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Amazon Makes Good on Business-To-Business Threat (bloomberg.com)
90 points by petethomas 69 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 51 comments

If there B2B quality control is anything like what they offer to consumers, I’m not worried. They cannot pull the blind eye to counterfeit garbage like they do to their consumers.

Rock climbers experience this to a deadly degree. Amazon sells critical life-saving equipment for climbers and mix sales of quality gear and cheap knock-offs.

The problem is that a lot of young climbers are ised to using Amazon for everything and aren't aware of the problem.

In the climbing worls, "Amazon kills people" is a common mantra.

I believe you that Amazon is putting lives in danger, I'm just wondering if you know if there has been any documented injuries from shoddy equipment sold on Amazon yet.

Exactly. Maybe they’ll pull away a box of O-rings from Grainger but I’d never trust Amazon with supplying mission critical parts to spec. Last thing I’d want is all my bolts sheering because they corroded from a lack of zinc plating.

You're being ironic, right? Amazon o-rings are a terrifying idea.

No need to worry... name one time a faulty O-ring has ever caused anything bad to happen.

Oh, that one.

The o-ring was fine. It was the failure to launch from a temperature controlled environment that was the problem.

> Amazon with supplying mission critical parts to spec

I thought AWS is fairly successful also for HN users.

Unless AWS is now randomly assigning third-party-operated machines to your jobs, Amazon's inventory problems have nothing to do with AWS.

They are talking about Amazon's retail dry goods / physical object reseller business, not their cloud computing business.

My point is that they can very well manage their processes if they want to.

They could run proper retail for B2B if they wanted as well.

It does matter. Typical advice from around town: working on the AWS team is okay, the rest of Amazon is a dumpster fire.

I shudder to think what kind of “lessons” are being learned by all of those college grads that go work for Amazon.

Am really intrigued by this line - I've never had any reason to suspect my Amazon items in the UK have been counterfeit, whereas it seems like a common refrain in the States. Greater reliance on the third-party market and intermingling stock? Or radically different product base?

Apparently, the problem is that for a given SKU they'll mix up (on purpose) all marketplace vendors items, for items sold by third party but delivered from Amazon.

Let's say you're selling Tickets to Ride on Marketplace (counterfeit products are common for board games). You send 100 copies to Amazon, now customers can buy those from you.

I also sell Ticket to Ride on Marketplace! But I'm a cheap bastard so I send 100 counterfeit copies from China, with lower quality (off-centered chips, cheap prints, etc.)

Instead of sending your copies to your customers, and my copies to my customers, they'll dump all of our copies all together and send a random copy to each customer.

That means that any customer can receive counterfeit copies. You can't even trust a given vendor, or Amazon, because all the copies are mixed up.

That sounds like properly dumb approach to save a penny on an item - understandable with some quick grab scam scheme, but not something to do when building/maintaining long term business.

I guess some manager got his yearly bonus for lowering expenses to next bottom, and who cares about the future because f*k 'ya all.

I imagine a lot of the reason they mix vendirs products together has to do with logistics. If seller A sends 100 units of product X to the East Coast and seller B 100 units of product X to the West Coast it has to be immeasurably easier to lump them together (not physically but electronically) then distribute this 200 units out to all their warehouses for faster shipping.

It makes a lot of sense if everyone's on the up and up. That way you ship 20 units from Vendor A to NJ to cover the NYC metropolitan region for both vendor A and B.

They also comingle "Shipped and sold by Amazon" with 3rd party shipped by amazon goods when you buy the "shipped and sold by amazon" item. All goods where there's a 3rd party seller are at risk of receiving garbage goods, which is to say everything.

How much Amazon sales figures dropped since they started this?

I'm pretty pro-Amazon but if counterfeit products has never been a concern you're just not buying very much. They're everywhere.

Genuinely buy a fair bit, and never been a concern. Perhaps as a result of not really buying "brand" stuff on there, and so know it's a wilfully cheap iteration vs being a counterfeit?

UK here - I've definitely had concerns about some items but recently I ordered a Apple headphone adapter that was definitely advertised as "Genuine Apple" and clearly wasn't when it arrived - it works, but in a direct comparison with a part known to be from Apple you can see the differences.

Not at big deal as it was a cheap part - but it was the final straw.

NB I'm not anti Amazon by any means - I'm a long time Audible subscriber, use my Kindle pretty much every day and I pay for Prime Video. Wouldn't buy anything electrical from them again though.

I'm annoyed by getting counterfeit vacuum cleaner filters at the same price or higher as real ones, but anything where counterfeit could be dangerous I completely avoid (like, for example coffee filters or easily counterfeited electronics.)

In the US, retailers always said Amazon was cheating by avoiding sales tax. The real competitive advantage they have is avoiding all of the legal liability of the products being sold.

Counterfeit and unsafe items aren't always "obviously" so and unless you have familiarity with the actual item, you might not notice. If you bought soap and got soap, you may be none the wiser that your soap was counterfeit.

Here's some examples: https://youtu.be/8B12EfGArME


Selling on amazon is like making a deal with the devil. You have to sell on amazon to get access to amazon's customer base but at the end of the day if you are selling a lucrative product with little moat then amazon will copy cat it and sell it for less.

Amazon can copycat products not sold on its platform. No barrier to entry businesses all share the same competitive vulnerability.

But it doesn't know the sales numbers of items sold on other platforms and the details of who is buying it and what else they bought, etc.

Only if they know about the product.

Amazon didn't threaten anyone, in case you were wondering. They simple expanded their bushiness-to-business selling operation to roughly 10B$ after entering the market 3 years ago.

$10b here and $50b there and they'll own it all. Shipping is the sticking point but they're working on their own FedEx /UPS ...

At some point you trust Amazon and don't care that Walmart might have a certain item $3.70 cheaper...win some, lose some is the rationale but "Amazon is cool"

Amazon isnt cool though. They dont carry good brands, half the stuff is fake, the other half is ads. We all hate Amazon, but use it because it's so darn convenient.

Except they never carry anything I want, nor in quantities I prefer to buy.

Walmart at least tries. They don't succeed, but they've at least they try.

I feel like I'm the last person who'd rather deal with retailers who aren't on Amazon.

Is the fake stuff a problem in the EU, or is it an artefact of poor consumer law?

Generally fakes are a no!no! within the EU. Obviously not all fakes are caught and if they are the minimum consequence is confiscation.

In countries with strong brand manufacturing interests, notably Italy and France, it can be very expensive if they catch you with that 50$ "Bolex" watch from Bangkok, or with fake LV gear. Fines can go into the 1000s of Euros.

Wearing one or selling one?

Ownership is enough.

That doesn't seem right, putting the burden on the consumer to know if something is fake or not. Also, what if the consumer doesn't care if something is fake? For example, if he needs a watch, just needs it to tick and tell the time, then a Bolex is as good a brand as any other, I would think.

Yep, never make the mistake of buying counterfeit goods in Italy. Once saw a tourist having a very deep conversation with the police after picking up some sunglasses from a street-seller - not sure of the specific outcome, but it didn't look like a fun discussion to be having.

Consumer protection laws merely ensure that you have recourse.

They can't shield you from the disappointment of having been duped with a counterfeit, or the hassle of the resolution process itself.

My two cents only.

You can search for foo bar on amazon.de, get some search results, one of them is from a seller in China for a product whose name whose name and function resembles foo bar. The photos may look good enough to tempt you but the text doesn't say that it is foo bar.

"half the stuff is fake, the other half is ads"

You and I have had very different experiences with Amazon. I am not sure where this sentiment is coming from, I have literally never seen "fake" products on there. I appreciate that there are obviously some bad actors on that site re-selling stuff, but I cannot say I have experienced them and I use Amazon a fair amount.

Do you have some examples?

Here's some examples from the Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/apr/27/amazon-si...

and here's some from when Apple took them court for > 90% "Apple" products being fake: https://www.forbes.com/consent/?toURL=https://www.forbes.com...

I'll put it this way you'd be mad to buy something like medicine from Amazon...

I got a "Leatherman" of worse quality relative to the real one I bought in a store.

Pay more for something because its cool? Is that how Americans run their business? I'm sitting at a cheap IKEA desk here.

Although it may not legally be one it feels like Amazon is Monopoly.

Amazon is nothing like a monopoly.

If you want to sell something online you can do it in any number of places, and you can do it yourself (and fairly painlessly). If you want to buy something online, you can go to any number of retailers. You can get an Echo from Best Buy if you want, and you can get towels delivered from Walmart etc etc.

Ditto cloud computing, of course -- it's an incredibly competitive market.

Amazon does have large market impact and can (in a practical sense) exert market pressure. That's obviously a dangerous position for everyone to be in, but it's far from monopoly and it's also (afaik) well within the bounds of (American) law. As I understand things, US antitrust laws are all about abuse of market position, not just the existence of a dominant position.

You've heard of Lina Khan and her paper on this topic? It was on the front-page of the Times last week.

Amazon keeps saying there's discounts on the b2b site but when I joined I don't see any difference.

I'm pretty sure the "millions" of customers number is artificially inflated with people that just want those discounts. I bought some tools on Amazon for regular household use, and then recently I got prompted to create an Amazon Business account simply because I bought tools. Promising vague discounts by signing up for a free account is a good way to get more "customers". I wonder if all purchases from then on count as "business sales"?

* "B2B" is a catch-all term. There's indirect/MRO procurement and there's direct procurement. It's very hard to break into direct procurement without also owning the product/manufacturing. So yes, that does mean Amazon is going to go after the bigger MRO market. (This is a space they excel in already.)

* Amazon is operating in the marketplace model, not just in the conventional e-commerce model. This means their inventory can be MUCH BIGGER than anyone else's with FAR LOWER operating risks. This is what is worrying Grainger and others.

* Also worth noting that Amazon has more or less given up on product quality and instead, chosen to focus on Fulfillment and Supply Chain quality. With a marketplace model, that could lead to major headaches (while still giving the B2B buyer perfect delivery and a great price!).

This is just the latest push of their "AmazonSupply" and "Amazon Business" systems dating back to their 2005 "Smallparts.com" acquisition.

Like Grainger, they used to be well-curated sub-sites where you could do your parametric sorting and filtering to drill down to "the" O-ring or other part you needed. But also like Grainger, they've fallen behind on their curatorial efforts and now it's more difficult to locate the right part among all the noise.

To supply a B2B part like an O-ring, you need to categorize it. You need to ask every. single. distributor. the same set of questions - composition, diameter, thickness, firmness, temperature rating, oil resistance, etc. Then allow your users to parametrically search and sort to drill down to the part(s) they need.

Digikey has this internalized - If you're building a web store, go to Digikey and pretend you're an electrical engineer. Find, say, a 22k surface-mount resistor in an 0603 package, 0.1W or greater, cut tape form factor, in stock, 5% tolerance. Boom, done. Now find that on Amazon. Allow a customer to come to your site with a list of requirements who wants to find a product on your site and try to make it as easy as it is on Digikey.

Ebay does not have parametric search internalized, nor does Craigslist - but they're much more seller-focused than Amazon. Grainger does not, and they're loosing business because of it. McMaster Carr curates their offering down to one distributor, which makes it really easy for me, but is a rather hamfisted way to solve the problem. Still, I'll always start my search for McMaster-supplied stuff on McMaster. Alibaba does not. Newegg used to, but they're losing the curation battle as they follow Amazon's model of 3rd-party distributors listing whatever they want whereever they want. Amazon does not have this internalized.

Amazon has been trying to have their cake and eat it too: They want to provide a curated section of their site that's easy for customers, and want to make it easy for sellers to sign up and list products. If you require each part to go through an onboarding process and fit somewhere in the hierarchy, you increase the friction massively for sellers. As a customer, I really wish that they would do so everywhere. If they want to just do this for the subset of customers that aren't willing to sort through the mess, but still allow vendors to come in droves with poor-quality categorization, it will still be hard to use and people will choose specialized distributors that are willing to do the work.

[1] https://www.digikey.com/products/en/resistors/chip-resistor-...

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