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Amazon Ruined Online Shopping (theatlantic.com)
169 points by seagullz 32 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 216 comments

Amazon made online shopping feel safe and comfortable, at least mechanically, where once the risk of being scammed by bad actors felt huge

Maybe this was true once, but now Amazon has brought back that fear and confusion of getting scammed.

You used to be able to count on reviews for some idea of the quality of the product, but now you need to do research at someplace like www.fakespot.com to see if the reviews are fake.

And even if the product is legit and works well and it's fulfilled by Amazon, when you get the product you need to check it carefully to see if it's a counterfeit knockoff that some vendor sold through amazon's commingled inventory.

I've switched to https://www.bhphotovideo.com/ for most of my computer/electronics purchases now - they seem to price match Amazon automatically (or maybe amazon price matches them, many products have an identical price) and delivery is almost always within 2 - 3 days. I used to go to newegg, but have had a few issues with their third party sellers (product never shipped after ordering) so stopped going there.

Amazon's counterfeit problem seems like something they're not taking seriously enough. For a laser printer or a lamp, sure -- I'll buy from Amazon and deal with the return if I ever get screwed. But for climbing gear, of which I've bought quite a bit of, I simply won't touch Amazon. I haven't heard of counterfeit (versus obvious trash, which exists but is different) climbing goods on Amazon, but I simply can't risk it.

There is also the issue of genuine items sold as new which are actually very well repackaged returns. Amazon does minimal (if any?) checking of returns and I have frequently received items that had obviously been opened and used then returned and sold to me as new. I very fondly recall opening the package for Wahl electric clippers and having a bunch of hairs fall out of the box, but it's far from the only occurrence. Of course, the item was shipped and sold by Amazon.

Also see the cases where houses burned down because of hover boards sold by Amazon. These items didn't meet the standards to be sold in North America and burnt a family's house down. They went to court and amazon won because "they're only a market place and your beef is with the manufacturer, and we can't tell you who they are or how to contact them because they're some fly by night company in China."

I've never had that problem Amazon fulfilled merchandise (but have run into it with some third-party sellers, including one that sent me a product with "Bad - does not work" written on the box, so it was clearly a defective return).

But I have had some bad experiences with "Amazon warehouse deals" where they do resell returned/opened merchandise at a discount, once the product in the box was completely different than what it was supposed to be.

They've been good about replacing/refunding those but now I only order the warehouse deals if I'm ok with waiting for a replacement if the one they sent is bad.

This keeps happening to me with books.

It's extremely frustrating because I know that it hurts the artist's bottom line when I have to return the same book 3 times because it comes with a worn spine or bent pages or unknown substances on it.

And I've had to report USPS multiple times for stuffing giant paperbacks from Amazon into my tiny mailbox but nothing's changed as of yet.

I thought books were what made Amazon famous? I'm so turned off by the quality that I'm wary of making purchases with their sister site at Comixology.

Ditto on ski gear and watches or other jewellery. For any kind of outdoor gear the counterfeit vs. genuine problem becomes a serious safety issue. As you say, Amazon aren't taking it nearly seriously enough.

The scarier aspect (though the thought of the number of ways counterfeit ski bindings can fail and kill you is...alarming enough in itself) of counterfeit outdoors equipment is that it's probably more likely that beginners new to a sport are going to be buying equipment off Amazon. These are the people who don't yet have the specific knowledge to spot countefeits (unless they're blatantly obvious). And they may not know enough to realize the possible risks.

Amazon's counterfeit problem is only getting worse, and there's no reason to expect anything to change anytime soon.

> it's probably more likely that beginners new to a sport are going to be buying equipment off Amazon. These are the people who don't yet have the specific knowledge to spot countefeits (unless they're blatantly obvious).

This is very true although, to be honest, even as a reasonably decent skier I'm not sure I could spot a counterfeit. In fact, except in the worst cases, I'm pretty sure I couldn't because I'm not enough of a gear-head in that arena.

I'm more confident with watches but, even then, it's only certain brands and models, and I'd have to do quite a bit of research and comparison to images of the real deal to spot a fake. For example, I'm not at all sure I could easily identify a fake G-Shock because there are so many different models, whereas I might do better on something like an SKX.

The sloppiness of a lot of counterfeits gives them away though: for example, I bought a Gamecube controller that turned up unbranded and (worse) with a USB connector. Of course, my old Wii - which I use for Gamecube games - was having none of it.

Yup. For pretty much all outdoor gear I go to Backcountry or REI. Can't risk counterfeits for technical products where specs matter.

Plus REI's ~~lifetime~~ one-year return policy is much more generous than Amazon's. Not to mention the annual member dividend.

What's a "lifetime one-year return policy"?

Poster expected to cross out lifetime because REI changed their lifetime return policy to a one year policy.

To expand on this: REI used to have a lifetime, no-questions-asked return policy. They changed it (sometime in the past few years, unsure I've only been in the US for a little over one now) to a 1 year no-questions-asked policy. This does not include things on clearance (they call it REI Garage sales online) as this is (as I understand it) mostly the returned items being resold to recoup costs. Clearance items (and electronics too) have a 90 day return policy instead.

I often pay full price at REI instead if cheaper elsewhere because of the generous return policy so I guess it works.

It's getting so out of hand to the point where most products have all fake reviews.

> I used to go to newegg, but have had a few issues with their third party sellers (product never shipped after ordering) so stopped going there.

I have zero interest in shopping a platform. I didn’t like ebay one bit. I’d be perfectly happy to buy from amazon or newegg but if they insist on making it difficult to do that I’ll go elsewhere.

I’m not even saying they can’t be a platform, just make it easy for me to turn that part off.

A lot of people like to disparage Best Buy but I’ve found the stores in my area to be excellent and the staff to always be friendly and helpful. They’ll also price match Amazon in most cases. Their PC components selection isn’t huge, but for things like consoles, games, peripherals, etc., I feel like they’re great. They also offer one-hour pickup and in some cases will even give you a discount if you choose that over shipping.

For a lot of stuff, I agree. For certain things, though, Best Buy is a complete ripoff. I once went to get an HDMI cable and all that had was a $100 gold plated one. I walked up to the guy in that department and told him I knew this was a scam and he agreed. I told him I'd not buy anything from them and wait the 2 days to get a $5 one from Amazon. Best Buy isn't doing themselves any favors by this behavior.

There's a mom and pop computer store down the street. I went in for a USB cable that I really needed and ended up paying > $20 for that should have been less than $5. I never went back.

I’m not sure when you had this experience but Best Buy has wised up and started offering reasonably priced cables. They now sell HDMI cables starting at $9.99


Whoa, that's new! Even as of a couple years ago, all their HDMI cables cost a good 5x what was reasonable.

I was going to note that $10 for a 4 foot cable, while fairly reasonable, still isn't a great price. But, there's also this[1] one, which is $7, supports 4K, and is 6 feet long. And, both of these are cables are actually available at my local store for immediate pickup.

[1] https://www.bestbuy.com/site/dynex-6-4k-ultra-hd-hdmi-cable-...

Same thing mobile providers do. E.g. the phone is pretty reasonably priced but things like car charging cables, cases, etc are marked up 10x. They are relying on people not really looking at the cost of the accessories and/or immediate need (I lost my charging cable and need one now).

I do AV integration installs and buy a lot of small stuff like cables, adapters and more on https://www.monoprice.com the products are pretty good quality and reasonably priced.

Best Buy actually matched my Mac for up to a year after I bought it. Allowed me to get it down about $200 a few months later. I also love having 0% financing on their credit card, though, like you mentioned, I've run into issues with PC components (considering building my own).

Also no sales tax at B&H for a lot of people. Of course, in some states, you're still supposed to pay the state sales tax directly when you do your income tax. I used to do this with amazon before they collected sales tax in my state. They allow you to download your purchase history (csv format) and see which items you didn't pay tax on so it's easy to calculate that line item on state taxes.

B&H have started collecting sales tax [0] on lots of states after the Supreme Court ruling. States are going hard on collecting sales tax. Connecticut is even asking for online retailers to give them DBs on customer transactions[1]. B&H refused to do that while Newegg obliged[2].

[0]: https://iphone.appleinsider.com/articles/18/10/06/bh-is-set-...

[1]: https://www.courant.com/politics/hc-pol-online-sales-tax-201...

[2]: https://youtube.com/watch?v=xytMBKQyYdg

As a non-American this seems like a ridiculously complicated tax system.

1. This doesn't happen for the vast majority of sites, which charge the appropriate sales tax rate based on the shipping address location. Amazon individual sellers are inconsistent, but every major retailer handles it well within the bounds of the law. The issue came about partly because it was and is still often believed that one isn't obligated to pay sales tax if the shipper/seller isn't located in the same state, though the legality of this varies at best. Regardless, this isn't the "tax system" but rather the negligence of Amazon.

2. In the country where I currently live, if I order something from another country I am charged the tax on import plus a substantial processing fee that's usually much larger than the tax. I miss the US system in comparison...

It's because each of the 50 states administrates its own sales tax (or lack thereof).

Yes, but some cities and counties also have their own sales taxes, though this isn't why sellers don't charge sales taxes.

They don't charge them because they can get away with (or believe it is legal to) not charge sales tax for customers not in the state or area from which they operate.

It was until very recently.

Honestly, this is the first instance I've ever heard of anyone going to the lengths of recalling their purchase history to backpay sales tax.

If it makes one feel better to do it, by all means do it. Among the list of egregious tax offenses that exist, this is likely pretty low on the IRS list to audit people.

The IRS doesn't care about this. It's a state thing.

It only takes about 5 minutes, so it's not too onerous.

It's crazy, but states and cities need to get money somehow.

It is. It’s really annoying.

Localism is a good thing. The benefits outweigh the costs here.

The startup I work for, Masse[0], is attempting to solve this issue. More or less a platform for product reviews with a social network component to see exactly who is recommending a product.

I've written a little about it here [1][2].

[0] https://masse.app/

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18441347

[2] https://www.reddit.com/r/fsharp/comments/9wpw84/introducing_...

I was intrigued, but after visiting your website I'm ambivalent. The only way to truly combat shilling is to fully embrace a model where each person sees reviews only from their own personal network of sources— this drastically reduces the "eyeball multiplier" that makes mass media so attractive to marketers.

But seeing things like "Top 3 Recommended" on your website makes me believe you're falling into the same trap everyone else is, at least partially. I don't care how sophisticated your detection of paid content is; you simply can't win a direct war against these pathogens (marketers). The only way to win is not to play, i.e. don't provide a platform for mass reach in the first place. Mass media is really a type of monoculture, with all the same weaknesses.

Unrelated: how do you plan to solve the problem of identifying and classifying essentially every product in existence? Resolving duplicates, slight variants, etc. is a very hard problem, as is categorization.

Our application does only show reviews from your personal network. Well, close. The app has a Q&A format (think Instagram meets Stack Overflow), and you see both questions and answers from your network. You can also see the user that asked a question that someone in your network has answered, and see users who answered the question someone in your network asked. In this way, you can be exposed to some new content. But reviews can't really spread virally as things stand now.

Re: product identification...actually people tend to shop from the same places (think of the product coverage of the top 5000 retailers). We don't have those top 5000 yet, but we're working on it. We get most of our product data from affiliate networks, who offer up that data to drive sales back to their site. For whatever we can't import and internalize, we have a "search anything" feature which allows the user to use a web view to navigate to a product page and import the product.

You're right, resolving duplicates and variants is a very tricky problem that can become incredibly complicated. Right now we use some very basic heuristics like normalized name and brand, ASIN, GTIN, EAN, UPC, etc. But actually, we don't need things to be perfect. So long as a user can get to a product that is more or less what they want to recommend, they're happy. Also, when you are searching for a product to recommend (this is not "browsing," it's when you are trying to answer a recommendation with a specific product) we boost products that have already been recommended. This way we can get users who are looking for a particular product to recommend the same instance of that product. We also focus our efforts on cleaning up the data for products that have already been recommended, which is a much smaller subset than our total catalog.

Our data is stored in Neo4j, we find its structure to be well suited to a product catalog and taxonomy, and it allows us to derive relationships between products. The process of improving our catalog is an ongoing task, and one that will likely never end.

> Product recommendations from people you trust

Why do I trust user reviews on your site more than user reviews on any other site? Or is this assuming that my some of friends have already become users and we will only look at each others' reviews?

It would be nice if you could "glue" together one's reviews across all third party sites.

Yes, your "feed" is populated with answers and questions about products from the people you follow. We give a few people who you can opt to follow when onboarding. Because you can see other users who answered a question asked by someone you follow, and see the question answered by someone you follow, you can be exposed to new users (who you can then follow).

You're more likely to trust user reviews on this site because the reviews are likely to be coming from people who you are connected to in some way.

We haven't been around too long (launched mid-November, have a team of 7: 1 iOS, 2 backend eningeers, and product/marketing/community folks, plus a few contractors), but we'll be rolling out more features to help evaluate the trustworthiness of the reviews that users see.

Seems like a good start.

One concern is that I don't generally buy products starting with Q&A from people I follow. My process is more like: research products that solve problem X, then look at trusted reviews for X. It just seems like the intersection of reviews from people I follow and products that I want to buy would be extremely sparse (i.e., most of the time there wouldn't be a matching review).

Why the downvotes?

I didn't downvote, but probably because it sounds like an ad.

It's gotten to the point that it feels like a version or intermediary for Aliexpress.

That's how I see it. Amazon is aliexpress with a 4 or 5x markup and delivery within a week.

Yeah- and really, I think PayPal has done more to make online shopping feel safe and comfortable than Amazon. It means you can use those little-guy websites without fear of credit card fraud. They even offer purchase-protection.

With Newegg, I definitely filter on "Seller: Newegg". I don't like that they've become a generic broker, lowering their standards and promoting poor service and counterfeiting.

legally every Amazon warehouse should be seized by the Feds for knowingly helping to ship counterfeit goods across state lines. That's what happens to other retailers who do this[1].

Luckily, Bezos owns the Washington Post, has a 600 million dollar contract with the CIA, and is close to signing a 10 billion dollar contract with the Department of Defense. The new HQ in DC probably helps grease those hands as well

1. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/16/nyregion/fake-luxury-good...

I belive that. For example, Amazon is selling "DOT approved" H11 LED headlights with good reviews. One problem is that they blind oncoming drivers (I know because I bought them and tried). The other problem is that DOT does not approve headlights, and FMVSS-108 says H11 is halogen, so this clearly violates 49 U.S. Code § 30112.

I asked the seller and they did not respond, but when I tried to write a review Amazon would not let me: "Sorry, we are unable to accept your review. You are no longer permitted to review products on Amazon because you have violated our Community Guidelines." I called Amazon and they said the'll investigate and get back to me, but never did.

Do you have any idea what action was considered a community guidelines violation?

No, they never told me.

You'd have to prove that they knew ahead of time that they were selling counterfeit products rather than having been duped by an unscrupulous supplier, and I'm sure they have the paperwork to "prove" that the supplier sent them legit product.

Note that the article you linked to doesn't mention Amazon at all -- if Amazon was part of that counterfeit scheme, you'd think the NYTimes would be happy to get in a dig at the owner of the Washington Post if they could.

Why is that the standard of proof? Other retailers don't seem to get the "our supplier lied and we didn't bother checking" as an excuse.

I guess you could argue that Amazon is in a unique position somewhere between, say, Craigslist (which simply allows independent sellers to connect with buyers and should bear little responsibility for counterfeits) and an old-fashioned mom-and-pop (which buys goods directly, choosing legitimate or illegitimate wholesalers and handling the merchandise). But everyone is in-between these days.

And the time for a defense from ignorance is long past...

"Other retailers don't seem to get the "our supplier lied and we didn't bother checking" as an excuse"

Are you sure? The linked article said that the retailers that were busted were part of the scheme, doesn't sound like they were innocent bystanders that were cheated by the distributors.

Three retail businesses in Queens and two in Manhattan were part of the scheme, Mr. Melendez said, adding that they had closed

>and I'm sure they have the paperwork to "prove" that the supplier sent them legit product.

I've sold new items on Amazon (fulfilled by Amazon). I assure you, I provided no such paperwork other than me marking it as new when I set up the shipment on their site.

Isn't that the paperwork?

Its interesting that they can just get away with this so easily and make it the consumers problem. im also wondering how often consumers dont know nor realize they bought something counterfeit.

Previously you were risking getting your card stolen by a shady seller.

Now you're risking of getting your payment stolen. Bad product/no product delivered could be seen as equivalent to stole payment.

It's an improvement, isn't it?

PayPal solved that problem already though, right?

Not necessarily. Card theft, yes; bad/no product is fuzzy.

If a shady seller can prove delivery of a package to the buyer, it becomes much harder for the buyer to get through winning a dispute irrespective of what the package's contents were. Particularly if the merchandise is counterfeit but definitely proving that it's counterfeit is difficult.

Also with forum commerce for used things, it's difficult to sort out "this item isn't is the condition that was communicated to me".

If the seller can't prove delivery, then the buyer wins almost hands down.

On the flip side, an unscrupulous buyer can use this to their advantage with international shipping where it is extraordinarily difficult (and expensive) to prove delivery all the way to the destination across different country's mailing services.

That is not my experience. Paypal always sides with the buyer independent of any evidence presented.

Having proof of delivery did not help any of my cases. Things were still claimed lost and I would be forced to eat the cost.

Paying for signature confirmation just changed the nature of the buyer's claims to concealed damage, or they just signed it illegibly, insist it wasn't them, and still claimed it lost.

All it helped were a few cases where I was able to make insurance claims with the carrier but it never got me anywhere with Paypal.

I hear power sellers get more credibility.

> On top of that, Amazon is more than willing to fix its errors.

In my experience, this is less true than it used to be. For example, my mom ordered a DVD in early December to be given as a Christmas gift. It was a Prime item, and she is a Prime subscriber. For some reason, it wasn't showing that it would be delivered until just before Christmas. Even though this was odd — and arguably a breach of the Prime agreement — she figured it was no big deal because it would be in time for Christmas. Then, just before it was supposed to be delivered, Amazon updated the delivery to after Christmas. This was actually OK by her, since the recipient (my daughter) would still be at her house for a few days after Christmas. Again, just before it was to be delivered, they updated the shipping again, and now said it would arrive Jan 15 to Jan 30. When she chatted the Amazon reps, they just said sorry for the inconvenience, and offered nothing for this shipping miss. Eventually they agreed to put a credit on her account for the inconvenience, but the credit never actually materialized.

We canceled the order and bought the DVD (plus digital copy!) from Walmart. This is just one of many negative customer service experiences we've had with Amazon in the last few months. The other big problem is that they now want each return put in its own box — even if it was shipped to us with multiple other items that are also being returned. We have been Prime customers for years, but perhaps not for much longer.

I can't comment on the other points, but I can reply to this:

>The other big problem is that they now want each return put in its own box — even if it was shipped to us with multiple other items that are also being returned. We have been Prime customers for years, but perhaps not for much longer

The reason for this is because each seller can set their own return address. I receive all returns to ensure that they are destroyed and that no customer accidentally buys something new and receives a customer return.

Beyond minimizing costs for Amazon/sellers, this also reduces waste and environmental impact because each good only has to be shipped once.

For what it’s worth, in every case where they’ve insisted on this, the return addresses were identical. We had to come up with multiple boxes to mail everything back but everything went to the same place.

Recently, I was searching for a new office chair. Amazon offers the popular Steelcase Leap at full price, $978. You'd likely think you're paying full price to get a new chair. See if you can tell that you're getting ripped off:


Spoiler: buried in the fine print, and listed as a "feature," it says "open box refurb".

Customers are unwittingly paying full price for refurbished chairs, which typically sell for under $400. Many reviews claim that the chairs do not seem up to standard quality. You might think this is from some shady third-party seller, but it's in fact, "Ship from and sold by Amazon.com." And if you list all New/Used/Refurbished sellers, Amazon.com shows up in the New category, despite being described as a refurb in the product description. What a mess.

That's either a mistake in the product description or an error in marking it new. Amazon is selling it's standard "new" warranties along with it, which wouldn't be possible if it's a refurb. My guess is the product description is inaccurate.

Disclosure: I work at Amazon.

Definitely a product description error.

The product description field should never comment on the new/used/refurbished nature of the product being purchased because different conditions can (usually) be sold on the same listing.

What probably happened is someone copied and pasted the description from somewhere else where the listing was specifically for refurbished chairs, or the very first seller of this item was selling it refurbished and wanted to call it out explicitly.

Amazon detail pages are confusing, but honestly, I don't know how to improve them. I get loads of returns for people claiming they bought something used that was sold as new, even though the condition is clearly marked as used and a lengthy description next to it about the condition.

Special offers and product promotions

Color: Black

Buy Used and Save: Buy a Used "Steelcase Leap Fabric Chair, Black,46216179FBL" and save 78% off the $1,699.00 list price. Buy with confidence as the condition of this item and its timely delivery are guaranteed under the "Amazon A-to-z Guarantee".

I don't think Steelcase ever sold it for $1699.00

I bought this chair from them several years ago (same configuration). In those days, they listed the new price as $800. I got it a lot less than that because of some Christmas discount they had.

I recently went down the rabbit hole of trying to buy Yorkshire Gold tea on Amazon (I am in the US). I encountered so many bad reviews of users complaining about the quality, and the flavor being weakened, or not the authentic YG flavor, that I gave up. It was impossible to tell to which seller each bad review was attributable.

I went on Ebay, found decent UK sellers in less than 5 minutes, and ordered my tea. Downside of course, is that it will take 2-3 weeks to get here, but at least I know what I'm getting.

There are certain swaths of items that you literally can't buy anymore because they are completely overrun with counterfeiters. Perfume/cologne and board games are two big ones.

Amazon is, at this point, undoubtedly one of the largest enablers of open counterfeiting in the world. It needs to be met with a massive investigation and crippling fines. That probably won't happen until we have a federal government that is no longer slavish prostituted to business interests, unfortunately.

> until we have a federal government that is no longer slavish prostituted to business interests

If you lend an ear to some contemporary ideas about how technology changes our societies, there might be a chance we will see this happening in our life times. Current government models, democratic and authoritarian alike, seem to grow ever less capable of coping with technology and how it reshapes society. Yuval Noah Harari has a section devoted to it in Homo Deus.

I suppose Angela Merkel's famous "Das Internet ist für uns Neuland." [1] (engl. "The Internet is uncharted territory for us.") shows off just how overwhelmed even G7 economies are with a technology that became common 30 years ago. We generate tons of information which is barely translated to knowledge, especially if you leave out ad tech.

[1] http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/merkel-neuland-g...

At least Merkel has a sense of humor about it: https://edition.cnn.com/2018/12/06/europe/angela-merkel-shit...


> democratic and authoritarian alike

Those aren't opposites, they are entirely different concepts. Any law that mandates behavior is authoritarian, which is not inherently good or bad. Are democracies incapable of producing such laws? Criminalizing murder is authoritarian, for example, but unobjectionably desirable. Freedom of speech is actively anti-authoritarian, as an alternative, as it is a restriction placed on the state.

Democracy and authoritarianism are both forms of government, and that is the sense of the words being used in the sentence ("Current government models, democratic and authoritarian alike, …"). You've chosen to reinterpret one of them as an adjective unconnected to the thing it describes (government models) and then criticized the parent for a category error.

Board games are completely overrun you say? But I buy at least a half dozen big board games per year from Amazon and have never had a problem.

Here a couple examples I came across recently of games which have multiple recent reviews, on the first page of reviews, that either outright state they received a counterfeit or describe quality control issues that almost certainly describe a counterfeit:

Catan https://smile.amazon.com/Catan-Studios-cantan2017/dp/B00U26V...

Splendor https://smile.amazon.com/Asmodee-SPL01-Splendor/dp/B00IZEUFI...

Ticket to Ride https://smile.amazon.com/Days-Wonder-DO7201-Ticket-Ride/dp/0...

Ticket to Ride: Europe https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B000809OAO/

7 Wonders https://smile.amazon.com/Asmodee-5511788-7-Wonders/dp/B0043K...

Azul https://smile.amazon.com/Plan-Games-Azul-Board-Game/dp/B077M...

They're not hard to find -- popular games from smaller publishers with high prices but relatively simple (cardboard/plastic) components seem to be what counterfeiters target.

I haven't had a problem either, but Asmodee did make a big stink about this last year: https://icv2.com/articles/news/view/39296/icv2-interview-asm...

What an interview. The whole time, there's this strong subtext that Amazon is the primary vector here, but they never come out and say it -- and dance around the issue of what corrective legislation would actually look like -- because they're evidently afraid of getting on its shit list, despite the massive harm its negligence is enabling.

Would you even know if they are good quality?

They can also be secondary runs, where the actual printer for the game does a second run after hours, with lower-quality components but original assets.

I there anyone who is keeping track of the "probability of counterfeit" for various categories on Amazon?

I've heard that phone chargers almost always are fake, and perfume doesn't surprise me. I'd assume brand-name clothing is suspect. Would not have guessed board games, the market doesn't strike me as big enough to be worth it (though I'm not into board games so I could be wrong).

The only major online store worth buying fragrances from is Aedes de Venustas.

> That probably won't happen until we have a federal government that is no longer slavish prostituted to business interests, unfortunately.

If you're referring to the Trump administration, he hates Jeff Bezos and Amazon (and the failing Washington Post, which JB owns)

>at least I know what I'm getting

Lorddddd I am holding back laughter right now. Ebay is the original defintion of online scamming and counterfeiting.

The real way to do this would be for someone to buy a bulk order from the manufacturer, import it, and then sell it piecemeal with a social media profile that demonstrates legitness and quality of product.

Ebay's fees and lack of quality control add negative value to this transaction.

Of course one wonders why in 2019 the manufacturer doesn't sell direct to consumer

Amazon launders counterfeit goods on a regular basis. Remember fiasco with the solar eclipse?


Amazon does not track things 100%, so you may think you're buying from one seller, and you are actually getting something from a different seller. That should be illegal and actionable by consumers as well as sellers, with more than just a refund.

IME product details given in eBay listings refer to that product from that seller, rather than a similar product from anyone of a number of current or past sellers (as Amazon appears to).

Thus ratings are useful, as are reviews.

User rating does refer to the individual, yes, but product rating is across all examples of that product. I've been asked by eBay to rate products I've purchased, and it even says in the guidelines "rate the product, not the seller". Product description should be specific to the one being sold.

I don't think I get that sort of product review on eBay listings; I was meaning the "review"/data given by the seller.

Because manufacturers don't typically have their own fulfillment infrastructure for retail-sized orders?

What you're proposing with somebody buying a bulk order and divvying it up is basically describing what the existing retailers do. The reputable ones are worrying about their reputations.

Retailers that aren't big enough to do this themselves go through suppliers, who in turn handle breaking a bulk order down into units to sell to smaller retailers. Those suppliers are worried about their reputations too, you just don't see that because you largely don't see them.

(Edited to clarify)

Amazon is also very reactive. They eventually take things down, but they rely on user feedback to notice that something is going wrong. And that can be gamed as well.

> sell it piecemeal with a social media profile

Isn't eBay basically a social media profile? Facebook selling groups are also scam hotbeds, I don't see how that works any better.

I think anyone who is willing to put their real face and name in front of what they are (re)selling can be trusted more than any fake LLC or profile or ebay user account.

If they have videos on instagram and do a live demo and walk through and you can see who their real friends are, then you can probably trust them as much as currently possible.

>I went on Ebay, found decent UK sellers in less than 5 minutes, and ordered my tea.

I've found myself buying more and more from eBay in the past 12 months. Prices are decent and no whack a mole with sellers. You buy from one seller and can easily tell how long they've been on eBay and a gauge of their reputation.

FWIW, I am involved with an outfit that sells licensed sports apparel on Amazon.

We drop-ship directly from the manufacturer. Companies you are very familiar with.

We have to work through counterfeit claims all week long... reviews, complaints, returns, etc.

Honest question: if you're dropshipping it, how do you know what the customer is receiving?

Well, I suppose Big Brand Apparel company doesn’t have their supply chain dialed in, but I also have previous experience with said manufacturers and their supply chain and factory logistics teams and know how much control and oversight they have.

That said, Amazon occasionally asks us to provide ordering proof of our lot.. an official invoice from Big Brahd Apparel company is good enough for them (it has to match across many points, to be sure). Plus, we inspect and review all returns.

It’s official product. In good shape.

That seems like you have a problem with Yorkshire Gold, not Amazon. The product says "Ships from and sold by Amazon.com". If the company is screwing up their product for the American market, then going to eBay and buying strait from the UK seems like a perfectly reasonable solution, but that's not Amazon's fault.

Even “ships from and sold by amazon.com” products are comingled with potentially conterfeit products, unless a brand pays extra money for them not to be. No way for the end user to know if they’re getting comingled product.

Is there any way to determine if they've paid for no commingling?

Is that even a thing? I’ve never heard that being possible before. I would be willing to pay a premium for guaranteed non-commingled products. But Amazon commingles to make their own internal logistics easier.

According to [1] if the product has an EAN/UPC/ISBN barcode, it gets commingled, but vendors can put a sticker over it with a different barcode to prevent commingling.

Or the FBA label service [2] can apply the stickers for you, at 0.15/item

[1] https://services.amazon.co.uk/services/fulfilment-by-amazon/... [2] https://sellercentral.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/external/G2004837...

If they offered this option it would be an admission on Amazon's part that they know about the issues with co-mingling (which of course they must do by now, but they wouldn't be dumb enough to publicly admit it).

but the words "Ships from and sold by Amazon.com" don't guarantee anything. Amazon is strongly suspected of mingling inventory from a variety of sources into "its own" inventory.

If you absolutely need a single 4116 16kbit DRAM chip right now (well, in several days) eBay is the place.

That’s what’s the most amazing about EBay: just how niche the parts get.

Either internal components, or people parting out a broken system, you can find it all.

Need one screw for your iMac? It’s there.

Need some random resistor size? You can buy 1000. In through-hole or different SMT sizes.

Need a power supply for a particular TV? It’s there.

Need a USB male to male 4’ cable? It’s there.

Need a 5V to 18V 2A power supply? Etc.

This is one of the products which I have ordered frequently and with which I didn't expect any problems. Almost all the reviews are good, the price is good and I've been subscribing and saving for years.

So I'm genuinely curious why you thought Amazon wasn't good for this item.


This is my 1st time trying it. I want the authentic Yorkshire Gold, made for UK flavor standards, not one re-formulated for American taste buds (as some of the reviews allege).

Perhaps the USAmerican reviewers can't make tea?

(They just chuck it in harbor full of water and wonder why it's salty and weak?)

American tea is ice cold and full of sugar... If that's the disrespect that they're going to pay to our glorious national beverage then they may as well throw it in the sea for all I care ;)

You could skip the teabags entirely and buy in bulk. Not this particular blend, but tea in general.

Now I'm curious about the difference. Can you say which eBay source you used?

Three of the eight reviews on that page call out quality issues....

Huh? There are 1,400 reviews on that page.

There are 1400 reviews but the "initial selection" of ~8 Top Reviews has almost 50% negative commentary. I'm trying to learn more and more to look at the bars on the left; in this case, 92% are 4 and 5 star, and factor in that most people with no issues don't write reviews at all. So my very random modifier would make that something like 95% positive and take a chance on it. This assumes you don't get the dice rolled to a counterfeiter when you happened to load the page.

It would be great if you could filter the reviews not only by the form factor (8 pack, 1 pack, etc.) but also the vendor. If anyone at Amazon is reading this...

TBH I recently bought an end table that had 0 reviews, and it was kind of an adrenaline ride. "I'm supposed to judge this product simply by what I see on the page, and my own investigative capabilities? How quaint!". :)

I guess people act in that information differently. When I saw 3 of the 8 ‘most helpful reviews’ complain about quality, my next step was to look elsewhere. It turns out that a specialty tea shop—and the grocery store around the corner-both sell it, so that’s where I’d go.

For me, the $15 isn’t itself a big risk, but since my spouse is so reluctant to throw out food that I’d be stuck with lousy tea for months.

Congratulations, you got lucky and were directed to a non-counterfeit seller. But your anecdote is obviously not representative of everyone's experience.

OK. But I guess I've been directed to non-counterfeit sellers almost 100 times over the course of several years.

from your linked amazon page important information: "This product is labelled to United States standards and may differ from similar products sold elsewhere in its ingredients, labeling and allergen warnings".

I've never had it, i'm not a tea expert, and this doesn't definitively say its different, but it would certainly make me pause.. Granted, in this case it doesn't seem to be an amazon issue as much an issue of the manufacturer, different recipes for different regions, etc.

> But there’s a reason that we used to have shoe stores, hardware stores, grocery stores, bookstores, and all the rest: Those specialized retail spaces allow products, and the people with knowledge about them, to engage in specialized ways of finding, choosing, and purchasing them.

There's a reason why so much commerce has moved online in general and to Amazon in particular: We often value price and convenience and oodles of consumer reviews and easy access to competition and related info more than we value meat space salespeople with specialized knowledge laying on personalized sales pressure.

Not always. I drove for three hours to shop for an office chair in a brick and mortar store, because I had to actually try it before paying the big bucks. But often enough to remake the economy.

It's a matter of trust as well.

My parents generation, now in the 70's, has this implicit trust in salespeople. They know "in principle" that there are "bad apples", but if a salesperson shakes their hand, looks them in the eye, and says "Of course Mr. <Insert name>, we'll take care of you", they buy it wholesale. Which is how my dad bought $600 tires for $1800 at a dealership, a $1200 "DSLR camera" which was actually a superzoom point and shoot, a wired phone headset which was actually wireless headphones with no boom, etc.

I have basically zero trust in the "specialized retail stores with specialized sales people". Any time I geek out a little bit about any retail area, I learn the 101 ways they have and do scam you, and my trust erodes further. A specialized expensive shoe store swore my shoes I bought specifically for air travel don't have metal shims in them; of course they do. The electronic stores are never staffed with people who know more than I do, or frequently anything at all other than to push extended warranty. Small car maintenance store I've dealt with regularly for 15 years have turned out to be skimming and scamming once I learned more about their product and service, all the while greeting me warmly by name and "taking care of me". And yes, my dad and his friends still go to them.

So yes, bring on the faceless online warehouse. I feel safer there - or at least, am better equipped to determine fake/counterfeit/exploitative than I am in person. For all the decades that Amazon and the like had to develop methods to scam us, in-person salespeople had centuries, and I ain't winning that game.

In the small business dominated world of 40 years ago trust was a fundamental economic asset. A bad seller would immediately get a bad reputation and it would be known around the community. People trusted each other because that's how society has worked for millennia, to the point of tribalism, we are never allowed to scam "our" people for we might be ostracized and literally be in mortal peril outside the tribe. A handshake and a look in the eye says: "I'm staking my family's livelihood on this".

Then the tech revolution happened and took the corporatist economic model to massive new levels. Large capital owners could more effectively circumvent the lack of social capital (trust) by investing in technology. Communication tools allowed them to better manage sprawling business empires and reach the consumer directly. The mom&pop gave way to the franchise and the retail chain, it's social capital was undercut by media-induced branding and billion dollar advertising campaigns.

For the national chain, it's largely irrelevant if some old guy got suckered into buying crap by an underpaid employee looking to make a commission. He might complain to his neighbors but unless the media takes an interest, it's not an existential threat to the corporation with national level PR and advertising. The chain has other things to worry about, like expanding faster than the competition and hiring even more cheap & sleazy guys capable of producing income.

The end game of this brave new world is precisely the "everything store" against which no mom&pop can compete. Our generation instinctively mistrusts the corporate drone regardless of it's physical or online incarnation. Your father is the product of a different social arrangement.

> In the small business dominated world of 40 years ago trust was a fundamental economic asset. A bad seller would immediately get a bad reputation and it would be known around the community.

Sorry, this is bogus. Salesmen for electronic goods have been terrible at least since the 70s - my father, who designed ICs used in TVs, used to rant about their incompetence and bald-faced lies...

My assumption is that they've always been awful.

bigger point is that communities and tribes have gotten larger at least in the US, breaking down once strong barriers of trust (people becoming more numbers than neighbors)

Good sellers are bad. The point is there is a seller and his manager and the space they sell to you. It is overhead. Prices increase to pay for all that. Nobody thinks they've been "had" in part because good sellers know how to sell and in part because its part of the system people expect a middleman markup cause how else is that middleman gonna earn enough to live.

We are in a post middleman economy. Its goining to be hard for people to adjust. But we aren't going back.

> There's a reason why so much commerce has moved online in general and to Amazon in particular: We often value price and convenience and oodles of consumer reviews and easy access to competition and related info more than we value meat space salespeople with specialized knowledge laying on personalized sales pressure.

I've stopped shopping on amazon for years now and perhaps the best thing they've done is make the online shopping experience better on every other website, purely out of necessity. I think any convenience in amazon has an advantage with is mostly perceived at this point. Also, their review system had become so huge and untrustworthy even the stars next to an item are basically meaningless.

> Also, their review system had become so huge and untrustworthy even the stars next to an item are basically meaningless.

I agree, but still find big value in reviews, partly because I focus heavily on the more trustworthy part: the bad reviews. If they convince me I move on. But sometimes they're complaints about things I don't care about, or they don't rise above the baseline background bad-review radiation.

Mostly though it's a way to learn about aspects of a product that are crucial to its use but absent from the marketing materials. E.g. I found out in a review that I couldn't use a piece of plumbing hardware because I donn't have enough water pressure for it. It can be quite hard to discover this kind of thing from the maker or seller.

But people that flip companies, and large companies focused solely on profit, etc., realised they could do away with subject-knowledgable sales people and simply have good sellers who tell you the highest margin goods are the best.

It works too, you can put an established business down by robbing their sales for a couple of years pretending your product is better. By then there's no [affordable] quality option available. Plus, the morally corrupt owners make oodles more money; inspiring others to do likewise. Greed feeds its self.

It's not just price. My problem is that brick and mortar stores often simply don't have the selection nor the knowledge I'd expect.

Of course the alternative doesn't have to be Amazon - there are countless shops that serve specific categories and niches way better than Amazon or your local store, if you even have one, ever could.

As part of the customer category that spends tens of thousands on Amazon per year, having shifted the majority of my non niche spending for physical goods to the platform, I've found their error rate to be well under 1%. I also return <1% of my orders for other reasons. I've contacted customer service maybe 3 times in total over the span of 10 years and each time the issue was resolved incredibly quickly and effectively. Maybe I'm in the minority here? Or is it just the errors that get all the attention.

However, that confusion within categories has increased is undeniable. Try to buy a bath towel and be flooded with similar items with similar reviews. The ability to search and sort efficiently has definitely declined dramatically. It takes a lot more effort to make sure you're buying what you wanted for certain categories, particularly soft ones. I can no longer trust that the best selection is going to be on the first page of results.

I wonder if Amazon will draw the line somewhere on how wide, how encompassing of a platform it is for third party vendors. It seems to have pushed itself over a limit.

The lack of filtering options is really something that penalizes Amazon as a customer experience for me as well.

But I'm starting to think they might be making it bad on purpose to give more visibility to their ranking schemes.

Amazon's solution to this is to create its own house brands and then promote those. I've had good luck with their brands. The quality and price are good.

Bath towel is a good example. I'll only buy softlines like that on Amazon if they have their own brand. When I go search on Amazon and get the piles of random stuff, I just don't buy anything. It's not worth the trouble to sort through it all.

Evidently, Amazon is ruining Whole Foods at breakneck speeds, too. The one near me was re-designed to a cold, commercial feel. Many items were removed. No more freshly roasted coffee on-site. etc. Cashier asked me if I was a prime member. No thanks, Amazon.

Agreed, Whole Foods' quality is suffering under Amazon. It's a crap-shoot now whether I'll actually find what I'm looking for.

They've also implemented the most frustrating customer rewards program I've ever seen in a grocery store. You have an app with a QR code that you scan at PoS--but the scanners they've got almost never detect the code! Probably 60-80% of the time, the cashier has to scan it herself with the regular barcode scanner. I tried using my phone number once--a common practice at other store that always works--but it couldn't detect that I was a Prime member, despite my phone number being very clearly entered into my Amazon account. Even when I do finally get scanned in as a Prime member, I usually save less than $2. It's so much frustration that I often don't bother. Whoever was in charge of creating and implementing that program should be fired.

Yeah, for a while they did 30% off on all deli items, and we saved $100s with that, but otherwise it's like $1-$2.

Amazon makes it basically impossible to compare prices by unit of measure (ie $0.94 per gallon or what not). I’ve wanted to make a browser extension to attempt to fix that.

I’ve always suspected this is intentional. But if I could compare prices this way and be confident I’m getting the best deal, I’d buy things on Amazon a lot more.

I find this especially infuriating -- they even do it within a single product!


That's $0.98 / oz, but if you switch from fruit punch to blue raz it becomes $15.18 / lb, and if you switch from the 60-serving pack to the 30-serving pack it's $24.58 / lb, but if you want to subscribe and save that's $0.93 / oz.


Because US customary units are a pain? :D

Judging from shopping trips with housemates, I imagine most people don't look at those things, so putting more effort into that feature isn't worth it. But then again, Amazon's search is also notoriously bad, so maybe they simply don't have good metadata for products, and they're all derived in an ad-hoc way.

I wrote some code that does something like that. Learned very quickly that it's essentially impossible without a lot of manual data capturing - specifically is this a pack of 6 or 10 etc.

Still for the bits where it worked I was surprised how big the variances per unit were

I increasingly find myself using eBay as a storefront. You can easily filter by “Buy it Now” and “New”, and then it works basically like Amazon marketplace, except that I trust the feedback system a lot more. There’s a lot of small and independent sellers on eBay - plus you can get a lot of stuff shipped directly from China and cut out the middleman, if that’s what you prefer.

They may have ruined online shopping but they haven’t solved it either. The clothing retailers (an area hard for amazon to move in on) will remain competitive.

I think the one area amazon absolutely has done right is customer service. If any other company made their customer service as good, easy, and simple, I think they would be able to catch up quickly as well.

For example: I recently bought a jacket on sale from Columbia sportswear. It didn’t get delivered to my unit properly (despite their usps tracking saying that it did), and when I emailed them about it: absolutely no response. My issue went into a black hole. Of course I have now blacklisted Columbia sports: never again. If this was an amazon purchase, I would have been able to resolve it almost immediately.

I find it interesting that we think of Amazon as having gotten "customer service" right. I've had two classes of experience with Amazon:

Products they act as a seller for, and products they act as a producer for.

When I'm buying item X and it's not up to par, Amazon's response is invariably "just send it on back and we'll refund you." At one point I complained I'm not taking a half-day off work to get this $5 item in the mail and they said never mind, just keep it, and we'll refund you anyway.


OTOH, they have a $10/mo (or so) a la carte book service, labelled "Prime Books," with a "free" subtitle (or it was - I haven't checked back recently.) Clicking on it was auto-enrolling. I didn't find out for a few months that they'd apparently one-click-enrolled me in a recurring monthly bill. It took me 3 hours on the phone to get them to partially refund it, and it ended with me closing my account then and there. Despite having been a member since they more or less "opened their doors," and a good chunk of my household spending going through their portal, refunding money from their own service was a line in the sand for them.

I can see that 3 hour call being real - I’ve had similar experiences with amazon customer service that I could foresee becoming a long call, such as canceling Prime: they certainly made me wait about 15-20 minutes while trying to “procure permission” and it ended up being some kind of verbal guarantee that another depr would email me the confirmation. After a few hours I did get the confirmation and refund. The entire call did take about 45 minutes: quite a frustratingly long time.

Navigating amazon customer service itself has become a learning experience. Typically the fastest way when getting an annoying customer service agent who “just doesn’t get it” is to request a transfer to amazon USA customer service. You can also request speaking to a supervisot and continue escalating. Sometimes calls end up being 30-45 minutes regardless of method, since they do not always make transferring to amazon USA easy (and then once you get to amazon USA you play the same game over again).

It’s certainly nowhere as good as my original post made it sound, but it’s still better than most online shops.

I just cancelled my Prime subscription this month. I did it online, and other than having to click "yes I really want to cancel" on three separate confirmation screens, it was pretty frictionless. My subscription was about to renew so there was no issue of a refund, I just cancelled the renewal.

I agree. For example in The Netherlands, Amazon is a small player. Almost all popular online retailers there have amazing customer service. Also, by law, they are all required to take back any order, for almost any reason, within 14 days of delivery.

We need a breakthrough in package delivery. Over half of people’s online shopping complaints are due to items not arriving on time, being delivered to the wrong address, being stolen...

If you were older you'd know we've all ready had a massive breakthrough. 6 to 8 weeks nude to be normal. Now its couple days for free. Next day even same day is possible. I can get food, other perishables. Stuff is delivered from Hong Kong in days. You often get tracking of status, location, and eta. All of this without having to call and wait and wait on customer service phone line.

Its mindblowingly amazing.

I was recently backpacking in Colombia. In Colombia, no one shops online: the mountainous terrain makes shipping extremely expensive. It was an extremely refreshing experience. There are malls of course but also many small stores for things like school supplies and niche clothing brands (I bought a sweater from a store that sold basically nothing but sweaters: they also had a fully stocked bar with a pillow lounge, loft, and a TV in the back.) The public transportation is well utilized and people walk in the streets. Small grocery/convenience stores are only a stone's throw from anywhere in the city. This is what we have lost to online shopping.

I've had a pretty terrible experience trying to buy non stick skillets over the years on Amazon with most of even the top rated items coming with huge issues like warping on the first use, not being very non stick, flaking etc. I almost wonder if its counterfeit or if manufacturers just cutting corners on what used to be a good product? Either way reviews become almost useless when you don't know which version you will be getting. I've found Amazon works much better for items without potential latent quality issues like DVDs, books, or products that are just binary work/don't work.

I bought this non-stick pan on Amazon and it was one of my best purchases of last year. The trick with non-sticks is to buy cheap enough cookware to affordably replace regularly as they wear out. My previous non-stick pan cost four times as much, wore out, and is now just hanging from a rack, looking fabulous. With the new one, I plan to toss it in another year and buy another.


Second shout out to that particular item, which I bought July 17, 2017, and have used about once a day in the 18 months since, on a gas stove. One of the best nonstick skillets I have owned. Even heat distribution, and no issues with peeling coating. Strong construction, but as lightweight as it could be given that. (I’m superstitious, and generally hand wash.)

Thirded. I scramble eggs in it most days and put it in the dishwasher. Nothing ever sticks. I've only had it for 8 months but it still works like new.

I don't see the point in non stick cookware. A simple stainless steel skillet with some oil in it will perform just as well and last longer for most uses (and you still need to add oil to a non stick skillet to get proper browning anyway, but it pools because of the non stick coating and doesn't work as well).

And a seasoned carbon steel or cast iron pan will be non stick for when you're cooking fragile stuff like eggs or fish, as well as being far superior for searing meat and allowing you to use metal utensils.

Not to mention all of those alternatives will likely allow you to raise the temperature much higher without damaging the pan than you would with a non stick one.

The worst I've seen recently is non stick saucepans! Why on earth would that tradeoff be worth it?

I hate non stick pots and pans, they are awful, and as you said, the olden alternatives are better.

But I love my non stick saucepan for heating milk. Nothing comes close to that.

Non stick pans have always seemed to me like the classic marketing thing of selling what uninformed consumers think they need, rather than what is actually more useful.

I'll have to try one for milk though, that does usually require vigorous constant stirring in a regular pot if you want to do it at higher temps.

> A simple stainless steel skillet with some oil in it will perform just as well.

I've got a stainless skillet. Every single time I fry eggs like that, without > 1T of fat per egg, it burns to the bottom. So you must have a better technique. I'm willing to switch to a more forgiving option rather than keep scraping off my mistakes. Every time.

I find that olive oil combined with a bit of butter works pretty well in non-nonstick pans. I start with maybe a teaspoon or so of olive oil in the center of the pan and let that heat up a bit, then add a small amount of butter and wait for it to melt and bubble, then crack the egg directly over the puddle of oil/butter. This has worked well for me, even in otherwise testy pans like worn-out nonsticks, iron skillets, etc.

Make sure the pan is pretty hot before you put the eggs in, if it's too cold they will probably stick even with lots of oil.

Also, don't be afraid to use however much fat you need, it's not like you're actually going to eat it all - there's probably only going to be about 1/2 teaspoon of it left on the egg after cooking regardless of how much you put in the pan and that's (probably?) pretty negligible health-wise.

If the pan is hotter than medium heat butter will burn. Does not using non-stick mean you don't cook in butter?

Ideally the fat is just a transfer medium for the heat. If you cook correctly, the fat doesn't reach the temperature of the pan, so it doesn't burn even when you use a hot pan, and even if you use butter.

The key is adding fat just moments before adding the food, and adding just the right amount of fat (which is more than people realize).

I cook eggs on high temperature in butter and steaks on high temperature in olive oil, and I never burn my fat. You can only do this for one portion though, if I use the same pan to prepare multiple batches, I switch to lard instead of butter/olive oil. I still like to finish my steaks in butter though, but I just do that as an extra step at the end.

As an unrelated note, I very much prefer lard or duck fat, or if they are unavailable then coconut oil or some other kind of saturated (?) fat, to vegetable oil. Not because of taste (lard is good though), but because the surface tension is different for these solid (at room temperature) fats and these fats coat the pan much better than any kind of vegetable oil. They coat the pan instead of pooling up.

So regular pans take more skill and attention to use without scortching. That's a pretty good reason to go with non-stick.

Erm, no. If you don't want to use butter or olive oil, don't use butter or olive oil. This has nothing to do with non-stick vs regular pan.

In fact, butter and olive oil are more difficult to use, and more prone to scorching with non-stick pans because of lower thermal mass, which makes it much harder to regulate temperature.

The temperature of the pan needs to be the same, regardless whether it's non-stick or not, in order to produce good results. If you start with a cold non-stick pan, the food won't stick, but it will be of far less quality than if you had started with the proper temperature.

So I guess that non-stick pans allow you to more easily make bad food without making a mess, but that's not a metric that I care about. If you care about the quality of food, non-stick pans are more difficult to use because temperature control is harder, they can't get as hot, and generally you can't put them in the oven.

Washing, washing, and washing. When you cook every day you save a lot of time. Cast irons are also super heavy.

My carbon steel and cast iron pans aren't any more difficult to wash than my roommates non stick pans?

Kind of wasteful, no? I prefer to buy stuff that lasts, even if it costs more.

I have spent lots more for non-stick pans that were supposed to last. My last one was a Le Creuset for $120. The previous one was a Calphalon for about the same. Both wore out in about two years, and only lasted that long because I didn't want to give up on such an investment. My current $30 pan has lasted about a year with a slicker surface than any of the others, so it's already a better value.

I'm willing to fall for some credible marketing that convinces me I could spend a few hundred on a non-stick pan I could hand down to the grand kids, as with cast iron. But it doesn't seem to exist at the moment.

Given the additional soap and water, I wonder if it would be greener to scrape and scrub my eggs off of a sticky pan instead. It'd be better exercise.

Actually a properly seasoned cast iron pan is about as non-stick as it gets, but it’s heavy and people worry about dealing with it. For getting crusty stuff off pans though, nothing beats a thick layer of bicarbonate of soda, sprayed liberally all over with white vinegar and left for 5 minutes. Very little doesn’t wipe right off after that!

Mostly though I agree with your point that it makes little sense to spend big money on an omelette pan. The coating is going to be pitted within a year or two, and that’s that. A good guide to how you should buy these things is found in the restaurant industry which does what you do now; buy them and toss them.

That also leads to the best advic I can give here... buy your pots and pans from restaurant surplus stores or closing sales! I bought half a dozen omelette pans from one of those for $35 bucks, and I just swap them out every two years.

> Actually a properly seasoned cast iron pan is about as non-stick as it gets

I've spent a lifetime hearing this and not being able to achieve anything close to it on cast iron. Either it's false or a skill that's beyond me. Either way I've quit worrying about advanced semi mythic forms of cast iron seasoning and just use non-stick.

I use a very seasoned cast iron pan regularly to sear meat ... and a little piece of chainmail to scrape off the clingons.

That’s fair, and as someone who has used cast iron for a long time, I won’t blow a load of smoke up your pants by claiming it’s “super easy!” I mean... it’s not complicated, but it’s also not hard to screw up and that’s a form of difficulty I think. Basically you can’t scrape it too much, can’t use soap, and unless the seasoning is very thick you want to be careful with very acidic foods. If you’re like me and like to sear steaks a certain way, it’s worth it, but even I’m not bothering with cast iron just for a fried egg. Cast iron shines most when you need to retain a lot of heat in the pan, otherwise it’s just a lot of effort for no good reason.

Non-stick caught on for a reason!

Even a (preheated) stainless steel pan with some fat in it will stop eggs from sticking. If eggs are sticking your pan is probably not hot enough.

Uh, I have non-stick pans last 4+ years. It sounds like you are getting them too hot, which wears out the teflon--or worse--causes it to leach carcinogens into your food.

I’ve had the same tefal skillet for 5 years bought at target for less than 20 bucks and it’s stoll going fine...

Of course it makes a big difference how often you use it. I use mine about 12x per week. You?

Around the same, ~9 times a week (once every weekday and twice every weekend day).

Maybe I just got lucky with the one I bought :-)

From the article:

> There’s no ambiguity about what you’re getting when you buy a particular book, CD, or DVD.

About a year ago I ordered a soundtrack CD from Amazon. It turned out to be a “fake”, it was a CD-R that had a printed label. If you didn’t know it was a CD-R, it looked reasonably convincing, the case was quite good quality. And it did contain the correct music - it was just a pirate copy.

I seem to return 1 out of 8 Amazon items, even eating the occasional cost of poor quality items, because I needed -something-. They seem more and more to make me print and mail stuff back, first making ups pickup no longer the default, and now removing the option altogether.

I get lots of seemingly purposely mislabled products in the automotive section now. I think i get maybe 50% success rate ordering car parts. Lots of fakes. NGK, DENSO, and HONDA products seem to be prolific with counterfits. Had good luck with GM and Toyota parts so far, but I expect that to change, or be a fluke. Their automotive idea may see profit, bit I think they underestimated the extra complexity and returns inherent. Brick and mortar stores do much better at soaking up cost of returned parts I suspect.

If a product is a counterfeit then the cost they are soaking up is not that of the return, but that of failing to police their supply chain. And they absolutely should be looking to minimise the hassle to the customers in that case.

>>"The problem with an Everything Store is that there’s no way to organize everything effectively. The result is basically a giant digital flea market."

I'd describe it instead as their search and filtering stinks, and it is not just Amazon.

The first issue is that Amazon and almost everyone else seem to think that either we want, or it is in their best interest, to include in search results anything vaguely resembling the search terms. Perhaps sometimes this is nice, but the one thing that would help is: PROVIDE A STRICT BUTTON This would allow users to specify that the search items MUST include the specified terms. If it returns an empty set, fine, remove the STRICT criteria, or enter new terms. Simple.

The author also touched on the issue that you can't find anything by a particular attribute (his example was a frame/matte of a particular size). This cannot be emphasized enough -- they really need a system in each class of products to extract and provide search/sort/filter on these particular characteristics. Ideally an AI-ish solution would identify attributes and list them. They could also simply require vendors to put up particular attributes, and accurately.

It'd be REALLY nice if they had a usable API so we could setup our own search & select UI, but...

I closed my account on Amazon a while back and barely ever shop there due to how they treat their employees and their general bloated business model. I now actively shop from other online sites when I'm looking for a product and will gladly pay a little extra. The problem with Amazon is that every time I go there, I'm treated with a cluttered mess of ads and products all over the place. Whenever I search for what I want, I'm now treated with ads integrated into the product list that look exactly like a product listing, horizontal bar product listings of related/"recommended" products, and 300 (exaggeration) different spammy options for buying a product as a "subscription" or "bundled with amazon prime" at different price points when I only want to select a quantity. Its mostly horrendous garbage now and I'm so glad I closed my account and never use it. Its helped me save a lot of money (by removing temptation) and shop in other places that don't try and up-sell me on other products. Also, most products I can get immediately by just driving to a local store. I don't have to wait 2-4 days to get it.

Amazon's counterfeit problem has ruined it for me. Like eBay before it, it's mostly a place to window shop for me now. Despite the massive amount of work they put into their logistics, they seem to have no trusted supply chain.

eBay is actually easier to use for me, now.

With eBay, you can sort by 'used' items, and there is some focus on the seller history- and by combining them you can form a reasonable expectation of whats going on.

With Amazon, you're buying a lottery ticket, every time.

I did notice that the rate at which I have to return unsatisfactory products from Amazon seems to have shot upwards in the last year or so. Obviously a hassle.

I've now gone back to getting what I can locally in most cases.

My assertion is: Amazon ruined shopping.

It ruined workplace ethics. It ruined Seattle. It also ruined a lot of things.

I felt happy today going to a mom and pop franchise to purchase stuff. Happier knowing that I've just started on my quest of moving away from Amazon. I make money and some regular non-tech people make money and I'm happy they do.

AmazonBasics? Find a brand outlet - or go to AliExpress. Amazon is merely an expensive broker here. I'd rather Jack Ma make that money than Jeff does. Groceries? Go to your local offline vendor, preferable Mom and Pop. Computers? Set up a deal with the local distributor. Tell them that you respect reasonable prices and good support and they will give you a great experience. Books / Movies / Videos? Rent from a library.

I've been a long time Amazon shopper and for the last two years I'm consciously moving offline. I'm doing my bit and I've never felt happier.

I noticed that the discussion about Amazon's decreasing quality comes up quite regularly on HN. It seems to be a huge issue and a lot of people have negative stories to tell. The best solution would be to move away from the big bad A and buy from alternative stores. I know that this is not always possible but let's try...

Shameless plug: A few days ago I created the site amalternative.com [1] which lists alternative online stores. There is still a lot of work to do but I decided to launch as soon as I could.

And I guess it meets a lot of HN requirements:

- It's an MVP - It's a side project - There is no useless crap on the site - It's simple - It's fast (Static, on Netlify ;)) - It has an high information density (Okay, not yet. But I'm working on it)

Let me hear what you think :)

[1] https://www.amalternative.com/

I was never a Prime member, but I have bought stuff from Amazon in the past. As of about 2 years ago, I've basically quit Amazon for all the reasons listed in the article: confusing selection of products that I might want to buy (are those widgets the same as those other widgets or not?), the decreasing reliability of reviews, and the co-mingling of stock from different sellers.

Admittedly, I'm buying "weird" stuff online: principally woodworking tools and hardware for furniture. Tools are a high-value item that lends itself counterfeiting. Somebody I knew bought a 3' (90 cm) Starrett blade for their combination square (MSRP ~$340) from Amazon, and got one that wasn't straight. Was it counterfeit? Was it a second that slipped out the back door of the factory? Was it a genuine one that slipped past quality control at Starrett? Who knows.

He returned it and got a straight one, but there are other tools that are less obviously "wrong". Chisels with lower-grade steel, knock-off planes with poor quality castings or machining, counterfeit clamps (at $20-$30 a pair for basic handscrews you could probably make a tidy profit making sub-par ones and passing them off as the real thing).

For my money, I'll buy from somebody who only sells tools, and stakes their reputation on delivering the tool I ordered, and a genuine one to boot.

It turns out that dedicated retailers still exist for this stuff; beyond the US chains of Rockler and Woodcraft, there are a whole slew of independent vendors (Among others: Little Machine Shop, Infinity Cutting Tools, Lee Valley, Highland Woodworking).

And they take far better care of their customers. On the hardware front, I ordered a lock and an escutcheon from (I think) Whitechapel, and when they picked the order, they determined that the key wouldn't fit through the hole in the escutcheon. /They called me/ to make sure I ended up with an escutcheon that would fit the key.

To be sure, you pay for this level of service. Horton Brasses, Whitechapel, Brusso, etc all charge a handsome price. But at the end of the day, you know what you're getting, you can reach an actual human being if you need help picking something for your application, and they stand behind their products.

I'm going to extrapolate from my area of interest here. Amazon only makes sense for stuff that's essentially fungible (e.g. USB cables), or you're just muggling around and don't mind exchanging a bit of your time to make something that isn't quite right work for you once.

If you're doing anything in volume, predictability and repeatability matter a lot. Knowing that the X you order this year is going to work the same as the X you ordered 2 years ago counts for a lot.

I went looking for a square the other day. An "engineer's square" or "machinists's square" or whatever it's called -- the chunky 2-piece super accurate kind.

After scrolling through the listings & reading reviews I just got anxious about getting a bad one and gave up. It didn't matter whether it was a $6 knockoff or a $55 fancy one, EVERY listing had at least one review that claimed to receive an out-of-square one. Oy.

On the other side, a $15 chisel set is essentially fungible as well.

Counterintuitively, the $15 price point is probably the point at which they are least fungible. Consider a 1/2" chisel:

$5 chisels are universally crap (terrible steel, terrible finish) $35 or thereabouts chisels (Stanley 750, Two Cherries) are almost universally fine (modulo weird personal preferences that some people have?). Companies manufacturing chisels at this price point tend to do a lot of QC or have their processes down to the point where they put out consistent product for year after year. $50 and up (potentially way up) chisels (Lie-Nielsen, Blue Spruce, Veritas) are probably all outstanding. I wouldn't know, I don't own any.

At the $15 price point, some are decent, some aren't. The Buck Brother's chisels that are made in the USA are generally regarded as having decent steel. Some are rumored to have less flat backs than others. I have a 2" one that I like just fine (except that the handle is damnably uncomfortable where the striking cap meets the plastic; the blade, however, is well made).

Somebody I knew had a Narex chisel at the $15 price point that wouldn't hold an edge well. I understand that Narex is generally considered reputable, so maybe that's an aberration, or maybe they've gone downhill.

Point being, the midrange is kind of terra incognita for quality.

I didn't say chisel, I said chisel set, ie. 3 or 4 chisel for $15, which once you factor Amazon's commission, import, is probably a $2 or $3 set from the Chinese factory.

I haven't gone through the 152 past comments so apologies if this is dupe. but recently I was on amazon to buy something and the original price was like $17 but it tried to snag me by presenting a deal like $12 so I added it to my cart.

I think I might have misread the countdown clock which appeared to be like 5hours (maybe it was 5 min??). but later when I returned to the cart (less than 5 hours later but more than 5 min later), I had a note saying I had less than 2 min to make the purchase) which I thought I completed in time but was charged full price regardless.

maybe this is a new feature(?) and buggy but I thought it was quite misleading and confusing. I still bought the product b/c it was useful to me but the pricing mechanism could have been more transparent.

This week I ordered from Amazon a 4tb Flash Drive. What arrived in 4tb packaging was a 250Gb flash drive with the manufacturer's label removed. Amazon did replace the fraud drive with a proper one.

what they didn’t say is that amazon also created online shopping as we know it today. perhaps created is too strong but certainly they have set the bar. (focused specialty stores like mcmaster aside)

the online shopping experience was theirs to ruin. which they have. i think it’s almost intentional that buying from the marketplace is a crapshoot, usually to be avoided. it’s a win win for amazon.

it’s not surprising that the experience is poor these days. when you are a virtual monopoly that’s what happens. it is surprising that there’s no real competitor taking advantage.

Google ruined it.

Once upon a time if I wanted to buy something, I would stick its name in Google and click the Shopping tab to find the cheapest. Often a random online retailer. Products and prices were scraped from the internet like any other organic SERP.

Then they started charging for access. The number of suppliers decimated. It was no longer competitive.

That allowed Amazon and eBay to become the bazaars they now are, including what TFA is talking about.

Everyone (well, in some sense of "everyone") complains about the danger of getting counterfeit goods from Amazon. I've personally never noticed goods I've bought from Amazon being counterfeit, but I none the less feel like they've wrecked what used to be an excellent online shopping experience in a different way.

If you search for anything that isn't (1) a book or DVD or (2) a specific item from a specific brand, you are likely to find that the top, oh, several hundred search results are near-indistinguishable things presumably drop-shipped from China, each of which is supposedly made by a company with a weird six-letter all-caps nonsense name. Perhaps some of these are actually excellent products, but the only way to tell whether they're any good is from the Amazon reviews, and we all know how reliable those are.

I want a checkbox that says "only show me products from manufacturers with names I might recognize" or "don't show me anything that is shipped directly from China" or something.

(Not because there is anything wrong with things being made in, or shipped from, China. And these might, for all I know, be excellent products. But I have no way I actually trust of knowing whether these particular goods are actually bads.)

Random example: I was recently looking for an external USB-connected DVD drive. If I put <<<external usb dvd drive>>> into Amazon UK's search box, the "manufacturers" I get on my first page of results are: Rioddas, Rioddas, Patuoxun, Patuoxun, Oudekay, Asus, Oudekay, HOCOMO, LG, Rodzon, LG, PIAEK, Patuoxun, Amicool, Blingco, Inpher. This is actually an unusually good case: LG and Asus are "real" hardware vendors. So far as I can tell, the others are all Amazon-only pseudo-vendors.

"Birkenstock quits Amazon in US after counterfeit surge" (2016)https://www.cnbc.com/2016/07/20/birkenstock-quits-amazon-in-...

"the whole shopping experience is saturated with caprice and uncertainty". So very true. UNLESS I already know what I want. then, it's by far the easiest from checkout to delivery to possible returns. But if you're looking for a "robot toy for 5 year old", good luck.

More and more I'm finding myself trying to find other ways to shop for things. A recent example is ice skates, I need a new pair, but no matter what I search for I can't seem to find anything on amazon with good reviews or a brand that I trust. At this point I'm probably gonna end up going to dickes and buying something in store even though it's a little over my budget, I just don't wanna play the return game. Plus, it seems at least in this case, most of the options aren't available on prime, so shipping in both directions is gonna cost.

I’ve definitely reached the point where I’ll only make Amazon purchases for specifically branded goods. I tend to use social media networks to find product recommendations, like Reddit. There’s no question that some brands pay people to subtlety advertise there as well, but it usually feels easy to get through to the truth on hobbyist subreddits

Regarding the counterfeit problem: Amazon has a program called Transparency, which has been in development for some time:


The basic idea: Vendor places unique 2D barcode on each unit of a branded product, only products with those barcodes get placed into Amazon warehouse inventory, consumers can scan the barcode themselves to verify it's legit.

It's restricted to trademarked items, though.

Well, I never shop from Amazon, I'd rather use a specialized online shops or online storefronts of the company directly(ie TM Lewin for shirts)...

Main reason is that I'm not used to Amazons' shopping experience and it's huge selection of items, once I tried buying a travel trolley and felt overwhelmed by the huge choice, so I went to the shop and bought one in person after inspecting it visually.

There’s generally an anti Amazon post here often, especially so when Amazons stock starts trending upwards.

I don’t have problems when I shop on Amazon, and their instant video collection let us cut cable. We do have a boomerang subscription for another $5 a month for the kids. Last Christmas, we did purchase All Clad cookware, and one of the items was damaged, like literally a hairline crack. I called amazon and they sent the replacement with next day delivery. Pain in the ass but the only defective product I’ve had from them since 2015.

Imo there’s generally an anti Amazon article by one of these media sites each week. I’m not sure how true it is the writing are, but to say Amazon ruined internet shopping sounds pretty inaccurate and laughable. I grew up in Bellevue, WA but many years ago left for the Midwest. I’m not sure if there are some better services that blow Amazon out of the water used by these media, east/west coast elitists or if it’s just the anti corporate hate train of smearing companies that get too large and founders get too rich.

I suspect Amazon has millions of shoppers each day and these threads just turn into the angriest crowd of the 100 or folks who didn’t like their experience. Out of millions of shoppers per day, a hundred or even a few thousand angry customers are a rounding error and probably well within their customer satisfaction metrics. Hence, Amazon doesn’t change how they sell things or their delivery promises.

There’s an anti apple or Facebook post just about every week too. Not all of these companies are equal, but there’s just a general pattern of crap over all big tech.

There are clear examples of carelessness or downright nefariousness (see FB), but there’s also a complete lack of government regulation.

They’ve had crazy growth or valuations in the past several years. There’s a lot of hateful sentiment driven by that, imo. People get jealous.

Amazon may have 1000s of misses among millions of customers, but those people are the loudest when it comes to writing their opinions.

I do think outlets like the Atlantic are inherently against Amazon and see Bezos being too powerful. These articles are less objective and more politically driven.

Just my 2 cents

I order from specialty merchants or manufacturers when I can.

Books I trust from Amazon. The rest, not so much.

In my experience, many of the books I've purchased from Amazon are actually illegally exported reprints from India. Those books tend to not make that fact obvious or even known.

There's nothing illegal about importing books. "The first sale doctrine, codified at 17 U.S.C. § 109, provides that an individual who knowingly purchases a copy of a copyrighted work from the copyright holder receives the right to sell, display or otherwise dispose of that particular copy, notwithstanding the interests of the copyright owner."

Labels like "not for sale in the US" are aimed at distributers and stores, but are not legally enforceable.

Grey market textbooks saved me pretty good money in college. But they're only good if you know that's what you're getting- the print quality is lower, usually not in color, worse paper. Still a good deal if you just want the content.

Oh, I didn't know that. Thanks for the citation!

Amazon doesn't sell Everlane, Gustin or Allbirds. Three clothing line's I've bought from over the past 5 years (more recently Allbirds).

IMHO /gets on soapbax/L

I think Amazon has burned EVERYONE who has used it, and would argue it has taught us to become more savvy shoppers.

The three companies I list go out of their way to be transparent about their products. This builds trust and loyalty. The faults of Amazon (and Yahoo! Shopping in the early 2000's) led to the emphasis on these new digital-shopping virtues.

It sucks. Every time I buy something on Amazon, I'm always suspicious if I'm going to get what I ordered. 95% of the time I'm satisfied, but ironically only because I buy fewer things. But I'm glad that more and more companies are going out of their way to validate themselves in the same way brick-and-mortar stores are authentic.

The biggest reason I'm not shopping at Amazon as much anymore are the scams and fake products. It's really annoying.

There are others, but they are much worse: https://youtu.be/61sN42E2WbE

I had a string of issues buying from amazon and decided to just stop. Several things just never showed up and 4-5 weeks after I ordered I’d quietly receive a refund. One item I really needed, they never shipped to me. I signed up for Amazon prime to get the expedited shipping for the item, then when I didn’t get it they gave me a free month of prime in compensation. Gee, thanks.

My confidence that I’ll actually receive something I buy from them is low enough that I don’t think it’s worth it to buy from them, plus the store is full of counterfeits.

I don’t understand why people like buying from them so much, in my experience it’s markedly worse than almost any other e-commerce store. The whole selling point of e-commerce is convenience, but transacting with them is not convenient and their customer service sucks. What’s the point? This whole idea that they’re fanatically customer-obsessed, I just don’t see it.

Amazon simply delivered the online shopping experience everyone wanted. In the beginning, you would scour the net looking for decent retailers and then get barraged by shipping charges and delivery times that drained all the value.

Amazon's focus was on fast and free shipping, removing the friction from the experience. Having scratched that itch, they got the scale benefit of reviews. Gold for the consumer. Retail is based on a specialist buying products customers want and ensuring and backing up quality. Amazon made that into a digital platform. The other retailers lost site of thier value and took customers for granted. That was why they didn't recognize the opportunity.

Hyperbolic statements with question marks make terrible headlines?

Ending a statement with a question mark is also bad grammar.

Yes, it is a very obnoxious trend, this is the point I was making.

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