When I do research nowadays I have to deliberately select the 1 star reviews to see if there is a real issue that's glossed over by the paid reviews.
I imagine that writing this report makes their boss very nervous because I would also be nervous if I had to repeatedly tell Jeff Bezos that I was failing to stop the slowly increasing flow of people's trust away from Amazon's retail site.
As much as I hate that hack Edison, he's right: you're reporting you've discovered X new ways to not solve the problem.
I feel like none of them can be trusted because most have never touched any of the umbrellas, but they are just doing a top 10 list and rewriting opinions they read on Amazon. Of course, they don't even consider products outside of Amazon because they wouldn't receive commission on sales. So, no one is talking about the small companies producing high quality, handmade umbrellas throughout the country, but instead every source funnels traffic to the same made in China Amazon clones.
If there is one, then I'll check the sidebar there, read through some posts, search for a few keywords. Basically spend 15 minutes researching.
Reddit still has shills and astroturfs, but for a lot of niches they're often aggressively moderated out of the community.
To go along with your umbrella example:
Unfortunately /r/umbrellas isn't a thing, but I did find this thread. Sprinkled throughout the comments are links to sites that seem to be on the up-and-up.
How can one be sure those subreddits don't have any paid posters?
When you have a popular post that reaches the Reddit front page, you may receive messages from people asking if you'd like to promote their products.
My guess is that they eventually will (and I'm sure some already do). However, one thing that kind of helps weed out the fake reviews is the fact that you can inspect a user's post history.
On reddit or other more general sites, you can see their entire comment history. Hopefully you'll notice that a tiny tiny portion of their comments are related to products or reviews.
In other words, you can get a feel for if the person is genuine or not.
Of course, that doesn't 100% rule out paid shilling by (otherwise) honest people, but you do get a much better sense of the veracity of reviews on a site like reddit than you could ever get from Amazon.
This is always the way: once something has a large enough audience it will become a target for exploitation. This is why ad networks are juicy targets for hacks (wide spread of potential victims) and popular sites, or specific areas on those sites, like reddit can quickly become overrun by shills.
If the thing is open and understood, then I will have a much better time. If not, it will probably soon go on the abandoned trash heap.
This works especially well if the domain is not niche, but has wide general-population applicability. Say, dieting. The amount of content-marketing bullshit on the general Internet makes general topical searches near useless. Whereas just browsing the collected knowledge (pinned posts, wikis) of various dieting subreddits let me quickly find one appropriate regime for me, and then its specific subreddit taught me how to apply it safely.
(Yes, it was /r/keto, and yes, it worked.)
When TV shopping, I used the reviews from https://www.rtings.com/
They pointed me to issues and concerns with TV quality, provided me with an understanding of the trade-offs at various price points, and then directed me to a TV model that I purchased and have been incredibly satisfied with. Maybe we need a reputable internet equivalent to consumer reports. We obviously have demand, the question is how to finance it.
I think consistent, ethical, non-conflicted third party quality reviews can be a solid lifestyle business. Won't be a unicorn, but it'll keep a few people gainfully employed and make the world a bit better.
Why does valuable information that takes a lot of time and expense to produce need to be free? That attitude is the root of most of what's wrong with the web today.
I subscribed to CR for a month when I was shopping for a new dishwasher. After I found what I wanted, I unsubscribed. That seems functionally equivalent to what you want, at least when applied to large ticket items where the cost of a month of subscription is a small percentage of the total cost of the purchase being made.
This is a strange comparison. I'm amazed there are any worthwhile investment news items available to purchase for less than the cost of an annual CR Digital subscription ($35). It's so cheap it's hardly worth worrying about if you're going to use it at all.
In other areas, I found that up until a point, the price is generally correlated with quality. I had great success in avoiding frustration and waste by following the saw "I'm too poor to buy cheap".
As someone who uses a $20 knife, I feel the same way about a $145 knife.
Dull knives require multiple times of stress, and sawing motion to abrade through the thing. And with more power means accidents are easier and more damaging.
A proper chefs knife (I prefer santokus) should be professionally sharpened, honed before each use, and will be razor sharp. I only need to lay the knife on a steak and pull, and it cuts right through. The cheap $20 knives are usually serrated (nigh unsharpenable) and double as hacksaws.
While you may be statistically correct, anecdotally my family has hurt themselves way more often with sharp knives than we have with dull knives. It's probably due to being used to a dull knife before switching to a sharp one, but I still can't stand by that adage from our history of personal use at home!
As demonstrated perfectly by Kiwami Japan.
Their electronic reviews are fine but their other categories leave a lot to be desired. The whole point of a good review site is to find the low/medium priced item that is more than adequate for the task. Recommending a Mac or Wusthof knife is a safe bet that most won't challenge - I want them to find me the needle in the hay stack.
Of course, wirecutter claims that's not the case.
However, most of the time, I spend very little and make few purchases. The ones that are low-value - lets say vegetable peelers and compressed air canisters - I don't need ratings for. The large ones (Appliances, Misc Electronics, Suits, Cars, etc.) I research online anyways.
So if I'm not using their product 95% of the time, their subscription business model doesn't line up with my expected use-case. So I don't use it. I would love to pay for better rating data and don't mind shelling out for information, but I do need to pay for it when I'm consuming it, not in a prophylactic manner.
It works the same way when brand X has sub-par releases.
We have one. It's cr.org
I don't know what the rules are around that.
Over 3000 reviews... most of them for products completely unrelated to the one on sale. I see reviews for a bicycle lamp, a phone screen protector, and a voltage converter.
This seems like a bug. Surely Amazon shouldn't allow sellers to transfer product reviews over from other products?
Par for the Amazon course, cheap Chinese knockoffs. If they had anything other than a highly permissive refund system, they’d already be drowning in lawsuits. They must bleed refund money though, and I thought Bezos was all about right margins?
That's the part that worries me. Amazon surely knows this is a problem, and I'm sure they know much more about it than we do. And yet they allow it to continue. It genuinely makes me concerned for the future of their business, where they know actually providing a quality experience is going to hammer their revenue/profits.
If you return too much stuff amazon will cut you off: https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/talkingtech/2018/05/23/a...
I suspect it's more likely to be done on total purchase _price_ - I spend a fair amount of money on things that are very difficult to counterfeit (video games), so they are obviously never returned, which probably tips the balance back in my favour (the fact that I'm in the EU, and have a statutory right to return (for any reason) may also be a factor).
Honestly, after reading the facts, I was shocked it took Amazon so long to take action.
But it certainly seems the average shopper/returner has nothing to worry about.
Since any seller can list on any listing. Some sellers will list their products on listings that are out of stock, and gain editing priviledges.
Then they will edit the page to whatever other products they want, and merge it with a new listing they create.
The end result is that they get a listing with hundreds or thousands of reviews. So unsuspecting customer will purchase based on social proof.
> Over 3000 reviews... most of them for products completely unrelated to the one on sale. I see reviews for a bicycle lamp, a phone screen protector, and a voltage converter.
And it's "Amazon's Choice for 'iphone headphone charger splitter'"!
Archive link in case the product morphs again: https://web.archive.org/web/20190226210646/https://www.amazo...
However these sellers are essentially stealing old, expired listings of products and collecting all the reviews associated with them to pump up their rating and review count.
This has been going on for over a year. I really don't understand how Amazon hasn't figured out a way to close the loophole at this point...
EDIT: Funny how completely broken and anti-customer the Amazon review system is given that the #1 leadership principle at Amazon  is the following:
"Customer Obsession - Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers."
Just goes to show how these things are always BS.
Unless you're selling 20 dollar bills for $5, you'll naturally get negative reviews.
I've had to pull several products off Amazon because someone left an early, nonsense review that killed sales. (E.g. "Fast and easy" - 2 stars or "Works perfectly. Thanks!" - 1 star)
It's very, very easy from an operational perspective to focus on the data-driven decision to sell crap, to ignore fake reviews etc. because that's what sells 'today'.
But an A/B test (short view) does not capture users recurring behaviour, and response to that experience overall.
If the A/B test encompassed a 'year long study' they might find a different set of data: upset customers who don't come back.
Which could lead to systematic 'sand in the engine' that could seriously erode Amazon.
The only way this would be resolved really is if Bezos himself makes a pretty firm commitment to it, which is hard obviously because 'quality' is a difficult thing to put a number on.
That said, it's hard to conclude how truly damaging this is. Once people are hooked on something, it takes an alternative for them to change their behaviour.
They have gone the way of being a market and are not to be trusted. They robbed me out of $630 through a combination of fraud and my CC company being wankers.
Once a lot of other larger companies figure out how to do cheap and quick delivery ... what advantage will Amazon have?
People think Amazon has a leg on Wallmart. I'm not so sure!
Wallmart has a 'distribution centre' (aka a store) only 5 miles from every American!
Wallmart already has the wheels greased for the things we really need.
Wallmart can sell razors, groceries and diapers every day while Amazon sells the not-so-common stuff.
I'm amazed Wallmart hasn't figured it out already ...
I used it when my printer broke and I needed one. Same day pickup for free. They list dozens of printers, but it was easy to sort on ones that were in stock in my local store so I could get same day pickup. I went just a few minutes out of my way, and had a working printer when I got home from work. Sure on amazon I might have bought a different printer with some nice to have feature, but I wouldn't have got it today. Target is just as easy (maybe easier).
I don't know why anyone would look to Amazon first anymore. Sure for obscure things amazon (or ebay), is more likely to have it. Even then I go to obscureProduct.com where the staff knows something about their products and I can read their buyers guide and get a good brand (They probably are biased to selling some brand which is worth more profit to them, but they at least keep me away from the junk brands which is in itself worth far more to me than a few buck extra profit to them)
Why? How do we "know" they have the data? How do we "know" that can act on whatever data they have? People here seem to ascribe a level of omniscience to tech giants that I'm not certain they deserve.
I'd describe it as a level of basic knowledge about their own product. You don't have to be a god to analyze Amazon's data, especially if you're Amazon.
Amazon is consistently allowing multi-hundred unverified 5 star reviews for new products to persist, and my wife and I are starting to drift to other, more reputable resources. After a decade+ of Prime membership, this is a really disappointing betrayal of trust.
Ideally I’d like to simply filter out all fake reviews and recalculate the stars rating.
It seems like it should be easy to track the content coming in with an additional barcode sticker. You scan that barcode when the order is fulfilled and based on the user review/return/etc. ban that seller for counterfeit goods. It just seems like Amazon isn't interested in solving this because it becomes fairly trivial. I think the long term goal is to erode confidence in now Amazon branded products as they have different SKUs. Additionally, most people are lazy and won't bother returning something < $25 and will just pitch it but Amazon still collects their fees.
A friend in the ecommerce industry tells of some pretty dark patterns - some companies won't allow negative reviews to be posted at all. Attempts to leave negative reviews trigger chat or other communication methods instead of posting the review.
Amazon also won't allow most negative reviews - I've had many 1 star reviews denied by their automated system, but this has never happened with a 5 star review.
This is why app stores only show reviews/scores for the current version of the app. There's no such thing as "versions" of a product, though. (Or, well, there are product revisions with distinct UPC codes, but an OTA firmware update doesn't qualify as one, and yet should be a new "version" for the purposes of reviews.)
It's not justified, it's just a way to swindle consumers.
I hope Amazon sees this and many similar complaints. I feel the greater population will catch on to this in due time and they could very well fall from their throne. In fact, if they don't, I hope they do.
In the meantime, I'm more than willing to pay more get products directly from the manufactures and stores in person (e.g. Apple, Apple Store, Best Buy, Target, Nike, etc...).
Not sure how this affects their other holdings such as Zappos.
There are two universes in Amazon. Recognized name brands, and unrecognized name brands.
In the recognized name brand universe, the reviews are pretty reliable.
In the unrecognized name brand universe, the reviews are not reliable. Generally speaking, with the no-name cheap stuff, you are generally getting what you pay for, irrespective of the review scores.
When I did incentivized reviews (stopped after rule change), I always gave a score based on value for the price. Four stars for a $20 pair of headphones should not be the same as four stars for a $300 pair of headphones, because the expectations for quality should be much different at the higher price point.
Generally speaking, though, the vast majority of the no-name stuff I got was pretty good for their selling price (but I was also picky about what I accepted for review). At most, I only got one or two pieces of junk, and scored those products accordingly.
Generally speaking three star reviews are the most informative to me.
I noticed this once when repurchasing a space heater I'd bought multiple times in the past. Several reviews mentioned the temperature sensor failing, but this particular heater had no temperature sensor.
That isn't the only product I've seen with suspicious bad reviews, and I've read pieces of investigative journalism that confirm it's fairly widespread.
Sure, it's around here in there. But back in the day if you were going to write about why you didn't like something, you were going to write an article about why it "sucks".
I've been seeing all of these posts about gamafication of Amazon reviews and don't understand why Amazon just don't limit the reviews on a product to people who've actually purchased it from Amazon?
Ironically, I came across a small eligibility requirement, (but otherwise seems to allow reviews by anyone for anything):
> To contribute to Customer features (for example, Customer Reviews, Customer Answers, Idea Lists) or to follow other contributors, you must have spent at least $50 on Amazon.com using a valid credit or debit card in the past 12 months. Promotional discounts don't qualify towards the $50 minimum.
Amazon's clearly able to disallow reviews unless you've bought it from them. They're also big enough to add incentives to people who have purchases (eg. maybe 1-5% of product value that goes toward future purchases), to encourage reviews. They could even gamify the 1-5% based upon the "I've found this helpful" response, encouraging quality reviews.
I just don't get it. Have I missed something?
Is it just me, or is it harder to sort by critical nowadays? I find I have to click into all reviews to reveal the option for "all critical".
And recently when looking at one product, when I tried to pull the "negative" reviews, they included several five star reviews.
I'm seriously considering ditching Prime and signing up for a Target credit card - there's no annual fee, you get the same prime style free shipping, and there's a base level of quality to the products at Target that just doesn't seem to be present in Amazon's offerings.
Here are just a few examples:
Does anyone know why they don't do this?
Honestly, that's a useless metric. Since banning incentivized reviews, the situation is actually _worse_ than it was before.
All of the vendors who were sending out products for incentivized reviews now reimburse reviewers after they buy the product and leave a review, which means the review gets a "Verified Purchase" tag. This is against the rules, but it's happening.
In the age of incentivized reviews, those reviews did not have a "Verified Purchase" tag.
Source: Used to be an incentivized reviewer (stopped after rule change).
I don't think there's really a solution at all. As long as people are free to do outside deals there's always going to be review manipulation.
The one thing that could help this is Amazon getting rid of third party sellers or go the route Target announced today and only partner with trusted companies.
So, a good product, with multiple sellers, might get dinged due to one bad seller.
Or, one bad seller out of four sellers is shipping counterfeits. Because of commingling, all sellers and the product get tarnished.
1. Mom-and-mom brand buys fake reviews
2. Mom-and-mom brand displaces well-known brands on amazon search
3. Well-known brand buys amazon ads to appear higher in search than shit brands with fake reviews
It's not uncommon to hear about folks targeting competitors with lower star reviews as just getting 5* reviews isn't enough to stand out.
But then - it maybe competitor efforts of course.
Recently, I've been getting emails from the vendors asking me to leave a review in return for a free product. Here is a copy and paste of one:
Thank you for purchasing our (HEADPHONES). Are you satisfied with the Bluetooth headphones that you bought? If there is any question or concern regarding product quality, please don't hesitate to contact us first.
If your (BRAND) experience has been everything you hoped it would be, share it with the world! Meanwhile, to express our sincere thanks for your kind support, we are more than happy to send you a (FREE PRODUCT) for free if you are willing to leave us a review since this would be very helpful for other customers who are also interested in this product.
If you are interested in a (FREE PRODUCT), please get back to us with the screenshot of your review.
Note: you can click the link below directly to leave your positive review:
(LINK TO AMAZON TO LEAVE REVIEW)
Please rest assured that we’ll arrange (FREE PRODUCT) to you ASAP after we receive the screenshot of your review together with your shipping address.
Any questions, please kindly let us know.
Have a nice day!
You can, however, ask customers for a review in a neutral way. For example, "Would you be open to leaving us a brief, honest product review?" That is how we ask it.
Some companies, especially supplements companies, have a funnel that gives you a "second month free" in exchange for privately sharing product feedback and your email address with them. Here's how it works for one brand I purchased from recently:
- You receive your first purchase
- You go to a landing page and enter your name and order ID
- They send you an email after 2 weeks asking for your private feedback of the product.
- Once you provide this private feedback, they will send you the free product.
- Before you leave the survey, they ask you if you are open to leaving a product review. They ask in a neutral way and are explicit that it is completely optional. This is to be clear that they are not giving you a product in exchange for a review—you already got your free product for sharing private feedback.
You could argue that this is a gray area, for sure. But for small brands, reviews are incredibly important, and it helps to be able to market to past customers (which Amazon does not allow you to do through their system). Getting a 2nd month free can help build brand loyalty.
Personally, I don't have a problem with this type of funnel, as long as it adheres completely to Amazon's TOS and doesn't annoy or deceive the customer. The customer has to feel right about writing the review, not like they were manipulated. It's very easy to get that wrong, and most sellers who try do get it wrong.
Note that we do not have such a funnel set up for our product as of this writing.
[Edited one sentence for clarity]
>Note: you can click the link below directly to leave your positive review: (LINK TO AMAZON TO LEAVE REVIEW)
>Please rest assured that we’ll arrange (FREE PRODUCT) to you ASAP after we receive the screenshot of your review together with your shipping address.
It'd be interesting to see what they do if you left a neutral review. (Eg: "Three stars. Cheap build quality but decent for the price I guess").
I suspect they're trying to maintain the illusion they're not paying for positive reviews, just for reviews.
If they're dumb enough to reply back over email that only positive reviews qualify, you could probably forward that to a regulator.
"In addition, the order requires the defendants to notify Amazon, Inc. that they purchased Amazon reviews of their Quality Encapsulations Garcinia Cambogia capsules and to identify to Amazon the purchased reviews."
Online reviews don't work without trust. Maintaining trust is done by Amazon in this case, but sometimes the job is too big, especially at this scale. Amazon needs better tools perhaps, but the judgement of a court, backed up by a state? Damn, that is a powerful way to ensure there is some minimum level of trust in the marketplace.
I'm against too much government interference in the marketplace, but it's in everyone's interest to increase trust in the marketplace rather than let it become a market for lemons.
I have been genuinely amazed by Amazon service, delivery and choice but those days are over.
Years ago some right on woman ticked me off for recommending her a book that you could just get on Amazon. At the time I thought her attitude was a bit extreme - essentially she was already of the boycott Amazon persuasion. At the time I could not care less for bookshops, that battle had been lost and Amazon gave choice, delivery and price that couldn't be argued with.
Years later I have almost came to this woman's conclusion. What has changed? There are lots of small trust things. It seems that Amazon will gladly tender and take on the most odious work for the spy agencies that the rest of Silicon Valley would not touch with a bargepole. It doesn't appear that Amazon want to pay any taxes, which is all very clever but I would prefer to see a society where businesses pay taxes and individuals don't. But, despite these problems, I will still want Amazon stuff.
Now if the reviews are not trustworthy and I can't trust them to have the best prices then that is it really, I stop being a customer of Amazon and, a decade after crazy woman scorned me for buying from Amazon, I become of the opinion that she was right all along with all her talk of 'illegal monopoly' and 'tax avoidance'.
Trust is a fragile belief-y thing and when it has gone it has gone.
Identities in comment sections have always been fake and anonymous and this is a good thing even if it results in occasional spam reviews. Legal action to enforce real IDs would make the internet worse.
I don't get it. I'd expect highly technical forums to value anonymity despite its drawbacks but I'm continuously disappointed.
Comments are not the same as reviews.
This is why Amazon, for example, has "verified purchase" status for reviews. Reviews can influence a buying decision and are integrated as part of a platform. Comments can influence a buying decision but they live outside the platform and can always be made anonymously on any other platform.
The issue in this case was someone purchased fraudulent reviews on someone else's platform where the platform's integrity is severely diminished through that fraud.
I support anonymity, as I said I'm in favour of less government interference in markets, but in this case, we need a bigger stick because Amazon and other marketplace platforms don't quite have the technical tools to fight fraudulent reviews.
Also I don't think there's a mention of using real ids?
That's an interesting way of structuring the penalty.
I wonder how enforceable it would be.
It's also quite standard: https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/blogs/business-blog/2016/03/...
I would assume that if a company is in trouble with the FTC, it's probably not in the best financial shape after paying even the costs associated with the suspended judgment. So if the FTC finds that the company made an omission and the full judgment comes due, will it actually recover that money? Or is the point to just fine them out of existence, without concern for actually recovering the money?
That’s my read. The FTC seems to be hanging the sword of Damocles in a very public way. If this company doesn’t comply, a press release describing how the US government is absolutely wrecking them is probably worth not recovering all the judgement.
Along those lines: why do they still value reviews that aren't associated with a purchase? This is the logical first step.
Maybe most people don't bother with this though?
but when I need some cables or other mundane things, it's convenient, although I don't really need it ASAP TMR like with Prime. I found that it puts a lot of pressure on the couriers and it just ruins the experience for everybody involved.
The end of this quarter for Amazon will disappoint.
It's a similar problem to YouTube still hosting tons of copyrighted material. Fraud is just super hard to fight.
There are so many patterns of low-hanging fruit:
"I haven't used it yet but it looks great"
"The shipping was slow"
On any given product with any measure of popularity, probably 10-20% of reviews consist of those formats. One-word sentences with some kind of bland/useless assertion.
You're telling me the people who have massive clusters of machines and who resell tools for machine learning can't at least pick off the easiest 20% of shitty or fake reviews? Hell, give me two days, a few regexes, and a script and I'll do it myself. It's really that easy.
They just don't care.
That said, yes, beyond that lower-hanging fruit, the problem is insanely hard to tackle. But why not crowdsource it? People posting reviews saying "Sandy Hook was a liberal hoax" on a book about the Sandy Hook shooting could be flagged and marked for review.
And now you have two problems :). Reviews themselves are already crowdsourcing. And any kind of crowdsourcing can and will be gamed as soon as someone can make money out of it.
That said, it could be done...would probably take more than two days without direct access to the data though!
Sometimes I review products on Amazon that I purchased elsewhere to help others who might be considering the product. If we didn't have fraud, those would be really useful.
If you haven't purchased the item, the review should not be allowed to be made.
Amazon still pretends we are in a world without fake reviews and fake products which is why they allow it.
What I find most notable here is that the FTC's settlement is with the manufacturer/seller, and doesn't seem to affect the company that wrote the reviews (amazonverifiedreviews.com).
The issue with fake paid reviews is extremely difficult to gauge and act upon. On one end, the owner of the marketplace doesn't want their place to be seeing as 'full of fakes' on the other end, they don't want to be seeing as censoring legit feedback. How do you know who is who? The second you figure that out, the 'bad actors' will find different, innovative ways to break your system.
On another side, because review has become a huge part of the decision people take, new entrants are finding it harder to get a piece of the market (even if they are legit) without paying someone to provide reviews.
Finding the right balance in this area will be a continuous effort on all sides, we will likely need better independent customer review sites, the marketplaces will need to find better ways to gauge what is real and what is not, the customers will need to be proactive and check information from different angles, businesses will need to find new ways to prove their legitimacy to get the trust of clients.
Maybe this was an easy "starter case" to advertise (ha ha) the new FTC position.
What's interesting is that they only seem to have one product on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Ef2XH9, for which they are Amazon's top choice for the category. I wouldn't be surprised if one of their competitors made the complaint to the FCC.
But what would you use instead?
Perhaps this is one use of a blockchain which could add credibility to reviews.
Still by and large I prefer independent professional reviews (combined with authentic crowdsourced reviews), the problem with these, like CR, is that they’re not scalable to thousands of new products periodically, so we have to rely on crowdsourced reviews that don’t include a “trustworthiness” quotient.
Amazon offers the option to only view reviews from confirmed purchasers.
The problem is that people often receive free products in exchange for the review.
"The blockchain" would show that the buyer sent BTC to the seller, but it does nothing to address the fact the seller can put more things into a box and ship them after the review is posted.