Speaking as a longtime Amazon customer:
* I do feel the authenticity of products in some categories can no longer be taken for granted on Amazon. For example, if I search for electronics, the search results look like "a sea of endless crap," full of the kinds of products you might find at a counterfit-goods store in a shady part of town.
* Product search no longer works as well as it did in the past for me. Frequently, I find myself having to invest time and effort to identify which items are of decent or good quality in that "sea of endless crap." I find myself having to click on results and scan descriptions to find products that are sold "by Amazon" instead of third parties, to minimize worry.
* Product reviews and ratings no longer seem trustworthy. It's not just that there are large operations cranking out fake reviews every day,[a] but that I often find it time-consuming to sort out which reviews are true versus fake. Fake reviewers seem to be getting better and better at fooling human beings.
Over the past year, I've started going to local "brick and mortar" retailers like Best Buy more and more, because I find they provide a better-curated shopping experience. There are fewer products from which to choose, but I feel more certain that they're authentic and of known quality.
I'm hoping Amazon will address all these issues... soon.
[a] For example, see https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18262101
There are some questionable things going on with dog food as well. For example I recently purchased a case of a certain dog food my dog has been eating for years. If I click on the product link in my Amazon order history it says that it is sold by the manufacturer of the dog food, but in the Amazon order history itself it says a different store that I've never heard of. The inside of the can looked a little different, less gravy and it made my dog start vomiting almost immediately.
Ex: amazon sells tshirt. People post reviews. 3rd party sells tshirt with the same product page as amazon's and the quality is poor. Reviews are mixed together and you can't see the seller on which the review is based.
It's a bit fraudulent really, like a bait and switch.
In reality each page needs a product and supplier rating, and people need to be guided to rate both. Instead you get "this company sacked my daughter; 1 star" and "the postman dropped it; 1 star" type ratings.
Reminds me of story where (and I'm going to butcher parts of this) a town is making a huge vat of wine (or maybe it's food related) and everyone household is supposed to bring a bottle to pour in. A couple of people decide to cheat the system and bring water instead expecting to hide under the radar. It turns out way more people than a few take this path and so the "wine" just tastes like water with a hint of wine in it.
As it's Amazon, presumably they tested and found this to be the best mode for profit.
Is it really identical? They do have quite a bit of warehouse which means that shipping can be quite longer and more expensive.
Let say I'm a third party and I got 100 shirts in Amazon warehouses in north America and they got 100 too. That means that in average there's 2.6 shirts per warehouse (I found there is 75 warehouses but that can be a wrong number) but we each got 1.3 in averages! If someone buy 2 of mine, most likely they'll have to ship one from somewhere else, while they could just take one of theirs and consider it the same.
At the end of the day though, it doesn't means that I was truthful and my product is actually the same, which can hurt their orders.
There is a separate review system for sellers, and the score is shown when you look at the buying options, but it's little used and much less visible.
There's still a measure of control in who the supplier is, and the reviews for that supplier too.
I would say "no," because pretty much everyone I know thinks Amazon is a store with a single source of goods, not a "marketplace." This is probably intentional.
I haven’t ordered from Amazon since I learned this months ago, with two exceptions for birthday presents.
However let's say you want to buy a product. But the reviews are mixed. Some are 5-star reviews, but there are 1-star reviews as well. And there are 5 sellers. From which one do you buy? All the reviews are mixed.
Perhaps a bad review is caused by a seller sending fake product. But perhaps the review is a valid review and it highlights a defect in the original product. You can't know.
Then it was updated to include "nothing that goes on or in your body."
Then it was updated to include "nothing that goes on or in any living thing."
Then it was updated to include "nothing you wouldn't by from a random stranger standing outside a fly-by-night flea market."
For thousands of years, brick-and-mortar stores have lived and died by the quality of their merchandise. Amazon is just learning this.
But because Amazon is hitting conventional, traditional retailers so hard, now I have to wonder: could Amazon's behavior with regard to counterfeit products and commingling influence my local brick and mortar retailers to do the same thing?
If it's branded and there is a decent profit margin, i guess we should assume some questionable actor will steal that margin given the opportunity.
My favorite example might be trying to find outdoor solar-powered lights. Mountains of garbage, with a lot of sellers just re-branding the same garbage. The silver-lining is that there are power-reviewers out there doing complete tear-downs and reviewing wiring/soldering quality. These people are the true heroes.
My wife used to work in fashion, where they'd cut a square out of the back of every shirt sample that they went on to order, so that they could be sure they got the same material when they got the wholesale order - I wonder if Amazon is going similar?
Wow, how did your 3,918 cables arrive? Was it a full-sized goods truck or a couple of crates?
(This is, for the unaware, a joke on how inexpensive-yet-still-excellent Monoprice's cables are. Every time I order a clutch of Ethernet or USB cables, I wind up ordering three times as many just to make the order total greater than the shipping total and to have spares for later use.)
OTOH, fancy RCA cables sell for next to nothing at thrift shops now.
I had to replace the water pump in my car twice in a year because the factory installed one failed, and then the one I installed after that failed within six months.
I wonder how much of that revenue they would lose vs people who would just buy the sold by Amazon equivalent.
But this title made me think of the fraudulent practices by the buyers. It's a well-known problem in China, a small percentage of scammers will always try to abuse the system to its knees, as a result, vendors are forced to end their favorable policies (e.g. RMA), effectively causing a Denial-of-Service of convenient and high-quality services to the majority, legitimate customers. It is not limited to vendors, customer, but also widespread in the public services and financial sector. I think this is called a "low-trust society".
I believe having a system based on trust can be a viable solution. Unfortunately, this type proposal has been intentionally scaled-up by the government, leads to the upcoming "social credit system", based on mass surveillance.
And I think nowadays this approach as a solution is a dead-end, any similar system proposed by a government or a corporation will eventually become a mass surveillance system. Even the """relatively""" harmless financial credit system seems to go out of control, and a more concerning issue is that, unlike the Anti-Encryption Bill, a trust-based system can be legitimate, and solves real, severe problems, making it harder to argue against mass surveillance systems in disguise of trust and credit.
Plenty of places have friendly policies and are taken advantage of by a few, but they keep the policy because people like it.
There always will be those people.
I often hear "oh we can't do that, people will take advantage of it" then someone comes along and somehow doesn't go under and does well.
I think sometimes people and businesses are far more fearful of a potential risk than the actual impact.
The levels of fraud we see in China were so high that we eventually closed down there. It is objectively the highest level of fraud globally that we encountered.
Granted I understand if you don't want to say.
> Every time shoppers return purchases to Best Buy Co. BBY -2.65% , they are tracked by a company that has the power to override the store’s touted policy and refuse to refund their money.
That is because the electronics giant is one of several chains that have hired a service called Retail Equation to score customers’ shopping behavior and impose limits on the amount of merchandise they can return.
Whats that mean? Something between existing rating systems and "social credit system"??
Used to be I'd buy something at a store, use it for a week, it breaks and I head back to the shop and say, "Hey, this broke and it's brand-new." The proprietor would apologize and get me a new one. As years went on, people started cheating the system a little: take stuff back to shops where they didn't originally purchase it. Okay, now we need a receipt for returns. Save the receipt, no big deal. But a little bit of trust was lost there. Shop keeper assumed that if you're returning it, you must have purchased it there, but that's no longer a safe assumption. Save your receipt.
REI and L. L. Bean, as two examples, would warrant their stuff for life even if the manufacturer didn't. If you thought a pair of boots should have lasted three years instead of two, take/send 'em back and get new ones. But then people started going skiing on new skis and returning them on Monday. Or (again) returning stuff that REI sells, but wasn't purchased there. Now REI and L. L. Bean don't do that anymore.
From the seller's end, I present rebates that they have no intention of honoring if at all possible. 'nuf said on that side.
And so on, until today where I feel like I'm in a never-ending loop of that scene from The Big Short: I'll do the deal, but you have to tell me how you're going to fuck me. Because shopping online in many respects makes me feel the need constantly look over my virtual shoulder. Trust is completely gone. Amazon, as a simplistic example, just takes a bunch of shit of varying quality, tosses it all in the same bin with a single label, and it's up to you to figure out which is the genuine lightning cable and which one will burn your house down.
In summary, my view of a trust-based system is that I can assume what you're selling is what you say it is, and I the customer will not try and game whatever customer-oriented system you have in place.
Not long ago, I returned an item to my local OSH retailer. I didn't even have a receipt. The product was basically a piece of junk. But they just handed me a new, better product in exchange.
Of course, OSH closed down.
God I'd love something like that for reviews. Farm out all the fake mass reviews you want, unless you get people who have the trust of people who will actually buy your product, you won't get anywhere. More than likely the companies in the market for fake reviews would be the ones to get scammed.
If my brother reviews a set of headphones on amazon, I'd trust that a lot more than random 5 star reviews. I'd also trust the people my brother trusts (but less so). I'd love a system like this to be formalized.
My consideration was, it has been shown some trust-based rating systems can work under the most untrustworthy environment, I just went to the assumption that a similar, elaborate design to solve problems like vendor frauds, RMA frauds, etc. So I just vaguely said "I believe having a system based on trust can be a viable solution".
This reminds me of the hateful comments that plague YouTube. Most of them come from accounts that only ever post hate comments. Would it be so fucking hard to write a heuristic that tags users constantly getting their comments downvoted so that someone can review them? Then, if they fail the review, you mute them for 6 months, delete all their comments, but let them think their comments are still visible. Maybe let all the haters see each other's comments and reply to one another so they can live in their own parallel universe of hate. These problems are not hard to solve. There is a lack of will to solve them.
Sorry, but that's not going to help at all. After Amazon banned incentivized reviews, pretty much all the sellers contacted the reviewers to buy products and then get reimbursed by PayPal. Sure, it's against the rules, but it's not being enforced.
They're not even hard to spot. I stopped doing incentivized reviews after the rule change, but I can see that a lot of the other reviewers are still reviewing a lot of stuff as verified purchasers. I know they're not real because I turned down offers from sellers to review the same products after the rule-change.
The worst part is that these reviews are even less honest than when incentivized reviews were allowed. Not all incentivized reviewers were shills (I tried hard to review stuff honestly - I would guess maybe a third of incentivized reviewers did as well). In the post-incentivized-review world, however, everyone who is participating an a verified purchase sham is giving 5 star reviews.
Source for that: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/how-merchant...
If you have a Facebook account, you can find those groups easily. Though you may have to search for obfuscations like "AZON".
Most if not all of the top-ranked incentivized reviewers already had longstanding communications with sellers via email.
Vendors typically will pay above the cost of their product for a single good review.
I have seen too many "Amazon's choice" products with few hundreds reviews, all 5 stars, but the problem with these products are they were just listed a day ago and already got 400 or 500 five stars reviews. Looking at the review, they were all put on the same day and time. These 500 fives stars review push the product to the top of the search. Yet, Amazon did nothing about it as long as the products sell.
I sell only Amazon and I am telling you, I get a product review under 1% of the sales.
1) Search Amazon with a description (ie, "Qi wireless charging stand")
2) Results are full of clearly duplicated products whose only difference is the screen printed brand. Sometimes, the Amazon tag of "Amazon's Choice" or "Best Seller" is applied multiple times on the first page, as a re-brander has taken over a subcategory that is irrelevant (eg, "Sports-Tennis Equipment"). These results also have ads injected and sometimes even totally irrelevant categories, deals, etc injected, further confusing the layout.
3) Look at several products pages and am unable to distinguish the differences or advantages of any. Obviously, most of these products are manufactured in a handful of OEM factories in China. The brands typically do not match the "sold by" section of the product page, either, further confusing me.
4) Scroll down to reviews. These are essentially worthless as they have been gamed to irrelevance. I mostly come down here to see if some angel who genuinely bought the product for their own use decided to write a review, with pictures. Even these can't be trusted now, though.
5) Check a review rating site, such as Fakespot, although I generally don't know what to do regardless of score, besides keep looking. (That is, a good review typically won't instill enough trust to flip me to "Buy it").
6) Go to Google and search from there. Results are sometimes better, but not always. I'll check several results.
7) Look at the Wirecutter to see if they address the category. Just buy whatever they recommend if so.
8) Go to a specific community for recommendations. This would be a subreddit, looking through a trusted Twitter user, forums, etc.
Now, I mostly skip all this, and my default behavior is to not trust anything on Amazon's website, and either start my search elsewhere, or buy whatever is cheapest and save my time. I used to go to Amazon to save time, but now I'd almost prefer going to Walmart and buying whatever option they have.
 - https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3...
This time of year the fake reviews are especially bad as well. For example, if you go to something like the Electronics › Camera & Photo › Video › Camcorders category, every top rated item is padded with, or only contains, fake reviews. They have hundreds of non-verified five star reviews all occurring on a single day. On a few items you can see where there's a whole series of padded reviews, than a few bad, real, reviews from the people that fell for it, than a later series of fake reviews to re-up the score and bury the real ones.
Many of the fake reviews are painfully obvious too, like they know they don't even need to try to hide it. You can view a users review history by clicking their name on the review. If you follow most of these fake accounts, all of the activity they have is unverified 5-star reviews for questionable products coming all within a sequence of a few days.
If Amazon is using some internal/automated system to detect these things, it does a fairly horrible job. My guess is its not much of a priority for them though.
By not developing a close to foolproof protocol for detecting and eliminating 'spam' (i.e fake products), this incentives the sellers to keep doing what they are doing.
I am not saying that this is not an easy problem. It is an incredibly difficult problem, but what has made Amazon super successful in the past, is figuring out incredibly difficult problems.
Maybe I am being impatient, but this problem has persisted for quite a long time. Their are ads everywhere.
I just speak for myself, but having to spend close to an hour sifting out what is a fake review and what is not, does not encourage trust from me.
I would be really interested what the customer retention is like for people who have received fake products.
In a different tangent I found myself disgusted with AliExpress lately when every listing I was looking at had semi-related bait items for higher listing position when sorting by price. Amazon isn't that bad yet.
Note: I have no affiliation with the company.
That has blockchain all over it.
In terms of technology, one can use machine learning for fraud detection. In terms of business operation, they have dedicated e-commerce site for official sellers, and there are several sites aiming up middle class market where products are curated and QCed by the sites.(sort of higher end Amazon Basics)
EDIT : see below for what it actually does. :)
If you don't want Facebook to know which articles you read, there are web extensions to fake the referer. I'm using https://github.com/JoaoAparicio/read-ft-wsj .
You should be able to download the video with youtube-dl.
This is in the FAQ at https://news.ycombinator.com/newsfaq.html and there's more explanation here:
I would be fine with this if the link was to working content (the workaround link).