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Amazon’s quest for more, cheaper products has resulted in a flea market of fakes (washingtonpost.com)
658 points by drfuchs 27 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 392 comments



My favorite Amazon scam is the Amazon Ship of Theseus[0]. You sell a product, normally a cheap electronic, and build up a decent corpus of positive reviews. A good example is a USB-C cable or something. Then you decide you want to sell a new product in a more competitive subcategory, like Bluetooth Headphones. You then take the _existing_ listing and change it piece by piece. First the pictures, then the title, then the price, etc. Until you have a listing for your headphones that comes with 5,000 pre-made positive reviews! Sure they're for a totally different product, but that doesn't affect the rankings.

I see this all the time. If I go back in my order history and click on old products often the same "id" now maps to a totally different thing.

For this reason I have basically stopped ordering from Amazon. I find that Walmart has like 99% of the inventory but none of it is fake (some is junk, but it's the junk I asked for). Same prices, same ship speed, no fake shit.

0: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_Theseus


There's also a more subtle version of this, where the seller leaves the listing the same, but once enough positive reviews have accumulated they move production to a cheaper factory and use cheaper materials.

So you might see older reviews for a pair of boots that say they're made from sturdy materials with good stitching, followed by later reviews saying that they didn't match the advertised sizing and pictures, or that they just fell apart after a couple weeks of use.


The term for this is "Quality Fade" and is by no means unique to amazon. This is a very common thing in all low-cost manufacturing. you start with higher quality and lower margin, and gradually degrade quality to improve margin. You consistently flirt with the lowest quality possible.


I mean for software we talk about reproducability and versions down to the bit. But if a consumer products replaces one piece of metal with plastic it's apparently the same product?

Products should have versions that look like this.

2.1

* Replaces piece X with plastic. * Reduced frame width to save material costs.

This could also be positive and make it more transparent.

2.2

* Strength part X that breaks very often. * Change edges to reduce chance of injury.

I mean this opens a huge box of problems, I know apple didn't want to admit their keyboard was problematic in fear of lawsuits. This is how it should be.


My guess is that there are serial number / model number / revision numbers that do change when this is done. It is just not mandatory that these changes be published. I agree that it would be nice to know when metal gears had been replaced with plastic.


The frustrating thing is that sometimes it is extremely difficult to find hardware that doesn’t suffer from this quality fade. Buying decent router hardware comes to mind; if I want a non-professional router that doesn’t use the cheapest hardware possible, it’s very difficult to assess this apart from spending hours hunting down reviews etc.


And most reviews aren’t seller specific. What I see is reviews for a product, but some of the sellers for that product will sell a counterfeit version (Intel NIC in my case). The top (default) seller when the reviews were written may be replaced by a bad actor a couple of years later.


Because amazon doesn't add seller stickers/labels it's nearly impossible for them to even determine the seller if it's "Fulfilled by Amazon" ... I tend to stick to the "Sold by Amazon" or "Sold and shipped by MFG" because at least with Amazon, returns become easy and/or I trust orders from MFG slightly more than otherwise.


Even when something by is sold by amazon, you could get something shipped to them by a third party seller. They keep all products with the same ID in one area, and pick whatever is on top.

If I started using FBA and supplying an item, it’ll go in the same box and chances are more likely an “sold by amazon.com” will sell my product, and I’ll sell an “amazon.com” product.

See the problem?


The argument wasn't that buying "sold by Amazon" would have a higher success rate, it was that returning would be more successfull than with some random pop-up account. This won't help against unnoticeable but still bad fakes of course.


"They keep all products with the same ID in one area"

No they don't. Google 'random stow' and you'll find articles about how Amazon stores incoming items. They are stowed somewhat randomly, but scanned as they are stowed. So the system knows where to find each unit again, and can use that to optimize picking paths.


By default, the system optimizes for speed and doesn't ensure that seller A's customers get the units sent by seller A and B's customers get those sent by B. This means that in a discussion about provenance of specific units, this is a distinction without a difference (or alternatively, all units of a product are in one area, which isn't necessarily physically contiguous in space).


Yes, my point is irrelevant to the main discussion about commingling.

I was commenting only because most people make the same false assumption (that all units of X in warehouse Y are stored together) and find the random stow model interesting when told about it.


> Because amazon doesn't add seller stickers/labels it's nearly impossible for them to even determine the seller if it's "Fulfilled by Amazon"

You are referring to mingled inventory which the seller has to opt into explicitly when they decide how to sell their product.

This is not the default, and in my experience, very few sellers choose this option. Most of the inventory is labeled with Amazon-proprietary bar codes that identify the seller.


That’s because picking by Amazon is not seller specific. You get something in that tray; it can be from any seller.


It is truly remarkable - Amazon appears to want to track everything about their operation _except_ inventory provenance.


Wouldn't it be nice to be able to filter by this though? Surely Amazon has a history of who bought what from who - why not make it an option for consumers (apart from the obvious fact that Amazon makes money letting people sell shit on their platform)?

Amazon could easily solve this problem but they've decided it's more profitable to let it fester. Whether or not it's a good decision in the long run, the same way Sears permanently ruined their reputation by selling shit through their established in-house brands, remains to be seen.


> Surely Amazon has a history of who bought what from who

They don't necessarily. Amazon combines items from different sellers together in their warehouses, and doesn't sort them out when picking orders to ship. So if I send them a high quality doohickey to sell with FBA, a customer who orders my doohickey might actually receive Mr. Cheapo's knock-off doohickey because as far as Amazon is concerned they're the same thing and got placed in the same bin in the warehouse.

Sellers can opt out of this but then Amazon charges them more.


Yeah, and AFAIK, Amazon.com itself do not opt out.

The fact that Joe Q Public can make a marketplace account, ship a crate of counterfeit stuff, and have that be sold to buyers of “amazon.com” is absurd and explains the counterfeit problem.


I've experienced this (generally over decades, occasionally a few years) with brick-and-mortar and/or mail-order retailers (I virtually never shop Amazon). So yes, the phenomenon happens.

And it's insidious. I've flat stopped patronizing those retailers. Shopping is not an enjoyable experience. I'm wiling to pay modest premiums for quality (bargain-hunting is sifting through tons of junk for exceptionally rare gems), but I won't pay premium for junk.

The long-term cost has to be considerable, I would think.


I wonder how much of this is because Amazon started out selling books and CDs. Those things don't really have quality issues, and are pretty much fungible. Now, decades into their "everything store" strategy, they're still trying to treat everything like books.


I have had a book business for the last 8 years and in the last 3, there has been a massive increase in counterfeit books.

The biggest issue is that there isn't any way to really know if it's a counterfeit unless you send them to the publisher. Many are so good, you can't really tell the difference unless you really know what to look for.

I tried this once and in response they sent me a cease and desist letter claiming I was knowingly selling counterfeits.

They went away after I got my attorney involved, but it isn't really helping the publishers because I still don't really know how to spot counterfeits, besides the obvious signs.

The publishers really want to get rid of the secondary markets because they don't make any money on it...so they are using attorneys to squash it instead.


I disagree. I have about 10 books on my shelf published by various editors but which have been printed by amazon printing services. I had to return several because of poor print quality. Some had splotches, some missing or blank pages, some had horrid patterning all over the book.

I own a ton of books, and my decision process is generally:

- go to library - read/like a book - buy it for late reference

For this reason I rarely checked books as I ordered them (I assumed they were fine). After realizing a couple of books I had were unreadable (and way past the "warranty"), I now flip through the entire book just to check for glaring print problems.

Thank you amazon, I guess?


Fake books are a problem too. I mostly see publishers complain about it, but that probably has more to do with my social circle than with the proportion of people complaining

https://twitter.com/billpollock/status/1183094406573748225

and of course, nobody buys CDs anymore, but I do remember people complaining of unauthorized copies/burns of various quality.


Even books need shipping with some amount of care to arrive undamaged. Amazon isn't even good at that these days, piling items fairly loosely into oversized boxes.


Yes, but... there are also many fake books sold on Amazon, and with bad printing quality


Ok, point taken, books can have quality issues too. But especially in Amazon's early days it was pretty easy to deal with - just buy from reputable publishers. They've pretty much destroyed that too.


This is an accelerated variant of typical business evolution. How many high grade brands are now cashing on their name subtly. Seduction etc


Like a box that remains the same size over the years, but the contents are gradually reduced.

I would love to have "that much" Mike and Ike's, but it's never in there.


This is a fitting description of audio devices. What used to fill a box is now a 5mm chipset. The perverse effect is that the chip has 20x more options than the original device, so it looks better, but the quality and longevity may very well be degraded in disguise.


I have to laugh at how large my receiver is when I can peek into the "cooling vents" and clearly see a fairly small solid state board and a ton of empty space.


Depending on your receiver, that may be because it’s trying to conform to chassis sizing requirements to be rack mountable (often via audio shelves, not rails). In the audio world many things use 19” comm racks, much like servers do.


How many high grade brands are now cashing on their name subtly

"No way, that would never work!" he typed under the sultry cast of his Bell & Howell lantern.

http://bellandhowell.com/lanterns


Well, your story has persuaded me to buy this lantern.


I've actually had this happen to stuff I bought, it's extremely shady and should be illegal.


It is illegal, just not enforced on Amazon.


Also known as "decontenting" and widely practiced in many industries.



Anyone know if this version is officially permitted by Amazon's rules? Or for that matter the 'original' version above?


I reported a specific instance of this to Amazon before and they declined to take any action to police it. In the case I reported, it was a more subtle change. I had purchased some replacement brush heads for a Philips Sonicare toothbrush in the past which worked well for me. When I went to re-order them, I was shipped a completely different design and brand of brush head which was terrible and immediately started to deteriorate due to poor quality materials. Of course, all the thousands of positive reviews for this product referred to something that was no longer being sold through that listing.

I found it hard to believe that Amazon would allow this to stand, but here we are.


Oh wow! I just checked the SAME listing again (that's in my order history) and they have changed it YET AGAIN so now it is a listing for a complete knock-off Philips Sonicare toothbrush...not just the brush heads, but the brush body itself. Of course, I still have an "order again" button in my order history. For reference, when I originally ordered the brush heads, they were $15.99. The brush in the listing now is $59.99. This is insanity!

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00NN07IMW/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b...

EDIT: It does appear they finally removed swaths of old reviews. Finally.


ASUS did this with their routers, and pooled reviews by making all of their routers different variants of each other, even if completely different. I was annoyed because I had an unbelievably shitty experience with one of their (very expensive prosumer) routers.

The silver lining, for me, is that I was so fucking annoyed with ASUS support that I angrily shipped it back to Amazon, bought Ubiquiti equipment, and experienced such quality whiplash that I bought a bunch of UBNT (now UI) stock. +160% since I bought.


ASUS will also straight up lie about their product specs.

I once bought a router off of them specifically because it supported WPA2 Enterprise, but when I tried to tie it into my RADIUS server I kept running into weird issues. When I contacted support they said they only supported WPA2 Enterprise on the 2.4ghz band, not the 5ghz one. I pointed out that this wasn't said anywhere, but they claimed they were truthful because it does support the feature.


But of course now Ubiquiti has silently added a “feature” that phones home with telemetry data. Does that count as a bait and switch?


After much outcry they have reversed this decision, but it’s not encouraging. One of the employees was very dismissive of concerns on the Ubiquiti subreddit.


I steer clear of Ubiquiti because I still remember something about them not providing source for the GPL code they were using. Unsure if that was resolved but it stuck with me.

I have found Mikrotik to make nice hardware with a full set of enterprise features, and mostly cost less than even the "prosumer" stuff from the big brands.


God damn. I'm disappointed because I went through a series of awful routers (TP-Link, D-Link, Netgear) and the Asus one is the first thing that actually works well. I've got some other Asus hardware I'm really happy with, so I was starting to warm up to them.


I was pretty happy with several Asus routers. Tomato firmware worked on them. After the FCC pushed mfgs to block third party firmware, it wasn't so good... my current higher end Linksys is ok, but will probably go Ubiquity next round when Wifi 6 (ax) becomes more common for actual devices.


Routers at least are easy-ish to pick. I just look up the specs of the chipset inside that specific revision of the model (yeah, bit of a pain), and make sure it works with OpenWRT or some other custom firmware. Stock firmware often doesn't even use all the features (although some have the opposite problem, due to closed source chipset drivers, like Broadcom's HW accelerated NAT).


My former employer (a Fortune 500 company) buried the mostly terrible reviews on Glassdoor for our division by merging them with the parent company...


My favourite example of this are cheap digital PH meters:

https://www.amazon.com/Accuracy-Measuring-Household-Drinking...

If you can find any listings with real reviews, it turns out that these are pretty terrible, usually floating around 2-3 stars. Magically, there are consistently listings with 4.5+ stars and thousands of reviews for a relatively niche, barely functional product.


Based on uploaded photos that product seems to have a past life as a cutting board, a drying rack, a canopy for a kids bed, some type of dagger (letter opener?) and a lancet.

That’s incredible, and the fact that someone hasn’t seen that inside Amazon and said “we have a huge problem” makes me suspect Amazon doesn’t regard it as a problem at all.


I consider it a problem. This appears to be an instance of listing abuse. I'd encourage people to report listing abuse if they come across it. I believe these are the correct instructions: https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/external/200444420

Situations where you're fighting against financially-motivated human adversaries are always difficult.


Why do Amazon's work for them? The richest man in the world can't remove fake listings from his online store? Bullshit.


I don't have a seller central account, and (it appears) I cannot open one either. Is there a way for me to report listing abuse _without_ being a seller?

I'd like to, at a bare minimum, report the abusive listings that have nailed me, personally.


On further research, it looks like the recommended way to report this is actually by clicking "Report incorrect product information" on the product detail page.

However it's always reasonable to contact customer service for issues that one isn't sure how to handle otherwise: https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/contact-us - they can refer to the right reporting method or pass on the report.

If you get stuck or don't get traction, feel free to send the information to me and I'll pass it on; I'd suggest giving the normal channels several business days first however. In this case, I've submitted an incorrect product info report via the website for each of the problematic pages I've come across today. I plan to follow up on the pages and escalate if necessary.


In my experience Amazon is designed to block reviews that call out questionable products, Amazon is designed to make returns difficult for fraudulent products. "You pay for the shipping", hide all customer service options related to seller issues, etc etc.

Amazon is complicit in the fraud committed by their sellers. They restrict critical reviews by people who bought fraudulent products under the guise of a tos violation. They should be retroactively contacting customers who purchased products they have removed for fraud reasons.


> Amazon is designed to make returns difficult for fraudulent products

This makes me wonder if the algorithmic blacklisting of customers with frequent returns takes the reason for return into account.


Isn't this quite literally Amazon's job?

Any traditional retailer employs people to maintain the quality of their supply chain.


You missed French press, kitchen utensil holder, and tupperware container. Amazing.


The fact this is so easy to spot tells me Amazon gives two craps about any of this


Yeah, one of them was formerly a plant pot, an umbrella, and christmas lights. It's pretty funny but equally sad that Amazon doesn't care (or worse, is misincentivized) about fixing it.


Just found an old review on the same page for a blood sugar meter! (Go to the one star reviews, it appears they were poor quality and not accurate.)


'I do have to oil it weekly, but it is attractive and very nice for the price.'

lmaoooooo and all the photos are for cutting boards or some strange hanging thing I can't describe.


Thanks, I like the convenience of amazon but will be cancelling my membership this weekend and just use walmart or something else.

It is $120 a year and I'm tired of it. I have seen cases where my pricing was higher than non-prime members for the same item/seller, going to same address.


That's the crux, right? There used to be a benefit from choosing Amazon over Walmart and other bigbox chains.

It's like Amazon has spent their savings from having relatively no infrastructure expenses (stores, parking lots) on an inventory of pure crap, like Nieman-Marcus selling their stores and moving completely online, only to start selling cheap underwear and Ed Hardy tees.


Yup, I use Best Buy for all electronic purchases now. They have a great return policy and I enjoy that most things I could want are available same day.

I pretty much only rely on Amazon for Kindle purchases now or to read reviews on big ticket items that I'm curious about.


I went back to argos (UK retailer) for small stuff and ebuyer/aria for everything else tech related - they have the same range as amazon (in their domains), the same returns ease (better in the case of ebuyer in practive).

I buy very little from Amazon, enough that I'm going to cancel prime since the only thing of theirs I still use is is Amazon Prime TV and well..its OK but not enough to justify it.


I buy from Argos too, they also have a nice network of physical locations for in-store pickups. The prices are very close to Amazon usually, which really only wins on free delivery options. If you can pickup in store that's not an issue.

Argos actually pay some tax as well.


On bigger items Argos do (or did at the time) free one day delivery, I ordered a new TV for Christmas a couple of years ago at 1pm and was sat watching crap Christmas movies with my family by 9pm, I mean Amazon can’t compete with that here yet.


i left Amazon too, now I either go to the manufacturer itself if I need the quality or cut the middleman and go directly on AliExpress if quality is not a concern.


Ironically, I stopped using Best Buy at all due to their return policies.

More than once I've had missing components from what I purchased. And they won't accept refunds or replacements unless all parts are included.

Amazon takes nearly anything back, from my attempts.


For me this has had the side-effect that their warehouse deals thing will ship literally anything back out :b It's worth it if you're okay processing returns for them, but when they started to send me broken cameras full of sand, and then film which had been aggressively ripped out of the cartridge and exposed, I really started to wonder…


>Until you have a listing for your headphones that comes with 5,000 pre-made positive reviews!

Fk. That's possible? How has Amazon not done anything about that?

Like I can get keeping fake stuff out is a losing battle, but that seems like a rather significant design flaw if you can "transfer" reviews like that.


I've sat in on calls with Amazon Employees where they tell you to do exactly this to boost sales.......and then deny that they ever did it when you are contacted by the IP rights holder.

https://brandservices.amazon.com/projectzero


>I've sat in on calls with Amazon Employees where they tell you to do exactly this to boost sales.

Well that's next level depressing.

It's weird. All these amazon complaints - they ring true to me...yet I've thus far escaped the negatives thus far despite heavy amazon use (say package every 48hrs).


What team did those people work for?


The one that contacts you and wants to “help you sell more”.

The point is that each of these types of teams has no insight into the underlying structure of how Amazon actually works. As a business you are forced to buy into the racket in the hopes that you are not accused of being an IP infringer...try hiring a decent law firm to help you get out of this debacle....oh wait they all can’t help because they work for Amazon already.


States attorney or class action? Going after Amazon for structuring a system enabling fraud on purchases they get a commission on sounds like a good position for anyone able to represent consumers in bulk.


Think about all the AI/Machine learning work going on. I really think it's not a losing battle, that if Amazon really cared, they could train and maintain a "product listing integrity" AI fairly easily.

That they don't already have such a thing to dissuade the gaming going on to dissuade the sketchy practices essentially means to me Amazon condones the behavior.


During a recent Amazon all-hands meeting, the company leadership talked about how there are something like 5,000 employees working on various marketplace frauds, including using ML on some of this.

I have no idea why it's so hard, but I don't think Amazon is being as complacent as it seems from the outside.


Frauds where Amazon loses money, or frauds where Amazons customers do not get the product of its purported reputation, or maybe not even the product they thought they ordered.


They were specifically talking about marketplace fraud, where Amazon customers are misled but no money is lost. Customer fraud (against Amazon) is a different thing, though there's a bit of overlap when it comes to fraudulent returns.


This is actually rather easy to solve without ML/AI. They need to track the change delta (ex: with jsondiffpatch) and weight each part, presumably using levenshtein or text mining with weighted dictionary, and limit changes to 2 or 4 in 24 hours period. Then weekly compare those changes and treat the highest one as need to be reviewed by customer.

Additionally, each customer review should tied to specific change version, that they can easily compare with current one.


Easier, no editing. Create a new listing for any changes. Allow create listing from.. or linking to old listing for repprting. Show new version available text instead of buy again. Solved.


I'm going to be kind to them and assume they are using the AI to augment the obviously simple "rating delta over time" I'd do as the first pass solution.

Like "Over a 3 month period this product reviewed at 3.7 and the next 2.1" maybe look into why.


Amazon thinks it can automate itself out of these problems


It could, by saying that the category for a product in the store is immutable and that if you want to change it, you must create a new item. If that doesn't work, extend it to the item's title and removing any of the pictures of the product (you can add more, but it's append only). Should work fine to prevent this.


That requires programming it... I mean amazon literally wants to automate these issues without actually programming it.


No, it thinks it can get away with turning a blind eye to these problems.


There are literally several thousand people who work on marketplace fraud and quality issues. It's a huge concern.


Just like how there are literally thousands of people who work on ensuring customers' privacy at Google?


So easy for armchair quarterbacks to make snippy remarks. Truth is that fixing this kind of issue is probably way harder than you think.


Ebay doesn't have this problem and the solution is extremely obvious. Amazon has no third party seller rating. There is no way to confirm the trustworthiness of a third party seller. People cannot review sellers, they can only review products so sellers can easily get away with reputation loss without having to create new accounts by simply moving on to the next product because Amazon as a whole absorbs the reputation loss. I personally loathe buying on Amazon because of this.


> Amazon has no third party seller rating ... People cannot review sellers

Sellers have reviews and ratings just like products. You can leave public feedback and a star rating for sellers you've purchased from [1]. On the 'Your Orders' page click on 'Leave Seller Feedback'. This page also describes how to do it [2].

You can see these ratings while selecting which seller's offer to buy from. For example, many 3Ps are selling '5 Hour Energy Shot Berry - 24 count' [3]. Alongside each seller's offer, you can see their star rating and positive feedback percentage. For the first seller I see a 5-star rating and "96% positive over the past 12 months (1,122 total ratings)". You can click on that to see individual feedback.

It's my understanding that these ratings influence whether a seller's offer will be chosen for the 'Buy Box', which is the default offer that's shown on the product detail page. When an offer appears in the BuyBox, underneath it will say something like: "Sold by 7-Eleven, Inc and Fulfilled by Amazon". The seller name is a hyperlink to the seller's profile page where you can see their ratings and reviews [4].

Amazon also has a slightly different problem than Ebay, as I understand it, because Amazon is trying to have a single product detail page for each "product". There should be in theory exactly one page for "24-pack of 5 Hour Energy Berry". I'm not experienced with Ebay, but it looks like every Ebay listing is completely separate and independent. Doesn't that make it harder to comparison-shop for the best offer for a specific product among multiple sellers? Is there an easy way to see all offers for one specific product? I couldn't see an easy way to do this while experimenting with Ebay search right now. Amazon is trying to make this comparison shopping easy by consolidating all offers for the same product into one page, and then selecting a recommended offer based on various factors (including seller rating, shipping speed/reliability, etc.) that matter to customers.

(However, because there is a single page for each product, and sellers have some ability to create and modify pages, that occasionally leads to abuse, like the kind being discussed elsewhere in this thread.)

[1] https://www.amazon.com/feedback [2] https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=... [3] https://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B0021L9XK4 [4] https://www.amazon.com/sp?_encoding=UTF8&asin=&isAmazonFulfi...


pssht. I emailed jeff@amazon.com to complain about the general problem of counterfeit BeyBlades and provided links to scam items. Rather than take down the scam links, or even acknowledge the problem which was causing my inability to trust amazon for these purchases, the response was that they could refund any specific items I bought that were scams.

Welcome to Day Two


I'm not seeing enough here about how Jeff Bezos is actively supporting and creating a system that enables and promotes fraud.


Sounds like a great idea for a deep learning neural network...or just lock all the fields down after a product is created.


Well here you probably can - that kind of substitute a product can't be that hard to detect.


Amazon hasn't done much about anything


I just encountered this: a product with numerous reviews but many of them talking about a different item. I assumed it was some id getting migrated or not migrated and as a result reviews ending up on the wrong item-- it didn't even occur to me that it might be intentional.

As annoying as scams like these are, they really speak to the ingenuity that folks bring to software and their attacks of it. I already know to not trust most things on the internet, but I can't help but admire them either.


Quoting myself:

> what the hell are these brands?

This is what 1-man-brands are. I myself used to run a sunglasses brand in my student years :)

Most are just dropshippers, or people working out of home.

Recipe was simple: order cheapest 1 dollar sunglasses on Alibaba, have them put into fancy packaging and silkscreened with something Italian sounding. Then you make up a generic website with stock photos for your "brand"

I was surprised with the amount of people keen to buy $100 to $200 sunglasses with nothing more than an Italian sounding brand name.


I just went through and clicked on months of past orders, lots of electronics, odds and ends types of things. This isn't true for a single product I clicked on.

How is this happening so much for you?

Do you have screenshots or examples?


Two items in this order are now something totally different: https://i.imgur.com/EoJDqT0.png

USB C 3.0 cable is now: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0119EIHTG/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b...

Other USB C cable is now: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0119OI9XU/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b...

What's interesting is that both were originally sold by Anker's merchant account (relatively respectable brand), but now each listing is linking to a different merchant...


It's nuts that this is possible— I mean, it's obvious looking at just a handful of the reviews on either page that they're for a totally different product.

I wonder if there's some shady marketplace where positive-review Amazon product pages are bought and sold, so that the scammer can grab a bunch of them all ready to go (say, from a merchant closing up shop), rather than having to play the long game upfront.


I agree. Seeing this garbage makes me angry. I've reported the products mentioned in this thread that look suspicious for further investigation.

This appears to be listing abuse and I'd encourage people to report it: https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/external/200444420


Sounds like a clear hit on some dark store. I mean, digital reputation is one of the most sought after 'commodity' these days, what with paid likes etc. This is next-level fake reviews!

I wouldn't be surprised it's eventually become a business in and of itself, like some shady companies in eg China farm games to sell accounts and items to rich players who'd rather pay money than time.


I went through my account's purchases, and I also found an old Anker cable that has been taken over by a different brand, but with the old reviews preserved: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B019PZE0RO/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b...


The first one is not available via prime. The second one looks disabled.


Ah, I saw something akin to this in like 2012 (but I guess the Ship of Theseus was a change in username only) when I used to buy WoW gold on eBay (yeah, I know..). At one point the seller quit selling WoW gold, changed their name, and started selling sunglasses.


Haha, I'll admit I did this with several accounts. It was even possible to build up a good feedback by buying cheap stuff. Then start to sell whatever you want.

Easy way to avoid the ridiculous holds on funds and limited PayPal accounts due to "not enough feedback".


As an industry electronic components are not all that different from knock off brands of LVMH products. Is it surprising to see a "customer" jump at the opportunity to score a "steal" on a new set of kicks which might look like the real deal but are certainly not. As slaves to the notion that everything must show up the next day we as consumers have decided that we should not pay for the shipping and are OK with whatever we get...Do you think Amazon makes more money working with Texas instruments or with the sellers that are hoping to make it big by boosting their reviews?

*Former employee at company that exclusively sold on Amazon.


I tend to buy from Amazon whenever I can for the pain-free returns.

You’re not wrong - the reviews are utter trash and have no credibility at all anymore - so I look elsewhere for reviews on what I’m buying. I mostly avoid the counterfeiting problem by sticking to branded goods that aren’t easy to convincingly fake. Any problems and it goes back for Amazon to deal with.


>branded goods that aren’t easy to convincingly fake

s.a Apple power adapters?


Haha - I got burned by this so many times in a row trying to buy genuine I bought direct from apple. Some of the fakes are terrible some ok but none genuine


> I got burned by this

With chargers, it's a real possibility that you mean this literally. People's houses have burned down due to fake chargers that don't comply with CE (or foreign equivalent) regulations.


I always leave a review. I always name the product I bought in the text of the review. Now I'm thinking I should take a picture as well.


Not to mention that Walmart will very often have promotions with multiple different credit card companies to give you double (or sometimes even triple) points. When the prices are the same on Walmart or Amazon, I typically do Walmart now for that reason.


+1 for Walmart. They will ship it to the store closest to you and it's the real deal (not a fake). I've done this a lot.


I definitely saw something like this buying (of all things) underwear. calvin klein makes cotton underwear and the more expensive 'stretch cotton' underwear. The listing had a picture of the stretch cotton underwear, but I, and about 1/3rd of those with pictures in the reviews were getting regular cotton underwear


The Fakeslot chrome extension is pretty good at spotting fake reviews. I’m curious if it can detect transferred reviews...


Fakespot, I think you mean...


Correct https://www.fakespot.com/

It's not perfect but it's useful


Hey what about selling a product, initially sending good quality trash but later sending pieces of shit.


But then you're ordering from walmart...? A company decidedly worse than amazon by nearly every metric.


Forget counterfeits for a second.

Even trying to find something like an ultrasonic cleaner on Amazon is like straight going through AliExpress.

But wait! Unless you're buying a very very expensive lab model all the "name brands" look to be sourcing the same way and adding a label too. So the name brands are AliExpress with maybe better QC and 200% markup.

But wait! Even looking everywhere else it's the same situation as Amazon!

It's almost like the entire marketplace is overrun with untrustworthy cheap crap no matter where you shop and getting something you can trust is decent is only for large institutional or business actors and the wealthy.

Which is to say I think the problem is bigger than just Amazon.


If 2-day shipping time is not an important factor, then what I've started to do is just buy items from AliExpress and DHGate based on looking at # of orders and customer reviews.

The vast majority of stuff on Amazon could be found on AliExpress, DHGate, Alibaba, Tmall.com, JD.com, and Taobao.

At this point, I just gave up and decided to buy items I don't care about that much from their 'source' for less money in exchange for longer shipping times.

I wouldn't be surprised if the same overseas sellers have items being sold across every platform to maximize consumer exposure and potential orders. So many of the "brands" on Amazon are not even brands, it's just made up words next to a generic imported product. Like "iGoEnergeeFan" or something similarly stupid.

The market is just flooded at this point. Any dingus looking to 'get rich quick' could think "I know, I'll get into dropshipping or importing with Amazon FBA!". There are so many bullshit 'guides' already on this kind of 'passive income'.

The idea of selling cheap overseas crap to US buyers at a 200% markup is nothing new - it's been going on for the last 40+ years in retail.

Except, back in the brick and mortar days, not everyone could just open up a store and start selling. There are real estate, geographic, and management constraints, among others. That makes it difficult to penetrate the US Retail market side as an overseas Manufacturer/Distributor.

Fast forward to today, and the tables have turned. I could be the Chinese manufacturer/distributor AND the retailer, thanks to marketplaces like Amazon. Why wouldn't they want to go for vertical integration, when so much more money could be made at the retail level. Plus manufacturing, labor, and shipping costs are so low, the profit margins from selling junk on Amazon are enormous for those overseas sellers - even way more than domestic sellers.

At this point, why would any overseas sellers care to stop? They know the industry, they can directly interface with the factories, and they have plenty of people willing to work diligently to be among the top sellers on Amazon. They are definitely not stupid or naive, they know what to do and how to work the ecosystem in their favor. Those good ole' "produce cheaply overseas and markup in our stores" business models of American retailers have come right back around to bite them in the ass.


>So many of the "brands" on Amazon are not even brands, it's just made up words next to a generic imported product. Like "iGoEnergeeFan" or something similarly stupid.

Indeed, or the recent trend of naming your generic company with an ALL CAPS name, "VECTROMOX", as if that's somehow effective at differentiating your obviously fly-by-night operation.

>Those good ole' "produce cheaply overseas and markup in our stores" business models of American retailers have come right back around to bite them in the ass.

Good, imho. #firstworldproblem here but I loath America's rip-off economy. $25 for a t-shirt that cost $2 to make overseas, or $100 for a pair of pants that cost $5 to make. I try really hard to buy stuff that was either made in the US, or at least somewhere with high quality standards like Japan, Korea, Taiwan or Germany. It takes a non-trivial amount of extra time and work to do that though, especially on Amazon.


> I loath America's rip-off economy. $25 for a t-shirt that cost $2 to make overseas,

Buying a t-shirt in Europe isn't any cheaper.


Yeah it’s a problem for all developed economies, not just the US. The rip-off, rent-seeking economies.


25$ sounds okay for a T-shirt for someone living in Slovakia (EU).


> It takes a non-trivial amount of extra time and work to do that though, especially on Amazon.

Probably the easiest/fastest way is to just default to brands that are known for enforcing supply chain standards, which mostly won't be available on Amazon anyway.


True, though there’s a challenge even with that, which is that most brands even high quality ones now have a mix of products, where their low-end ones are cheap rebranded crap, and their high-end ones are still manufactured in high-quality facilities. But figuring out where that split in their product line is takes work.

I recently had to do that for buying a torque wrench, a hand blender, and a couple of other things.


Oh, yeah, I had Patagonia in mind with my original comment for clothes, but I've got no idea where one would look for tools or appliances.


You basically have to dig around and hope to find some kind of comment or 3rd party review like this:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/RBMOXF4TR5678/ref...

TLDR - he found out what factory in China the product is made in, then did a comparison test with a similar tool made in the same factory but at one third the cost. Found the cheaper tool was higher quality.


It's true that is' really hard to find things on there now. You have to be very specific about what you want, even then it's not easy to find a legitimate seller who ships on time (unless it's something very popular and standard). I often find things at super cheap prices which makes me skeptical about the authenticity to be honest.

I find there are an abundant number of online specialty stores for things I'm looking for now and usually shop there instead (Rogue.com for fitness stuff for example), these stores usually offer a good user experience, great customer service and fast shipping.

Specialty stores are fun to browse because they're run by people who know what they're doing and often recommend other good products they use personally and that I might be interested in. The only way Amazon could do this is by hiring more specialists in particular fields?

There is something slightly flawed about relying on user ratings to suggest products; Users aren't always the best judge of quality, usefulness and detail. I do like the ratings and use them a lot on Amazon; but it's not how good new products get introduced.

I also just like going to real bricks and mortar stores because it's fun to actually go shopping sometimes, and you know the quality is high because they have a lot more to lose by selling a fake. It just takes so much guess work out of shopping for things. Yes sometimes I do pay a little more; but it's convenient, I get what I want and warranty is (for me easier) as I hate posting things myself.


Yea I like shopping in person. Just gets me out of the house (especially key when you work from home), I get to examine things before I buy them, get some social interaction, and support local businesses.

Looks like similar 8 inch cake pans to what I purchases from Sur La Table recently are about 14 dollars on Amazon, compared to what I paid which was 20.

There’s also 10 dollar versions similar to the 15 dollar ones at Sur La Table.

But Amazon wasn’t going to deliver me the six miles of walking I did in the city I love that day :-).

Generally if I’m ordering something I’ll do B&H for electronics/photography equipment, REI for outdoor gear, Barnes and Noble for books, and Paizo for tabletop RPG dice and game manuals if I’m not going to a brick and mortar.

Works well enough for me, haven’t ordered off Amazon in ages.


"Yea I like shopping in person."

I try to avoid Amazon lately, but the last time I wanted a small piece of furniture I tried a bunch of places, and none of them had anything in their showroom. They had a dozen options on their websites, but I was unwilling to buy something without seeing it up close.


The emptying out of retail showspaces, whether mass-item stores, or specialty high-ticket retail such as furniture, is frustrating.

One trend I've observed is that consumables are often not available. The office-supply store which carries pens, but not the ink refils, stylus caps, rubber/erasers, etc. The one which boggles my mind is literally the razer/blade case: selling the razer handle, but not carrying the blades. This for a product I've searched for across multiple stores, for years. It's beyond comprehension.

Across the spectrum, from high-ticket items to low, you often simply cannot see, examine, or touch the merch in person. The whole online order/return cycle is one I especially loathe.


> Even trying to find something like an ultrasonic cleaner on Amazon is like straight going through AliExpress.

I would argue that it's considerably worse. I've been buying from AliExpress for several years. During that time, I was ripped off (with a fake USB stick) exactly once, and within minutes after I complained, got a full refund from the vendor (though they were entirely unremorseful).

Apparently, whatever AliExpress does to keep their vendors in line works. Plus, they don't suffer from Amazon platform problems like commingled inventory.


> But wait! Even looking everywhere else it's the same situation as Amazon!

It isn't a problem on Walmart or Target's websites, because they don't allow white-label Chinese goods to be sold on them.


Walmart has very similar results to Amazon, just not quite as much, and limiting results to Walmart.com helps a tiny bit more. So I don't agree there.

You're mostly right about Target, they pretty much only sell stuff that they carry or brand themselves, but the other side to it for Target is that often you can't find what you want there at all - they have a pretty limited selection, and in any case the stuff they brand themselves just costs more and looks a little nicer, but usually it's not actually quality.


Walmart partners with their suppliers because they have a direct liability for selling dangerous or counterfeit goods. Amazon's lawyers try their best to shift all liability from themselves to their suppliers.

If I buy a product from Walmart that is faulty and injures me, liability falls on Walmart.


They still sell tons of stuff from the infinite dictionary of random import brand names that nobody's ever heard of like "Amplim," "Kootion," "Ktaxon," "Yosoo," "Zimtown," "Zokop," etc.


yeah but they test and QC it and take care of the certification required to sell it.


Walmart.com is basically the same as Amazon though, isn't? I thought anybody could sell their stuff there.


And Target’s website is painfully short on information about each product. To the point that sometimes there isn’t even enough info to tell what version it is so you can look up more details elsewhere!


Almost everything you'll find in either of those stores is made by a Chinese manufacturer that provides the same kinds of goods to multiple businesses. The store brands, especially, are essentially white-label Chinese goods.


Exactly to the point! It's a recent phenomenon, I still remember I could find anything of a decent quality on Amazon like 5 years ago, but not anymore. Review system is now totally broken, most products are cheap crap. I don't even try anymore. Amazon is good only for books and probably cables.


> Amazon is good only for books and probably cables.

Even ignoring how badly they package books, Amazon has also had a counterfeit book problem for a while now[1]. Two years later, not much has changed[2].

[1] https://www.inc.com/sonya-mann/amazon-counterfeits-no-starch...

[2] https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2019/02/amazo...


> Amazon is good only for books and probably cables.

I've had good luck with CDs, too. Digital downloads are pretty hit-or-miss, though.


Amazon is a more expensive fast shipping AliExpress. For things like ultrasonic cleaners the best place to go is Ebay and buy a used one from the era when trustworthy products were sold. Filtering on condition: used on EBay gets you a lot of high quality products that were once very expensive and often made in the USA.


I have to agree with the first part, Amazon is very much like going to AliExpress lately. I search and all I find is cheap products from China - I don't find any brands I've heard of that I could get at any local retailer.

Its like Amazon.com is redirecting to Amazon.cn



Hmm, seems like Amazon.cn didn't go away but merged into Amazon.com. The scary part in that article is that Amazon.cn lost out to competitors with more products, Amazon.com could gain even more of these crap products. This situation certainly decreases the value of Amazon for me, if I can't find what I'm looking for then I'll go somewhere else.


An ultrasonic cleaner is like a hair dyer though. It's not rocket science it's like banging rocks together. My $100 ultrasonic cleaner I have for cleaning brass that is for reloading ammo probably does the same work as the cheap no name brands just with different settings. My no name chinese ozone machine works great for detailing cars. If you're going to bring this up stick with a product that is actually going to be a problem if you buy no name, like batteries, chargers, etc.


I actually think the hair dryer comparison is fairly apt, but not in the way you describe.

Everyone wants their hair dryer to be decent, last a good while, and not cost an arm and a leg. You also really don't want one that will start a fire, sound louder than a jet engine, take forever to heat up, etc. When you have a lousy one it's miserable. So you want there to be a quality baseline and then know what's reasonable past that baseline.

It's pretty much the same as an ultrasonic cleaner. It's not rocket science, but you don't want one where the ultrasonic elements vibrate themselves off, the electronics go bad in a couple months, it leaks cleaning solution somehow, etc. Just like with hair dryers being no-name is fine, but being below a certain quality threshold is extremely miserable.


So now the difference is it has to last long? My $80 ozone machine has been going for 2 years straight now without issue. The whole point of my comment is that just because it's no name doesn't mean it's junk, and we should be so lucky to get some choice. I can get it delivered to my door tomorrow. Hell go back 20 years and I wouldn't even know where to buy an ozone machine or ultrasonic cleaner like I have now.


I'm not saying things need to last a lifetime, but that I have no way to tell what might last two or three years vs zero. Or what "works" rather than works. I'm all for choice, but choice that's just rolling expensive dice isn't really choice. It's buying your $80 ozone machine and getting a lottery ticket instead. Will you win the grand prize and have something that lasts 10 years or will you get something that "works" and lasts 7 months?


And a lot of things I feel cross the line into just not "fit for purpose". I read a lot of reviews where person after person describes a fundamental design flaw with a product, and I can spend an hour reading about different ones in a category and they all seem to have a similar issue.

Really, if 5% of people get something that is broken or breaks quickly, I'm all for rolling the dice. However, if 95% break, I don't think there's any chance that 5% will last 10 years because it's not designed to.


Ugh, two or three years is decent now? Within my lifetime you’d expect a small appliance to last 20 years.


I bought a pair of shoes for work for $30 (locally, not mail order) and thought they were a pretty good deal. Obviously some synthetic and not real leather, and I was fine with that. Nor did I expect to resole them forever.

But six months later, they are starting to pull apart.

This isn't a law of nature; I have inexpensive Chinese made boots that are like ten years old and might as well be made of iron.

Most people underestimate the variables that can go wrong in a product, even the simplest. I bought grocery store brand aluminum foil once, thinking "what can Reynolds possibly offer other than the brand name"? What could be more of a commodity? Well, the foil wasn't wrapped on the roll correctly...


oh I'm sure the no brand knockoffs work, for a time at least.

but durability is not the only concern. for example I wouldn't buy something that needs to be plugged in or powered on for extended unsupervised periods of has a risk of spontaneous combustion like batteries


You know what AliExpress service I actually want.

I want to pick a quarterly amount that I would like to pay for a "surprise box" of curated items within a few categories that I select.

So, lets say, I want to spend $100/qtr. And I say I want my grab-bag to come from categories/interests (max 3) XYZ.

Then I get a box every quarter with surprise stuff.

Start the service small. two verticals "things" and "projects"

I can select one or the other.

Then Start small and select one from three categories in each vertical.

Then the service will curate a "things" grab bag in the three categories. for each tier that the user selected. $100 $200 or $300 per quarter.

Then each grab bag will be sent to each user in each tier per vertical based on category.

I'd rather do that than scroll through billions of products on Alibaba/express.


It seems like you're asking for what Amazon is being criticized for in this article? :)


I've never gone to Walmart and gotten fake SD cards and counterfeit video games...


Businesses are not safe either. Look up stories about the steel industry, fake steel, low grade mislabeled steel, last moment change of steel on the train after you've inspected it, etc.

Several bridges and high rises have already collapsed after such issues.


Not doubting your word, but can you provide sources for your claims?


You are correct. This extends into all facets of the market. Take aftermarket car parts. The only way to really get quality is to build relationships locally and buy things you can watch being made. There’s a lot of “made in US” parts that are just assembled from the same garbage all the ChinaBay “brands” use.


> the problem is bigger than just Amazon.

Neil Young, 1994 (25 years).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ovum-GjYWKQ


I bought a 2kW inverter on AliExpress and it was top notch.


What could the problem be, then? Do we point fingers at capitalism?

As far as I see it, this is the logical conclusion to capitalism and free markets. Manufacturers produce a product and sell it to many suppliers who all rebrand and mark up in their own ways, competing with each other for market share. As consumers, we are presented with basically only this option because the suppliers have all won the race to the bottom. There's no more room in the market for slightly-more-expensive things unless they work way better than the slightly-less-expensive copycat stuff, because it's not worth the time or energy to compete with the poor-quality stuff. But as a result, we as consumers no longer have "choice" in the market because of China (et al.)'s manufacturing capabilities and leverage driving this phenomenon. Coupled with the consumers' relative disinterest in products of proper quality, because what they have access to is already good enough for the moment, how can we ever expect the crapification of commodities to reverse?


Those things are not commodities. Commodities can not crapify (loved that word), by definition.

Capitalism has invented brands to fight this, and it worked for a long time. It's not really capitalism that is at fault, but the thing that changed in the 80's that turned the entire system upside down. It's hard to point at something specific, but markets used to be less transactional and less winner-takes-all.


Perhaps it's not fair to point to a 97-page article as "something specific," but "the thing that changed" was thoroughly explained in Amazon's Antitrust Paradox (2017) [1]. Specifically:

> In some ways, the story of Amazon's sustained and growing dominance is also the story of changes in our antitrust laws. Due to a change in legal thinking and practice in the 1970s and 1980s, antitrust law now assesses competition largely with an eye to the short-term interests of consumers, not producers or the health of the market as a whole; antitrust doctrine views low consumer prices, alone, to be evidence of sound competition.

[1]: https://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?arti...


stop buying


I’ve recently decided to only buy products made in the USA, if at all possible. If that’s not available ideally Germany, France, or maybe Japan.

I’ve noticed that products tend to originate in these countries because the manufacturer has decided to prioritize quality. As a bonus I’m much less concerned about contributing to horrible labor conditions.

I personally put my heart and soul into ensuring that the things I make are exceptional. I’m not going to accept less from the products I rely on for long periods of my life. If I’m not going to need it for a long time I probably don’t need it.


Amazon's decision to employ lawyers and lobbyists instead of oversight resulted in a public black market they openly run but are not responsible for profiting from.

I am excited to see which state will have the first Amazon fulfillment center crawling with feds. They have to raid one eventually to get to the bottom of the lead, the counterfeits etc. How is Amazon preventing the EPA or the FTC from doing their job and raiding facilities?

It's almost like big oil and big tobacco again.... all-powerful companies deliberately doing wrong for profit, like Amazon they even looked too big to challenge for a very long time.

> Amazon has been selling thousands of products that violate federal safety regulations, according to the Wall Street Journal, including toys containing dangerous levels of lead.

https://www.insider.com/amazon-selling-toxic-toys-lead-poiso...

> At the time, Nike agreed to sell a limited product assortment to Amazon, in exchange for stricter policing of counterfeits and restrictions on unsanctioned sales of its products.

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/11/13/nike-wont-sell-directly-to-a...


Inequality is back to the time of robber barons of industry, and so too is the lawlessness of many of the industry practices, where we are in the same state where technology and scale of organization are outrunning the philosophical theories of government operation to regulate them.


Amazon/Alibaba is making money pulling millions of chinese people out of poverty. The inequality equation is the same as normal, we're just not the focus of economic production at the moment. Comparing a normal western job to a chinese wage & lifestyle makes us look like the 1%. Comparing the average westerner who sells to 10k customers to bezos who sells to hundreds of millions makes him look like the bourgeoisie.

Technology and orgs always outpace regulation. The government is terrified of front-running business. It can't, the point of being a king is to control resources for the sake of generating prosperity. It can't then go and do all the work and be on the bleeding edge as well, it pays people to do that.

For all the control the tech companies have tried to exert in the world they are reigned in by the banks and then government. At the end of the day amazon hasn't made a big difference in my life for all of the $x bezo has. I don't shop there, his lack of quality control is sinking his company. What's there to worry about?


What about the counterfeits and lead levels in toys? Those are two major issues that you glided right past in your non chalance


My non-chalance covered that reasonably well in the not buying from them and recognizing that the lack of quality is sinking their company.

This isn't an inequality thing, mansa musa was more unequally rich than bezos. It's just quality control.


It's not that gov't is terrified or incapable, it's that the dominant regulatory philosophy in our political leadership right now is neoliberalism. Which has large failure points - the recalcitrance to regulate Amazon is the same stance as not regulating the fossil fuel industry.


Hell, we are reading an article about a commerce company Jeff Bezos owns from a news company that Jeff Bezos personally owns.


Inequality goes back far beyond that. The slaves who built the pyramids in Egypt were pretty unequal from the Pharaoh.

And even that wasn't the first society with inequality. It goes back far beyond recorded history.


Not that it particularly matters, but the pyramids weren't build by slaves [1]. They were built by skilled/payed workers and some corvée labour by farmers during the flooding of the Nile as a form of taxation.

[1] https://archive.org/details/pyramidscomplete00vern


But gini coefficient measurements show the magnitude of inequality, and the magnitude today has returned to that of the 1920's robber baron era.

And the magnitude is important because there is a correlation between higher economic growth and a gini value showing lower inequality than today.


Couldn’t find Gini going back that far, but other measures of inequality show we’re below that of the 1930’s.

And interestingly, the poverty rate is near a century low.

https://www.chartbookofeconomicinequality.com/inequality-by-...


Look at the poverty curve again. We basically have made zero progress on the poverty rate since the 1970s and actually are drifting higher. Yet from our technology base, and continuously rising productivity, it really should be easier than ever to ensure everyone has shelter and food, and yet homelessness is exploding right now too.


The poverty rate is 1/3rd what it was in 1950. Remarkable progress.


> I am excited to see which state will have the first Amazon fulfillment center crawling with feds.

I share your excitement but I'm not optimistic about this ever happening considering the increasing amount of cash Amazon is spending in DC.


I've been a consultant for Amazon suppliers since 2009 and seen tons of junk come onto the market.

Every retailer in the world (besides Amazon) has incredibly strict supplier verification because if someone dies from a toaster fire, extension cord shortage, etc. then everyone sues everyone.

Amazon DNGAF because the risk is on the "seller". Just like TAX RISK is on the "seller".

People are importing shit from their basement, trying to get rich, with no clue about product risk when it should be slightly harder.


Has anyone actually tried and failed to hold Amazon accountable for a dangerous product? I don't think it would be obvious to the average person that they're not transacting with Amazon when they use the Amazon website, and if Amazon's legal strategy depends on that distinction being upheld in every country, it seems risky.


https://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/local/tennessee/2019/07/...

“ Nashville mother Megan Fox didn’t know her hoverboard might explode, but Amazon did.

Now, a federal appellate court says the nation’s largest online retailer may well have to shell out damages for a fire that trapped Fox’s children, forced them to leap from a second-story window and destroyed the family’s $1 million home.”


Amazon consultant? How is it these days?

I used to do gigs as a trade agent in parallel to my part time job in a trade company 10 years ago.


Business is good. Getting more and more crowded. We help companies that focus their sales team on brick & mortar accounts.

They can go from 0-to-60 with AMZ platform experience across purchase orders, merchandising, advertising, invoicing, etc.

Still tons of opportunity in strategy and digitizing catalogs for all manufacturers & importers in the country/world.


All the ballyhoo about Amazon Transparency and UUID per item. This is a relatively well solved issue in other areas.

Make become a seller a bit more difficult with some skin in the game ($2,500 deposit if you sell more than 15 items per year? In person identity verification?). Sellers used to meet with buyers agents (cost money and added identities).

Caught selling garbage (product marked new actually used, totaly fake junk) enough times -> gone from marketplace and hard to get back in.

The reality is Amazon doesn't care - there IS a market opportunity here for someone to take them on with trusted product catalog and quick shipping (using UPS / Fedex). I wish somebody would straight compete with them rather than all the complaining to politicians.


Amazon's active "solution" is customer service to address these problems.

"Oh jeez, you ordered a GoPro and got a "YiGorProHD" knockoff. Here, we'll credit your Amazon account with a gift card or try to resend you the item again. Thanks so much for your patience, I'm so sorry for the error."

Amazon doesn't give a shit about everything being sold on the marketplace. They aren't going to track down who put the rotten egg in the basket. It's cheaper and more effective to just give the customers what they want so they shut up and go away happy to continue buying stuff. Plus, in the returns/refunds area, it's the sellers who pay for those costs, so Amazon has nothing to lose by just being a marketplace and customer service sounding board. It's a win-win for Amazon.


So I hear, but my experience with Amazon on this front has not been so positive. I pretty much count them as not having a return policy at all anymore. If I get broken garbage from them, I just eat the loss and get more suspicious of Amazon. It beats having the hassle of talking to Amazon in order to end up just eating the loss anyway.

This is in contrast to eBay, which has always done right by me when I've had a problem with something I've purchased.


That's the polar opposite of my experience, and really weird to read, I order from Amazon so much in large part because returns (when I need them) are so easy.


I don't understand it either, particularly because I've been a customer for over a decade and have spent a ton of money with them over that time... and I've only had problems with orders four or five times. But each time, they treated me very poorly and I was never able to actually resolve the issue.


What's interesting is they often don't even have you return the item.

While not cost effective, I think having you return item, verify it's a knock off, then take some action would be better long run. Apple products had TONS of fake chargers on Amazon for a while.


Which is why regulators need to step in.


The market opportunity is already occupied by Target! Great products, shipped to you or delivered to your car in the parking lot. I’ve shifted at least 50% of my Amazon spend to Target. I won’t buy anything that I eat, that touches my children’s skin, that plugs in, or that has a Li-Ion battery from Amazon.


And they have great connectivity between their HVAC and POS systems!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supply_chain_attack#Target


I'll try them, though I just did some searches for some random categories like sailboat products and got nothing back. We have switched a lot of our home goods shopping to them (in person).


Yeah, sailboat products ain’t gonna happen at Target. Amazon is like a giant Goodwill: half the stuff is obvious crap, another 30% is non obvious crap, and 20% is quality products. If you want verified quality in specialty categories, you need to use a specialty retailer like West Marine.


That can work, but it depends on what you're buying. Target doesn't carry about 99% of the sorts of things that I buy online. However, I have a physical Target just down the road from me, so I've probably already checked there before I even got on the internet.


Target was cool for the four years they operated in Canada before imploding. I guess we've got Giant Tiger still.


Target doesn't have nearly the same amount of products as Amazon, even if you don't count the junk on Amazon.


There lies the trade off. Quality control / trust verification is hard, and you will have way more products available if you forego it. You’ll also have a ton of junk mixed in too.


Of course. I’m talking about for household essentials. Amazon has built a gigantic marketplace by instituting zero quality control. Target is a marketplace with much stricter quality control and a vastly smaller selection. If you’re fine with caveat emptor than Amazon is the better choice.


>Caught selling garbage (product marked new actually used, totaly fake junk) enough times -> gone from marketplace and hard to get back in.

This is what they have now. Many sellers get suspended over used sold as new and inauthentic complaints.

They also have velocity reviews; if your sales increase too quickly you may get suspended for a bit.


Yeah, the difficult part is that the seller just returns under a different name. Enough complaints have come in about marketplace seller GreatElectronics4U? OK, Amazon bans/suspends GreatElectronics4U and the guy behind it starts selling stuff as AllTheBestElectronics4U. Rinse and repeat.

This isn't like the old days when a ban on doing business under your current name would be a death blow ... start a new seller account and your junk still shows up in Amazon search results, just like it did yesterday.


That's why I'm saying have folks put-up $2,500 when you sell more than 10-20 items per year. It won't be perfect, but it puts a big speedbump there for folks who want to rinse and repeat. A lot of overseas sellers have very low labor costs, so new accounts are cheap from a person perspective but $2,500 is not cheap overseas - so the accounts paying this would be ideally be then really cared for.


What exactly is the proposed solution? Amazon already requires ID verification to open new accounts, and will ban accounts that they can link to old banned accounts.


I really don't know what the solution is.

I also don't have first-hand knowledge of the situation on the ground in, for example, China. But my perception (and that of others I've talked to), is that Chinese sellers just sign up to open a new account, no problem. I'm not sure if that means using the info of a relative or friend, or fake documents, or if my perception is just completely wrong.

It'd be interesting to hear from anyone who has seen things on the ground on that side of the world!


I've certainly talked to many US sellers who openly admit to running multiple accounts. Many feel that it's just not responsible to only run a single account if you're doing significant volume, even 100% legitimately.


They just use another employee to sign up. I know a number of people that do that - really laughable how easy it is to game Amazon.


Money. Charge or require even a deposit of $2,500 on a credit card in your name.

Sure, you can continue to was accounts (and even legit business may decide to invest in 3-4 different names to cover different segments / backup protection). But right now the scam seller cost / pain is so low for bad behavior (other than in time which they have lots of) that something needs to change at least a bit.


A bond requirement after a certain amount of sales isn't a bad idea, but the threshold should be significantly higher, maybe over 50k or 100k in sales in a year.

A better idea may be to enforce the insurance requirement. This de facto requires sellers to commit a similar sum of money towards the business, but they're getting something for it instead of it being tied up. The Amazon contract says if you sell over 10k/month for 3 months then you must carry $1 million in liability insurance. The threshold seems about right, if they'd require proof of insurance for anyone over that threshold it would mostly fix bad actors using multiple accounts, while mostly leaving alone those that have legitimate business purposes in running multiple accounts.


> What exactly is the proposed solution?

Start requiring taxpayer IDs?


They do. Have you ever tried to sign up for an account?


No, I haven't. I'm not a retailer.


I think you're missing the key part:

>hard to get back in

It's been discussed to death, by overseas sellers simply have a massive advantage in starting new seller accounts on Amazon.


>It's been discussed to death

Where?

>overseas sellers simply have a massive advantage in starting new seller accounts on Amazon.

Why would it be any easier for an overseas seller to start a new account after being banned? Amazon blocks related accounts whenever they can track it. Sellers can get around that by having employees or relatives open accounts in their name. This is just as easy or difficult in the US as elsewhere. Regardless, it's something Amazon can't completely fix: they need a way to determine an account is related to a previously banned account. When they do determine that they will quickly ban the new account.


>Where?

In fairness, mostly in FBA-related forums. I'm a 3P seller so I apologize for that comment as I certainly have a skewed view of what is commonly known.

>This is just as easy or difficult in the US as elsewhere.

Wrong. How much would I have to pay you to borrow your passport to set up a seller account? $100? $1000? $10,000? -- You can get this in rural India / China for $20-$100. (And maybe even less than that, I'm not interested in finding out)

>Amazon blocks related accounts whenever they can track it.

Key phrase: whenever they can track it

>When they do determine that they will quickly ban the new account.

I really don't know what to say other than that this is patently false. Here is one (or 50?) of countless examples:

https://old.reddit.com/r/FulfillmentByAmazon/comments/8rnqmb...


>How much would I have to pay you to borrow your passport to set up a seller account?

My passport would be useless, because I was banned from Amazon after dozens of frivolous complaints by a competitor, who I'm currently suing. I've discussed that elsewhere.

Having talked to many US sellers who operate multiple accounts, some of them dozens, I stand behind my claim that it's pretty easy for determined sellers to run multiple stealth accounts.

>I really don't know what to say other than that this is patently false. It really appears you do not know what you're talking about.

I've heard from plenty of people who got suspended for opening another account after suspension, without going through all the effort to cloak it. It's clear that Amazon enforces that, if they know about it. When duplicate accounts aren't suspended, it's because Amazon doesn't know, or is unable to prove it enough to justify a suspension.

Of course there's a both a false positive and false negative rate. But the claim that Amazon doesn't care about this is wrong. Just in the last year they started enforcing ID verification on all new signups, in large part to make it more difficult to open multiple accounts.


> Amazon blocks related accounts whenever they can track it.

They really cannot, and that's been the case for 10+ years.

Even in-person verification is more or less easily defeatable.

Alibaba requires on-site check and business license check by an expert, and may throw many more scrutiny and audit on you than Amazon, but even this is to little effect.


Well, at least that's easily fixed: require a local physical presence who can be sued or prosecuted. If I wanted untraceable disguised imports I know where AliExpress is.


Amazon is a retailer - there are already millions of competitors - you just have to start buying from them.


> I wish somebody would straight compete with them rather than all the complaining to politicians.

One doesn't exclude the other.


The point is to generate choices / alternatives.

If you go the government involvement route you ossify industries and actually can make it harder for folks to compete.

Funeral home chains were famous for pushing for lots of crazy regs that only a system with big economies of scale could meet to push out smaller independents.

In some cities like SF zoning hoops mean that only folks with HUGE pockets / attorneys and long time horizons can get through the planning / permitting and building process - all other restaurants etc basically need to rent (which means if they make the neighborhood nice they don't benefit).

What I want to know - is there a trusted online seller available now that a reasonable amazon alternative?


Regulating that a retailer selling genuine products is nothing at all like zoning or funeral homes.

We need to empower states to regulate Amazon like any other retailer or have reasonable federal standards. In some cases states can apply the death penalty to retailers (revoking sales tax license) if they are perpetuating a fraud. You need regulators with teeth to compel positive behavior from a company are large as Amazon.


It is the same.

If the only folks who can sell products are ones who have a deal with the rightholder and can prove they have the rights to sell - obviously the big players will be the ones able to do the deals with Nike, Apple, etc and little guys will not.

If the federal government actually cared they can ALREADY intercept and even destroy imported counterfeit products - they do not because it's a bit time consuming and hard and they also don't care.


No it is not. Why would you socialize a problem by requiring the government to spend taxpayer resources and slowing down shipping with inspections in a stream of hundreds of millions of packages?

It would be much easier to empower states to enforce existing concepts like the warranty of merchantability in interstate settings or have a regulatory framework that would allow predatory platforms like Amazon to be held accountable for their behavior.


Umm the state ia the government. It is socialized by definition already on every level.


No, due to federal rules Amazon has an edge over normal retailers for following basic laws.


There are lots of alternatives for each category of products - Zappos for shoes/clothes, Mouser for electrical components, etc. though there is no one competitor to Amazon that is as comprehensive as it is.

Edit: Turns out Zappos is owned by Amazon. But my point still stands if we replace it with something else.


Zappos is part of Amazon.


Mouser / digikey generally have inflated prices, and shipping on top of the order. I only go there for specific components, for day-to-day components Amazon is just fine.


I had not heard of Mouser until this moment - thank you!


Mouser (and Digikey) are both really excellent. They aren't cheap, but that's probably part of why they're excellent.


Ebay still exists and is way better for niche stuff anyway.


Yes. I have decided to change my buying priority. When I need something, I first look to local businesses. If I can't find what I want there, I look to manufacturer websites. If that fails, I used to go to Amazon, followed by eBay.

I think I need to just go to eBay at that stage, and drop Amazon entirely.


> The reality is Amazon doesn't care - there IS a market opportunity here for someone to take them on with trusted product catalog and quick shipping (using UPS / Fedex).

Target? Walmart?


There's a lot of emphasis in this article on counterfeits of luxury goods sold at obviously counterfeit prices (like the Hermès for 5% of genuine retail), but not much on the far more insidious (and seemingly pervasive, in my experience) general merchandise counterfeits sold for what is often not a suspiciously big discount.

Categories like kitchen or yard tools are absolutely rife with counterfeits. As an example, search Amazon for Ove Glove heat-resistant oven gloves: The Amazon's-Choice-badged option (which, I know, is chosen by algorithm) yields a product page where the top review complains they received a product without several of the trademark details on the older set they own. The reviewer even acknowledges the difficulty in tracking down genuine Ove Gloves on Amazon! They ultimately resign themselves to defeat: "What a game: I rolled the dice and lost."

Of course, there are also quite sophisticated fakes in categories such as consumer electronics. Fake controllers for game consoles are a standout: Search for the Playstation DualShock 4 controller and you'll find the official product page littered with reviews complaining of an entire continuum of fakes, ranging from obvious to ones that are almost entirely indistinguishable until the knockoff battery stops holding a charge after a few weeks.

I'm not really sure what product categories are still safe to buy on Amazon, given that everything from food to books has varying degrees of counterfeit mixed in. At least something like an iPad should be impossible to fake due to the cryptographic requirements for booting the OS.


Tbh, at this point I don’t buy anything I that a value authenticity in from non-official distributors. I’ll go to the brands web page, and find their list of official resellers and buy from them only.


I wanted a particular USB adapter, from what I thought was a "real" brand and as far as I could tell from the manufacturer webpage, it's only sold on Amazon. And the only option on Amazon was a third party.


It's the everyday goods counterfeits that actually concern me. A fake luxury handbag won't hurt me, a fake carbon monoxide detector will.


Amazon's fulfilment has also become shockingly bad. Most items are shipped in lightly-padded manila envelopes resulting in high percentage of damaged goods if you order books[1], CDs/DVDs/BluRays, video games, or anything else where the packaging is part of the product. eBay is a much better experience in this regard.

[1] In an ironic twist, I absolutely refuse to buy books from Amazon anymore.


I've received many damaged books from Amazon. Whenever I report the items as being damaged I am prepared with photographs of the damaged goods as proof, but they always send me another one without caring.

It just feels so wasteful to save money by mishandling everything to the point where it doesn't even matter if stuff breaks because it is cheaper to try a 2nd time.


But you don't actually know that this practice is wasteful. That all depends on the numbers.

Let's say that Amazon sends out 100 books, and 1 or 2 get damaged. But if they add some extra bit of packaging to every single one of those 100 books, zero will get damaged.

Did this save cost or materials? I don't know, it depends on how much extra packaging was needed, whether the damage was serious enough to initiate a refund/re-send, and whether adding packaging to every single order was less environmentally impactful than having to print and send an extra book to those who received damaged ones.

It's going to be a simple dollar value equation for companies like Amazon, and make no mistake, they have the data and have made these decisions consciously.


> It's going to be a simple dollar value equation for companies like Amazon, and make no mistake, they have the data and have made these decisions consciously.

I suspect they're not counting the damage this is doing to their brand. I've kept items that were slightly damaged, but it slowly eroded my trust in Amazon. Now I avoid Amazon if I can help it.


I think the poster may have meant "a waste of a good book" not "a waste of money".

It's like how throwing produce away at the grocery store is "a waste" but the system is cost-effective.


The environmental impact of extra plastic packaging is much greater than the impact of compostable produce.

And anyway, if Amazon has to ship extra books, they pay the publisher an extra time, and you can always donate the damaged book as well.


If it's a simple dollar-value calculation on the part of Amazon, then it's sure to be wasteful, in that negative externalities will be ignored.


Is that a sensical definition of waste here? The difference in externalities has to be greater than and opposite to the delta in cost, in order for their decision to be wrong, I think.

Just because externalities are ignored doesn't prove anything in particular if you don't know the relative change.


Fair point. Let's say, "Sure to be wasteful compared with a decision that takes everything into account." Or, more simply, "Sure to be more wasteful." Although for the people who experience the negative exernalities, by their account it will always be wasteful, in that they only experience costs, not gains.


Well, I'm specifically saying that it's not sure to be wasteful compared to a more informed decision.

That's a general fact about the world, that making decisions on incomplete information does not necessarily produce worse results. Sometimes things turn out better than you expected and sometimes worse.

People are often significantly biased, but that's separate from the issue of not taking "everything" into account.

It also seems obviously wrong to say that a negative externality is or should be considered in isolation. It's just silly to say that people who experience negative things only experience negative things or that any category of things that includes negative things must be net negative.


Well if I'm saying a lot of things that are taken as just silly, clearly this discussion is wasteful of my time.


It also flies in the face of Amazon's promise of convenience and "2-day delivery" guarantees when you have to have the same item shipped to you twice and make the trip to the post office to return the first one.


when I bough a TV on Amazon, the screen was broke. I asked for another, and the replacement... has a broken screen. Returned both, and bought for $50 more on Bestbuy, but it came intact


For huge things like TVs I think it makes more sense to buy in in person at BestBuy or Costco.

Costco's return policy alone is a big advantage. Plus they have so many TVs in the store where you can see them in operation.


That's if they can reliably deliver it in the first place. They kept mis-delivering or losing packages so much that I took my $5000/year spend elsewhere.


In my experience, Amazon doesn't usually make you return damaged items unless they're very expensive. I got a set of free wireless earbuds a couple months back because a previous resident of my apartment accidentally delivered their package to us, and when I called Amazon they told me to just keep it.


> but they always send me another one without caring.

Had something like that happen to me, and for the product, it was a shock. I had ordered the item, it said it was delivered, but it never made it to me. I contact CS (via chat) and they said they would send out another one. I said ok - what happens if the old one shows up in the meantime. They told me to keep it.

A few days later I got the original item (it had been shipped to a completely wrong address via USPS). Then a few weeks later I got the "new" one. So now I have two of them.

The item? A Tamiya Grasshopper kit.


They still make those??


To be honest, I've never received a damaged book or CD from Amazon in those padded envelopes. I really prefer them over the boxes, because they seem less wasteful.


I received two nvme ssd's in a padded envelope. They could easily have been destroyed. They delivered a $500 video card by slapping a shipping sticker on the product box and shipping it that way.

On the other hand, I received a $12 box of wet wipes that came in a giant, nicely padded box. The product itself was in a sturdy box. $400 dollars worth of computer storage was shipped improperly, but Amazon made sure I got my box of wet wipes safe and sound!

More often than not, I receive small items in giant boxes. Amazon used to ship one order in one box, now they ship one order in many boxes.

I don't know how much waste Amazon generates with lazy packaging, but it must be a colossal amount.


It's funny how they hide behind the "Frustration Free" packaging which ends up being pretty frustrating. I just ordered a Dymo printer and they slapped a sticker on the original box that ended up completely destroyed (and I had it delivered to a locker via amazons own delivery people).


Regarding your video card, there wasn't an option to have it re-packed in an Amazon box?

Usually for items that will ship with external facing identifiable product information, they will give you the option (a checkbox) to have it packed inside an Amazon box...


I ordered two cr2032 cells, and received them in a huge box with a lithium battery sticker. I suspected the box was chosen so large because of the sticker size, not the product size (which was about 1"x2"x1/8")


Your video card would be shipped in that fashion if the product was certified SIOC (Ships In Own Container); wherein the seller certifies that their packaging is adequate to ship to the customer with only cosmetic damage to the packaging.

For SIOC products, I believe there's always an option to include an Amazon box _around_ the original box, however it's optional because that second box is considered to be waste, as the product packaging is already supposed to be good enough for shipping purposes.


Me too. I bought a rare $80 art book from amazon and the first two were badly damaged from shipping and the third was just a little damaged so I gave up and took it. I was worried they would deactivate my account for being a troublemaker or something.


Ironically as well, I tend to use alternative sites to buy books. I prefer ThriftBooks and Powells for secondhand used books, and Barnes and Noble for new ones (of which I buy only on sale). What do people here use?


I've been buying used copies of the paperbacks my kids need for school from discoverbooks.com

they often have notes, highlighting, and dogears -- perfect for our use-case


> eBay is a much better experience

Wouldn't this be down to the individual seller?


Yes, but ebay sellers have a reputation to maintain so sellers that stoop to amazon levels of idiocy when packing their products don't last long.


Yes, but eBay sort of self-selects for better sellers and you can also see the seller's profile, feedback etc.

Half the time on Amazon it's hard to even tell anything. As someone else said, books are REALLY bad. It's a gamble as to what you actually receive sometimes.


Amazon has basically turned itself into eBay but without a way to check the reputation of a seller.


Right under the "Buy it now" button, it says "sold by X and fulfilled by Amazon", or "ships from and sold by X". If you click on X it shows you seller feedback. It's an extra click compared to eBay and it's not ideal, but it's hardly impossible.


Yeah but that's the issue. On eBay the seller has their feedback rating displayed prominently. On Amazon it is sold by <insert English odd word combo> "company" that nobody pays attention to as the ratings are on the product, and it indicates that the product you will get doesn't depend on who sells it really. It is also fulfilled by Amazon so you know you will get it fast. So the consumer basically considers the seller as a wholesaler (which they essentially are in this arrangement, and don't care.


At least eBay will make you whole if you have a problem. Amazon won't, in my experience.


Yep. Got a BluRay recently with a badly cracked case because it shipped in little more than a paper envelope, and im sure was chucked up my front steps from 10 feet away.

I usually buy them from Best Buy's online site which always seems to have the same price as amazon now


The other problem with those mailers is that they're not recyclable. They're plastic mixed with paper, meaning they're neither.

Like, if you order a huge item from amazon, it will come in 2 feet of normal recyclable cardboard. But if you order books? They send them in those ridiculous mailers.


eBay has become my first stop for many categories of goods. It's not always the best choice, but it is often enough that it's worth checking. For example, both of my carbon monoxide detectors expired at the same time, and Amazon and local box stores wanted something like $70 each for replacements. On eBay I found the same model new in box for half of that from what I think was a fire system installation company.


Sellers are fleeing eBay in droves because eBay and PayPal always side with the customer, even in blatantly fraudulent cases.

More than half of the orders I've placed on eBay in the past year have been cancelled by eBay or PayPal because they detected fraud from the seller. I can't be bothered to keep wasting my time and money on a site that is hardly even a shadow of what it used to be.

Amazon suffers the same,but slightly different problems.

As such I've had no choice but to revert back to shopping in person, or in many cars simply skip out on purchasing things I could have readily found on eBay or Amazon five years ago for good prices without hassle. Somewhere eBay and Amazon have completely dropped the ball. I hope it effects their bottom line soon because the second hand stores near me are junk.


I recently bought a new book from amazon, and it was thrown in with the rest of my order, causing the pages to be folded over at an angle. sigh.


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