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Amazon offered ‘Amazon’s Choice’ to vendors who bought ads and lowered prices (digiday.com)
395 points by ilamont on Aug 15, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 122 comments

While it is absolutely valid to discuss Amazon's market power and the nature of monopoly in the modern era, the ideas that a featured product would be featured because it makes the company more money is in no way scandalous!

If any retail store has an end-cap product placement of an item that they are featuring, everyone presumes it is because it is a profit maximizer for them. Why is it presumed that Amazon must be a more impartial arbiter of quality versus traditional brick and mortar retail? In part it is because Amazon is a marketplace, but both are middlemen (except for private label products from your grocery store or Walmart/target).

I would say the difference here is that you can’t see ratings/reviews from other buyers on an end-cap the same way you do online. So the phrase “Amazon’s Choice” suggests that there is a level of editorial oversight that might not exist if the phrase was “featured by Amazon.”

Overall, I agree that this isn’t a huge surprise, but I think the fact that Amazon has data on things like returns, ratings, reviews, makes it totally understandable why someone would assume a “choice” product was chosen because of those factors and not because the company paid to be featured.

"Amazon's Choice" certainly suggests editorial oversight, but only in the way that "Quality Inn" suggests quality. For anything that isn't an objective, measurable fact, companies are allowed to lie.

The difference is that Quality Inn represents itself as "quality". Amazon is advertising other products as being chosen by them. We know not to trust a company's claims about its product, but if you ask an employee about a product you expect an honest answer – not one based on a kickback, for example.

I worked for electronic stores in the 90s. Certain products gave more commission. We sold the products that paid more. I sold phones at some point.. Depending on the brand I might get an extra 5 dollars. Those are the phones that were sold more.

An employee isn't going to give you an objective honest answer or they would tell you walmart has it for cheaper.

I'm sorry, but that's BS. What brick and mortar store doesn't promote third party products in the exact same fashion?

Case in point, literally a brick and mortar store with "<store name>'s Choice" as the slogan, to market a brand created by a third party company: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam%27s_Choice

Unethical behavior is still unethical if other people are doing it too. In the case of Amazon there isn't a physical evaluation of a product if it's "on and end cap" and promoted like a typical brick and mortar store. I've purchased the Amazon Choice item many times as I didn't have time to read reviews on a dozen similar products and assumed the one they recommended was well rated, reliable, the best choice. If it was properly labelled "Featured by Amazon," I'd have assumed something very different and inspected the product carefully.

In a physical store, I have ignored the end cap because the product was visibly a smaller volume than a competitor at a similar price. I can also go to the aisle section and directly compare all the options the store presents vs products filtered down and advertised to me by Amazon's algorithms. There is bias but more transparency like bottom shelf vs eye level. Amazon is a black hole unless you still trust their review system.

It’s very common for stores to advertise money losing items to get people into the store. In store they often promote their extremely low price on something to make a positive association with their customers and move more products.

Amazon’s approach is micro optimized to make money today at the cost of customer satisfaction, a long term losing strategy.

PS: It might just be my circle of friends, but many Amazon early adopters have mostly moved on. That opening the box and wondering how you where screwed this time feeling is a major issue for the company.

Moved on to which alternatives?

Again, that's a store representing its own product in a certain way. And a full brand called "Amazon's Choice" isn't what's happening here.

By the sounds of it "Sam's Choice" is similarly deceptive. That doesn't let Amazon off the hook here though.

I don't see how Sam's Choice is deceptive. Private label product programs are created by retail organizations, often at the behest of the founders/top management (usually the same in family run retail organizations). This is how I imagine it went down:

-Sam Walton said "We should have a private label soda program. Loblaw in Canada has President's Choice." -Category manager of Soda floats this to potential suppliers. -Cott Beverage says "Hey, we'll do it. How 'bout we call it 'Sam's Choice'?" -Category manager of Soda says "Great! I'll tell Sam." (or more likely, the VP of Grocery/Merchandising) -Sam Walton says "Great Job! Sam's Choice, nice touch. That's my name!"

The way private label grocery works is very different. Private label CPG products are developed through partnerships between the retailer themselves, consultancies like Daymon Worldwide (now owned by Acosta), and producers (often called copackers in this instance). Depending on how commodified the product is (like canned corn or frozen vegetables), it might be simply a matter of white labeling and sourcing through reverse auctioning. Sometimes the retailer will work on the product development lifecycle to create unique offerings.

Generally speaking, these copackers do not pay the retailers to get into their store, because the retailer is paying them for these products, and the retailer is possibly sourcing at least the packaging if not the development on their own. Whereas Amazon acts as a platform, retailers actually purchase and take possession of the product that they have had some hand in creating. Essentially, PL (private label) products start much further back in the supply chain. By the time they reach store shelves (even by the time they reach the warehouse), the supplier has already made their profit. You would rarely if ever have a brand in a store that gets upgraded (or downgraded depending on the power of the retailer's brand) to private label due to sales considerations or lobbying on the copacker's part. If anything, the retailer might take on lesser known brands the copacker is trying to promote as part of their sales agreement, even though they could be the same exact product that is in the retailer's branded packaging.

Speaking to Sam's Choice specifically, as it relates to Amazon's Choice: - Sam's Choice is only tied implicitly to its retailer (at least as far as Walmart is concerned, at Sam's Club I'm sure the connection is far clearer). You need knowledge about the organization (or to read the packaging) to understand that this is a private label product. Amazon's Choice is much more explicit. - Amazon's Choice is a designation more than a brand. As far as I know, the products retain their own branding and identity. Most customers understand that private label products are not manufactured by the retailers themselves, but if you want to find out that Sams' Choice (and much of the private label soda and soda adjacent products category in the majority of food retail) is actually manufactured by Cott Beverage, you need to do some research. - The idea that Sam's Choice was "created" by Cott is kind of strange, though I can't dispute it directly. PL brands like Sam's Choice (and Great Value, Walmart's other PL brand) are owned by the retailer and usually entail working across multiple categories, which means working with multiple suppliers. It's possible that "Sam's Choice" the brand was created early enough during the evolution of the PL ecosystem that Cott coined the name of the brand (even though its almost a complete copy of President's Choice, the PL brand of the Canadian supermarket chain Loblaw), but to consider a PL product a "third party" product is very strange to me. Cott doesn't have any claim to Sam's Choice products that are produced in non-beverage categories.

Store employees might also have been incentivized to suggest a specific product based on kickbacks the store receives. There is a precedent there. You shouldn't expect unenforceable honesty from anyone.

> but if you ask an employee about a product you expect an honest answer

That just seems naive.

Not the OP, but I also expect an honest answer. But I'm wary that it might not be, because humans are humans and none are perfect.

hahaha, oh wow.

I have been completely incorrect on my interpretation of Amazon's Choice.

Historically when I searched for something, I've often find a product in the results with 80-90% of the features I'm looking for. That result was often listed as Amazon's Choice, so I built it up in my mind to mean "users of Amazon mostly get this one" I was fine with that because, like I said, it usually wouldn't fit the criteria exactly, but it was 80-90% of the way there so it made sense to me that it would be the choice of most people, but not all.

That's what the Amazon's choice feature is supposed to do. Instead of having their customers paralyzed by the many options they choose /something/.

> isn't an objective, measurable fact, companies are allowed to lie.

Pedantically, it isn't a lie if it isn't objective and measurable. It's an opinion, and opinions are not lies.

As for "Amazon's Choice", it's literally true. Amazon chose it. They make no representation as to why they chose it.

Even more pedantically, lying is all about intent to deceive. A correct statement is still a lie if you think it’s wrong. The key question here is: does Amazon intend to deceive? It’s probably impossible to know but the odds are decently good.

The more comparable products are Sam’s “President’s Choice” and Costco’s Kirkland. Both of which have long developed brand promises that represent at least above average quality and some level of curation. Choice is a specific word chosen by Amazon to give the impression its products have similarly been curated. It’s deliberate subterfuge.

I agree with other users. I took it as an official designation that Amazon had vetted the product and/or vendor for consistency, and that returns/reviews/volume of purchase were all factors in a genuine recommendation for the product.

I'm a tech savvy 30-something cynic, too. Think about how it would fool others.

If the name of the product or brand line was "Amazon's Choice" then I would consider it branding. But when used as a designation, I expect more.

> companies are allowed to lie.

And that's in no way scandalous?

Yes, I remember my local supermarket had 'recommended' products that were marked like they were specials, but were not actually discounted at all. I appreciated the business logic, but basically stopped shopping there.

Depends on what you mean by "allowed". Is it legal? Yes. Will customers retaliate when they find out -- or at least, learn to ignore that lie as just another marketing tactic with no value? More than likely.

> companies are allowed to lie

And this is just accepted. Ridiculous.

Again, though, the practice is pervasive. Are the "best value!" items you see at the ends of grocery aisles really the best value? How often are things "on sale" from prices for which they were never offered?

I mean, I guess it's OK to be outraged about this. But doing it specifically about Amazon seems maybe a little unobjective.

I find marketing in general outrageous. I'm not surprised by or find Amazon particularly egregious in their marketing. This is apparently the system we want, at least until no one wants it anymore.

I will almost subconsciously assign a negative mark to companies who aggressively market, and a positive mark to those I deem authentic (spoiler, very few). I'm at the point now that I'm saving a ton of money because I'm simply turned off by the hard sell. It's like when you immediately close a tab on an article you were about to read because 4 different "Join our newsletter" modals slid in. I'm guessing I'm not the only one (but maybe one of few?). Is it possible that marketing practices have gotten so out of hand that they are very gradually nudging consumers away from what they're selling?

Anyone know if marketers talk about this sort of backlash at w/e conventions they have, or is it just push push push. The data must identify at least a hint of a negative trend right? How long until there are "authenticity consultants"?

You're not the only one. I too am the less likely to buy something from someone the more they seem to be pushing it.

> How often are things "on sale" from prices for which they were never offered?

At least in the EU that's blatantly illegal.

Doesn't seem to stop shops from trying. I think the general workaround is "briefly raise prices, then make the sale price equal to original price".

If a mommy blogger who makes $0/month from her 'business' gets a free product to promote a product on a youtube video watched by 100 people, they have to disclose this. Even reviewers on amazon.

Yet Amazon charges for the 'Choice' wording without disclosing the financial side. And they are making way more, and therefore can be way more biased, than the mommy blogger who gets fined a few grand for not disclosing her endorsements.

More than just the monopoly situation, the extreme disparity in enforcement of rules, and the amount of fines as a percentage of yearly income, is quite galling.

Does your grocery store disclose the stocking fees paid for end isle placement?

Two wrongs = one right I take it? I don't agree.

Disclosure should apply across the board. I personally don't even agree with the disclosure rule, but if it's there, it should be for everyone under the same standard. That's actually literally the whole basis of the concept of rule of law.

Bloggers "have to" disclose free products they get? Who enforces that?

I've been under the impression that the ethical ones do, the rest don't.

> Bloggers "have to" disclose free products they get? Who enforces that?

In the US, it falls under the FTC.[1][2]

[1]: https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/ftc...

[2]: https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=e37d3cd088c6b4724a...

And Amazon does not have to:

> Does the FTC hold bloggers to a higher standard than reviewers for traditional media outlets?

> No. The FTC Act applies across the board. The issue is – and always has been – whether the audience understands the reviewer’s relationship to the company whose products are being recommended.

> If the audience understands the relationship, a disclosure isn’t needed

Surely the audience understands Amazon's relationship with... Amazon.

I'd suggest you fully read the text and enforcement you are quoting.

The FTC has a clear standard: Would the average person know that an endorsement was done for money.

Amazon's relationship... with is with it's sellers... is literally the topic of this whole post. I'm really not sure why you are bringing this up (amazon sometimes choosing it's own), other than to subtly defend something clear by muddling the waters.

To be clear: if I asked the average person whether an 'amazon preferred' product was a paid endorsement by the brand owner to amazon in the form of cash and revenue sharing... I'm sure they would say: "No, we didn't know that as being obvious'. That's the standard mommy bloggers are held to.

The thing is, Amazon will present the flimsy argument you brought up with a team of lawyers. The mommy blogger will just take the fine.

If you haven't dealt with the FTC, and seen the dirty sausage machine up close, I'd suggest you look into it before continuing on defending them.

Amazon's Choice is clearly labeled as Amazon's choice, not customers' choice or anything else.

It's not their fault that you ascribe weird motives instead of the obvious.

"Mommy Bloggers Choice product is clearly labeled "Mommy Bloggers Choice', not customers choice or anything else.

It's not their fault that you ascribe weird motives instead of the obvious."

See? It works both ways. The FTC doesn't allow this argument from Mommy blogger; it isn't applied evenly. I'll remind you that one of the higher ideals of the US is the rule of law.

BTW, I'm not ascribing anything, this is about FTC standards. If you don't know what fines the FTC puts out, I'd kindly suggest you research before further 'theory commenting'.

The vast majority of people don’t think about or understand advertising and marketing - if they did it wouldn’t work as well as it does.

Amazon has tons of little “ha ha tricked you” ways of making more money these days.

Next time you but an N-pack of anything on Amazon - more often than not the pack costs more per unit.. thats not how economy of scale is supposed to work right?

Generally when you see that, the N-pack is sold by a marketplace seller (and there's a good chance it was packaged that way by the mp seller to get a better chance of a sale by offering something unique).

I have noticed this in supermarkets as well. Either it is to trick the consumers but could equally be consumers would rather buy 6 cans of X in a pack than go to the effort of taking 6 cans individually off the shelf.

The easy proof of this is in the cracker section: "family size" is always priced more per unit than smaller sizes.

I don't know where you all shop but I check unit prices all the time and rarely see an inversion.

Agreed. It does happen, but it's an exception not the rule.

I spent my first 7 years out of college building business intelligence software for grocery retailers. My guess is that when it happens, it's a f-up rather than something nefarious. Especially with Amazon, whose seller interface is pretty much user-hostile.

I would say it happens commonly enough that one must constantly keep one's eye out. For example at my local H.E.B. I see this all the time.

64oz Store brand half and half: $3.50 (avg range $3.25-3.68)

32oz Store brand half and half: $1.50 (avg range $1.25-1.68)

Um, wat?

This thread will close by then, but I'll take a picture the next time I see it. Repost this in one year and I'll have something.

> everyone presumes

[citation needed]

Having spent time inside a number of industries, I think there's a huge difference between insider knowledge and general-public knowledge. I'd guess that the average shopper would think something ends up more visible because it's something shoppers buy more frequently.

Also, the notion that X is terrible does not justify Y being also terrible. Do people object more to new or newly-revealed terribleness? Yes. Is that a reason not to take their objections seriously? Not at all.

> the ideas that a featured product would be featured because it makes the company more money is in no way scandalous!

This is completely true for most retailers. In particular for in person sales where people can straight assume they are getting bullshitted to close the sale.

The disconnect comes from amazon’s relentless push for customer satisfaction, clear labeling of the promoted and sponsored entries, separation between popular choices and well rated products etc.

That’s a corner of shadiness where we don’t expect it, which ends in a shock.

It's clear that a promoted item can be paid for.

What looks unethical / abuse of monopoly-ish here is - you (business) something else completely unrelated, like ads or whatever, and in exchange they get an unrelated "Amazon's choice" tag.

It feels similar to a kickback/bribe.

Well, the fact that this has so many upvotes, sort of contradicts you. Some portion of people (maybe 15 or 20)% had brand-trust in amazon that their "choice" products were a service to the purchaser.

With that disproven, those same people (presumably the ones who were most trusting of Amazon) now have been bitten and are forced to reevaluate Amazon's honesty and Amazon's reputability. I imagine those upvoting this topic are the very 10-15% who find this behavior shocking and potentially self-destructive of amazon.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realize this is a dark-pattern. Amazon must realize that the "Amazon's choice" label ONLY increases sales if consumers misunderstand what that seal really means in that context.

A consumer has every right to feel outrage over intentional unethical behavior from a company. Similar deceit by other companies doesn't excuse this, nor does it mean the shopper's repulsion is invalid.

These days, I see Amazon as a combination of eBay and AliExpress with faster shipping and prices that are ~$2-3 higher.

I still use it a lot, because I'm almost always happy with what I get with those expectations. But it surprises me when people talk about it like some sort of heavily-curated marketplace.

Even so, it sounds like they haven't done what the title describes for a couple of years. FTA: "An agency source said that while this bidding program ran briefly in 2017, Amazon rolled it back and Amazon’s Choice badges are now driven by Amazon’s algorithms."

The need to have the return policy and customer service they have because some of the stuff they sell is just not high quality.

I buy Chinese products that are failure prone from them for this reason. Sure I could get it $10-15 cheaper from China if I wait 3 weeks and forgo the return option but I end up returning that junk so often that it’s worth paying 15% more

I have a fairly good eye for products that will fail right out of the box, so I prefer not to pay extra for a returns policy.

There is typically an inverted failure curve on these things, if it doesn’t fail the first 30 days of hard use then there is a good chance it will last another couple years.

Which, when you paid $8 for fancy lab equipment that would cost $800 normally, is fiiiiine.

This is arguably true for any store, it's just that Amazon mostly has done it better. Every single store on earth will disappoint you at one time or another.

It also surprises me people aren't bothered that all the 'customer friendly' BS will go away once they become an absolute monopoly.

>To be considered, Amazon required brands to be able to keep products in stock for a 12-month duration, keep customer review ratings above four stars, and maintain certain technical specifications for their respective subcategories.

i don't see anything wrong with this. Essentially, if multiple products in a category are all good enough to be recommended, amazon was selling the featured slot instead of picking one of the contenders randomly. They weren't selling the featured slot to undeserving products.

I'd agree if they're was any oversight of the review process. Instead, they have the same score gaming problem as app stores. There are literally sellers that send competing products and their own products to random people so they (the sellers' themselves) can post fake reviews as verified purchases. Hell, even having to mark reviews as verified should be enough to make people doubt the legitimacy of all reviews on the store.

Unless the product is failing in catastrophic ways that inspire loads of pissed off customers, 3 stars is the new 0 stars and be suspicious of anything with a high number of reviews. High review count means the seller had to stuff the ballot box to make up for lower score real reviews or a fake review battle with a competitor.

My latest way of weeding out the more egregious fakes (in addition to ReviewMeta and FakeSpot) is to look for customer pics that are either just pictures of the box, item not being used, or, to a lesser extent, promo styled (nice lighting and odd angles). Also, a quick scan of early reviews to see if there were more low ratings or mentions of a completely different product. Some sellers will pay for or get legit good reviews on an item, then swap the item number to a new item in the same category. Same goes for having multiple very different items in one listing as purchase options (4 options for a keyboard - red color, blue color, travel mouse, fishing lure set).

Look at the reviews for Amazon's choice for "iphone charge audio". The questions, pictures and reviews are about some totally unrelated product. I'm not sure if Amazon sold this slot, or just randomly chose from a huge assortment of crap listings.

(Though seriously, if anyone has a recommendation of a decent product to charge an iPhone and allow audio out at the same time, please post it)

This is what I see for the search terms "iphone charge audio", it's the exact same thing as you:

Headphone Adapter for iPhone 8 Adapter AUX Audio Jack Adapter for iPhone X Dongle Splitter [Audio+Charge+Volume Control+Call ] Dual Earphone Cable Converter for iPhone XR/XS/7 Plus Support iOS 13 by VNKSUG


Archive links:



It's got an Amazon Choice badge, but most of the reviews appear to be for a workout/fitness band and a dice bag.


Here's the archive of my search results page for those terms. It's interesting to note the ARCHIVE IS NOT WHAT I SEE outside of the archive. I see the VNKSUG item first, and I don't see the AmazonBasics cables at all.



I see the same problem you describe. I got [0] as the Amazon's Choice And here's my favorite review: The hip resistance circle bands arrived exactly as expected! I love the colors and how heavy duty they are. When I first took them out of the package I compared them to another rubber band set that I already have but are not as heavy duty as these ones. As soon as just testing them, I could feel the resistance and was starting to work up a sweat.

[0] https://www.amazon.com/Headphone-Adapter-Splitter-Earphone-C...

this [1] is what i see listed as amazon's choice. it's got 4 stars, and it's in stock. the reviews aren't amazing, but it looks like a competent solution in a category full of terrible options. the same product is the first result of a google search for the same terms. It looks to me like amazon's choice is probably the best option.

[1] https://www.amazon.ca/Belkin-Audio-Charge-Adapter-iPhone/dp/...

Bluetooth or an iPhone SE

Do you want the best product for the price, or an OK product with someone else getting an extra cut?

I want the best product for the price, but i wouldn't trust amazon to make that choice for me.

"Amazon's choice" is always going to be about what's best for amazon. that can either be some opaque criteria that the sellers can try to game, or amazon can just be honest about it and sell that spot instead of giving it to whatever seller cheats the best. I trust that the "amazon's choice" listing for any search is good enough, and not defective or fraudulent. beyond that i'm either going to do my own research if it's something i really care about, or i'm going to buy amazon's choice if i decide that i don't really care and i value not having to think about it.

It's literally right there in the name - Amazon's Choice.

"Someone else" (Amazon) was always getting an extra cut. That's exactly the value proposition of a retailer. I mean, there's some complexity here that you don't see with physical retail due to the affiliate relationship, but the principle doesn't change. The whole point to going to a store for an item is that you know they'll stock it in an easily accessible form and quantity that you would have a hard time sourcing from an original manufacturer. And we've always been willing to pay for that service with a markup.

> The whole point to going to a store for an item is that you know they'll stock it in an easily accessible form and quantity that you would have a hard time sourcing from an original manufacturer. And we've always been willing to pay for that service with a markup.

That's the expected cut. It's not extra at all.

The extra cut here is giving someone else a kickback and you get exactly zero value for those extra dollars.

Isn't this obvious? I mean I'm pretty cynical, but the first time I ever saw "amazon's choice" I figured oh - they have a higher profit margin on this or something - it's obviously not (necessarily) the best thing for me.

Is it obvious? People could just as well think it's something like Trader Joe's, where the first hurdle for selection is quality.

One of the big problems with e-commerce is trust, and I could easily see some bright spark at Amazon saying, "What if we did extensive testing, found the best-value item in each category, and gave it our blessing? We could reduce decision fatigue, increase revenue, and strengthen our customer bond."

We see Wirecutter out there making good money on doing exactly that, so it's not crazy to think Amazon would just do that themselves.

Quality is the first hurdle for Amazon's Choice. Trader Joe's does the exact same thing. They promote and sell stuff that makes them money. They offer don't even let alternate brands into the store!

Wirecutter sometimes recommends (on commission!) products in categories they specifically recommend against buying, like SFF PCs!

> Wirecutter sometimes recommends (on commission!) products in categories they specifically recommend against buying, like SFF PCs!

Is that supposed to be a bad thing? Listing the best of the category, while also rating the category as a whole, means they're going above and beyond on what their job is! It's not a moral failing that their recommendations come with the context of "inside the category", that much should be obvious. And they can't tell you which products are """objectively""" worth your money, either.

Quality products likely have better margins.

Not obvious for me. I'm cynical too but always assumed it was based on some combination of brand trust, user satisfaction, and price.

I had assumed these were products that they were making on an in house contract to undercut the inventor but it’s not even that good

I can just picture Jeff Bezos dictating a reply to a customer:

"We said it was Amazon's choice, not the editor's choice. But here's a 5 dollar credit - we value your feedback at Amazon."

>we value your feedback at Amazon

And its exact value is $5!

Wasn't obvious to me. I had assumed editorial oversight.

> Isn't this obvious?

Not really. What's the point of this post, are you looking for someone to pat you on the back and tell you well done?

There are plenty of times people think their guess is the obvious truth, but it falls apart when examined. Gathering and presenting evidence to better examine our own assumptions about a situation should be a positive act.

Unrelated, but lately I'm frustrated that so many household items I want to buy are mostly available only in some kind of bulk pack. No, I don't want 6 bottles of dish soap if I don't yet know I like it. And it seems sometimes the bulk pack is even cheaper than a single item, like how a round-trip can be cheaper than a one-way. Also weird are the paid shipping options for me, even with Prime - most often if I chose to pay more for shipping it would schedule the package to arrive later than sooner, vs the free shipping being the fastest option. I don't know why I'm even presented with that choice.

This seems a bit like the online equivalent of stories auctioning off display space at high-visibility positions in their stores.

What's odd is there isn't any outcry over stores doing that, and they don't even label promoted placement. At least Amazon labels product ads. That said, the opacity of Amazon's Choice is still concerning.

-My bad-

[Citation needed]

Nowhere in that article is Amazon's choice mentioned.

Amazon has always taken a pretty libertarian stance on selling books. It's been a dilemma for the company since inception. What is and isn't okay to sell.

I agree there should be some moderation, but I don't see anything wrong with the article you posted.

You're correct, my mistake. I misread that article while reading about a different story about Amazon's Choice.

to put it simply: do not buy from 'amazon choice' vendors.

read the reviews instead.

I am not sure I would trust reviews either.

Everything is some sort of hustle. Companies pay for reviews. Reviewers often have no idea how to use the product. All you can really do is be ready to throw what you get in the trash if you don't like it.

> All you can really do is be ready to throw what you get in the trash if you don't like it.

Are you kidding? I buy from Amazon specifically because returns and refunds are so easy.

Yep. Most of the time for smaller items the seller doesn't even want me to send the item back. It's _almost_ no risk.

Not all third-party merchants have the same return policy.

At least in the UK, if you contact them and they don't resolve it, contact Amazon and you'll get a refund (and presumably they charge it back to the seller) under its 'A-Z Guarantee'.

That said, I've never bought higher value items from third parties via Amazon, so that may be a different experience. But I basically treat non-fulfilled by Amazon as eBay in terms of trust/expectations.

What reason do you put for the return? Because usually they end up charging a return shipping fee unless I drive to their hub.

Caveat emptor: if you process too many returns, Amazon will outright ban you from shopping there ever again. I know this might be anecdote, but it is true.

I'll hope and assume it's as a percentage of sales.

To be clear, I'm not 'taking advantage' like buying something I need to use once and then returning it out whatever - I just appreciate that if the item arrives broken, or not as described/fit for purpose that I can return it with minimal hassle.

I've bought products where I wonder if I am in some alternate reality. They are just so demonstrably awful and did not perform their basic function to the point of being borderline false description.

This is not a new phenomenon. About 25 years ago, I bought an airbed and a pump from Argos (UK), a popular bricks and mortar retailer. They had two pumps that worked with that airbed, and I bought the cheaper of the two.

But it just didn't work, because of something about the way the tube joined the body of the pump. It didn't look like a manufacturing variation, but a design flaw.

I returned the pump and paid more for the more expensive one, which worked fine.

The free multimeter from Harbor Freight is like that. One of the leads snapped off internally the first time I used it. I opened it up and it was held against pressure using a plastic weld which had failed immediately.

Harbor Freight is for single-use tools. I think everyone knows that by now.

I agree. Take everything with a grain of salt. In addition, I use Fakespot. It gives products a letter grade based on how "fake" their reviews are. Not perfect, but another data point.

The vendors are starting to combat fakespot by messaging "A" accounts and offering to give them off platform refunds for good reviews. It works because even when they message someone like me, I haven't figured out how to report it to Amazon. They don't seem to have a "report future fraud" feature.

Please don't just throw things in the trash if you do not like them. Return and buy back options are available. Additionally even if you do not like something it may still be worthwhile to donate. If all else fails at least try to recycle before throwing it in the trash.

Returned items are passed to an ecosystem of specialized companies. In most cases, the small minority of good stuff is resold and the chaff goes to landfill.

Before returns enter that ecosystem they may be stolen en route, placed back in an Amazon FC, resold on Amazon as new, returned by customer, stolen en route, placed back in an Amazon FC, resold on Amazon as new...


I've been using reviewmeta.com to help with this. They even have a Chrome extension. I'm sure it's not perfect, but hopefully it helps.

That is true, of course. However, the reviews offer a valuable, though noisy, signal: one star reviews uncover design issues with a product.

A lack of one star reviews (like 100% five star reviews seen in some products) point to obvious manipulation and should also serve as a red flag.

I should have said: read the reviews and use your head (d'oh!)

Or stop buying from Amazon ;-)

You think other retailers don't have the same issues?

No they do not. For example, every single memory card I got from amazon was fake, even if I explicitly selected "Amazon" as seller. Meanwhile every single card I ordered from Newegg was original and high speed.

How many memory cards did you order that you can measure both? I know Amazon has a problem with counterfeits, but it's a bit hyperbolic to say all Amazon bad, all Newegg good. Anecdotally all the controllers I've bought from Game in the UK have been sold as "new" but actually open box and used, whereas every one I've bought from Amazon has been legit.

Is that a problem specific to the US?

I have ordered a few memory cards from Amazon by now in Europe, and I've never had issues with them. I don't think I have ever received a fake item from Amazon. Not where I've noticed it anyway.

Disclaimer: Work at Amazon Not sure? I built a new PC recently and didn't run into any problems with counterfeits when I got everything from there

Weird... I have ordered a dozen or so memory cards from Amazon and have never received a fake one.

How do you identity a memory card as fake? Did it function?

You use CrystalDiskMark to benchmark it. Visual inspection as well. Most real cards are made in China, knockoffs are made in Malaysia but its not always the case. Counterfeit will be 1/3rd of the speed of regular one and most likely much shorter shelf life since its pretty much old generation chips used.

I build custom video setups as hobby so I say overall probably I got over 150 cards from Amazon (at least half were fake) and some 100 from Newegg so far (last 3 years) and haven't had a single fake from Newegg. [mostly I use Sandisk and Lennar cards]

For many smaller items, I prefer the ease and convenience over price differences or occasional bad products. I know I'm not alone in this and it shows how much experience matters in purchasing.

My suggestion would be to reconsider local shops—even if they’re chains—as they’ve gotten much better at stocking good items these days. (Obviously this can’t apply for everything) Many stores have drive-up pickup and ship-to-store options, and have even gotten better about stocking good products on their shelves.

I have started to consider stores as “immediate delivery” over the two-ish day delivery of Amazon, and it has really helped me leave the Amazon machine. I never really needed all the impulse purchases from Amazon, and more standard purchases are far more convenient than any subscription or Dash purchase could ever be. And if the item is a dollar or two more? Oh, well; if I could upgrade my two-day shipping to “get it in 20 minutes” shipping for $2 more, then I’d probably do it.

You might have a different experience or a wider range of purchase history than me, but unsubscribing from Amazon Prime and driving to the store was a great choice for my shopping needs.

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