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Amazon ‘flooded by fake five-star reviews’ – report (bbc.com)
579 points by drugme 6 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 360 comments

My issue with Amazon reviews is the ease that sellers are able to change the product and keep the reviews. I recently tried to buy a decent pair of USB C headphones. The top two recommended products both had 5 starts with hundreds of verified reviews... for a dvd copy of a classic movie. I've decided I just can't trust Amazon reviews anymore.

My last employer sent out a company-wide email asking every employee (and their friends and family) to order their flagship product (IoT device) on Amazon, write a 5-star review and e-mail the marketing department for reimbursement and product return. The returned products would then be re-shipped to Amazon.

Needless to say, it was the shortest time I've ever spent at a job.

Problem is its not even a scummy thing to do. Its just the only way to do business on Amazon. If every single company is faking the reviews then you can not afford to be the only one not faking them. An individual actor is not able to do the right thing because everyone has to at the same time.

And historically, this is how societies eventually collapse. When the participants no longer act in the greater good and instead revert to the primal instinct of pure self interest.

So I would suggest that it is a "scummy thing to do", since if done by the majority of actors, it results in the collapse of a society.

jaabe 6 days ago [flagged]

Which society has collapsed because of this? I minored in history, and I can’t think of a single one.

Even modern America was largely born out of giants of industry serving their own self interest and fucking everyone else including the climate over.

Governments are build by people who serve a greater good, and they typically get replaced once they become too corrupt, but they become corrupt exactly because society as a whole is typically very self-serving.

A society doesn’t have to be perfectly honest, but being able to trust one another, especially in minor interactions, is a massive economic benefit. Societies with lower levels of trust waste significant resources compared to those with higher levels of trust, and it shows in the product. Unfortunately, once the trust starts to decrease, it can be almost impossible to reverse course again.

The Roman Empire with it's hundreds of self proclaimed emperors fighting each other for the throne.

The fall/decline of Rome is an incredibly complicated, long, and confusing event. Though the many instances of Imperial infighting is one answer, there are many others.

If anything, the 'take-away' idea from Rome and her history is that you can 'take away' anything you want. Rome was many things at many times. The thesis is that there is no thesis.

Are you saying that the Roman Empire, was at any point, lead by someone self-sacrificing and honest who was focusing on the greater good?

Because that’s really not what I took away from classical history.

> Even modern America was largely born out of giants of industry serving their own self interest and fucking everyone else including the climate over.

Modern America, and the prosperous parts of the world more generally was built by people coming together in sweet commerce to come to a mutually beneficial exchange of goods and services, made easier by the medium of money. The giants of industry that you denigrate made things people wanted more than the money they paid to get them and the engines of capitalism made whole societies richer than the kings of a century ago in comfort, leisure, health and material goods. This is not to deny the part government and labour movements played in that miracle but if you took the wealth of Britain in 1900 and distributed it perfectly equally among the people we would still consider them wretchedly poor. Hand washing clothes, minimal indoor heating, medical care that’s on average worse than nothing, travel for leisure being a once in a lifetime experience if that, the improvements that we take for granted come from the work those captains of industry did and the work they made possible.

Modern America was built on inter alia the acquisition of huge areas of land for nothing, the business practices of companies like Standard Oil, and the exploitation of immigrant workers in conditions only slighly above slavery.

> wealth of Britain in 1900

Similarly this was at peak Empire time period, when a vast British Army was marching across South Africa herding colonists into concentration camps. What part of the wealth of the Empire was really freely acquired in a mutually beneficial way?

America was indeed unusual among first world nations in the relative positions of labour and capital, but not much out of the ordinary in its growth rates. There were many other New World nations with similarly devastated native populations and land for the taking. The US has grown faster than any comparable country, not because of the abundance of natural resources but because of its political, legal and economic systems. Canada, Argentina and Chile all had similar benefits and none are as rich.

I’m going to pass on the labour practices of Standard Oil just because living standards in the US were on an unbroken upward trend during the entire period between its establishment and break up. This, combined with the US tradition of labour unrest make the idea that working conditions were slightly above slavery ridiculous. In a tight labour market you can’t treat free labour like slaves. They’ll leave. People who are willing to cross an ocean are not going to hesitate to move states for work, especially in an era of unprecedentedly cheap transport due to the railways. This is a myth, like the myth that the trusts gained their market shares corruptly. They gained it by increasing production and quality and driving down prices.

> University of Chicago economics professor Lester Telser, in his 1987 book, A Theory of Efficient Cooperation and Competition,4 points out that between 1880 and 1890, the output of petroleum products rose 393 percent, while the price fell 61 percent. Telser writes: “The oil trust did not charge high prices because it had 90 percent of the market. It got 90 percent of the refined oil market by charging low prices.” Some monopoly!


Lester Telser, A Theory of Efficient Cooperation and Competition. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Regarding Britain power was partially built on its colonies but its prosperity was not. If it had been we should be able to see it clearly in the growth rate of its economy after the conquest of Bengal or after the loss of India. Invisible in both cases. Economic progress in Western Europe was built on trade and industry, not plunder. If it hadn’t been the U.K. would have been vastly richer than Sweden and France richer than Germany. Despite the enormous disparity in colonial holdings they were roughly as rich. Colonies were everywhere a boon to the scions of the ruling classes, providing military and civil service posts but the economic impacts were nugatory. British wealth was as much a product of its empire as Italy’s, somewhere between trivial and non-existent.

The advancements of industry were accelerated by a limitless supply of cheap slave labor. And of course, the natural resources that were plundered from the colonies.

Slave labour was never cheap. Buying slaves was always very expensive because being able to keep the fruits of someone else’s labour was always a great way to make money. And natural resources are nice to have but if you don’t have them but you have money (perhaps gotten from productive industry) you can just buy them. Singapore and Hong Kong went from poverty to the first world in a generation based on good institutions and sound economic policy. And again colonies were never a big deal for the metropole economically. The Nordic countries didn’t have any colonies of note and they did just fine economically over the 19th and 20th centuries. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was doing worse economically than the German in 1912, but not much, and it wasn’t because of the lack of colonies. The Netherlands’ economy basically didn’t notice the loss of Indonesia, ditto Belgium for the Congo. Natural resources just aren’t that important. Equatorial Guinea is swimming in oil and its people are poor as dirt because their government because it’s governed by a kleptocrat. South Korea was a bombed out hellscape in 1954 and now it’s a first world country. That’s not because of natural resources, it’s because of export led growth, same as Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong. None of them are particularly blessed with oil or minerals. Switzerland’s natural resources are hydropower and beautiful scenery. The beautiful scenery is a bigger deal economically. Saudi Arabia is sitting on the biggest oil fields in the world and once people stop caring about oil the country will go to hell. Norway is also sitting on loads of oil and will be just fine because their economy isn’t all natural resources.

Natural resources just aren’t that important.

> Don't hate the player, hate the game.

Under competition, acting like this is the best way to raise to the top. If Amazon started penalizing fake reviews heavily, it would disincentivise its users to leave fake reviews. If they let companies get away with it, it'll be the only way to survive in their marketplace.

Isn’t penalizing players who breach etiquette what separates games from fights?

I’ve literally never understood that idea, because it’s antithetical to what separates games from genuine conflict: adherence to social norms during contests.

Lying to make a sale is known as fraud, and “against the rules”, so to speak: enforcing that isn’t “hating the player”, it’s “protecting the game”.

> Under competition, acting like this is the best way to raise to the top

Do you have evidence for that, or is it your guess?

The study I am aware of on the subject concluded the best strategy in a competitive environment is to act fairly and assume fair play on everyone's behalf, but if someone crosses you, respond with all out force.

I think it's called "Generous Tit-for-tat". I don't think "be shitty when you have something to gain" is recognized as a good strategy in Game Theory.

If you want academic support for "if everyone else cheats and gets away with it, you'll have to cheat too" you might enjoy The Market for Lemons [1]

This argues that, if 50% of used cars are good and worth $8000, and 50% are bad and worth $4000, and customers can't tell them apart on the lot, the buyers' expected value is $6000 so the sellers of good cars will make a loss and go out of business. That in turn will reduce the buyers' expected value to $4000.

Obviously, that issue is specific to markets without seller reputations, reliable independent reviews, useful warranties, or effective consumer protection laws. Is Amazon Marketplace that way? You be the judge!

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Market_for_Lemons

Generous Tit-for-Tat was the winning algorithm in a very particular scenario: repeated prisoner's dilemma. Each player knew the full history of its opponent's participation in the game and knew therefore that there would be consequences for its behavior in the current game. In this scenario your identity and reputation are perfectly known. This is a very different game.

Do you actually need more than the previous round or two of actions to utilize the be-kind-until-crossed strategy?

I’m not sure it requires perfect information, just accurate recent information.

For iterated prisoner's dilemma, you need the game to be infinitely long, meaning neither player knows when it will end. The moment either player realizes when the game is going to end, the game reverts to a regular prisoner's dilemma, and the first player to betray the other will win. The last round has no benefit for playing a Nice strategy, so you need to stab before the other player also realizes the game is going to end.

That doesn’t require infinite length, just indeterminate length and more than a single round (on average, or with certain rate).

And I’m not sure that it doesn’t apply to the case where:

A) You can’t determine when the game will end, and

B) There’s very often several rounds.

That seems to cover “society”, in a broad sense.

Yes, that's what I'm saying. Whether it applies to society or not depends on how often you have repeat interactions with the same person. For example, in a big city where you can expect to never run into someone again, I would expect people to favor Betray over Cooperate. Whereas, in a small village where you can't escape the people around you, I would expect people to favor Cooperate.

> but if someone crosses you, respond with all out force

How do you do that with Amazon? Stop buying from this one seller? Report them? But chances are you were not going to buy anything else from them anyway and I am not sure how much of a problem a report is. And you are not doing anything about the other bajillion bad sellers, so your next buying experience is like ly to turn out just the same.

Link to that study?

I think the first time I heard about it might have been on this Planet Money episode: https://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?stor...

But I'm not really sure. This Google search links to a bunch of papers on the subject. It's a well explored area of research:


True, and penalizing misbehavior is a big part of the solution here, but it's also true that there are practical social limits on behavior (including competitive behavior), and these can wax and wane culturally, giving rise to greater or lesser degrees of trust and good faith in commerce. ("What can I count on from people in general?")

I would say societal collapse happens when regulating bodies no longer align participant self-interest with the greater good. Everyone is self-interested, which is why central authorities must step in for things that benefit individuals but hurt society such as tax evasion, pollution, and (maybe one day) fraudulent reviews.

Note I'm not saying this is practical to implement or easy to do, just that central authorities exist for this very purpose.

> Everyone is self-interested

Is there a citation I can refer to about this statement?

I would argue that laws and regulations are to prevent the very impactful minority of actors that would willfully harm others to benefit themselves.


At this point it is philosophical either way, so you aren't going to get a citation confirming yours or his statements, but this isn't an unheard of belief.

Neither statement is wrong. Heavily penalizing malicious actions aligns societal, and self-interest.

People don't go out and murder people they don't like because it's both at the interest of themselves, and to society.

> Is there a citation I can refer to about this statement?

I recently read The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life, which discusses this topic in great detail.

Businesses that do not fake reviews will be buried in the search results and they will be forced to shut down when their sales stop. Its essentially evolution for companies.

>> Everyone is self-interested

> Is there a citation I can refer to about this statement?

'The Book of Life', page 1

First, this is quite condescending.

Second, the "self-interest" argument doesn't excuse shitty behavior. It might be in my self-interest to steal my neighbor's wallet he forgot outside. It has money in it! Doesn't make it a good idea nor something I would consider as a "self-interested" person.

Plus, it's also in my self-interest not to contribute to lowering the bar of a review system. As someone who uses Amazon and other review sites, I don't like the idea of phony reviews, so even if I worked for a company that "depended" on these reviews, I wouldn't feel good about adding to the problem (nor would I feel good that my employer supposedly needs to rely on falsified reviews).

It doesn't excuse shitty behaviour.

But if you start from the realistic premise that some actors are bad, the market feedback loop immediately rewards them - which forces other actors to make a choice between acting in similarly unethical ways or being punished for non-compliance.

The real shitty behaviour is Amazon's. It has ultimate control over this fiasco but Bezos clearly has no interest in stopping it - and it can easily be argued that's an example of the same systemic problem with market fundamentalism, but at a higher level.

Incidentally, 'The Book of Life', page 1: https://www.theschooloflife.com/thebookoflife/how-to-love/

I find that people who generally hold this opinion against others are actually projecting their own thoughts.

One could say that if the Amazon’s ecosystem was a society, it’s in a late stage of collapse.

...only that Amazon, instead of taking this eroding of consumer trust anywhere as seriously as they should, are adding gas to the fire by introducing their own brands all over the place.

Looks like they‘re going down the LinkedIn route: If you have so many business models that they start cannibalizing each other, it‘s getting dangerous.

I get where you're coming from, but I remember an all hands back in the mid 2000s and someone asked Jeff, what's up with Amazon MP3 isn't that going to cannibalize our CD sales? And Jeff said, absolutely, but if we don't cannibalize our CD sales someone else will. Controlled autophagy is healthy. Coincidentally, this principle applies generally, which is why intermittent fasting is a thing.

Yes. The normalization of deviation.

After a point, anyone who points out the wrongs is seen as the deviant.

Its funny to read this today. I'm working my way through Atlas Shrugged and the utopia in the book is the opposite: pure self interest > greater good, and there is a 'for the public good' apocalypse taking place.

It seems to take a weird stance that self interest has to go hand in hand with productivity and free trade though, or else the sentiment is labeled anti-life or looting (or murder in later chapters). Its a bit of a strange argument, I'm not certain its as coherent as it is romantic.

Anyway, the book would not be nice about how it described a company that posted fake reviews.

I remember reading it years ago and thinking it was a large collection of straw man arguments (and this is perhaps too generous as it implies that there are actually reasoning present; in fact the story is more along the lines of: “heroes leave society, society collapses”).

Given this, it is beyond me how much attention and how large a following the book has gathered.

It's more of "honest people leave society, society collapses". The heroism was coincidental, I find it hard to blame anyone for celebrating honesty.

One of the notional heroes is intentionally wiping out his investors (which is OK, because every single one of them is a Very Bad Person) and another is a pirate. Whilst Stadler joining the State Science Institute is singled out as a particularly egregious example of villainy.

Takes an odd definition of honesty to conclude that it's a book about celebrating honesty...

The book is written by someone whose self professed philosophy is badly argued nonsense. See objectivism.

If she could at least write entertainingly she could at least have done one thing right. As it stands she could have contributed more to society by selling hats. Even badly made ugly hats keep your head dry. Her books neither inform nor entertain.

Are you serious? Thank god Amazon is not our society. If Amazon collapses because they can't handle moderating their website, there are many contenders eager to take Amazon's place.

To paraphrase an old saying....

The world can stay scummy longer than you can stay solvent.

Im pretty sure you know you have just described the modern society.

Tho lets enjoy the ride while we still can.

It can be 'the rules of playing the game' AND also scummy. The overall system may be structured such that it basically forces such behavior. Saying it's scummy doesn't mean that this particular seller went out of their way to be scummy or likes acting in that way. But this doesn't stop it being a scummy practice from the consumer's perspective.

> Its just the only way to do business on Amazon. If every single company is faking the reviews then you can not afford to be the only one not faking them.

That's... the only way to do business selling generic garbage on Amason, I guess. But it's not the only way to do business. I mean, the example is headphones. Bose and Beats and Shure no doubt sell a ton of hardware on Amazon on the basis of their established brands and not just reviews. And I'm sure they do fine, and Amazon is happy to have the business.

The problem here is the search results, that searching for "headphones" (which is indeed a particularly bad category) gives you a bunch of garbage and not a good selection of products that match your search.

Just because it's the only way to do business doesn't mean it's not a scummy thing to do. Being required for business is not a moral justification for anything!

This sounds like Lance Armstrong's description of what lead to his doping scandal. The point is that it's ok to do it because everyone else is, until it isn't ok any more.

It absolutely is scummy. When reviews are bogus, I stop shopping. Plenty of other places to go. They're poisoning the well.

It IS a scummy thing to do. It's just that lots of people are choosing to do the scummy thing.

It's Moloch.

A thought just came to my mind. I wonder if Amazon should display the return rate for products. High return rates might make people thing twice about an inflated set of reviews.

In this mentioned scheme the products were not apparently returned to Amazon but the manufacturer. Amazon wouldn't know.

But in the general case, return rate would be very valuable for all to see... Maybe too valuable for Amazon's liking.

Expose them for this in some way that doesn't lead back to you.

As long as companies keep getting away with it, they have no reason to stop. Why should they?

Or the one product that has like ten different "variations" which are actually totally different products, yet share reviews. A review on one of them means nothing for the other nine.

I was looking at monitors recently and found this - 8 different monitors by the same seller, and reviews for them all lumped in together! Useless!

This always happens with various editions of books too especially for classic books. For example: I want to buy Meditations by Marcus Aurelius but there are so many editions of that book with different authors who translated these books but you'd see the same exact reviews on all of these editions. It is very hard for me in that case to choose the right book.

I know what you mean. It took me a while to find the original version of Napoleon Hill's "How to Think and Grow Rich" because everyone and their mother's posted $0.99 versions.

That's why I like Standard Ebooks. It's a website where volunteers transcribe public domain books into high-quality books for various eReaders. A lot of ebooks tends to suffer from poor formatting and grammar issues, but all the books on Standard Ebooks go through a rigorous proofreading process.

The book covers are quite lovely too.

I really like it.


This site looks good. Thanks for sharing.

You shouldn't have to do the following, but there is a way around that mingled-reviews problem: Go to the "all reviews" page, search that page for "filter by", and and change "all formats" to the format you're viewing.

My biggest complaint about books is not the review mixing problem, although that's bad. My biggest complaint is that different translations shouldn't be mixed at all, while identical translations by the same publisher (for instance, ebook and paperback versions) should always be comingled. On Amazon, both principles are routinely violated. For example, you can search the books category for "marcus aurelius hays meditations" and find the paperback (black cover red bird silhouette) as the first real result, but the ebook format under that entry is NOT the Hays translation. I don't see any way to get to the Hays translation from that search. If you search for the same keywords in the kindle category, the kindle edition is the first real result. (In both searches, you get two sponsored search results which are not the Hays translation but Amazon promotes them anyway).

There you have it... the world's biggest online bookstore is incapable of selling books properly.

An alternative would be to mix all editions, but have a clear well-designed selection interface so that it's clear which translation you're selecting, and then under each translation which edition (format, publishing date, and/or edition number if there are numbered editions) you're selecting.

A commercial modern translation of something like Meditations might only have one ebook and one paperback by the same publisher. An out-of-copyright translation might have a dozen different editions made by taking the gutenberg edition and slapping a more engaging cover on it.

If you're selling books and you make it difficult to navigate book editions in either of those common cases, you have utterly failed at being competent in your line of business. That incompetence might not show up in sales figures, because people who want a specific edition will grudgingly search until they find it, and people who don't want a specific edition will pay for whatever random awful edition catches their attention first.

> For example, you can search the books category for "marcus aurelius hays meditations" and find the paperback (black cover red bird silhouette) as the first real result, but the ebook format under that entry is NOT the Hays translation. I don't see any way to get to the Hays translation from that search.

This. I feel your pain here. Amazon should develop a simple UI to navigate through various editions/translations and also once one selects a specific edition/translation then the UI should only show all formats (Kindle, Paperback, etc.) for that particular edition/translation only.

Yeah, and it's not just books.

Amazon gets a lot of heat on HN for their review-spam problem and their counterfeit goods problem. But the product variant selection problem, whether it's different editions/translations of books, or different colors/styles/sizes of clothes, or different variants of other consumer goods, is easily solvable by comparison. And it's not getting solved. Every product with multiple dimensions of variants (e.g. color, size, # in pack) feels like it has a different interface, random mix of radio buttons and drop-downs, and a change in one dimension can cause other dimensions to disappear or shift around.

Is there any management or programming talent, with the power to implement fixes, left in the retail/marketplace divisions? Or has it all moved to AWS and logistics?

If you have a mixture of products at a price of 4 5 5 5 7 8 and 4 5 is counterfeit 5 is used 6 7 8 is the same product you would find on any merchants shelf for 6 or 7.

If only 4 is returned then on net they made more sales and the consumer sees that he can get product foo on Amazon for only $4!

Amazon makes more money by providing you with a worse experience so why would they improve it?

I had the same problem and came to the conclusion that there is no Kindle version of the Hays translation. The really frustrating part is that I already purchased a physical copy of a different translation, so when I found the physical Hays book and clicked the Format -> Kindle option it offered me the ebook for a steep discount... and it let me choose amongst many version none of which were the Hays version.

Off topic, but I would recommend the Gregory Hays translation if you haven't read it before first. I also liked one by Maxwell Staniforth. Hope that helps.

Learn Greek!

I really think Amazon needs to fix this. I'm about two shitty products away from cancelling Prime. Their business model is "good enough products shipped really quickly without needing to think about it much". Recently, things I order aren't good enough. I find myself thinking about whether I should just drive to Target so that I can see the thing before I buy it. This seems like a problem for Amazon.

But they make returns so easy, I'm not that bothered any more, if I get it and it's crap I'll just return it and look harder for a different one.

I used to feel this way, but I've recently turned a corner. Returning things seemed easy when my return rate was say 5%. Now that it's more like 25% and I'm mostly returning junk sold deceptively, it feels like an awful hassle.

I'd much rather shop somewhere where I could choose from, say, three relatively expensive but good options, get one of those, and nearly always keep it, rather than a place where I have 100 cheap options most of which are junk, such that it takes me a couple rounds of returns to get something I want.

While Amazon Germany (afaik) does not yet have many of the problems of Amazon US (I often hear on HN about fake products and the fake reviews of TFA), what really annoys me is the completely different products as one. I was looking at a drill, it's variants included a jigsaw. The reviews were almost all for the jigsaw and at some point, Amazon even removed the notice which variant was reviewed. Utterly useless.

This! In many ways shared reviews for SKUs of the same product make absolute sense (if the blue bag is made well, so should the red one). But there seems to be huge abuse in defining the base product as you've highlighted. I presume sellers have complete autonomy to set them up, and Amazon might argue that it's "infeasible" for them to administer this, but from the perspective of the consumer I completely agree that it erodes confidence in "reviews".

Over the years I've noticed a shift in the products I most readily find on Amazon from well established brands to utterly unknown Chinese manufacturers. I've been burnt enough times by buying such products that I've reverted to mostly looking for products which satisfy 1) from reputable company, and 2) positive reviews.

In an unregulated market, brand identity and reputation becomes a very strong differentiating factor. The strongest brand on Amazon is Amazon, so by allowing the generic market to rot they are allowing their own-brand basics products to establish themselves because consumers can assume that Amazon products won't have this fake review problem.

It does also work for other brands too of course. I was in the market for some Lightning cables recently and almost every single cheap cable was a switch-out with review for different products. The only brands I recognised were Amazon and Anker and both their stuff was legit (I bought from both).

This is an excellent point and one reason I think we'll inevitably have regulation preventing owners of platforms/marketplaces from competing in them. The incentives are completely out of whack.

This is yet again another, surely well-known 'leak' in how products are presented and displayed, since it can still happen, Amazon is tacitly complicit with the fraud.

Most of these issues could be mostly cleared up with some basic operational policies: purchase only reviews (or sideline the others), no 'changing the product', some degree of manufacturer verification etc..

But they chose not to do it.

Why would a product change even be allowed they're different products.

Manufacturers don't get to claim this year's junk is so much better than last year's junk that I just have to buy it all the while claiming it's the same product. What a joke.

"Why would a product change even be allowed they're different products."

Because Amazon has chosen to allow that, for reasons which probably have to do with money.

The comments here indicate a surprising degree of naivte on this issue i.e. "I head to email jeff@amazon.com about this" - as if after 20 years of operations Amazon isn't 100% aware of all of these issues.

Of course they know what's going on. In detail.

If Amazon were some old, big, dumb company with slow moving ops, barely competent staff, then we could write all this off as lack of operational competence - but it's not.

Amazon is actually a very well run and operationally competent company from top to bottom, and Bezos is a hands-on leader, intimately involved.

Folks: Bezos knows exactly what is happening.

Since they haven't made very small adjustments which could help fix a variety of these issues, it's not due to 'lack of will' - it's a choice that Amazon has made. Amazon wants lots of 5 star fake reviews by unverified sources or they would just get rid of them, which they could do, instantly, by sidelining reviews with no purchase, for example. Among a variety of other things.

It's unbelievable the level of hagiography that goes on with these 'industry leaders' that we build up like Jobs, Zuck, Bezos, Welch etc. - especially when we have issues waiving us right in the face.

I accept that business at scale is 'making sausage' and there will be unpleasant things. Factory workers can't make $80K (probably). We inherently lose some privacy on social media. There will be some fake reviews and fraud no matter what. Surely.

But the scope and level of chicanery, combined with the fact these companies haven't made obvious changes proves they are complicit and it should definitely weigh into how we think of these companies and individuals. FYI people can do 'good stuff' and 'bad stuff' at the same time. Bezos and Zuck can build/fund schools for kids at the same time they are doing totally unscrupulous stuff, it's not a paradox.

Fraud, fake reviews etc. is a problem not dealt with remotely enough by Amazon, this is obvious and the fault/concern is theirs, and it's Jeff Bezos - as founder, owner, CEO world's richest person to do it.

Literally the richest guy in the world is gaining this wealth in part by promoting tons of counterfeit goods with fake reviews - 2019.

I don't think the top people at amazon are aware of the issue or think it's so severe. spam in different forms is very difficult for even the most advanced companies to fix. look at gmail putting good email in spam or spam sneaking through to regular email. it keeps happening. spam comments on forum postings. amazon is facing another version of the spam problem in fake reviews, fake products, etc. it obviously competes against their agility to have more spam detection vs making it easier for people to sell stuff there.

Fraud and fake reviews are a major strategic concern, it has been since the start, i.e. for 20 years. Leadership is intimately aware of the problem.

There are many easy things they could do to reduce fraud, #1 being only allowing reviews from actual purchasers, or at least now allowing the others into the rankings.

As mentioned on this thread, there are 3rd party companies that do a decent job at detecting the crap reviews. This means either Amazon is incompetent, and is not even capable of basic filtering, or they are competent and complicit.

It's the later.

Yes, there will always be spam and fraud, but not remotely the levels we see on Amazon. It should be relatively rare.

As it stands, it's pretty easy for a regular person simply to go on Amazon and literally find fake products. This is totally unacceptable. They are trying hard not to find the spam and fraud.

> Because Amazon has chosen to allow that, for reasons which probably have to do with money.

Yea.. that, nor the tirade that follows comes close to answering my question.

I also suspect your thinking and reasoning are incredibly misguided.

While Amazon isn't stupid they aren't nearly as money focused as you seem to believe.

What I suspect but do not know for sure is that their reviews were/are a massive part of their business model. Acting as big SEO signals and including a number of nice benefits when it comes to sales and marketing.

What we are likely looking at now is friction at scale.

Amazon has unleashed a large amount of Alibaba trash into the market in order to compete with a very real competitor, hell sales/revenue wise Amazon is the underdog.

We will likely see moves to clean up reviews.

So in the end I guess you were right "duh money" but it's a bit more nuanced than that and far from direct.

"they aren't nearly as money focused as you seem to believe"

If by 'money' you meant 'profit' - then yes, they re-invest.

But Amazon is very deeply 'money focused' - they are a low margin business, growth oriented, they have innumerable competitors - everything is accounted for.

"What I suspect but do not know for sure is that their reviews were/are a massive part of their business model."

We can suspect a lot of things, but ultimately, what we know with certainty is that they are willful participants in tons of fake reviews. They 100% know about it, and 100% allow it to happen because there are several alternative paths for them to choose. They are complicit, by choice.

I suggest they would just rather have the fake reviews, than the cost and burden of higher business friction. They've calculated that the fake reviews are net better than hunting them down.

Or grouping 20 distinct products under one item.

If you think Amazon is bad for this, just checkout Ebay.

I also agree that it should be very easy for Amazon to pick up on. I can't believe it's happening. We call this "Review Hijacking" and have a warning that appears at the top of our report if we detect it: https://reviewmeta.com/blog/amazon-review-hijacking/

i was looking at a speaker, a couple of the verified reviews said something like, "it fit a little tight".

I tend to mark down the obvious spam / shit reviews like that

fit where?

just buy from somewhere else whenever it is cheaper

A couple months ago, I googled 'whiteboard amazon', clicked the first result, and was taken to a well structured amazon page for a whiteboard that had 5 stars. Looking at it a little closer, I noticed that of the 143 reviews, 143 were 5 star reviews. On top of it, every review followed a similar structure, was made by an account that had thousands of 5 star reviews, and was so beyond the pale obvious fraudulent that I felt the need to email jeff@amazon.

Today I was looking at some vitamins, and I checked every single result for a certain supplement that was 4 or 5 stars and every single one of them ranked D or worse on FakeSpot.

How the fuck does Amazon not know how to deal with this? 100% of reviews coming in for a product on the same day? MAYBE THAT'S A SIGN, AMAZON.

Amazon reviews are worse than garbage now.

> How the fuck does Amazon not know how to deal with this?

How do you know they don't, and have via whatever mechanism decided that they make more money if they choose not to?

They are trying and failing - my wife is a seller and easily 20-30% of completely valid positive reviews from repeat customers disappear without a trace.. at the same time a racist tyrade of a review from a buyer who has swastika as user avatar is impossible to get rid of ( 5 or 6 tries so far)

File an online criminal complaint at German police. We really don't like swastikas.

reading this, feels like ebay is a really nice place to sell stuff.

They might have their own issues, but feels more authentic.

Really? I feel selling stuff on ebay has a 1/5 chance get scammed.

I don’t know what categories you shop there, but I have never been scammed. Often make sure to contact the seller beforehand though.

It’s easy to get scammed SELLING on eBay. Buying is not much if a problem as you can get a refund easily as a buyer.

I sell a huge amount of stuff on eBay (retro computing / gaming items) and have found it to be a really fantastic and friendly community. Perhaps it depends on the items being sold?

Probably. You are selling in a niche that scammers likely don't care about. If you were selling a Macbook or iPhone, there'd probably be a lot of shady buyers.

I've bought a ton of stuff on Ebay, but only ever sold a laptop when I wasn't getting any bites on Craigslist. It was a limited-edition Dell laptop, so the buyer was really enthusiastic about it and you could tell he was a normal person and not a scammer.

Fortunately I live in a big city now and have never had issues selling in person via CL/Kijiji.

I've sold a couple hundred of items on eBay and I've never been scammed.

There are many 3rd party sites (like fakespot.com) which do a better job than Amazon does and are not incredibly sophisticated. Amazon just doesn't care, that is the only conclusion that is possible to draw from the available data. They are not even doing a half-assed job, we're talking about a fractionally-assed job here, perhaps even milli-asses.

Amazon could easily do at least as good a job as fakespot, and then followup with consequences for review fraud. They could also implement various policies and use the huge amount of data they have available to go well beyond that level and make some headway against the problem. But they haven't done so. Because they can't be bothered. Because people being suckered into buying shitty products hasn't hurt their bottom line yet. They are complicit.

Just because those 3rd party sites are not targeted by fake reviewers.

They are not 3rd party review sites, they are 3rd party sites for algorithmically analyzing the reviews on amazon for a given product.

How would fakespot be targeted by fake reviewers?

Adversarial attacks. You tweak your fake reviews until fakespot is convinced your reviews aren’t fake.

Like not post them at once.

"We at Amazon think it would be a shame if an algorithm flagged your {insert fake 5-star Chinese product here}.

Have we mentioned we offer a Premium Seller Protection service that will ensure nothing... untoward happens to your listings?"

I was in the market for headphones. I bought a pair and was looking for another because I was dissatisfied. I saw my exact model under another listing...but oddly it had ~150 5 stars. I thought no way in hell THESE were loved by everyone. Every single review was made in the same day, with broken English reviews.

These were electronics, and knockoff airpods to boot. But if I 100% need the real thing, I buy else where. For example I just purchased several bottles of Vitamin D for my infant. I'm not trusting Amazon even though Amazon would have shipped faster.

I never buy anything on Amazon that I put in my body. They really need to get this issue under control. It's a huge trust problem for me.

Totally agree. I won't but stuff on Amazon for ME to eat. Much more so anything that's going into a baby's body.

Been using Swanson Vitamins for about 10 years. Decent website, excellent vitamins. Smaller mom and pop b-to-c that has been online since the first .com bubble.

My wife uses it for our family as well. If you watch you can catch really good sales as well.

I felt like they know there's a large industry built around it and now that it will likely just adapt to taking simple measures like that. By leaving it the way it is for now it's super easy to spot product pages with fake reviews by anyone that cares to look.

It's impossible that giving customers sub-optimal recommendations is good for amazon.

Definitely not, long-term. But plug it into a product manager's A/B test and I guarantee it boosts things short-term.

What's to boost? The customer would have selected the better option and been more satisfied, and Amazon would have brokered the deal either way. They still need their hammer.

Maybe in A/B tests, customers who see a product with 4.9 (fake) stars are more likely to click Buy than customers who see the same product with 4.3 (honest) stars?

My theory is that they have metrics for selection they are trying to optimize. If customers only bought the 10 best of any item, how could some PM get a promotion for increasing phone charger selection 100x?

I find it unlikely, since they don't really have much customer lock-in, so reputation matters a lot. It doesn't make many disappointing purchases for customers to start looking elsewhere first.

It gets even worse that true 5 stars and low ratings can get flagged for false review by Amazon's algo.

Last year there was a posting on hackernews how this person lost his Amazon account as it got flagged on its first review with a long history of purchases.

> How the fuck does Amazon not know how to deal with this? 100% of reviews coming in for a product on the same day? MAYBE THAT'S A SIGN, AMAZON.

Maybe that's bad for business if they did. People see a < 5 star review and may not purchase it, even if it is a lie.

I think that food supplements/vitamins are the worst. My one and only email to jeff@amazon.com was on that. It probably didn't do any good, but I felt better.

Luckily, they don't appear to be of any value anyway.

Surely their advanced machine learning would see such an obvious pattern?

There are more fake reviews than real ones.

Due to this inversion, it is practically intractable for Amazon to detect fake reviews in a fully automated way. They must, at some point, be human moderated.

The class imbalance might make the modeling slightly more difficult but certainly not 'practically intractable.'

I did a MSc in ML and my dissertation was on classification of fake reviews:


Some years ago, there were some studies trying to estimate the percentage of fake reviews. It came out to 2% to 6%. I'm sure things have increased since then, it does look quite bad given all the anecdotes I have come across.

But unless Amazon has thrown away the bulk of the 140 million or so reviews they have between 1995-2014, I doubt there really are more fake reviews than real ones now, in total.

It would be interesting to do a follow up study to estimate the percentage, given all the blatant issues (such as reviews for other products, etc) Amazon is obviously ignoring. Given what I know, it shouldn't be that hard to process the obviously suspect things but the important question is always: how much profit is there for Amazon to do all that work, given it probably won't increase sales/revenue that much? It is not in Bezos' interest.

The easiest thing would be to block off all of China's IP addresses....

In case you didn't notice yet, it seems like the certificate of your website is expired (2019-04-10).

Is it so difficult?

Amazon already has the number of helpful vs unhelpful votes for each review.

They could start with that voting data, and then use metadata (geoip, account usage/posting timing, client fingerprinting) to create quality metrics for each user. They could even have separate trustworthiness ratings per product category (a good book reviewer might not be so good at rating appliances). From there, they'd have a rough idea of which reviews are real and fake, and they could start training a NN on the text.

Figuring out when sellers are complicit, and when it's competitor sabotage, is more difficult, but Amazon has a ton of data about sellers and reviewers and buyers and the social/commercial graph connecting them. Amazon doesn't appear to be working on solving simpler problems, such as incorrect product/book comingling. Therefore, I have trouble giving them the benefit of the doubt that they're working on hard problems like addressing fraudulent ratings/sellers.

Good plan. See my previous comment; I did my MSc on classifying fake reviews. The behavioral / non-text features are far more useful than the text, based on all the research. There is no technical reason Amazon could not capture all the signals, except for the scale of the effort. So I'd say someone has decided it is not worth the effort/cost given the likelihood it won't improve sales that much.

As for NNs, .... an ensemble of classifiers would be best (but of course I'd say that).

True, but you take some very strong signals to classify a review as (most likely) fake de facto. Such signals could be "reviewed without purchase", "user has over 1,000 reviews", etc.

Reviewed without purchase is a feature not a bug, according to amazon. People don't buy stuff that's not reviewed so they want to catch people who may have gotten it elsewhere.

It's a sign amazon is not playing in good faith.

Why Google detects low quality sites in its search algo's.

"More fake than real"


I would not buy anything that is meant to be consumed on Amazon.

These kind of review patterns are easy to spot. I used to read through recent review etc. These days when I find a product on Amazon that I feel like buying, I go to reviewmeta.com and check the review trend before deciding.

> How the fuck does Amazon not know how to deal with this? 100% of reviews coming in for a product on the same day? MAYBE THAT'S A SIGN, AMAZON.

Then they would stagger the days. The issue is that human adversaries are formidable and you start approaching generalized AI to defeat them.

"you start approaching generalized AI to defeat them."

This is, of course, bullshit. Human moderators could defeat them, Amazon is just not willing to hire them. A seller reputation (including bans) could defeat them, Amazon is just not willing to lose the cheap knockoff stores. A listing fee would discourage a lot of the shadier stores, Amazon is just not willing to lose them.

It's not that it's an insurmountable problem, it's an insurmountable problem if you combine it with boundless greed.

We had the same problem a century ago. (Cf. the origins of the term 'snake oil salesman'). We solved the problem, through regulation. It's time we solve it again, through regulation.

I can pretty much guarantee that making Amazon liable for damage from fake reviews will solve the issue. It won't happen in the US - regulation is up for sale here - but it will happen in the EU. It might just be enough to drag Amazon into sanity, kicking and screaming.

I hope it's not enough to drag Amazon into sanity. I hope somebody else comes along and beats the crap out of Amazon by offering what Amazon doesn't - honest reviews and rejection of straight up junk.

And maybe that's the way that Amazon goes down; quality over quantity. Hey, this is HN and we should be able to spot a deficiency in a business plan, right?! Here's how you go about toppling Amazon and building an empire:

1) open a store for online goods 2) take reviews seriously 3) profit!

Let's expand the plans a bit: 1) open a store for online goods 2) take reviews seriously 3) profit, for a while 4) get bought out by amazon or someone else who will then proceed to kill "2" 5) if resisted, be a target of coordinated media smear campaign and/or hacking attempts, each totally not ordered and covertly backed by amazon or another player whose piece of a pie you are eating 6) crack under pressure and just give up

Or in more likely scenario, die away and do a bankcrupt since nobody gives a shit about your crappy market place/online store

Mmm... I was just hoping Amazon's competitors slowly gain an edge over Amazon and that Amazon's reputation is tarnished enough that it greatly impacts business.

> It's time we solve it again, through regulation

You had me up until here. The last entity I would look to to solve this first-world problem is the clumsy, over-bloated arm of government.

If you think this is a first world problem, you might want to look up the history of regulations, and how many people had to die due to shitty products before we finally said "enough is enough".

We're heading that direction again. Our current flavor of capitalism strongly favors externalizing of all costs, and short of enforced liability for products violating standards will always opt for violating whatever low standards bar you set.

(I'd also like to point out that the part of the government that is truly over-bloated is the one that the "lean government" people oddly never want to gut, the military)

Per seller stickers on items in inventory so fakes in comingling can be singled out. Bad sellers perma-banned.

Those would be two things you could easily start with, and Amazon knows it.

Allow users to report bait and switch listings and ban repeat offenders.

Require a $1-5K USD deposit to sell on Amazon with a clear fine structure.

I was with you up until the deposit. What about someone who is just starting their own business? $5k is a lot of money

I think a deposit is in order, just with the amount tuned.

I think it could be a sliding scale deposit $100 to list a product, and then scale up based on amount of inventory, customer reviews, etc.

If it's a $100 initial deposit that slides up to $1,000 based on volume, that seems pretty reasonable even for something small starting out.

There are other places to start off... also, it doesn't have to be $5K, just cost prohibitive to lose if a knockoff company keeps getting closed out on.

There are also other selling options when starting out... not everyone has to jump onto Amazon.

Can you name one?

I was on ebay, jet.com, walmart, staples, newegg, etc. Anywhere there was a third party marketplace system I was on there.

All of the non amazon marketplaces I sold on combined were a rounding error on my Amazon sales.

Not for running a normal business it isn't. A deposit would probably get rid of all the dropshippers, who are really just a form of arbitrage; I think that's probably necessary to get rid of the review chaos. People actually manufacturing their own goods ought to be able to find that kind of money.

However, if we're going to have deposits, there need to be absolutely clear rules on when they are forfeited, with a real, transparent dispute procedure.

Keep a percentage of gross to go towards a deposit and don't remit payment immediately on new accounts. Imagine a 1K deposit wherein only $200 was paid up front and the rest was paid in terms of 2% of sales.

Further if you spend a week selling counterfeits and as it turns out that you make 800 usd in scam sales. The 2% towards deposits might only be $16 + $200 deposit but if the seller hasn't been paid out yet its trivial to claim the entire $800 in sales as the forfeited deposit.

The seller instead of profiting $400-$600 is now out $200-$400 in inventory and $216 in deposit with nothing to show for it.

The deposit needn't be ruinous. Just enough to make being a bad actor not worth doing.

  $5k is a lot of money
That's kinda the point of fines, isn't it?

  Per seller stickers
... which themselves would quickly be counterfeited.

Amazon could generate unique per unit tokens for vendors to sticker next to the SKU stickers they already require. Totally traceable to a vendor if there is a problem, and not easy to counterfeit.

This is a beginner programming exercise. They have no excuse for not implementing basic safeguards while they spend billions on AI research.

Amazon applies said vendor stickers when they receive stock from a vendor for inventory.

If Amazon receives product with vendor stickers already attached, they get rejected permanently.

If Google can stop email spam then Amazon, who has a reviewer's identity, credit card number, browsing behaviour, and purchase history should be able to spot fake reviews.

That's what I've been thinking. I get more spam than legitimate email, but over the course of a year or so Thunderbird's Bayesian classifier has gotten to probably 98% accuracy with <.1% false positives.

You're right that there is an arms race between fake reviewers and Amazon, but the conclusion - that because it's a race Amazon shouldn't try, is spurious. Amazon should pursue the race aggressively, and because they can allocate more money and software developers to the contest than any one group of fake reviewers, they should also ultimately win.

I don't think there's an arms race. Is there really evidence Amazon has even thrown any shots across any bows?

You're right. Is Amazon not applying any machine learning to their reviews? Google solved spam email and that seems similar.

Google beat email spam, but has fared much worse with fighting blackhat SEO. Email spam has evolved remarkably little in the face of spam filters, and it may be that they were able to "solve" it simply because there never was all that much money to be made from it in the first place.

> The issue is that human adversaries are formidable

Are they ever!

Imagine if Amazon had a decent algo that would flag 100% of bad reviews and penalize the seller.

All of a sudden, competitors would be flooding EACH OTHER'S products with fake 5 star reviews to try and put them out of business.

Humans are very crafty when you give them a system of rules. Each twist of the rules creates new opportunities for unintended consequences.

PS: I do not think this is an excuse to give up trying

The issue the tech community has is that Amazon doesn't even appear to be doing the bare minimum.

Absolutely. And note that in other areas (such as payment fraud) they put in a lot more legwork because the consequences actually hit them directly instead of just their customers.

It's either that, or they are failing really miserably at controlling the flood of bogus/fraudulent review.

I find the latter hard to believe. We're not talking about a mom-and-pop shop here. This is Amazon, they employ many thousands of very smart people that could no doubt build solutions that are better than the status quo.

"and was so beyond the pale obvious fraudulent that I felt the need to email jeff@amazon."

Obviously Jeff is well aware, and could do a lot more about it, but doesn't, ergo he is complicit.

Fake Reviews are 100% supported by Amazon and Bezos.

It's basically full on fraud, right out in the open.

Capitalism dynamics indicates that they DO KNOW that some reviews are fake.

It's not just the fake reviews that bug me. I can use fakespot to weed through a few of those. The thing that has really made Amazon less usable for me in the last year or so is seeing the exact same product twenty times under different nonsense-word brands. Recalling a recent example, in about a minute I can find the exact same pair of water shoes sold as: gracosy, MAYZERO, LINGTOM, Wonesion, JointlyCreating, Centipede Demon, hiitave, and more. Another one is Belilent, Alibress, SUOKENI, Zhuanglin, Dreamcity, and so on. Same pictures, almost same descriptive text, with only minor cosmetic differences.

Are these different companies that happen to use the same supplier? It's possible, but it could also be one company creating multiple pseudo-brands to game the system. I could probably even find out, but I don't care. The same physical thing shipped for the same price from the same Chinese factory shouldn't show up twenty times. As long as search results are filled with crap, they're useless. It's the combination of fake reviews and this kind of flooding that makes me want to leave and never come back.

The store is an absolute mess, even with major brands. The exact same pair of Nikes could be listed in a half dozen separate categories sold by two dozen different sellers at shipping speeds ranging from two hours to two months and prices ranging from $0.06 - $649.58.

You end up having to spend 10x the amount of time down the rabbit hole of different categories, vaguely different product titles, different sizes ("size 10", "size TEN" "10(m)", etc.), and different names for the same color shoe, all to desperately find that low price/size/color combination that drew you in from the search results in the first place.

The store desperately needs moderation to tidy it up. I'm sure the devs are patting themselves on the back for all the extra engagement they are milking out of me, but frankly I'm using the site less and less to the point where I've cancelled my prime membership. The only thing keeping me is milking their free shipping and 3% back card, and only if local alternatives fail me.

I let my Prime lapse this year, for similar reasons. Gone are the days when Amazon tended to have medium- to high-quality items. Now it's a 50/50 chance I will get some cheap tat which has been expertly misrepresented by the seller (i.e. photos which make the product look bigger than it is).

I don't miss Prime and I'm not buying much from Amazon and this is fine.

We also just canceled Prime membership. This is the best way to fight back-- walk away.

Yes the Major brand situation is really bad thee doesn't seem to be any protection.

I am surprised that they are not more aggressive.

What you're experiencing is called dropshipping, and it's becoming popular because amateurs are seeing it as a "get rich quick scheme." There's a product called Oberlo (https://www.oberlo.com/) where you can easily browse Chinese items for sale and add them to your own Shopify store. Then you can use a free plugin to integrate Shopify with Amazon. That's why you're seeing a million of the same item, because it's tons of people browsing the same products with this same setup.

This is one of the most problematic. I think 3 out of 5 products I usually search for turns up massive levels of white-label crap. I suspect these are Alibaba based sellers who rebrand their white label fake products in Amazon literally 20 to 50 times under different cool sounding brand names. They have different costs and slightly different descriptions but otherwise no real way to differentiate them. These listings completely takes over search results and pushes out any genuine brands not savvy with SEO way out on 3rd or 4th page creating denial attack on customers. Now I have made habit of not falling for these white label crap and explicitly look out for "made in XYZ" in description. I think lot of US based genuine brands have gone bankrupt because of these.

Amazon needs complete reboot of their search given this level of white label spam and their inability to effectively de-dup results.

"There's No Such Thing as a Free Watch" by Jenny Odell is a deep investigation of this phenomenon and a really good read: http://www.jennyodell.com/museumofcapitalism_freewatch.pdf.

> Are these different companies that happen to use the same supplier?

You can often find the exact product, same pictures and all, on Alibaba. Only difference is the branding, so it's obvious where sellers are sourcing their products.

It's one of the reasons I use AliExpress: it cuts out the middlemen and their markup.

I actually love it when I see this on Amazon, as it tells me that I can just go on Alibaba/Aliexpress and order the same thing from there for a fraction of the price.

yeah fake reviews are an industry thing and it's basically not much different than advertisement and once you treat them like that they aren't such a grating issue... what is a huge problem to me instead is that their search is completely useless because everyone is writing everything on their pages, even if you look for a specific brand of items, even if you further filter by brand, nothing seem to work and a lot of junk fills up the result page.

that and commingled inventory.

currently I trust more aliexpress to deliver the product as pictured than amazon.

If you can wait a few weeks, AliExpress is a nicer shopping experience and Amazon. It’s just less bullshit.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened, but at some point in the last year or so I completely lost trust in purchasing goods on Amazon.

I’ve been a Prime customer since Prime launched. I loved it for a decade. It used to be an automatic reflex for me: need something? Type it in Amazon and click buy.

But now I don’t trust Amazon search results at all, and when I do purchase I only do it via direct product links from other sites I trust (like Wirecutter or the manufacturer’s site). Increasingly I buy direct from the brands websites.

I wanted to drop Prime this year. My wife argued we should keep it because the kids watch a lot of Prime Video. But we’ve already got Netflix, and with Disney launching their thing I think I’d rather buy that than stick with Prime any longer.

Not sure where Amazon is headed, and I wish the fate of AWS and Whole Foods weren’t at least somewhat tied up in the fate of Amazon’s retail operation.

Find Lock Picking Lawyer on YouTube and his reviews of the locks Amazon recommend. See him open them in seconds. Share videos with wife. She will be with you on cutting the umbilical cord to Amazon after that.

The locks they recommend in 'Amazon Choice' have known vulnerabilities that design solutions were found for many decades ago so the products are essentially naive. If Amazon deliberately set out to hype the most useless locks so you would have your stuff stolen (and have to buy more from Amazon) then they would struggle to do a better job.

Of course the locks come with hundreds of five star reviews even though they can be opened in seconds with low skill attacks.

to be fair he opens almost every lock in seconds

The point is that the "Amazon Choice" lock is a cheaply made Chinese knockoff of another (much better) lock.


AWS is wildly profitable for Amazon. I don't think you need to worry about AWS going anywhere. It's the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Kubernetes is going to absolutely wreck aws’s profit margins on the 3-5 year time frame, imo.

How so?

I received an email at least once a month, to an address I used exclusively for Amazon purchases, inviting me to join a website that will reimburse me via PayPal if I purchase products and review them.

I have forwarded the emails to Amazon a couple times explaining that my email address is used exclusively for them making it easier to narrow down who might be sending these emails. They always respond with a warning that my account might be suspended if I partake in such sites.

Blog it with any specific info you want to protect redacted. Give newspapers and equity analysts a chance to find what you are saying backed by evidence. This is the only way $BIGCO will ever care. Do you care enough to do it. I probably wouldn't.

Same here. Cryptic alias on my own domain that I never use for anything else. It's rare though, I get one spam email to that address once every few months now, and it's always shopping/review-related. I've contacted Amazon to ask how, when and with whom they shared my email address and their response was basically "we don't ever, but here's a month of free prime for your trouble".

I wonder what you're saying that I'm not, I never managed to unlock a free month of prime.

E-mail jeff@amazon.com

Any particular reason this is down voted?

I guess he doesn't give us any reason to believe it's a good idea to do that either.

I think some people are just mad for whatever reason. Maybe they really like amazon? Or maybe jeff? Or maybe they find the idea of a CEO email address that is never actually read by the CEO to be just silly in general.

I don't know for sure, someone will need to speak up.

I didn't downvote it, but it sounds a bit like "learn to code" to me. "Go tell amazon" isn't a feasible strategy when Amazon's general disinterest is a big part of the problem.

There are public facebook groups, where sellers buy Amazon reviews. https://outline.com/qTE2TY

I wish I kept a link, but there was looking to buy a book on music theory or something similar. One of the books had 13 or so reviews, all glowing. Many were of the form "Exactly what I was looking for!" or "Just perfect!" with nothing more.

Two of them had the same surprising word that made no sense in the context of the sentence: both reviews used the word "goal." Then it hit me: either the directions telling them what to review or in their own attempt to translate to English, the auto-translation picked the wrong synonym, choosing "goal" instead of "score."

Yea, and spurious reviews are egregious on other markets such as booking.com, etc.

Booking sites dont just use fake reviews, but also hide or even delete bad reviews. I've personally seen this because I travel a lot.

As much as I dislike Google, they act as a neutral third-party for hosting hotel and restaurant reviews. Amazon howrver wants good reviews on products to make sales.

Or the reviews were being run through an overeager text spinner.

I sometimes miss my browser translating reviews on amazon.de and get very, very confused.

I never thought it would get that way but I feel more comfortable now buying from ebay from a seller with good feedback. Amazon is such a cesspool of weird sellers. For example I looked for flashes of Godox brand. Listings had "Godox" in the title but when I looked at the listings they were all from different sellers and not from Godox. I think is intentionally misleading by Amazon. As a tech person I sort of understand what's going on but a lot of people trust Amazon and don't understand that Amazon isn't really the seller and does nothing against sleazy listings.

One product (power bricks for MacBooks) had over 1000 5 stars, then the 1 star reviews came in where people actually had their power adapters catch on fire. Amazon, or maybe the seller, shut the review/product down. Now, it's back:


Lots of verified purchases. All the reviews are within the same date range. It doesn't take machine learning or advanced AI to catch this; a simple SQL statement should be enough to flag these. But still, they persist.

Ergo, Amazon cannot do Stats/ML/AI/call it what you will. The claims that they have an AI advantage don't pass the sniff test.

It's not ML/AI problem. The problem is that Amazon wasn't able to punish counterfeiters financially or legally which in turn may be because they don't have a process to ensure seller identity that is legally traceable. This is equivalent to someone coming to BestBuy, sell to them bunch of fake products and get away with it without a scratch every single time. You wouldn't blame that BestBuy doesn't have AI system, would you?

It doesn't actually what the nature of the problem domain itself is, in this case -- you can't solve a problem that you don't want to.

I've started using fakespot.com for every purchase from Amazon, has saved me from making a bad purchase more than once.

Even better is "Made in XYZ" in description. If you are putting something in/on your body, this is absolutely important. But even if you are not, my experience is that products made in countries with trustworthy legal systems lasts 2X to 10X longer.

One thing that surprises me is that why online stores are not forced to display this explicitly. When you go to brick-and-mortar store, you can almost always look for this label but Amazon doesn't enforce it on their listing.

A "sort by length of warranty" feature would be helpful too.

The Fakespot chrome plugin speeds things up, and checking the ratio of good to bad.

But nothing is more important than reading the 1- and 2- star reviews, comparing them to similar products, and using judgement.

I love this kind of market based solutions. I entered the product from the other comment and it gave it an F. https://www.fakespot.com/product/kuppet-macbook-pro-charger-...

Do they have a plugin? I feel like that would make life a lot easier - you don't have to go to a second domain, just look at the listing and the plugin puts a big "Don't Buy" banner over it

There is a Chrome extension[0] available. I personally find FakeSpot best used to help avoid bad buys -- not to ensure that buys are going to be good (due to adversarial gaming, or FakeSpot itself being targeted).

[0]: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/fakespot-analyze-f...

If you are buying electronics, buy it from Best Buy, Costco, Target, Walmart or another retailer with a physical store. Best Buy matches Amazon's prices and their merchandise is not fake.

Unfortunately, no physical retailers around me have random things like 3D printer filament, various specific fasteners, or a particular inexpensive picture frame. Amazon wins at sheer variety of inventory.

Also, if a particular popular brand/model is at a big box store, the Amazon listing is almost certainly the actual thing. Random off-brands might be fake, but you run the same risk at Walmart as you do with Amazon then.

> Unfortunately, no physical retailers around me have random things like 3D printer filament, various specific fasteners, or a particular inexpensive picture frame. Amazon wins at sheer variety of inventory.

They don't have to have a physical store near you.

> Also, if a particular popular brand/model is at a big box store, the Amazon listing is almost certainly the actual thing. Random off-brands might be fake, but you run the same risk at Walmart as you do with Amazon then.

I highly doubt it. Amazon doesn't vet its sellers to well, and co-mingles supplies unless you pay a fee. I think Walmart probably does it better because it isn't trying to court every seller under the sun.

> They don't have to have a physical store near you.

They can get boxes to me so fast, they might as well. Their return process is also flawless.

As for inventory integrity, I agree that Amazon probably does worse. But I’ve never personally been bit by a purchase of a big brand name from them, so for now, they’ve still got my trust.

I used to think the same way about Fry's back in the day, until it came put that they were reshrinkwrapping broken returns amd putting them back on the shelves. After seeing the recent article about fake Chinese iPhones being returned to Apple stores for exchanges, I wonder what wave of fraud is next on the horizon. All of the stores you named have open box discount items too.

Had this happen to me - I returned an item to Fry's since it was completely nonfunctional. I explained that at the return desk. The guy nodded and took it. I wandered around the store for a while, then went to look for a replacement for the item, and saw the exact item I had just returned, back on the shelf with a small discount. I know it was the one I just returned because of the way the packaging had been cut open - they had just taped it up.

Haven't been back since.

If they are re-shrinkwrapping broken items then I guess things are even worse now since there is no way to even tell it is a return.

and it has US warranty.

When I had an issue with my MotoZ (which I got through same-day Prime delivery), Motorolla told me they won't cover it because the IMEI said its from India and can only be covered if I send it to India.

BestBuy in my experience makes it fairly hard. First you have to buy at their high price from the store. Then you must do customer support call and send them screenshot of Amazon listing within 14 days. I even tried that just to find that their website was down and other times they had office hours on different time zones. I wouldn't recommend price match for all but very determined customers. Their store employee refuses to match price on the spot even when shown Amazon website price.

That hasn't been my experience at all. I've used it twice in the last few months. Once for a SSD (saved $20), and once for a monitor (saved $160). In both cases, I asked about a price match and in both cases the person ringing me up checked the price on their phone, and then made the adjustment immediately.

I haven't had that problem. Once the appliance guy even price matched a more expensive dryer to a cheaper version because they didn't have that cheaper version we wanted in stock at the time.

Can best buy do in store pickup?

(Ex: I order online and the item is waiting for me rather than hunting through shelves)

If so I may consider cancelling prime, between that and Target offering free shipping to Red Card holders.


I’ve had bad experiences with B&H. I purchased a $1k+ gimbal from them for an upcoming project. I ordered it in advance so that I’d have some time to practice using it. Unfortunately, I delayed using it for a few weeks and when I finally opened the package, it was defective. When I reached them for a refund, they said there was nothing they can do as I was outside the return window. Based on my experiences with Amazon in the past I know I would have had a much better experience if I ordered from them. Regardless, I no longer trust B&H for buying expensive camera gear.

I bought a Leica M10 ($$$$) from them, and discovered a defect about a week after the return period expired. They took it back without a fuss.

We've gone with B&H in the last year and they are great. They also have educational institution discounts. Plus, they don't do strange things with the shipping.

B&H is my go to got certain electronics these days. I've always gotten exactly what I expected. Shipping cost seem higher, but I can deal with it for most part.

B&H has a worse history of warehouse worker abuse than Amazon.

Indeed, so I usually promote Adorama or Wex nowadays for USA and UK respectively.

True. they seem pretty solid. Do they do price matching?

They have a good return policy. They let me return three LG V30's in a row purely on the basis of customer dissatisfaction(LG's shite poled technology creating areas of uneven color temperature.)

Reply All did a great podcast in Amazon's recent drop in quality: https://www.gimletmedia.com/reply-all/124

Highly recommend.

I recently ordered a small device from Amazon, it was poor, so I gave it a 1 star rating with a short, negative review.

About a week later, I received an e-mail from the seller (via Amazon's payments communication system) asking for me to delete my review in return for being refunded the total amount, and stating that I could keep the device.

Whilst I didn't take up their offer, I assume many others did which shows how Amazon is 'not flooded with one-star reviews'.

I had exactly the same thing happen recently with a light bulb that wasn't nearly as bright as advertised. Seller said they'd refund me, let me keep the crappy bulb and send me a brighter and more expensive bulb for free.

I didn't take them up on this, as it wouldn't be fair for future customers; after all, I'd bought the crappy bulb because there were no bad reviews...

I reported 4 fake reviews to Amazon on a product I purchased before.

The product page had changed from the old one I originally purchased on to a new one with 4 obviously fake 5-star reviews. I found this when I went to re-purchase the product after it (an eBike) was stolen. The page is here (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07K2VLSX5/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_He...)

There is a review from me, calling out the fakes and providing detail, and the other 4 that are clear-as-day fakes. The previous product page, which I referenced in my report to Amazon, had numerous high quality, legit reviews averaging around 3 stars with tons of detail.

Amazon has made no changes after my report.

Is it possible there's a gulf between Amazon.com and Amazon.ca when it comes to these issues?

Maybe it's just in what I shop for but I haven't received a single counterfeit item, or come across fraudulent listings.

I've seen my fair share of imitation (and probably trademark-infringing) products and cheap crap, but I try and avoid that stuff.

So my experience has largely been positive—but there's no shortage of horror stories. That seems the norm around this board.

So I wonder is it just worse on the American side? (for reasons of volume or targeted marketing or whatever)

I’m in America and I too am confused at all the negative comments about counterfeits. I’ve personally ordered hundreds of items from Amazon, but never a counterfeit

Would you be able to tell if you got this fake? I probably wouldn't unless I already had one.


Maybe it's paranoia induced by the topic at hand, but I can't tell if your positive Amazon experience is genuine or counterfeit.

HN is legitimately the only place I’ve seen this complaint. I really wonder if it’s HNs buying practices that are the problem.

Well I suppose this comment is HN too from your perspective, but I also thought it was all HN until it happened to me. I was looking for Apple earphones, and found Apple earphones, and ordered them and it all looked great until they showed up, with a little cable tie in a clear plastic bag. And they worked, but when I then ordered Apple earphones off the Apple Apple branded Apple part of Amazon (which took a while to find and is covered in ads of knockoff Apple) I ordered them at the much higher price of $29.99. They arrived packaged in legit Apple trade dress, and I unfolded them from the cardboard packaging which I then used for the first Apple-but-not-Apple-Apple earphones. I first compared the two and sure enough they had minute differences and the Apple-Apple earphones sounded better...hard to say why but noticeably, and were louder at max volume, which is a difficult technical accomplishment. And the mic and buttons worked properly. Plus that packaging was as beautiful as Apple packaging has always been, I regarded it when it was empty as a paper insect that could be pinned to framed insectologist menagerie.

At any rate, I didn't lose much money and got more or less what I wanted, but...

Acting as a basic Joe Consumer I can tell fakes from reals with nothing but a browser, three minutes, and a simple checklist. Why can't Amazon which has a fucking battalion of mercenary machine learning cyborgs do the same a trillion times faster and cheaper and save me the (I can't believe I'm logging on to Amazon to check how much I wasted...) $12.70 I blew buying from "CR Land"?

Maybe you have just been lucky. I am in Amerina and have gotten poor quality items before from Amazon. I now try to check everything I buy from there and avoid the site altogether if I can. Some examples of bad products I have gotten are cheap usb cables which did not work, phone cases which peeled after 2 weeks of use and a coffee mug with a blurry poor picture printed on it. I have also found many very suspicious products that are very underpriced and have all 5 star reviews which get an F on fakespot.

I no longer buy from Amazon: batteries, chargers, flash drives/SD cards, any sort of food (or container for food)

essentially only stuff that's completely obvious if it's fake, or if it's too expensive/niche to bother counterfeiting

batteries, chargers, flash drives/SD cards, any sort of food

Also printer toner. The asking price is close to the price quoted on the manufacturer's website, but you never know if you'll get an original, a half-empty or a remanufactured cartridge, and the reviews reflect that. The cherry on top is that if you try to sell a spare cartridge yourself Amazon won't let you sell toner, you need to apply for permission!

I've read articles of people getting fake HAND SOAP from Amazon. You know, the less than $1/bar soap.

Fake laundry detergent is also a big one.

The fake bar soap has led me to believe that people will make counterfeits of anything they can.

You mean like knock-off dove? I mean, soap is pretty easy to make so unless its a knock-off I don't see what you mean by fake.

Have you had actual experiences with fake food? Some reviews for bottles of Evian or Fiji water sounded alarming when I wanted to order from Amazon (labels attached incorrectly, bottle cap unusual tint, things like that), so we just stuck with local supermarket delivery.

not personally but a work colleague had an experience with a load of fake tea bags (big saving on amazon? I wonder why!)

For batteries, AmazonBasics is pretty reliable

it's an awful state of affairs if you can only buy Amazon own branded goods because everything else is potentially fake

I'm not rewarding them for their incompetence

I have never had luck buying laptop battery from amazon. Nor a cell phone battery. They are all fake, since none of them would retain charge or even function. I could have extended the life of samsung S5 if i had been able to find a battery.

Try iFixIt next time: https://www.ifixit.com/Store/Android/Galaxy-S5-Replacement-B... Their prices are a bit more than what you’d find on Amazon, but I’ve found them to be higher quality

That might just be their strategy to take back their store.

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