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Amazon is shipping expired food, customers say (cnbc.com)
464 points by rahuldottech 29 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 217 comments

A key problem with the complaints is that customer reviews don't† take into account the effect of commingling. The expired food might have come from a different seller initially, but you were sent it because of Amazon's supply line optimisations.

Amazon will know but when you write your review or read someone else's, you won't.

Same problem as counterfeit goods and commingling though iirc there are more control in place on perishables so this aspect of the problem rears its head less often.

[†] they can't, we as customers don't have access to the information to know the route items took to get to us

> A key problem with the complaints is that customer reviews don't† take into account the effect of commingling.

There is no problem with the complaints. Consumers ordered something, paid for it and got a bad product. They have every right to complain and shouldn't be required to "take into account" operational failures of the company they did business with.

> The expired food might have come from a different seller initially, but you were sent it because of Amazon's supply line optimisations.

How is that the consumer's problem?

I think the parent's thought is "How do you rate an otherwise great product that is sullied by Amazon's poor inventory management?"

In a situation like this, it seems like the best approach is to put pressure on Similac and others to remove their offerings from Amazon.

Commingling isn't a problem with the complaints. Commingling reflects a deliberate profit motivated decision at the highest level of Amazon's management. Amazon executives have evaluated the health risks of commingling food. The safety risks of commingling electronics. They've calculated it more profitable to lawyer up when bad things happen.

> Commingling isn't a problem with the complaints.

I think they mean that commingling necessarily eliminates the viability of merchant malfeasance analysis in reading reviews, not that the complainers did anything wrong. Just that you can't trust the products from even the most trustworthy shop because someone _else_ might be trying to cheat the marketplace. The review system applies to products, but mostly it applies to individual product _specimens_. And if you don't know whether bad specimens came disproportionately from a particular merchant, then the real value of reviews has been diminished.

Amazon could EASILY handle comingly to seller's products if Amazon added a seller id sticker to packages it receives... go ahead and comingle, when you get the complaints, you can tie the item to the actual seller, seller does too bad, permanent ban. Problem would solve itself out... Amazon absolutely refuses to do this, yet hides behind its' negligence with "we're a market."

Skip the spider. Big table. Borg. "Merchant malfeasance analysis" is simple. Amazon is the merchant. The other view is bullshit. Well promoted bullshit. But bullshit nevertheless.

> Skip the spider. Big table.

I don't understand these expressions.

"Spider," another name for web crawler. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_crawler

"Big table" Google web database https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bigtable

"Borg" is the 'kubernetes' inside of Google https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borg_(cluster_manager)

...what does any of that have to do with Amazon? Are you just free-associating?

I'm going to take a stab at this.

>Skip the spider.

Maybe an exhortation to not think of being a customer of Amazon like being a spider in a web. Spiders know where the next meal is by vibrations in the fabric of the web, which if we imagine the negative comments as vibrations caused the receipt of a skeevy item from a seller in the network as a naieve attempt to track a skeevy supplier, we're not going to get what we want due to the comingling problem.

>Big Table. Instead, you have to think of Amazon as a big frickin' table onto which everyone throws their stuff. Amazon is basically the de facto merchant in all cases where fulfillment by Amazon is used. Since they bin by item, and not item/source, you get an assimilation going on.

>Borg: Essentially, Amazon is this. They absorb all the uniqueness of all of their suppliers, and essentially dissolve/absolve any particular supplier of singular skeevyness since all the skeevy gets laundered through FBA. Even if you have mostly upstanding sellers, the smaller populations of skeevy sellers benefit, because their fulfillment when picked have a high probability of being good, while the upstanding vendors are guaranteed to eventually eat negative reputation from skeevy merch being used to fulfill their orders.

>Merchant malfeasance analysis is simple: It actually is. You just separate out each source's inventory and track fulfillment from that inventory. Easy-peezy from a data point of view, but incompatible with real world physical constraints. The physics of the matter would be way too infeasible to implement, since there would need to X^n physical buckets where X is the number of items, and n is the number of suppliers of that item. If you were to track every type of item in clearly separated sub inventories keyed by source. That just wouldn't be physically or fiscally possible, because now Amazon needs pickers not just for stuff, but for supplier's of stuff. Suddenly, Amazon is open to potential complaints on relative picker staffing between suppliers, even if you somehow managed to handwave away the physical space requirements.

>The other view is Bullshit. The other view being that the Amazon marketplace backed by FBA allows for any type of reputation based curation. While the marketing team pounds that drum, it won't work in a world with limited physical space, as explained above.

Did I get it right?

I read it as:

- the “spider” being metonymic for Amazon’s web, i.e. the big, apparently tangled, globe-covering supply chain that Amazon has built

- the “big table” to be the proverbial “grown-ups’ table” that Amazon is sitting at, in contrast to the suppliers at the kids’ table

- the rest is clear. You can’t blame the assimilated (suppliers); blame the assimilating Borg (Amazon) and so on

Um, have you recently eaten something purchased from Amazon?

The previous poster clearly means that it is bad that negative reviews can't effectively convey information to consumers on Amazon. I'm sure they don't mean to defend Amazon or suggest that it is not culpable.

The call for external fine grained merchant analysis as a productive way to solve the problems of commingling is inconsistent with holding Amazon accountable. It is consistent with the view that Amazon is not responsible for what it ships from its warehouses. "Amazon is just a logistics platform" is bullshit.

I agree?

I already said I think Amazon is bad and should feel bad.

Not only am I not calling for "external fine grained merchant analysis", I can't find anyone who is, and I don't know what that means.

This argument is so weird that I'm beginning to wonder if you're a bot or farming rep or something, which would actually be pretty funny, and also impressive since you have 35k karma.

Amazon is a corporation. It doesn't have emotional states.

There's no commingling for food or any other products with expiration dates.

Fulfilled by Amazon is a complete mess and they should be tried for mail fraud.

Co-mingling? Sellers should be furious, and customer should boycott. Why isn't this just called fraud?

I can't trust Amazon to deliver what I ordered, period. Lesson learned.

I'm confused as to what you think is mail fraud? Amazon is just fulfillment in these cases. It's clearly marked in the same place on every page, and as such, avoidable. It's purely a profit motive for Amazon, but I don't see how it's mail fraud.

I think the complaints are perfectly valid. If you sell something on Amazon I believe you can choose to not have your product commingled [1]. If you don't do this, then you are accepting the risk that comes with commingling.

[1]: https://sellercentral.amazon.com/forums/t/how-to-prevent-com...

Is there additional cost to not comingle? I can't find it mentioned after some searches.

I wonder, at what point would it be economical to pay the additional costs to not comingle product?

Would adding "For customer assurance, we do not comingle our product with other products sold on Amazon" yield additional purchases? At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if nobody looks at your posting because it's 3-20% more exoensive than the knockoffs.

You can't have a "not-illegal" version for 3 - 20% more. The solution is to hold Bezos to the same laws as all other businesses so Amazon has appropriate due diligence instead of creating a quasi-criminal organization. Relentlessly apply the law until Bezos is working within it.

Knockoffs aren't the only reason to not commingle. For example, maybe I start a business called "Fresh Batteries" where all batteries I sell have at least 2 years until expiry. I don't want those commingled because a battery with one year until expiry isn't bad, it just isn't what I'm selling.

My hypothetical batteries might be more expensive but depending on your needs, they might be a better value.

> Is there additional cost to not comingle? I can't find it mentioned after some searches.

No direct additional cost.

But then you need to apply seller-specific FBA barcodes to all your units (or pay Amazon to apply them for $0.20 per unit).

Did this change? I thought there used to be a direct additional cost to not comingle.

I'm not aware of it ever having been otherwise, but I haven't always followed FBA developments that closely.

So, effectively, you want to allow Amazon to offer a surcharge to "(help) minimize the risk of you buying counterfeit items"??

Also, if you are producing counterfeit items, presumably your costs are lower, so you're actually _better_ equipped to absorb the "no comingle" surcharge than the legitimate seller.

Talk about perverse incentives and enabling.

"Oh hey! Sorry I hit you with this car, what you've got to understand is that I was trying to optimize my way through this red light."

You can't "move fast and break things" if those things are basic food and safety regs.

1000%. If the Tylenol tainting scandal happened in 2019, would it have been sold through Amazon’s supply chain?

Are Amazon comingling foods?

Wouldn't that make them responsible for the expiry dates? And a whole lot of other things to boot?


Further, if I were an FBA seller, I would probably avoid shipping in expired goods in case they are checked. There's also the issue of goods passing expiry if they are warehoused too long.

I suspect many of the expired food sellers are actually FBM, just like the used book sellers. Avoids a lot of potential headaches associated with FBA.

I work for an e-commerce data analytics. I don't have the exact numbers, but I recall many of the Grocery sellers are using FBA.

Why do you think the booksellers don't use FBA? We see plenty of FBA sellers listing used books as new.

Is it possible that this is just a stupid, simple sorting bug in the warehouse software?

As a battle scarred developer, I'm primed to think about issues like some algorithm decided LIFA was faster than FIFO, and it's worth my time to investigate whether my coworker didn't differentiate between perishable and non-perishable because they were so pleased with their shortest route algorithm that they couldn't be bothered by trivialities like reality and biology. They'll probably even blame it on their boss instead of on avoiding confrontation.

It's more likely that they have bins of stuff, and the pickers just grab whatever they grab without regard for first/last in/out.

No, anything with an expiration date is ineligible for commingling.

> A key problem with the complaints is that customer reviews don't† take into account the effect of commingling.

Why should they take comingling into account? Why should I, as a customer, care? I don't want to know the details of your implementation. I don't care. I ordered some stuff. I gave you money: ship me the stuff I ordered.

Don't ship me some other similar stuff that isn't what I ordered, and don't ship me what I did order but in bad shape. Ship me what I ordered and paid for, and ship it in good condition.

All you've told me with your statement is that the implementation sucks, and now you're trying to blame me for it.

No, I'm sorry: Amazon commingling sucks.

I know I sound grumpy, and will readily admit this is a first world problem, but I've just gone through nearly three weeks of arsing around to get an item returned substantially because of what appears to be a comingling issue[1]. Who has the time for this? Comingling sucks. It needs to stop.

[1] Although I obviously can't be entirely sure it isn't the third party sellers fault.

Commingling is bad, but does commingling mean they can't trace it back to which seller sent it to them for FBA?

If they can, they can penalize that seller, not the other seller (who won the sale).

I'm assuming Amazon has a unique id for every individual item in their warehouses. I'm not sure this is the case, but it seems likely given how their warehouses are organized and the location of stuff is very mixed up and only known to computers. (It would also be sufficient if they have unique ids for lots. If one seller sends 10 identical perishable items and Amazon groups those on a shelf together, they can still trace it back to the right seller.)

> but does commingling mean they can't trace it back to which seller sent it to them for FBA? If they can, they can penalize that seller...

Correct, they can't trace it, so they can't penalize.

> I'm assuming Amazon has a unique id for every individual item in their warehouses.

They don't. If they did, there would be some kind of unique bar code on every item you received from Amazon.

Commingling (in this context) doesn't necessarily mean that the products are literally sitting in the same bin as the same product from another seller. Each seller's items could be kept in separate bins if put in the same warehouse. Then when one of that product is ordered, the picker is told to go to a specific bin to get it. Amazon would then still know which seller's product they sold you.

The actual advantage of commingling comes from the fact that amazon doesn't have to distribute every sellers items across the US. They can just send you one from the closest warehouse.

Yeah I'm struggling with the notion of why commingling prevents audit trails. You don't even have to use separate bins for audits, although I admit that makes it pretty trivial. You just need a label.

That takes up more warehouse space, which is what Amazon is trying to avoid. Much easier to put it all into one big bin, and if you want, they can charge you to have your own bin.

Seems easy enough to work around. Just fill the extra space with completely different products. Put the other seller's products in a different location, also mixed in with other stuff.

The rule would be that you can put two products together if they are either the same seller (in which case you don't need to distinguish) or a different product (in which case you can distinguish visually).

Amazon already mixes different products in the same slot in order to optimize space anyway.

A unique barcode on the item would be one way to do it, but not the only way.

For example, a common thing to do on conveyors is to have reusable open-top plastic bins called "totes". (Think of going through airport security where you stick your luggage items into a plastic tray or tub that sits on the conveyor as it goes through the x-ray machine.) The totes can have barcodes on them, which can be used to track whatever is inside the tote.

Amazon could use a system like that to individually track items as they're being moved on and off shelves. And while on the shelves, it could track items by position (a database saying this particular item is on that position of that shelf). By combining these two things, they could track the position of individual items without sticking barcodes on them.

I don't know whether Amazon actually does this. I'm just saying it's not impossible.

The FAQ on seller help pages (at least in Europe) specifically says that they track commingled inventory by having their warehouse storage logic assign units from different sellers always into separate bins.

This article has comments from Amazon US spokesman who confirms it is the same over there: https://outline.com/4R7fp6

This is incorrect. https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/external/200141480 explicitly stated that they track which seller it comes from.

They don't need to label each product, they just need to know which location it came from and store different sellers products in different locations, which they do.

> If they can, they can penalize that seller, not the other seller (who won the sale).

That is fine for complaints raised directly through the specific complaint channel(s).

It doesn't help with complaints recorded as (or as part of) reviews, which might not have a corresponding official complaint. If I see mention of expiry dates and similar issues in reviews I don't have any assurance that this refers to the supply of product I'd be getting items from if I ordered.

People will often not bother with an official complaint unless it is an expensive item that they want a refund on, they instead go the "less paperwork" route of leaving a negative review, binning the item, and ordering from elsewhere.

I see a LOT of product reviews that are really seller feedback, and I wish Amazon would fix this. They need to have it so that wherever the user happens to find themselves (product review page, order page, support page, etc.), they are guided toward leaving the right kind of feedback. Instead of relying on users to be really familiar with how Amazon works and find the right place on their own.

For example, on the product review page, right now they have a blank called "Write your review". Instead, they could require you to indicate what kind of feedback you're offering, giving choices like "review the product itself" and "review the performance of Joe Schmoe, the seller for order #1234 on date 456" and with no default selected. Or just give you two blanks labeled "product review" and "seller review".

You also raise another issue which is that there's baggage associated with raising an official complaint. People don't necessarily want to deal with it, or they don't want to cause trouble and feel like filing a complaint is the nuclear option. I'm sure Amazon's attitude is that if something is wrong it should be made right, but that's not what every customer realistically wants.

I've seen conflicting reports on whether they can but that's less important than (the appearance?) that they don't.

"This terrible thing has happened in an area you're responsible for and you failed to catch/address it. Is this because you didn't have the required resources, because you're incompetent, or because you're corrupt? If it was resources, what do you need and why didn't you have it?"

> The expired food might have come from a different seller initially, but you were sent it because of Amazon's supply line optimisations.

Amazon took my cash, amazon should be responsible. The fact that they can't keep track of the goods they sell (also seems to be a problem with counterfeits) is their problem, even if they do their best to blame their suppliers.

> The fact that they can't keep track of the goods they sell (also seems to be a problem with counterfeits) is their problem

They can keep track. The do keep track.

So it isn't a problem for them unless it causes enough issues for us (the buyers) that we start going elsewhere and affecting the bottom line. We don't have access to that information, so we can't track the matter. Perhaps even the vendors can't either (I've never sold via Amazon so don't know at all).

[though others are saying the commingling does not affect products with expiry dates so we may be a little off topic for this sub-thread, unless that only applies to expiry dates and not best before dates which have difference legal standing - the discussion has got to the point where speculation is getting wilder and an injection of some cited facts may be needed to rein it in]

The seller is still Amazon. If Amazon chooses to "optimize" by shipping third-party garbage instead, that is their problem.

And they should still be able to be held liable for what they ship.

If I get salmonella from lettuce at a grocery store, I still get to hold the grocery store accountable, even if the farmer was to blame.

What would that look like?

“Item not as described / book clearly used / food item out of date, but probably came from a commingled bin so possibly not the result of the seller I purchased from. Full marks, five stars, perfect ten.”?

Products that expire are not eligible for commingling, period. See https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/external/200141480

Inventory isn’t commingled between sellers for the same SKU.

I don’t know why I’m being downvoted - Amazon FBA does not commingle seller inventory. The products sold by a seller are only the ones they shipped to FBA. If you request your inventory back, you will only get the ones back you sell. So if a seller sends in a bunch of counterfeit items for a listing, those are physically separated and don’t get mixed with the good inventory that is there.

There are multiple sellers for the same product and they could definitely have bad/old inventory - and they will win the buy box with the lowest price - but it’s still not commingled.

I think you’re being downvoted because what you state is contrary to what most people have heard: i.e. that inventory for the same SKU from different sellers is in fact commingled. You might want to provide some citations if you want to convince people otherwise.

After so many stories and experiences with fakes, why would anyone still buy items in Amazon that are otherwise typically found in pharmacies or grocery stores?

In my experience Amazon ships:

Food that is expired or fake Drugs that are expired or fake Batteries that are expired or fake

I've even received fake diapers! Very well done fakes too: we only noticed because of a very small logo that are included in the real ones.

I use Amazon only for high ticket items that are unlikely to harm me, and then only because of their easy return policy (Epson, I'm looking at you)


1) because your local store doesn't have it (stores run out of things like the specific shampoo or deoderant or detergent all the time, e.g. probably 2/3 of the time they have regular Tide but not Tide Unscented)

2) because depending on the item, it can be 30-50% cheaper on Amazon (drugstore prices in Manhattan are highway robbery), or

3) because you need another $5 or $10 item to meet the free shipping threshold, so might as well stock up on Q-tips because you'll need them eventually.

Also, expired/fake items are extremely rare, despite the media attention. In about a decade of ordering many, many hundreds of items on Amazon, I once received a counterfeit camera battery (which was quickly refunded) and once received a jar of nuts that was close to, but not at, its expiration. (I also try to order items sold by Amazon directly, and I've never personally been hit by a comingling issue.)

So... that's why.

I'll match your anecdote with mine. Before I canceled Prime, 30% of my previous 10 orders were defective or counterfeit. 3 in 10. Before that it was trending a bit above 10%. I finally got sick of it and don't order anything from Amazon anymore.

I'll counter your anecdotes:

I've never had a defective or counterfeit order in more than 100+ orders on Amazon of electronics, household items, or foodstuffs. And yes, I've checked.

How do you avoid counterfeits, etc on Amazon?

Simple: never buy from a seller that isn't Amazon.com. They don't commingle their own inventory with third party sellers. Commingling is merely a "feature" they offer to other sellers.

They maintain their inventory separately for product liability law reasons. In a nutshell, if they don't under most US product liability laws, Amazon is strictly liable for all damages related to the use (including potentially misuse) of a defective product they sold.

> why would anyone still buy items in Amazon that are otherwise typically found in pharmacies or grocery stores?

Presumably with the following logic:

* I went to Big Box Computer Store and they tried to charge me $$$ for a gold-plated Monster USB cable when I could get a perfectly good one for much less online.

* Therefore, there's precedent for me finding things online for a fraction of the price at big box retailers.

* Amazon has a pack of 8 Duracell-brand AA batteries for half the price of the nearest supermarket.

> Amazon has a pack of 8 Duracell-brand AA batteries for half the price of the nearest supermarket.

Are you sure they're not counterfeit?

Watch those batteries. The batteries at a wholesale club are dated 9-11 years out.

I’m looking at a box of batteries I received last week. They expire in 2020.

> why would anyone still buy items in Amazon that are otherwise typically found in pharmacies or grocery stores?

Sometimes, it's comparing a one hour drive to the nearest town vs. waiting one day for free shipping.

>After so many stories and experiences with fakes, why would anyone still buy items in Amazon

Or just this.

Because they have a crushing monopoly on US online commerce, and 80%+ of customers are happily consuming their cheap goods without knowing/caring about the quality/authenticity.

38% share (or even 47%) isn't a crushing monopoly. There are always dozens of alternative online purchase options.


Still usually the fastest / most convenient way for me to get products in the U.K.

I've personally never had any issues with Amazon in terms of quality, but would never buy anything from them I put in my body - I usually stick to electronics of value < £100.

Because I've been an Amazon customer for over a decade, and for half of that time I could trust them to have reliable reviews, good products, and the best prices.

Old habits die hard, but I'm now at the breaking point.

It was recently cheaper for me to buy an over-the-counter medication through Amazon Prime Now than it was to buy it at an actual drug store in SF. It was like a $5 difference after tax and tip.

I was initially going to buy it on the way home, but I was so annoyed by how much it cost in store that I refused to buy it, even though the difference wasn't significant.

Amazon just has a bigger target on their back.

Why wouldn't these issues affect any business with a sizable logistics chain? There are no guarantees of authenticity of goods at your local brick and mortar stores either.

This is just patently untrue. Your brick and mortar store has a clear hierarchy of responsibility -- it's the workers job to prune expired items from shelves. It's the manager's job to make sure the employees are doing their job. It's the parent company's or owners job to make sure the manager is doing his job.

Amazon flips this on it's head by having a super-loose affiliation with people selling on it's platform. Turns out, when you break chains of responsibility, people act irresponsibly. This tale is as old as time.

If Amazon wants to fix this problem they should just get out of the independent seller game and let it go back to eBay. Amazon is tarnishing its brand image for low-margin shenanigans and it's just not worth it.

It’s not low-margin, it aids their financial engineering by eliminating inventory.

Your local bricks and mortar store cares about monitoring its supply chain because it's on the hook for refunds and legal claims if the goods are counterfeit, defective or beyond their sell-by date. Amazon Marketplace outsources blame to the third party supplier (even when due to commingling it's actually not the third party supplier's fault...) which is usually overseas and with not much brand to protect in the first place.

Sure there are guarantees. Stores usually use actual distributors or order direct from OEMs.

When I worked with a big box store long ago, some manufacturers even audited our inventory when they bought end-caps, etc. Stuff like ink cartridges would be checked by vendor reps.

A data analytics firm that specializes in the Amazon Marketplace recently analyzed the site’s 100 best-selling food products for CNBC and found that at least 40% of sellers had more than five customer complaints about expired goods.

In other words, Amazon knows about the sellers who ship expired goods yet lets them continue to operate. It has the data and it still fails to take one of the easiest steps to address the problem, removing bad actors from the marketplace (which would also make many other sellers clean up their acts).

I've had a similar issue with buying books advertised as "new" and they are clearly used ... including one book that had a "USED" sticker on it. I complained about the seller, and nothing happened. As of the last time I checked this seller was still in business on Amazon, with 22% negative ratings in the last 30 days.

The message to third-party sellers is clear:

Win the buy box however you can. We won’t police your listings. We won’t punish you if you lie about the condition of the goods. Even if many of Amazon’s customers are complaining about you, you can still stay in business on Amazon.

> In other words, Amazon knows about the sellers who ship expired goods yet lets them continue to operate. It has the data and it still fails to take one of the easiest steps to address the problem, removing bad actors from the marketplace

I have anecdata contrary to this. We used to buy gluten free bread from Amazon because of my son’s gluten allergy. It was a pain to buy locally so we would buy 4 loaves at a time from Amazon. We started getting expired loaves from some seller. It happened multiple times, to about 50% of the orders. This bread has a long shelf life so these loaves were months old.

We got reimbursed multiple times through the automated return system but it continued. Finally my wife called to complain. They apologized, gave us some credit, and said they look into it. The next time we got expired bread again. She called again and they promised they’d remove the seller. Indeed they did something this time. The bread was unavailable for about a month and when it came back we never had another expired loaf delivered.

I think Amazon does listen. What they don’t seem to do is listen to people who complain in reviews. Reach out to Amazon directly if you want to complain about a real issue with a seller.

Sounds to me like amazon takes a 15% or 20% cut of the transaction, and the customer gets to do all the work of vetting sellers?

I’d rather pay more and support a reputable manufacturer or vendor directly.

Amazon is the equivocal of the retail end. Any sufficient and provable complaint to Amazon will result in a refund.

I don’t want a refund, I want to support companies that use the right processes to save me time, but companies that choose to commingle to save the company a penny and cost me time are not worth supporting.

What retail shop honestly saves you time? Does waiting in line at Walmart save you time? Yes, you have the option of checking the expiration in line, but is anyone really shopping at Walmart for the time savings?

Costco, for one. Based on their track record, I don't think twice about purchasing something from there or something branded Kirkland Signature. I know what I buy is decent quality at a decent price.

Target/Home Depot/Lowes also helps, I know what I buy from them doesn't come from a random reseller, and I don't have to filter through reseller garbage on their website either. They also have pickup in store options, as well as showing me where the items are in the store if I need to go find them. Also, I don't recall waiting in line more than a couple minutes.

I just happen to use those stores as an example, I'm sure many others offer the same benefits. Point is, I don't want to worry about counterfeit, commingled, and all that nonsense. I also know sometimes Amazon hides the option to only show items shipped and sold by Amazon.com, and based on their attempts to deceive me, I assume they intentionally break search to make it not as easy to find things.

It saves me time in the sense that I can trust that Walmart knows who is selling them products to stock. Amazon has no idea where their products come from or even if they're counterfeit. And they certainly couldn't be bothered to find out. They also don't really care if the stuff you buy from them actually arrives. I stopped buying anything from Amazon after the 3rd or 4th shipping screw up in as many orders.

The last shipment was just left somewhere in the building that I sublet in. Luckily the guy who runs that office was nice enough to complete the delivery. And before that they had apparently just lost an entire shipment of 24 orders. They were all marked as delivered, but nobody had any way to change that in the system so they wanted me to call customer service.

They were great about 10 years ago when I first signed up for Prime. I don't trust them anymore and will advise all of my friends not to trust Amazon for anything.

If Walmart sells something tainted with lead, heads will roll. Walmart bears liability for the things they sell on their shelves.

If Amazon sells something tainted with lead, we get a bunch of corporate apologia about co-mingling and nothing changes.

Your anecdote is a good example that they don't listen. How many times did you complain before they took action? It looks like you had to complain multiple times which most people will not do (they complain once and try to not order from that seller).

I believe my wife complained to a human twice.

Most people probably complain zero times. Posting negative reviews of a product is a poor way to give feedback about a bad seller.

After you stopped having problems with the bread did you ever try to log in with another account and buy it with another credit card and send it to another address - I just wonder if the seller retooled and put in an array of accounts that must not be screwed over because they complain too hard. I guess I'm overly paranoid.

I absolutely did not do that. Who would?

It’s possible that what you’re describing happened, but I’m not investing the time and energy to try to “trap them” like this. I also don’t think it’s terribly likely. I believe it was also FBA so they don’t have control over what item gets sent to which customer.

I might, but that it the overly paranoid part I was talking about. But then since I don't trust or like Amazon and I'm in Europe I wouldn't have been in the position to do it.

Funny thing, my auntie once got banned for life from Amazon. She used to sell used books on Amazon (as "used", obviously) until she got one single complaint from a client. Even though the complaint was without basis, she offered him full refund while letting him keep the book. Still, she got banned by Amazon. They even banned the account of her husband, with no explanation and no possibility for recourse. She cannot ever sell anything ever again on Amazon, and she doesn't even know why.

I hear stories like that, and then I see my own experience with serial cheaters allowed to keep selling and racking up negative ratings. I am wondering if Amazon gave up enforcement, or just changed its practices/loosened the rules.

I hear stories like that and question innocence of the protestor. I know sometimes people get screwed over for no reason but I’m also aware of numerous cases where someone loudly protests the unfairness of being blocked for a single unintentional infraction and upon further review it turns out they had a history of abuse, sometimes with a secondary account that they assumed BigCo was too stupid to link to their “real” account.

Sometimes it’s a bit of a failure on both sides (e.g. BigCo also fails to notify about the abuse on the other account). Sometimes it’s just bullshit on the part of the complainer (e.g. Endless public protestations of innocence from someone who was actually sharing child pornography). I’m too jaded to trust the intentions of corporations, but I’m also too jaded to blindly trust the claims of those who assert they’ve been screwed over, especially when my gut says the story doesn’t make sense.

There's a cottage industry of this in HN, where someone posts a blog complainings about BigCo destroying their small business, getting hundreds of upvotes and comments, and then it turns out, every time, that oops their software developement was outsourced to a developer who is a known serial spammer or scammer, and it's "not fair" because mom&pop can't know that they hired a criminal so BigCo shouldn't blame them.

Every time? I don't think so.

Right. I got very sick once, and was 2 days late shipping an item (a camera lens). That one complaint was enough to get me banned forever. I had offered in my response to say I was willing to be "required to use FBA" for all sales from the future forward, and they weren't interested. There was no complaint about the product, just that it arrived 2 days late (and I -had- messaged the buyer before that to advise).

How do you know that story is true? Amazon is full of sellers with many complaints published on the site.

His auntie wouldn't exaggerate or leave out details... would she?

Book selling is an insane market on Amazon. I ran a used bookstore on Amazon with 380 positive reviews and 1 negative review over the last 12 months. The sellers are cut-throat. They're all trying to sell something they got from a thrift store for $0.50 on Amazon to make $3. Amazon intentionally allows "acceptable" books to take the buy box over "very good" just based on price and seller feedback. If you end up selling the acceptable book then you get bad feedback for having a terrible quality book. The whole thing is a damn mess. Many sellers will list as "new" either intentionally or unintentionally. I'd be lying if I didn't say I sold several books I found in pristine condition or even shrink-wrapped as "new". The difference between $15 and $9 for an FBA book sale is the difference between $1.75 and $8. Book selling on Amazon is insane.

As a buyer sometimes the deals are absurdly good. For example got my daughter a hardcover Harry Potter Cursed Child for $3 Like New, and that included next day delivery. Shows up as described, and I just saved $15.

I’m slightly ashamed to admit I was actually at BN at the time where they were selling it for $30. But I did spend $100 during that trip, on books that were comparably priced to Amazon.

I assume Cursed Child is an outlier because I’d guess a huge number of people are buying it expecting it to be something it’s not, and then likely returning or offloading the book in disappointment.

Obviously no one made money on the transaction so I assume it was a buggy algorithm, but I’m not complaining!

Repricers often go awry. If you bought it FBA then they could have repricing software set to match lowest FBA price, but the available repricing API only returns 20 lowest. If there aren't any FBA then you'll get the MF. The whole system is a mess.

If you create a listing that competes with someone else’s high volume product you will get fake reviews claiming the product is expired. Multiple times this has happened on a brand new listing with no sales, before the product even arrives at Amazon. Expired is one of the go-to false complaints.

In my experience Amazon reliably push expired product back to the seller, at least using the dates that were declared by the seller. This does not stop a seller from claiming what they like, I suppose.

"more than five customer complaints"

Five out of _?

We should care about the proportion, and should consider some time decay (maybe the issues were a decade ago).

I work for a company that (among other things) sells food.

The acceptable number of customers to send expired food is zero percent.

It's not a complex or unusual requirement to make sure your goods are in-date - any properly designed warehouse management system will take care of this. This is absolutely table stakes if you're going to deliver food.

Unopened baby formula has a shelf life of 6 months+ when properly stored, so they've got a gigantic margin of error here. It'd be pretty poor customer service to ship baby formula that only had 2 months of its 6 month shelf life remaining. There's really no excuse for shipping expired baby formula.

Actually, genuine question: how do you do that technologically?

With multiple supplier deliveries that result in combined stock with multiple expiration dates, how do you ensure expired food isn't delivered?

Because I assume a warehouse doesn't keep a separate shelf spot for each separate delivery of a unique expiration date?

And also, the expiration dates are printed on products in places that can be hard to find and hard to read. (Every time I buy bacon or greens I spent sixty seconds trying to find where the hell the date is on the plastic.)

It's also generally not cost-effective on low-margin food items to print out and scan a unique label for each item that would allow the expiration date to be machine-readable.

So I've always just assumed new deliveries try to be put in a warehouse bin behind/under existing items, and workers try to check visually for expired items, but that neither of those will ever be perfect.

So what's the properly designed warehouse management system that solves for this?

> Because I assume a warehouse doesn't keep a separate shelf spot for each separate delivery of a unique expiration date?

Actually, that's pretty much what we do.

If the goods arrive from the supplier as a whole pallet of a single product, every item on the pallet will have the same expiry date, and you track each pallet separately.

If the goods arrive on a pallet with a variety of products on it, you split it up by product then do exactly the same thing.

The warehouse management system knows where each pallet is, and what its expiry date is. If a pallet has expired, workers picking items are sent to to non-expired pallets instead, and someone working on 'purge' is sent to remove the expired goods for donation/recycling/discarding as appropriate.

You need a system like this if you want any chance of selling things like bread, because gaining or losing one or two days of product life makes the difference between a customer who'll shop again and one who won't.

Unless you check each item, you don't actually know if the expiration date is correct. I don't see much difference in what you are doing vs Amazon, except that Amazon is getting their product from a various sources (which may be less trustworthy than your supplier).

Ah, perhaps I should have specified; as well as being industry convention, our suppliers are obligated by contract to ensure all the items on a pallet have the same expiry date; and they are generally the original manufacturer who packaged the goods and attached the expiry date in the first place.

They can, of course, print any expiry date on it they like. But they're also pretty motivated not to poison their customers, which is widely seen as bad business practice :)

In our case we do carry out random spot checks on inbound goods, but that's mainly checking for things like bruising on fresh fruit and vegetables.

Since everyone in the chain cares about expiration dates, food manufacturers aren't in the habit of commingling products with different ages. Why wouldn't they ship a pallet that's all made at the same time?

So, if there isn't a solution to do something at scale, then the answer is to simply not do said something at scale.

The defence that "this isn't technologically possible" isn't at all a defence. The _most_ charitable interpretation would be that this is Amazon stress-testing how well they can handle co-mingling of various product lines... but that's still not great if they don't pull the experiment immediately after realizing they can't.

What's wrong with babyfood that must be consumed within 2 months. (And note that it doesn't turn toxic after it's expiration date, shelf-life for canned goods is far longer than stamped date.)

> What's wrong with babyfood that must be consumed within 2 months.

Maybe the customer saw a good deal, or had a visit from a rich relative who wanted to do something nice to help them out, and knowing the product lasts 6+ months, ordered a 3 month supply.

If the stuff that turns up has a shorter life than they expect, they're going to be disappointed which is bad for your reputation, and they may get a refund causing you to make a loss on the order.

The same applies to a loaf of bread or a pack of batteries or almost anything else with an expiry date.

Of course if you were explicitly listing the product as discounted due to short shelf life, and your website was clear enough users couldn't overlook that by accident, it's fine - but AFAIK Amazon doesn't have different listings for different shelf lives of the same product.

> And note that it doesn't turn toxic after it's expiration date

Sure, but there's a market rate for expired goods, and it's way lower than the market rate for non-expired goods. If you're selling expired goods to customers who thought they were getting non-expired goods, you're ripping them off and it's fair for them to want a refund.

I didn't mean to say that it's OK. Just that I would like to have a good quantitative grasp of the actual situation.

You are correct. I am assuming most marketplace sellers are low-volume sellers, therefore 5 negative seller reviews/ratings is enough to justify a red flag. If it's a high-volume seller with many hundreds or thousands of reviews in a 1-month period, then it's not as big of a concern.

For the example I cited earlier of a 22% negative rating in the previous 30 days, that represented dozens of negative reviews.

> In other words, Amazon knows about the sellers who ship expired goods yet lets them continue to operate. It has the data and it still fails to take one of the easiest steps to address the problem

Yeah, I wonder if companies are so big complaints are just noise to them that isn't even really looked at. I feel like I'm just a number that doesn't matter to any of these companies. Then also feel like a lot of the reps at companies are powerless, given limited training, tools and relies a lot on scripts.

Some of these companies are huge, and some things are free like say Gmail. So I feel with all these internet companies, support is a challenge it seems for both the company and the customer sadly. Even the local cable company has a help link but it's just a knowledge base, they hide their phone number on another page now. I do like the approach of letting people try to solve issues on their own, but being able to talk to someone would be nice.

About 2 years ago, I found a app on the iPhone App Store that would popup the in-app purchase by itself randomly, so when you go to exit the app using the home button Touch ID would then buy it for you using your fingerprint. I did get a refund though, less than $4 purchase but pretty scary that's possible. On newer iPhones with FaceID and the side button maybe it's less likely to happen since you pull down to go home instead of pushing a physical button.

I figured the app would of been removed, but just checked it and seen a review from this year with the same problem...

Then some big companies, everything is different departments walled off from each other, which unsure if they really communicate with each other. Just seems like support is pretty poor in general in tech, but other industries too like calling up your health insurance company due to a billing mistake. The other thing that super annoys me too, is when you get transfered from agent to agent it's like you have to start over again with companies. Not sure why they can't transfer a note and your account info already pulled up to the next agent. Have to repeat yourself over and over, was helping a relative set up a new phone and the transfer didn't seemed to go through, and got transferred like 6 times same and same. Gave up, and decided to just buy a new phone, transfer worked and then return the other phone. You just get the runaround, and feel powerless.

Someone I follow who does the full time RV life was having trouble with his insurance company after changing his domicile to South Dakota, and after playing the phone game he just got sick of them and switched companies. Both companies had full time policies, but seemed like someone didn't know what they were doing. So due to poor customer support, they lost a loyal customer they had since he was a teenager driving, making payments on time, good record, etc. I guess some things are easier to switch though, just deciding to shop somewhere else or pay your money to another company and get a new proof of insurance card. While say switching phone or computer operating systems might be more difficult, especially if you like or rely on apps not available on the other platform.

So something I think about, and would worry me about having my own startup, as I feel like support is key from the training, processes to the people. As the people they interact with is representing the company. Wouldn't surprise me if you get big enough, there's consultants too but it's a fear of getting this area wrong. Ideally things should work in the first place though. Plus I think doing things in house, who knows your products might be better than outsourcing. One call could be for company A, next call could be company B, etc so they are just jumping around and might not even be familiar with products.

This is why you should generally:

1) Review all negative ratings prior to a purchase

2) Refuse to buy anything that's less then 4/5 stars.

This doesn’t help if a single bad actor is co-mingling with multiple good sellers.

They commingle reviews for multiple "related" products too.

This happened to us. My wife orders a lot of dog treats and human snacks on subscribe and save. They sent a package of nearly expired nut snack bars. Wife contacted customer service and they just sent another of the same. My wife is meticulous about checking sale by and it is a fight to keep her from throwing out recently expired foods. But I hadn't known a store to ship an expired product before this.

We had very expired dog food shipped to us from Amazon, and luckily Amazon was able to give us an instant refund, but that was enough to prevent us from buying foods and other perishables from them.


How close the expiration date is matters.

Let's say the snack bars come in a package of 10 and the expiration date is 2 days from now. Do you want to be forced choose between eat 5 bars a day or throwing some of them out?

If the alternative is to buy them from some other source that will give you a package that doesn't expire for 2 months (for the same price, all other things being equal, etc.), then that is indeed a more attractive offer.

> Let's say the snack bars come in a package of 10 and the expiration date is 2 days from now. Do you want to be forced choose between eat 5 bars a day or throwing some of them out?

With the exception of infant formula, the dates on food products are not expiration dates. They are sell-by, use-by, or best-by dates.

Sell-by dates tell when the store should remove the product. If you buy the item by then, and consume it at a normal rate, it should be fine.

Use-by and best-by dates are when the item is at peak quality or flavor. It doesn't go bad right after those dates--it just isn't as good.

For items like snack bars, it is probably a sell-by date. Use-by and best-by dates are more appropriate for items that spoil fairly rapidly, or that are reasonably freshly made. A 10 pack of snack bars with a sell-by date 2 days in the future should be no problem.

Infant formula has separate labeling rules. It does give the date after which you should not use it.

I'm not paying full retail price for the "just isn't as good", "should be fine" variant.

Most things don't actually come with expiration dates, they come with best sold by dates which is the manufacturer's estimate that it will last at least as long after that date at a regular rate of consumption to be entirely consumed. Even then, the dates are usually pretty conservative.

Thus, even if you're receive it 2 days from that date, you should still have enough time to eat them at your leisure and still be fine.

Sale By dates are not the same as Use By dates are not the same as Expired By dates. This link should help clear up a lot for you and your wife, and save you money/prevent waste in the long run.


I canceled my Prime membership a few months ago. I never bought food on Amazon, but I received plenty of counterfeit or obviously used and broken items sold as new. I went back through my order history recently and it was over 10% of my orders in the last three years had issues. And I wasn't buying from the marketplace if I could help it.

There are still some things I have to go through great lengths to buy other places (Furnace filters for a reasonable price, mouse bait station poison etc) but I think it's worth it. I don't give Amazon a dollar if I can help it.

Somewhat unrelated, how long did it take you to figure out how to cancel your Prime membership? For me it took considerable effort, to the point where it started to be funny.

I canceled mine fairly easily a couple months ago. I can't remember exactly how, but it didn't seem particularly difficult. I do remember that they refunded the unused amount which was nice. Still though after being a prime member for like 3 or 4 years they've lost me as a customer since they allowed their platform to become an expensive Alibaba bloated with fake reviews.

Somewhat unrelated note to your unrelated note, make sure you delete your credit card details. Every time I left the CC saved in my profile, and I cancelled my membership and cancelled auto-renewal, I would magically be charged a month or two down the line for prime membership.

If a company makes cancelling their service difficult, or tries to "auto-renew" your subscription after cancelling, call your credit card company to report that you want your to cancel that service and don't want further charges from them.

What did you order to have that many problems? I've never had any of the issues you've mentioned.

I cancelled my Prime membership too. I realized that as long as I live in a city where everything is nearby, I don't need Prime that much.

For everything else, there is Walmart NextDay service.

Frankly speaking, the amount of steps a customer has to go through to ensure quality from Amazon -- check out reviews for buyers, cross check prices to ensure you are not getting ripped off, check out estimated delivery times, and then as the article (and comments here) state, be on look out for expiration date -- for me at least, it makes sense to use Amazon only for books.

Everything else, even living in the First World large Global City (Toronto), I find it easier to just go out to stores to do quick check and buy with piece of mind.

Sometimes amazon even sells fake books! https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2019/02/amazo...

This is still happening. Just last week:


I can confirm. I received an obviously fake book that seemed to have been printed on a cheap printer.

I ordered a particular type of Hanes boxer briefs that are made from a breathable fabric and hold their shape really well. Instead, I got a pack of the roughest, lowest quality material boxer briefs, the likes of which you wouldn't be able to buy in the dollar store.

I'm pretty much done with Amazon. They're betting against people actually getting frustrated and leaving, but I haven't ordered in a few months and I will get rid of my prime membership.

Expired products I feel a lot less strongly about than counterfeit. Expired products have a label on them that the consumer can look at and check. As long as Amazon is honoring refunds, they are financially incentivized to do what makes sense to fix the issue.

If Amazon insisted on shipping an identical product out of a west coast fulfillment center to an east coast customer for which they had a fulfillment center 20 miles away holding the same SKU, they would not be able to offer the kind of service that they do.

“Comingling” is the fundamental basis for them to leverage their scale to provide unmatched service. It’s essential to their business model precisely because how enormously valuable it is to Amazon and to its customers, and the way it gets better with scale, despite the concomitant lesser inconveniences.

Fundamentally, Amazon still knows exactly which seller provided each buyer with each item, despite there being only a single shared product page. So they already have all the data, and of course they are using it internally to track per-seller review scores, refund rates, etc.

Happened to us several times with our subscribe and save for baby food. Expired or near expired items. In the end we just don’t buy baby food from them.

We’re shifting more and more spend away from Amazon due to this, and counterfeits due to commingling.

I don't get it: I've been buying Amazon prime for about 8 years now, and I don't encounter nearly the amount of problems that everyone else reports.

Yes, I've gotten a few bad items from Amazon. I've also gotten bad items from brick and mortar stores as well. (I recently had a bunch of items go bad from Trader Joe's long before their sell-by date.)

It depends on what types of things you're typically buying, there are systematic problems in a few classes of products. For example: board games and 3D printer accessories on Amazon are rampantly counterfeited, to the point that it's often difficult to get the real thing. You may actually have received a high quality counterfeit before and not realized it; for example, I used my Xbox360 hard drive for years before realizing that it had totally bogus identifier markings.

The sophistication of counterfeit goods on Amazon is often impressive: For popular items like controllers for the Playstation 4, there are fakes that look and feel (and work) almost exactly like the real thing. The most sophisticated fake DualShock 4s come in convincing retail packaging, they pair with your console, and the only immediate tells (short of waiting a few months for various cut-rate components to fail, such as the battery) are things like the analog sticks clicking the wrong way or the silkscreening on the accessory port being the wrong opacity.

At this point, if I'm looking for a popular brand-name product, and it doesn't have some impossible-to-fake functionality (like booting iOS), I assume by default that there are fakes commingled into Amazon's inventory.

Same. In close to ten years, I've gotten one mixed-up delivery, where they evidently mislabeled my package with somebody else's when it went out for shipping. And one item that was lost in shipping and was never delivered, which they immediately refunded.

Otherwise, I can't complain at all. Sometimes, the stuff is crap, but you kind of expect that when you are buying cheap generic stuff - if you really want to see cheap junk, go to an Ocean State Job Lot or Dollar General.

During the holidays a few years back, I ordered 3 things from amazon in early December. I received all 3 items and a fourth bonus package which was a literally a thick piece of cardboard with a label. To this day have no idea how that happened.

Ocean State Job Lot is specifically a jobber — it’s in the name. You can find junk and amazing stuff.

Do you live near a major city? I've wondered if there is a correlation between incidents like this and specific cities or if there is a difference between more/less populous areas of the U.S.

Amazon has hundreds of millions of customers, the majority of which have experiences like yours (and mine). If you approach the Amazon marketplace with a modicum of common sense you'll generally be OK. And even when things go wrong, Amazon will (in my experience) bend over backwards to make it up to you.

I'm not saying they are perfect or even a good company overall. Just that scenarios like this generally fall below the noise floor and yet still get lots of press.

About the same for me. The one time I had an issue with something that wasn't delivered in good condition, they sent out a replacement after a 3 min chat conversation.

Public service announcement: Always check your food, purchased online or in a shop. In both cases, you're probably hoping that some bit got flipped in a database (or somebody simply remembered) and a low-paid worker went out and checked the product's date. Accidents happen all the time.

Scare stories: One friend found a live snail in her supermarket salad. Another friend found a cutting blade in a tin of cat food. I've personally purchased in-date bread from a shop and it was covered in mold spores between the slices. In a shop in Spain their milk had sunlight directly on it (and it was very hot), resulting in lumpy milk.

It's been my experience that nearly all items with expirations on amazon are either near the end of their shelf life or past it. Coffee, candy, supplements, whatever. It's very obviously used as a dumping ground. It's crazy to me that this isn't common knowledge by now.

I'll offer the counter anecdote. I've order thousands of food items off Amazon over several years and have had zero issues with expiration dates. I check any food item I think would cause me illness from being expired.

Expiration vs. freshness. When I buy coffee or anything at a supermarket, the expiration date is about as far into the future as you can get. When I order on amazon, it's always much shorter. Coffee is a great example. It's usually months fresher if I buy in store. Not an issue per-say but you are totally buying the end of life stuff.

Going by the expiration and sell by dates on my goods from Amazon I am not.

It's astonishing that even multi-billion brands are being tarnished due to Amazon's inadequate and sometimes even dangerous supply chain practices.

If you know anything about Amazon, if you know what commingling means, or if you spend 5 minutes reading about this company you will steer well clear for baby formula, food, electronics, or anything else safety related. Stick to using Amazon for books, DVDs, and knickknacks. Target.com or Walmart.com will give you the same price as Amazon, with slightly slower shipping, and no Russian Roulette with counterfeiters.

Walmart uses resellers and I’ve had problems with them recently.

Check out Target — they are ridiculously awesome. You can order stuff online and pull into a parking lot in a few minutes, with the guy waiting.

This isn't about comingling, even though it doesn't make it any better. It's about the fact that outside of Amazon's grocery-specific operations (Fresh, Prime Now, and Whole Foods), Amazon does not have a mechanism for FIFO or any form of decision making based on expiration date. All decisions are optimized purely on fulfillment costs alone. As far as I know (I've been out for three years now), they have no plans to change this, as it would increase their fulfillment costs.

I don't purchase baby food by Amazon. You can't trust the resellers. I don't understand how there aren't regulations on policing your marketplace for unlawful products, especially those covered by strict liability.

I definitely buy allergy pills off EBay that are close to expiry.

But the vendors will state this.

It’ll then take me another 4-5 years to go through the bottle of 500 :)

If people were selling expired or near expired items, clearly marked and identified, at deep discount, there would be little issue.

But that's NOT what we're talking about here. That's a different discussion.

I cant speak for every Amazon warehouse but @ Jax2 FC, I've personally worked a role in Vendor Returns, where we would remove, return and/or destroy expired food and candy that has sat in the warehouse for too long. Most of the food that was removed, was on its way to being expired in a few weeks and it was removed well before the expiration date. Some of it gets donated if its still good and the expired goods get destroyed in the trash. - BrianD.J, Amazon FC Ambassador

> For one Teavana listing, the top customer review says the tea had a “terrible chemical smell” possibly from spoiled fruit

It seems like an exaggeration, the listing states that the product got a 4.5/5 rating.(https://www.amazon.com/Teavana-Beach-Bellini-2-lbs/dp/B07B3Q...)

FakeSpot apparently rates it as a "D" grade. Take that as you will though.


All Amazon reviews should be considered highly suspect by default, until determined otherwise.

Related: 95% of baby food sold in the USA contains toxic chemicals and heavy metals


Wal-Mart (or any of the big retailers) is that you?

I wouldn't mind if these were discounted. Experience suggests expired goods almost always are perfectly fine although this is not guaranteed.

I’ve ended up with expired food from physical stores many times in my life. It’s not really a big deal, you just return it or eat it depending on the product.

Same here. It happens. It’s harmless.

If it’s a big deal to you, go to the store and pick things out yourself.

It happens, but it's a punishable violation - the appropriate response is not "just return it or eat it" but an audit of the whole store and fines for having expired produce on their shelves, which is not acceptable.

A physical store that does not have a reasonable process to ensure that expired goods are not available for sale is not qualified to operate safely, if it does it repeatedly, then it should be shut down - it's like a restaurant with rats running around.

In the United States at least expiration dates have no relation to food safety.

Also the majority of expirations other than “Use by” are non binding


Okay, that may be a substantial regulatory difference, in Europe it's generally not legal to sell expired food. (And to illustrate divergence, that consumerist article isn't available for EU users.)

I am not an expert in this, but I am aware from direct knowledge of businesses that collect recently expired foods (that are not yet spoiled - such as frozen) from grocery stores and transfers them to legal charities and food banks. There is a delta between sale by and unfit for human consumption.

I know at least one store that uses this as a business model. Food past its sell-by date can be acquired from grocers for little to nothing and resold at insanely cheap prices. The difficulty is in making sure your customers know what they're signing up for without loudly proclaiming that you're selling expired food.

This used to be the case with a lot of big lots and ollies stores. Not sure about it anymore, but you also see a lot of inner city / lower income area bodegas/ corner stores selling it too. One near me always has expired rap chips for sale. I eat them and they’re fine, but I knowingly take that risk.

To clarify:

* "Use By" dates are legally binding and are placed on products that are dangerous when expired, for example raw meat.

* "Best Before" date goes on Tomatoes and other goods where you only need to indicate that product is fresh.

At a physical store you can check in advance if the expiration date has passed or not. You don't get the option to confirm it when you order online, however.

That's honestly the reason for me not buying groceries online, well that and shipping cost. Given the cost of shipping, I'd do one order a week at the most, but the I risk getting 5L of milk which expires within three days. If I only order once a week, then that is the minimum expiry date I'll accept on perishable food items.

I don't blame the companies for wanting to ship the items that are about to expire, but please apply some common sense. If the amount is more than an average family could reasonable consume within a week, then may mix the items in with other with later expiration date.

You can look at what you're buying from the store before you buy it.

Exactly, so if it’s a big deal to you go to the store? It’s never been a big deal to me.

If it’s a big deal to half of Americans, then that means something significant for Amazon

That should not happen at all.

Why? Expired food is generally perfectly safe. The dates are quality indicators, not safety indicators.

It’s just being wasteful.


>Expired food is generally perfectly safe. The dates are quality indicators, not safety indicators. It’s just being wasteful.

It's my hard earned money...whether Amazon is selling me expired food that is a safety concern or just a quality concern issue (which FYI is not accurate for all foods), I don't want to be sold shit quality expired food. I certainly don't care to be told I'm being wasteful for not accepting and eating the shit quality expired food. They can separate and sell that for discount if they want, not mix it in with non-expired food at the same price...that's false advertising, fraud and deceptive trade practices.

Exactly this. I would be OK with buying expired food iff it's sold at a discounted price and it's labelled as such. Otherwise it's fraud.

From the article: "that arrived with a “rancid smell.”"

Also, it's fine when you shop in a store and decide to buy expired food because you know you'll eat them soon. But what if you want to stockpile 1 year of baby formula and amazon delivers already expired formula ? Same for pet food, &c.

Except when it comes to baby formula, whilst it might be safe to consume, the various nutrients required by a growing baby start to degrade past the use by date so you run the risk of introducing defficiencies.

Baby formula in general is probably best not consumed, if there is any way around it. In the best cases it's not great, and there are so many horror stories of it being adulterated with garbage.

Indeed - breast is best, but having two children, one of whom had awful reflux and just could not breast feed, and another who was fine there are good reasons that baby formula exists.

It isn't necessarily even that the ingredients start to degrade, it's just the date the manufacturer promises that the label will be correct until.


(I get that this is a small distinction, but they likely aren't doing all that much work to extend the shelf life, they don't need to)

The more I think about it, the differences between Amazon and Walmart are much smaller than I once thought. They're both platforms upon which sellers can sell goods. One of the bigger differences seems to be quality assurance. More specifically, to what degree is each company burdened with that important responsibility?

If some manufacturer put something unsafe into a food product, I would blame the manufacturer. Seems pretty cut and dry. On the other hand, if Walmart was stocking expired food I would blame Walmart because they should be responsible tracking inventory and maintaining a safe environment. Seems pretty cut and dry.

Why does Amazon seem different to me? More importantly, should they be seen as different?

It is different. This is talking about Amazon Marketplace sellers. It would be more similar to if Walmart set up a flea market with tents and stuff in its parking lot and let anyone rent a booth and sell whatever they wanted. Walmart would also provide a centralized cash register at the end of the parking lot where people could pay for the items they got from the individual sellers. Walmart would then settle up with the sellers at the end of the day for the sales they rang up for them, while keeping a cut to cover the cost of the transaction and logistics for setting up the tents and keeping security guards on site.

This would be an equivalent analogy. Does THAT seem different than going into Walmart and buying from inside Walmart?

Except it’s not like a flea market in the parking lot. It’s more like Walmart had a flea market, but mixed all of the items in with their own, inside of the store, and made it difficult for a casual buyer to tell the difference.

Except in amazons case they take items from the tent sale and use it to augment their stocks in different warehouses so they can reduce shipping times. So in that instance it is the same thing regardless of “supplier middleman”.

Amazon's sold and fulfilled by third-party is basically like buying on Ebay.

Buying on ebay is a significantly better experience, because you are buying from a specific vendor so you can see the reviews for that specific vendor. You can usually also tell if the vendor is selling fake counterfeit crap based on looking at the rest of their listings and make your decision appropriately.

I canceled my prime membership about 18 months ago and do my online shopping mostly through ebay or occasionally direct from the manufacture or approved reseller if it is an obscure item or something that is likely to be counterfeit (flash storage, batteries, etc). It has come out significantly cheaper (although there is no more 2 day shipping, so value that at what you will) and generally been a much more pleasant experience.

IOW, a more predictable experience than buying FBA.

On the left panel under "Seller" there is a Amazon.com check box you can use to eliminate third party sellers from the product search. I tend to select sold by Amazon unless the seller is the actual manufacturer of the product, e.g. a candy company selling direct through Amazon.

As far as I know this doesn't actually work, because Amazon will comingle goods. That is to say you buy good from A. The warehouse closest to you has the same "item" but it is from B. So they ship you B's item, but mark it from A's inventory and credit A the money.

So even if you order from known good retailers, or Amazon themselves if party B puts bad products into the warehouse you can end up with bad or fake products.

Sellers have the option about whether their inventory can be commingled. Also, when there is high fraud potential or a large number of complaints Amazon doesn't allow commingling stock.

I operate a supply chain company who works for Amazon 3rd party sellers.

But how do we, as buyers, know which sellers have selected that option and which haven't?

The option existing for you makes absolutely no difference to how much I trust the system if information about (or even the existence of) the option is not something I know.

Even if what you say is true (I have no reason to doubt you), I simply no longer trust Amazon enough to believe it. I don't imagine I'm alone.

That does not mean anything because of commingling of inventory.

It reduces the risk, because more of the inventory will be genuine, returns are simpler, and you have "one throat to choke" if something is bad.

You can reduce risk further by buying Amazon essentials or Amazon's own brands, such as Whole Foods brands.

Most people can more easily reduce risk by shopping somewhere else.

Amazon shareholders should be asking management why they think the cost savings of commingling are worth the loss of brand value and trust. Higher income people don’t care about spending more money if it saves them time, so why waste that good will?

I've bought online from probably two dozen major retailers. Where to go depends on selection, price, availability and risk. On the other hand, I don't buy from small unknown vendors, either on their own site or via third-party aggregation.

I don't buy from small sketchy local stores either.

I try to buy directly from manufacturers, or Target or Costco. But Amazon lost the business my family used to give them. I’d go with Walmart before Amazon too.

Target same day pickup is good. Not a Costco member, so have only used the pharmacy.

Bought a microwave from Walmart that came in a severely damaged carton, although there were no dents or scratches. But the microwave died a few months later. Never again.

Besides, Walmart was a huge factor in killing the downtowns of many small and medium sized towns and cities.

My amazon purchases have dropped to nearly zero because I refuse to eat this inventory risk. This is Amazons problem to solve.

That doesn't work, because Amazon comingles stock. You could still get bad product if the packaging looks the same between Amazon's item and a third party seller's item

Not verifying expiry dates seems to be something that's not affected by comingling. What does Amazon do to ensure that their expired stock does not get shipped? Why does the same process not work for third-party goods?

Here's what is _supposed_ to happen with perishable goods: https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/external/G201003420...

tldr; Anything perishable is supposed to have several expiration date labels on it in large format, and nothing can be sent into Amazon that expires within 90 days. Amazon says they will dispose of anything received with less than 90 days remaining before it expires.

There are a number of things that could be going wrong here. I operate a supply chain company which works with 3rd party sellers, so I'll focus on what I'm exposed to.

One issue could be Amazon's labeling requirements. They actually require a separate label in MM-DD-YYYY format to be affixed to each product. This sounds good on paper, but in reality it means the seller or sometimes a 3rd party warehouse can put whatever they want on the label. Generally, sellers are honest about this, but mistakes do happen and Amazon doesn't necessarily verify what these labels say.

Beyond that, commingling can compound the issue. Say you have 5 businesses selling the same product, and one of them is fudging their expiration dates. It becomes fairly difficult to track down which seller is fudging the dates. This is one reason I recommend all my customers not commingle their inventory (it's an option the seller can choose).

Supply chains can also have wildly varying temperatures. Many sellers choose to work with climate controlled warehouses, but don't consider the trucks used to move their inventory aren't climate controlled. It's highly possible a product meant to be stored at 70F will sit in a 110F truck for 3 days before being checked in at Amazon.

I would expect they handle this the way that brick and mortar stores do: estimating future sales and not purchasing excess inventory from the distributor.

And does this really help or are news that Amazon doesn't separate third party sellers from their own stocks just FUD?

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