speaking of bad reviews, trying to buy any kind of computer hardware off of Amazon is infuriating - all of the reviews for every version of an item are mixed together, so you'll have several motherboards treated as if they're the same, and monitors with different resolutions all lumped together.

At this point Amazon is a monopoly. And this is exactly why monopolies don't work. Self-regulation does not work.

"With great power comes great responsibility" --> We humans only like the power part.

Every monopoly that ever existed abuses its monopolistic power for its own benefit.

I loved the interest-specific Reverb.com (for selling new and used musical gear) and made a point to buy stuff there to support the community even if it was more expensive or slower than a 'corporate' alternative. All the sellers' reviews were spectacular and I just thought people would be nicer on this platform because everyone just loved music and it's one big happy family but then I received some crap recently and just realized that they do the same thing and prevent negative reviews buy externalizing the (time and emotional) cost of forcing self-mediation when things go wrong.

Talk about a broken heart.

There's an obvious conflict of interest within Amazon here. The tasks of selling products, and collecting and publishing useful criticisms and reviews of products should be performed by separate entities.

Sorry to be pedantic (although this IS Hacker News, after all), but shouldn't the web page's title be "Censoring Unhappy Customers" rather than "Censuring Unhappy Customers"?

This kind of doesn't surprise me.

I know I tend to buy what has the best price/star ratio. Whether or not Amazon is directly involved, I don't know. But given how quickly marketing got attached to social media, I imagine gaming reviews is just another part of an online presence package, along with controlling search results, and getting something popular into social outlets (a meme is highly desired).

Irony being people are starting to adapt and most of these social media and reviews will just be bots commenting on each other.

Ive been saying the reviews on amazon are generated for years. Someone should do an expose on this and make a big stink. I dont think we should let them get away with this.

Hmm - seems like Amazon is now borrowing from the EBAY playbook. My EBAY usage is maybe one or two items in a year and rarely anything high-ticket. EBAY clearly favored sellers over buyers and after one or two run-ins with (a) leaving negative reviews for poor sellers and (b) fighting their policy where you had to wait a month before even filing for a refund - I left for Amazon prime. I'm probably going to drop Amazon prime at the end of this year.

It's gotten to the point that I no longer even pay attention to the overall score and instead I look at the reviews and ignore any review that is a 5 star review. I figure people aren't going to pay for reviews that aren't 5 star. If the only other reviews are 1 or 2 stars I know it's probably a crap product. But, if there are a decent number of 4 star reviews I know it's probably a decent product.

If I think that reviews could be suspect I use ReviewMeta[0]. The process usually indicates if the reviews are legit or not. although for this product, it claims that it passes. Might be that 99 reviews have been deleted though, and Amazon is attempting to fix those reviews. [0]https://reviewmeta.com/

Please people use and support https://reviewmeta.com/ .

Is it time to start writing 5 star reviews with negative content? Lets say start review with (CAPS LOCKED):


Let's see them handle this :)

This has pissed me off in the past. My reviews getting rejected. The problem ultimately is that Amazon NOW has separate functions for reviewing a product and a seller. The product reviews are public, the seller reviews are not. If your review of a product is just bagging on the seller, it will be rejected. Like the one your wrote for the weights.

> Or, maybe it's a low effort scam that Amazon could easily detect, prevent, or clean up!

Companies like Amazon like to pound interviewees with algorithm and data structure questions, so you'd think they'd be hiring the right people to solve this. So, no, they don't really want to.

I tried to comment on a product about that I highly dislike it now as they changed ingredients a month ago. "Sorry, commenting to this product has been disabled because we're currently receiving too many reviews" .

I've also had a review rejected under very similar circumstances. Like the OP, I too was leaving a bad review on a product that I had purchased a few months back. I had purchased the item in a lightning sale though.

Someone should build a News-Genius-type overlay extension with a parallel review system that's better-maintained and more difficult to game. The only way out of Amazon's shit review scheme is eschewing it entirely.

Or how they intentionally obfuscate the unit pricing of items in the same category? One says $xx per oz, the other $xx per lb, the other $xx per kg... I've been wanting to make a userscript to fix that for a while.

well one review on the blog is stupid. if an item did arrive broken, it might not only be amazon's fault, so I dislike reviews that actually review the shipment process.

besides that, yeah it sucks if this is really happening.

Amazon reviews have been shady for years. To combat this I never buy without running the item link through fakespot.com. The other day I also discovered reviewmeta.com t haven't tried it yet.

I wonder if this is a job for activist investors: buy a bunch of shady stuff on amazon with 5-star reviews, write a lengthy report about how bad all the product is, short AMZN... ?

I had a similar experience with booking.com reviews. My less than 3 star reviews somehow don't make it, while 4-star reviews go straight to the list. Coincidence?

there was a large area of forest in my town that was privately owned but part of the forest itself was protected so that it could not be developed. well a developer went ahead and bulldozed the ancient trees and put up a condo anyway -- just paid the fines. similarly with amazon, nobody is going to go to jail even though the website props itself up utterly fraudulently and criminally. someone should.

“Arrived damaged” could be borderline as it sounds like a review of the shipping process and not the product.

Not sure what’s going on with that first one though.

How is he supposed to know if this is a problem with “shipping” or with the warehouse, the manufacturing, or the design of the product? What if it left the warehouse in that condition? Or the factory? I previously have avoided products with a large number of “arrived damaged” reviews, because it’s a sign of something other than a “shipping problem”.

Personal experience: When shopping for budget 3D printers, some models that had been available for several months or years had earlier reviews mention poor packing/shipping. The newer reviews mentioned that the situation has improved.

This is a problem generally, and not limited to "shipping" issues. I was looking at a telescope recently that had a lot of early bad reviews because of an issue with the eyepiece that had, apparently, been resolved.

Reviews should either "age out" or there should be a way for the seller to indicate that a revision has been made. Granted, they would probably game both.

What if people reviewd your product as bad or left warnings not to buy/use it based on things outside of your control.

The product isn't bad because it arrived damaged, you can not argue against this. What you should do is contact Amazon and have the product replaced. If the next item also arrives damaged, then you can start claiming that the product is badly build.

Are you sure it's out of your control? Did you provide sufficient packaging? Did you pick a good distribution channel to partner with?

Why should I have to deal with the whole process of ordering, reordering, customer service, voice-response systems, returns, etc. in order to get permission to leave a factual review of my experience with your product?

If I visit your startups site with obscure browser, with JS turned off and leave a bad review since your product was unusable is that fair?

There is only so many avenues of distribution and you literally can not affect who deliveres and handles the package on the way to the customer unless you roll out your own complete chain which is stupid to even suggest.

Just beause post office has a lot of temps and miss handles package doesn't reflect actual review of the product if you think it does then frankly you are an idiot

Like it or not, people tend to review the whole purchase experience. And I can't really blame them.

They are kind of useless for other customers. The customer reading the review might get the product from another seller, shipped by another service (might depend on shipping address).

If you think it is the sellers fault, review the seller. If you think it's the parcel delivery service's fault send it back with that as reason. That is signal enough.

Yes, agreed. But if Amazon only prompts you to give a single type of review (and makes reviewing the seller/delivery not nearly as discoverable), they shouldn't be surprised if people "misuse" the feature.

I can't blame them either, but it doesn't change the fact that his review has nothing to do with the item. He wrote a review of item X and it had nothing to do with that item. It's like writing a review of a hotel resort and giving it a 1* because the flight there was cancelled. It's just not helpful at all.

Typically most Amazon products are shipped by Amazon Logistics now. So it's still a review of Amazon.

Maybe he left a review of the shipping process on another product, the seller reported it and now his reviews are being reviewed?


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