Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
You might literally be buying trash on Amazon (wsj.com)
414 points by mudil 37 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 429 comments

I don't care if people sell clean, safe, reasonable things that are gleaned from a dumpster. That's waste reduction and a net good.

What I hate are all the low quality and fraudulent items on Amazon (It's not quite as bad as Ali Express, yet--Ali Express also happens to sell everything ever conceived and people generally accept that a certain portion of things are counterfeit, Amazon pretends to enforce quality.)

This is the opening that Sears should have been waiting for. They used to provide the service of selling a curated selection of pretty much anything you would need. Back in the day they had 3 of everything, you needed a widget, you could go to Sears by buy the "good", "better", or "best" version of that thing at a competitive price.

Sears, if it were managed worth a damn, could do that. They still have stores all over the place to serve as distributed warehouses, show-rooms and customer service centers.

Maybe Target will figure this out. I don't think Amazon will. The closest Amazon has come to addressing this is making their own house brand (a la Kenmore). Which is fine, I guess, if you don't have congress calling you a monopoly. If anything is going to bring Amazon down a peg, it is going to be the ingenuity of fraudulent sellers outstripping the ingenuity of their anti-fraud systems and policies.

I don't care if people sell clean, safe, reasonable things that are gleaned from a dumpster. That's waste reduction and a net good.

Years ago, I lived in a city that decided to offer a "garbage collection amnesty week". For one week (with your regular pickup day, Monday-Friday), you could put out as much garbage as you wanted at the curb, and it would be collected for no extra charge.

The city apparently vastly underestimated how much garbage was going to go out. It was not all collected that week. There was junk sitting out on the curb, all over the city, for 1-2 months.

There were also people driving around, searching for cool stuff. For example, one of my items out on the curb was an old bird cage. One morning, the bird cage was gone, and there was someone else's old doll house in its place. A friend of mine found a complete metal suit of armor; not really functional, but a nice decorative piece.

There can definitely be value left in someone else's trash. But if ordering on Amazon, as a paying customer, I would at least want to know up front if I'm buying something that came out of the trash, and make my own decision on if I wanted to buy it or not.

But if ordering on Amazon, as a paying customer, I would at least want to know up front if I'm buying something that came out of the trash, and make my own decision on if I wanted to buy it or not.

I agree, but let me play Devil's advocate a moment.

I went to a gin distillery on vacation a couple months ago. It was well known, well respected, sold internationally, etc. I'm not really into gin, but I thought what they gave us tasted pretty great. It was well packaged, their physical location was in a nice spot and had a well decorated, cool little area where they went over the history, their employees all seemed well educated and happy to be there, etc.

When we got to look at the distillation process, we went into a very small, narrow looking hallway with all the equipment and got to see the gin coming out into a big, pretty unceremonious looking plastic bucket.

Their distillation equipment was expensive, everything was very clean, and it seemed like this was just their process. I didn't really see anything wrong with it.

But, if at the point of sale, someone had a picture of the gin going into that plastic bucket and let everyone know that this was a part of their process, I think fewer people would buy it. And for no good reason. The gin was great, everything was clean, and I'm sure cleaning and maintaining that setup would be easier to deal with than some sort of automatic bottling machinery.

Although most people think knowing where a product came from is good information (and it is if you have a good understanding of the context/what to compare it to), people have a tendency to be irrationally averted by things that don't really have any bearing on the product. I'd argue a product being "new" vs "warehoused" vs "trashed" is one of them. If the product is in the same shape, it shouldn't really matter if it was on the front and center shelf, in the back of a warehouse, or in a dumpster. It's the same product. Emphasizing where it comes from can cause people to irrationally avoid it and have it go to waste when it's perfectly fine.

Those plastic buckets are ubiquitous in the food industry, but are rarely shown. One company showing the buckets would doubtlessly impact their sales, but what if all companies showed their buckets? Buckets would probably then be perceived by consumers in a more accurate light and probably would not suppress sales nearly as much.

And hence the overall education level, which is what all this is about, would go up. Which is always the answer to the problem. What we have here is a lack of education.

Tours of farms and food factories are great field trips for school kids, but unfortunately I think that possibility is probably regional.

I'm not sure what regions you are thinking about. Most of the US population lives in a place where visits to either farms or food factories are quite tenable. Agricultural extension agencies like 4-H (https://4-h.org/) remain quite willing to take poor kids from inner city New York on field trips out to farms in Connecticut, New Jersey, and the like.

Haha. You and I have a different view of education.

Great points. Related note: studies show (citation needed, sorry), people consistently perceive wine as better-tasting if they believe it's more expensive.

I tried tasting really old, really expensive wine a little while ago. I can't say I find it very different from new and cheap wine (certainly not better-tasting)...

Many years ago I had a 1997 Lafite, which was an excellent year from an excellent vintner, one of the premier grand crus. It wasn't quite as trendy yet and I paid about $500 for the bottle at a restaurant. I reckon it tasted better than a $30 bottle, but certainly not >15 times better.

On the other hand, the Château d'Yquem sauterne I spent $750 on (for the little baby sauterne bottle) made me feel like I was getting my full money's worth. But that's not something I'd want to drink regularly.

And no I'm not a high roller who drinks these wines all the time, in fact I haven't in well over a decade. It was a fairly transparent, but successful, status play. Now I stick to highly rated $15-30 a bottle table wines because, in the USA, that's the sweet spot and I'm not interested in spending 10 times as much for a wine that's 20% better.

That's exactly it,gourmet foods in general hold a very nonlinear price premium for that small marginal taste increment. Those increments never match the dollar increments.

Wasn't there also a study that showed people perceived wine to taste better when it was poured by an Italian waiter compared to an Asian waiter?

Aside: Contract consumable manufacturing is how most packaged food is made in the US. Essentially, things like packaged cookies, that new craft beer, or frozen enchiladas are all made in the exact same place with the exact same equipment, even brand name, just a different recipe. These places tend to be very tightly controlled in terms of sterility, tastes, particulate matter, mold, ingredient source, etc. Most of those boxes from those central shelves in your Safeway are all from the same handful of places.

They say about brewing beer it's 90% cleaning and 10% record keeping.

I'd wager it's even more extreme with a distillery, since, in addition to a bad tasting batch of gin, people may actually be killed if the output is a faulty product, containing too much methanol.

You would have to royally fuck up for that to happen. Even if you didn't cut the heads and tails, the amount of methanol produced by distilling is relatively low.

Plus it tastes horrible.

I don't know if that a French thing or not, but in France, in many cities there is a day designated as "encombrants" (~ bulky). Basically for when you want to throw out large objects.

There are people roaming out the streets on that day and hoping to find something worth reselling before it gets picked up by the city.

As far as I know, we haven't encountered the issue of too much stuff being thrown out that day, but maybe this is because this happens regularly.

I don't know if that a French thing or not, but in France, in many cities there is a day designated as "encombrants" (~ bulky). Basically for when you want to throw out large objects.

I had this when I lived in Nevada. It was every other Tuesday and called "bulk trash day." You could put out pretty much anything that wasn't commercial construction waste or hazardous waste.

There were also scavengers who knew when bulk trash day was for each neighborhood, and would drive around the neighborhoods in trucks taking things off the curb to sell at flea markets.

Yes, I'm French and, on "jour des encombrants", when I put out something which is usable, I always make sure it is obvious, clean and visible... It is usually picked up within the hour by either some student or a junk trader. Conversely, I've found surprisingly useful things to use in my home. I like the spirit of ultralocal reuse !

I've been leaving notes on my interesting stuff when I set it at the curb. Figure I can save someone some time and help them decide if it's a problem they want to tackle, _before_ they get it home and diagnose it.

On a washing machine, I put a note like "Transmission bad, motor and controls probably fine, no leaks."

When I lived in Germany it was the same. But rather than people looking to sell item it was people looking to furnish their homes. A great system really.

Good thing there are not many bed bugs in Germany and thrown away furniture

> not many bed bugs in Germany

As a German, it took me until adulthood to figure out that when Americans talk of "bed bugs", it's not a metaphor.

In California you get only one day a year of free pickup for bulky items. Its restricted to appliances, furniture, and mattress. Furthermore, you have to schedule in advance with the company handling your garbage pickup.

Recology SF and San Mateo allots two bulky item pickups per (single family) household per year. Up in Novato/Sonoma it's 4x annually.

This depends entirely on your city government and who they contract with.

I've seen on-call pickup of large items (2 or 3x per year), bulk trash day once per year for everything on the curb, free appointments at a central location, and "haul it to the dump yourself then pay a fee".

I’m pretty sure the San Jose green team offers unlimited free curbside pickup of bulky items. You do need to call to schedule it, but that’s fairly reasonable in my opinion.

I live in Los Angeles, and I can schedule as many free bulky item pickups as I want, at any time.

Interesting, that sounds like "encumbrance" which is a good word to describe the burden of owning too much "stuff"! :)

Boston has "Allston Christmas" on Sept 1st each year. Tons of people move. There's lots of nifty stuff on the sidewalks waiting to be discovered.

Madison WI has this around that time from when college students move. I feel like that might be a University-town thing.

If you live in a university town, find out which dorms the international students live in, and locate the nearest trash bins. At the end of spring semester, during finals week, check in and around those bins daily.

The graduating international students who are returning to their home countries frequently discard things that they bought locally, as it may be too expensive to ship larger items in either direction. Those who will be returning in the fall might put their dorm stuff into storage, or they might just toss it, and re-buy if/when they return.

The cheaper it is to ship, store, or sell, the lower the quality of the items discarded. That's why you focus on those who will be flying home.

In Sydney, Australia, there is an annual "council cleanup" day. It rotates around to different areas each week. If I recall correctly, you can put your junk out up to a week early, and people definitely go around looking for good stuff, including professional junk dealers who are looking to fix things up for sale. We got some good things that way. Whatever is left at the end is hauled away by the council.

annoyingly, people would come out and strip wires (for the copper) off appliances. But they tend to do it messily, and leave a big gaping mess everywhere (e.g., smashing up TVs and leave broken shards of glass everywhere).

  I lived in a city that decided to offer a "garbage collection amnesty week"
Santa Clara does this once a year.

I've seen people coming from wherever and dumping their trash on Santa Clara sidewalks (in a neighborhood for whom it's their free pickup week) to save dump costs... including hazardous waste like paint and chemicals.

Heck yeah man, we used to have that around here as well and I found tons of amazing old computer equipment that people had discarded. Every single thing I grabbed still worked. Unfortunately I don't think any municipality around me does this program anymore :(

> There can definitely be value left in someone else's trash.

Many many years ago I put a piece of scrap butcher block on top of the yard waste pile near the street in front of my home. Later that day a Mercedes drove past, stopped, a woman in a suit got out, examined the butcher block, put it in her trunk, and drove off.

I hope it's still serving as a really nice cutting board or some such in someone's home in Miami.

In my area, people make a living driving around and picking up discarded items to fix up and resell.

They have craigslist for this stuff nowadays. In college neighborhoods you can just dump it on the street it will get picked up by some student who needs it.

Craigslist is fine for getting rid of single items. But what if I sort through my drawers and end up with a pile of 100 small things that I want to get rid of? I ain't putting 100 posts on Craigslist (or rather, the local equivalent).

Yeah, this. The problem is not that it's trash, the problem is that its provenance is not being disclosed.

> A friend of mine found a complete metal suit of armor; not really functional

... so you fired arrows at it from a longbow ? And he got injured, then had to explain at the hospital why his friend shot him with an antique weapon ? S'pretty great.

Walmart seems to be heading in that direction... though I do hope they keep the reigns in on third party sellers. On Amazon, I generally only buy if it's sold by Amazon, I could still get a counterfeit or bad item, but at least it's easy enough to return... third party sellers, it's a crap-shoot.

The sad story of Sears is unfortunately the story of private equity stripping away all value and quality until nothing but a husk remains.

Ok, how do you know if something is clean, safe, and resonable if it comes out of a dumpster? A kids toy could have biohazard material on it, that is disgusting.

As long as it is sold as used it as wouldn’t be any different really to the potential contaminates that could be on anything second hand.

Eh I’d expect a used item to be sitting in some secondhand store or someone’s basement but not literally next to a pile of trash covered in cockroaches and rat poop.

It could have that coming out of the factory. How would you know? Do you personally conduct inspections?

Not every dumpster is filled with expired vegetables or used heroin needles. Some are just full of discarded products.

> Do you personally conduct inspections?

What a dishonest argument. Pointlessly contrarian.

The whole point of having vetted suppliers is that they've been vetted, so that their output's QA is authorized by a regulatory body. Sure it's possible to sneak past that but it's very hard to do so. Dumpsters don't have QA.

Amazon is performing a negligible vetting process in a race to the bottom.

> Amazon is performing a negligible vetting process in a race to the bottom.

I suspect this is exactly astrodust's point. Amazon ain't doing any meaningful vetting, so unless you're doing your own inspections, you have effectively zero reliable way to know whether or not your brand-new toy is going to give your child radiation sickness.

Nothing dishonest about that argument at all.

Yeah technically that is true but using the same logic you could say, "since no one is doing QA on swimming pool water I can fill my pool with used toilet water and not tell anyone."

More like "I can fill my pool with water that was at one point toilet water and has since been filtered and not tell anyone", and this (on that note) would be the reality in the case of virtually (if not literally) every single swimming pool.

That is: your pool water is statistically near-certain to have had animal (human or otherwise) excrement or heavy metals or soap/disinfectants or some other contaminant in it at some point in its existence at at least some proportion, and you're trusting your municipal water utility (or your septic field, if you live out in the boonies) to filter that out before it's delivered to be your pool/drinking water.

In this analogy, Amazon is the municipal water utility, and you live in Flint, MI.

No. Used toilet water is definitely dirty and unsafe.

Something from a dumpster may be perfectly clean, and a lot of people take stuff from the trash, and as long as it's not been in contact with gross stuff that's not a problem.

Nobody reuses toilet water.

Actually, here in the USA we reuse our toilet water. We have water treatments. It's a wonderful thing. https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/public/water_treat...

Yep, that's about right, except that Amazon is filling your swimming pool.

The problem with their argument is they are implying its the fault of the consumer, not amazon.

That's a rather uncharitable reading of that comment, and not at all how I read it.

The whole reason of buying a product from a company you "trust" is that they aren't giving you dumpster trash.

Presumably the factory's reputation would suffer, their manufacturing dries up and folds. Any consequences from a one-off sale by a third party are borne by the official source and Amazon. Which is the confusing part for me: why does Amazon not care about their reputation hit from enabling fraudulent third parties?

Third parties have been selling junk (figuratively and literally) on Amazon for years. Yet people still buy it in vast quantities. Why would Amazon change?

That's one of the things Costco does. They should've already capitalized on it with online ordering. Another really cool company that does "best of" and unique items is Hammacher Schlemmer:


You can order online at costco.com.

As far as I can tell, Costco.com doesn’t give you the same price as in warehouse, even if you’re a member.

Why would they have an obligation to provide the same price?

Never said they did, but it makes shopping Costco online not really worth it.

It's the same store/chain?

What does that imply? What if it costs more to ship items than to sell them in their stores?

You expect people who shop in stores to subsidize those who shop online? Much of Costco’s value proposition is they don’t waste time with packaging and so everything is designed to be taken off the pallet by the customer.

If they now have to package and ship bulky items, it’s plausible it costs more to do that. Or maybe they’re just price discriminating. Either way, they have no obligation to provide the same prices online and offline, or even between their stores in HCOL vs LCOL areas.

> What if it costs more to ship items

That's why online you usually pay for shipping...

Back in the preinternet days, a catalog company called Service Merchandise had a business model similar to this. Catalog company with retail stores that had a subset of the popular items.

I used to love to go to Service Merchandise as a kid and watch the boxes/items come out on the belt/wheels. I was oddly fascinated by it and excitedly waited for whatever Mum/Nana bought.

I also remember they had a really fun audio room with boom boxes and very nice stereo systems, along with keyboards and the like. Lots of fun while others were out shopping!

If I remember correctly there was a "Scratch & Dent" section in those stores.

There were also Best Products and Consumers Distributing with similar business models ("catalog showrooms"). We had all three in SV.

"I don't care if people sell clean, safe, reasonable things that are gleaned from a dumpster. That's waste reduction and a net good."

I could agree with that but I am worried about foot items. Do you know why a Pharmacy NEVER takes back any medicine for resale? Too much risk that the product has been tampered with.

The same is true for food items.

Walmart seems like a possible competitor.

> The closest Amazon has come to addressing this is making their own house brand

People are starting to figure out how to even post counterfeit “AmazonBasics” items — at least, this item [1] that I came across recently seems very suspicious. So even those can’t be trusted anymore.

Edit: maybe this isn’t counterfeit, but the fact that I’m not confident says a lot.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07Q2PGH2T

The worst thing about amazon is that it doesn't charge everyone the same price

I think Wal-Mart is doing it. They allow 3rd party sellers but it says if it is sold by the third party or by Wal-Mart. As far as I know everything that says Wal-Mart is the same as they sell in their stores.

The worst thing about amazon is that it doesn't charge everyone the same price... someone connected on my home network was able to pay 15% less then me and I try to block tracking

If only sears didn’t charge 3rd party merchants way more than amazon to list items. RIP

That is Costco's game, and I play it with them every year.

So you are not happy with the low quality and fraudulent items, but you are OK with items literally pulled out of a dumpster? I personally don't really want either.

This seems so easy to me to fix... just have a decently-sized QA department and add in reputation score variations for sellers... if a seller gets caught selling anything counterfeit, their reputation takes a huge hit for 6 months or so and they barely show up on search results.

Trusted sellers would be folks who have managed to go several years without this happening..

I swear I could implement a whole solution for around ~$2M + $1M a year for ongoing QA staff / call center employees... basically nothing for a retailer the size of Amazon.

It makes me think they've done the CBA on it and somehow determined they would rather have all retailers selling on Amazon for some reason, even the shady ones, despite some damage to their reputation. I don't understand why though.

Who has the last word on if something is fake?

Your decently-sized QA department would investigate, case-by-case.

Some examples would probably be controversial and you'd need to escalate to a higher tier of analysis.

The issue here is that, like YouTube, it's so simple to create a new account that you'd just be chasing an endless stream of nothingness. I mean, just look at Amazon's review system. That's a system that they actually do investigate and have a department for and yet there are hundreds of thousands of sellers that have fake reviews and paid reviews for lots of different products and brands.

  Your decently-sized QA department would investigate, case-by-case
This describes The Real Real's business model perfectly... but turns out a lot of their "curated" stuff... wasn't.


Wow, very cool. That's a $1.6B company I've never even heard of.

The stock hasn't gone down at all since that article was published either. They must be doing something right..


seller reputation wouldn't be a terrible idea, but the devil is in the details. Items certainly have their own quality, but people's opinions are fickle. Who gets to say what is counterfeit, unless you have a trusted authenticator looking at every item? If someone is unhappy with an item it could be for any number of reasons, and no seller is perfect, even ones with good intentions and operations.

So from amazon's perspective, they have to spend a ton of time, effort, and money to risk alienating their sellers. So I think you're right - they've thought about it and decided that the risks were not worth the gains.

>but people's opinions are fickle. Who gets to say what is counterfeit, unless you have a trusted authenticator looking at every item?

Correct, that's what I mean by a decently-sized QA department. I would never base the score directly on end-users opinions, although the opinions of end-users could certainly be used to initiate the verification process:

Customers say something is fake --> raises ticket to QA department --> a few automatic orders are placed to different "fake" addresses over a period of weeks and months --> these delivered items are authenticated --> Reputation score modified --> customers are followed up with by the call center agents.

Your CBA might be accurate. If that's the case, they're digging their own coffin. Maybe Bezos should dump .com and go all in on AWS.

  go all in on AWS
Amazon Waste Services?

Their enforcement is so bad that they are banning legitimate sellers with little explanation or chance to appeal. The process is opaque, Kafkaesque, and irreversible.

My listing was removed because of a single review that read: "...round, difference from the regular models. i think they are not original from same factory./..."

"They" are pencils. Different models come in different shapes and colors.

I am accuainted with the brand and factory owners, and persoanlly buy directly from them.

I presented invoices and contact info of company officers but Amazon rejected my appeal because "We received your submission but do not have sufficient information to reactivate your listings. ".

From that point on they stopped responding to my emails.

Yeah, we got banned after TP-Link falsely claimed we were selling counterfeit routers. The article briefly mentions brands abusing the reporting system, but talk to any sizable reseller and you'll find it's very prevalent. My estimate is 90%+ of large Amazon resellers have received false complaints of counterfeiting or other infringement. I've talked to multiple sellers who get such false claims weekly or even daily.

In my case, tp-link filed 28 complaints over six months, or roughly one every week. Eventually it took down the account and we're currently suing them in federal court.

Yeah no burden of proof, they just check a box to say their claim is legitimate and your legal action is probably the only way they can be held to account on that.

Maybe don’t sell a TP-Link branded router unless you are a licensed reseller? You are part of the problem everyone is complaining about.

How am I part of any problem?

Are you familiar with the first sale doctrine? My actions were perfectly legal at all times.

I did this professionally, had bought hundreds of tp-link routers from legitimate suppliers. It's not like I found them on the street or anything like the sellers described in OP. I had over 50k invested in a specific router model at one point.

Why shouldn't you be allowed to sell things you legally own? First-sale doctrine is generally a good thing.

Huh? If I'm buying pencils on Amazon, I expect to be buying the ones listed. If hexagonal pencils are listed/shown, I shouldn't be getting round ones.

I don't know if banning was the right recourse, but from what you're saying it sounds like you were intentionally selling incorrect items.

And I hate it when sellers do that. I'm buying an item based on its advertised description. I've had to return items several times because what was delivered was a different model or version from what was advertised.

So I can't say I've got sympathy here. :(

I would say it's not clear from the GP's comment whether the review says it's different from other pencils of the same brand or the pencils on the picture.

Thank you. The model I was selling is supposed to be round. I should've been more clear.

I was selling a model that is supposed to be and always has been round. I reached out and the client who wrote the review told me that he bought this brand, not necessary the model, when he was young and they were hexagonal.

Yeah, it depends how determined you are, from my experience they rarely stop replying completely. Terrible process though, the truth doesn’t really matter, just that you can convince some first level reviewer in India that your appeal hits all their checkboxes.

I can't be happier to see amazon struggle to keep their marketplace clean. It's the beginning of the downfall. They thought they could just be a logistic company while eating up all the margin, profiting from defenceless sellers. I guess they got totally outsmarted.

Can't keep a marketplace at the same level of standard as a direct seller. Selling millions of products doesn't seem to scale well. Worked for books, but even there, opening the door to seller accounts flooded the lists with copies, a ruin for publishers who touched the devil rather than staying away from it.

I like amazon for many things they do well, but the truth is that they were never profitable with their previous business model. Now they've been turning directions to make a profit, it's the snowball to their death.

This is what happens when regulators don't promote a fair marketplace. With no competition, companies like Amazon stop caring and start to optimize to get the last few pennies out of each sale... which results in a drop in quality of the overall service and eventually either a long, slow death or a corporate sale.

Because Amazon has out priced or out delivered many local stores, we don't have those choices any more.

There's a place for companies like this, but they have so many advantages due to size that they have to be watched to ensure they don't step on smaller players just because they can.

> With no competition, companies like Amazon

amazon has only got ~5% of the US retail market. this ongoing meme that they've got no competition is surreal.

All retail includes B+M stores no? Not necessarily a fair comparison. Same article says they control 49% of US E-commerce.


What does delivery method matter?

What I care about is obtaining a product. Segment by non-substitutible category (book vs electronics, etc) but not delivery method.

That’s like saying “Boeing only has 10% of the transportation industry”. I believe you’re reciting the Benedict Evans pseudo-contrarian standpoint that Amazon has plenty competition, when in reality we all know it doesn’t in the online space.

> when in reality we all know it doesn’t in the online space

yeah, Sears, keep telling yourself that online is a different market.

Name another online retailer that's bigger/better known.

You can't compare them to the entire retail market. If anything, their competition is Wal-Mart's online service, or Ebay.

> Name another online retailer that's bigger/better known.

You literally named two. My father knows how to do only two things on his computer - check his email, and buy stuff on eBay. There is a "Walmart.com" desk and in-store signage in 5,000+ physical stores.

> You literally named two.

Neither of those are bigger, in fact they're dramatically smaller, Amazon has 49.1% of the online retail market to eBay's 6.6% and Walmart's 3.7%, according to: https://techcrunch.com/2018/07/13/amazons-share-of-the-us-e-...

> You can't compare them to the entire retail market.

sure i can. i do every time i buy something at my grocery store, or local retailers, that i could've gotten from amazon.

Yet 49% of the US ONLINE market share...so you just are moving goal posts so that you can feel that everyone else is confused about "not a problem"?

> This is what happens when regulators don't promote a fair marketplace.

> Because Amazon has out priced or out delivered many local stores, we don't have those choices any more.

Original post referred to the marketplace in general, and even posited that Amazon has "out priced" local stores, so the goalposts were set to reference the market in general. You're the one moving them.

>Original post referred to the marketplace in general

I was obviously talking about the major marketplace associated with Amazon, IE online ordering as opposed to the entire retail market.

you just described how the market is correcting. Regulators would just get in the way of the correction.

Regulators would ensure there would be nothing to correct

ummm. I'll disagree with you on that point. Regulators don't have the clairvoyance to know the market needs. They do have their own self interests and politics of their organizations to inhibit reaching market needs...

It corrects itself to next abusing monopoly since everyone is priced out from the market.

Your complaint that every bad monopoly is replaced by a better monopoly with lower prices?

Not better, just lower prices.

Temporarily lower, usually subsidized by VC.

Could actually be a major factor yes. Surely contributing. I'm still unsure Amazon was ever profitable without the new practices, being a private company makes it even more difficult to figure that out.

Amazon has been profitable since the 90s, which is also when they went public (1997). This would be useful: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Amazon

The key thing to remember is that they expanded aggressively. People who didn’t do their homework - like most pundits and media stock analyst/entertainers - would dismiss them as another unprofitable .com without recognizing that they were becoming profitable in each new market a few years after entry and could halt expansion if they had a cash squeeze. The other point was being comfortable with low margins: that disappointed people who wanted a rapidly climbing stock price but that wasn’t the company they were trying to build and they’ve left quite a few once-hot companies in the rubble.

Amazon is a public company.

Is there any evidence that any of this is affecting Amazon adversely? Or are we just wishfully thinking that it is because it should?

I'm buying less from Amazon due to flood of garbage they allow.

In some cases, there are hundreds of junk items before finding something acceptable. This is complacently allowed Amazon, in several ways: 1. they don't calculate shipping costs in price sorting (allowing dishonest sellers to sell 0.01$ items, with high shipment prices), 2. they hide where the item comes from, 3. they don't police items which should be grouped together (I think I once saw an item replicated more than a thousand times).

This makes the buying experience really tedious, and I don't think I'm the only one who thinks this is a problem.

But of course, while this affects Amazon adversely, I think it's a stretch to qualify it as "the downfall".

I remember once listing some item. I think it was an adapter for a USB-C dongle.

The seller listed the dongle as one dongle per model it covered.


DONGLE for iPad Pro

DONGLE for MacBook

DONGLE for MacBook Pro 13-Inch

DONGLE for MacBook Pro 15-Inch

DONGLE for MacBook Pro 16-Inch

DONGLE for Samsung Note 7

DONGLE for Samsung Note 7 (GTA Edition)

and so on...

The first four or five pages were flooded with THE SAME DAMN ITEM. It was not the one I wanted. It was one of those "$0.01" parts with a $7.99 S&H.

This makes the "Sort by Price" worthless; and that's what I used to use to get myself into the ballpark of where I wanted to be.

There are lots of duplicate products with slight naming style variations. No one seems to have solved grouping products together where the same UPC hasn’t been provided from each seller. Would require building a parser/ some AI that understands aspects of the title: brand, line, size etc

UPC wont do much. There's somewhat of a scam where sellers will reuse old discontinued products or buy upc codes from ebay in order to get around any filtering Amazon has.

Ideally Amazon should require the UPC to be fully registered and verified instead of just taking whatever a seller enters at face value.

eBay have been trying to enforce UPC/EAN for some years now but don't seem to be making a lot of progress either.

Amazon have also made the burden of proof for getting changes to a listing made so high that it isn't really worth the time to point out the issues to them unless it is a product that sells well, so the long tail is a mess.

I think this isn't a technical problem.

Ebay has the same challenge, and similar solution (Ebay uses dropdowns, while Amazon uses small clickable boxes), but I see the problem much less on Ebay, so I think Ebay is simply policing sales more than Amazon does.

Another anecdote, My target.com spend during the holiday season has been +$500 across multiple items since I don't trust amazon for various items now. Also, the customer service is going downhill and I have been pleasantly surprised how much nicer target support is now.

I have done far more buying though the web sites of B&M retailers this season that I have in past years. I no longer trust Amazon for name brand electronics or anything to be ingested. It seems I'm adding new categories of distrust every week.

Just today, I wanted a new flash drive but didn't need it urgently. I checked Amazon to get an idea of fair pricing then looked at Best Buy and found one that looked good on sale. I went to the manufacturer's site to verify the specs and found they had a price 33% lower than the next closest retailer. Win.

This same exact scenario has been playing out for me over and over again. I'm now using Amazon as a showroom - how quaint.

So lots of arbitragers were buying from Best Buy and then selling on amazon. I keep thinking about the front page article a few weeks back about the repackaging from other online sellers.

Well, this isn't the first article on the subject in the last couple of months. look at the other comments. take a guess at how this kind of PR will do to amazon's sales/revenue and brand. I'm not saying they are suffering from it yet in term of financial, I could imagine their profit to be higher than ever on the market side of their biz today, but one can see a downturn in their future ability to grow and remain the dominant ecommerce in the west. (they've already totally lost the battles in the far east, even though they try there and there)

> take a guess at how this kind of PR will do to amazon's sales/revenue and brand

My guess, sadly, is that it will round to nothing. Most likely the sheer volume of the bottom end of the mass market is worth a lot more to Amazon than elite users who post comments like these on forums like this. We may have been critical as early adopters but now have outlived our usefulness.

I hope that's not true, but that's why I asked the question: what evidence is there? Maybe it's too early to see anything more than assorted anecdotes, but it's hard to know what those objectively amount to in an operation of Amazon's scale.

Who knows, it also depends on how Amazon adapts in the coming years. I just observe the trend, years ago I could hardly find any reason to complain about amazon, I didn't come across stories like this. I have not made a purchse on amazon for a long time, and when I did, it just cost me time to return an overpriced product having a dishonest description.

Evaluate a provider for the quality of its service. Think how others from elite to mass consumers would perceive it in the long run, and you can guess the fate of that provider. Things move fast and many competitors are working at offering better user experience. We will see I guess.

I completely agree with you.

The “negative PR argument” has become an indicator to me that someone has an extremely immature world view. There are anecdotes that reflect PR events that are catastrophic (Theranos). But most companies completely recover from PR bumps because most consumers only change their behavior in response to costs.

Just last night I purchased a new MIDI controller from the local Guitar Center because the Amazon listing was not sold-by Amazon. I don't trust Amazon's 3rd party program. I also recently purchased a power adapter from eBay because Amazon's listings were hundreds of items of incomprehensible trash. It's getting to the point where I don't even look at Amazon at all for many items, because I know their listings will be useless.

I have the same problem with eBay - 99% of the results are stuffed with incomprehensible trash, non OEM "not genuine" knockoffs, copy paste paragraphs of every possible model, just to keyword stuff. Especially for things like laptop batteries, power adapters, etc.

Only speaking for myself, but I've become much more cautious about buying electronics from them, because much of it turns out to be poorly implemented junk.

Somewhat ironically books are the only area in which I have personally been dissatisfied with Amazon so far. (Since my first order from them, in 1998.)

A book I ordered recently arrived in a flimsy envelope instead of a box. Needless to say it was damaged. Nothing major but having paid $30 for a 150-page paperback, I thought it was reasonable to complain. No problem.

The replacement book came in the same envelope, with slightly different but still obvious damage.

To my shame, I kept the second book. But next time I want to buy a physical book, I'll certainly look elsewhere.

risk of counterfeit goods and really the cost of Prime have pushed me away from Amazon. I can get free overnight shipping from walmart if I just do batch orders of $35 or more. I don't care about their music, video or other misc services.

I got an MSI motherboard from Amazon that was listed as "new", but was obviously heavily used and no longer functioning. No anti-static packaging, it was wrapped in cheapo foam paper and had what looked like scratch marks all over it.

That's probably the worst shape item I've received, but I've also heard and got counterfeit baby items, which could be extremely unsafe. I'm being extremely careful with Amazon moving forward.

I've also heard and got counterfeit baby items

This is a big reason I have the rule "Never buy from Amazon anything that goes in or on a living thing."

No food. No pet food. No personal products. Amazon simply can't be trusted.

I know the violation of trust is from Amazon's "partners" but Amazon allows this to happen, and makes a profit off of it.

Amazon getting the flak for a "partner" violation is completely part of them having "partners" at all...

Amazon should be doing more due diligence on checking out who their partners are and what they're selling. Blindly accepting everybody without knowing who they are and then randomly banning them based on customer complaints sounds like a very unreliable and dishonest way of doing business.

My friend, who works in an Amazon warehouse, agrees with you. He advised me to never buy food or personal items from Amazon because the warehouse is heavily infested with rats and most items therefore end up coming into contact with rat waste.

All the food and personal items I buy come bagged and sealed.

This feels like a non-issue, no more than knowing that the book I ordered was next to a rat at one point, which could happen in the storage area of any book shop anywhere.

I really couldn't care less.

Yeah are these people buying fruit off of Amazon ? Or just unwrapped raw meat ?

You have a larger chance of getting rat piss off the top of a soda can.

Ewww. Well that's good to know.

I'm going to go on a limb here. I don't care if they claim 3rd party vendor. Amazon is selling scam items.

I'm not buying from random 3rd party vendor. I said buy on amazon.com . My credit card charge says AMAZON.

If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck.....

I recently bought some dry cat food from Amazon. One of my cats immediately got a massive skin infection that cost >$400 to cure. I can't prove it was from that but this is an indoor cat who has no real exposure to anything else that would have been different.

Needless to say, I totally agree with not buying anything that goes on or in a living thing.

I've never personally had this happen but I've seen it alleged that items listed sold by Amazon occasionally get fakes in the mix or shared as common stock in Amazon warehouses for items like MicroSD cards.

Nor should you get anything that plugs into the wall, because it could burn up your family.

Huh? I order food and personal products all the time.

Nobody's counterfeiting my bulk name-brand orders of flavored almonds. Or my hair products.

Counterfeiting tends to happen with high-value electronics, or occasionally expensive textbooks. I've never heard of it happening with food or personal hygiene. I mean, I just don't think the profit margins are there.

Nobody's counterfeiting my bulk name-brand orders of flavored almonds.

How would you know?

Or my hair products.

Maybe not yours, but there have been plenty of stories in the press and on the internet about fake personal care products being sold on Amazon.

Please educate yourself and be wary. Those counterfeit hair products can be harmful. The profit margins on beauty products are huge. Go to a beauty store and look at the prices.


At least 2 hair care brnds admit to selling inferior products on amazon compared to their salon offerings. Buyer beware.

I stopped ordering cat food from Amazon after one of the sets of cans quite obviously did not come from the manufacturer.

Usually, canned cat food comes in a cardboard box with the manufacturers branding and some important labels, along with X number of cans inside arranged and kept tight in some fashion.

This one was literally a bunch of cans inside a sealed, transparent plastic cover (and then inside the regular amazon box). When I checked the product page from which I purchased, it had only a handful of reviews (versus the usual 1000s of reviews on the real thing), but it had the correct supplier brand name. After reading a bunch about the colocation of products, this was fairly scary.

Nowadays I just buy from Chewy / Petco / Petsmart etc. It's just not worth the risk.

Edit: don't mean to add some FUD or anything with Amazon, I was just expanding parents comments about baby supplies with pets as well. Still buy a lot of stuff from Amazon, but not anything where I stand to lose more than money.

I use to buy dog food from Amazon. My dog started getting sick after awhile, so we switched to store bought and she quickly got better. Same brand and type.

Wow. Could you tell there was anything "off" about the food you bought from Amazon? Did they look older than the storebought food?

I couldn’t honestly, which is why we tried a lot of other things before we realized it was the food.

I've bought many cases of cat food from Amazon. So far, they have all come in the standard manufacture packaging.

Is it worthwhile to 'counterfeit' cat food?

The only problem I had is in one Amazon shipment a few cans got smashed in. Chewy does packaging better!

> Is it worthwhile to 'counterfeit' cat food?

Let me direct you to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_Chinese_milk_scandal.

If people are willing to poison milk with melanine to make a dollar, why wouldn't someone do the same to cat food? In fact, it's already happened: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_pet_food_recalls

> Is it worthwhile to 'counterfeit' cat food?

Could be. You could get away with a lot lower product safety and quality for cat food than you could for human food. That means you could make it for a lot cheaper and sell it as a higher quality brand. It's easier to get away with killing or sickening a few cats than it is people.

I can’t answer the question about cat food but there are fakes for one of the cheapest Casio watches out there, so it seems plausible.


I avoid Amazon like the plague these days. They've become my last resort for reasons like this.

This rings true with my experience also. A couple weeks ago I bought a bunch of computer parts online, the majority from NewEgg and a MSI motherboard from Amazon. Hooked up everything and it wouldn't post. Thinking it was a power supply I swapped out and tested the new power supply in my old PC and it worked, so I took the old power supply and put it in my new PC and it didn't work. Returned the motherboard to Amazon and bought different brand from Best Buy and it's been working like a champ ever since.

On a different shipment from Amazon I received a small bathroom rug. The weave of the design was off by over an inch on two of the sides. I've never had such bad experiences in the past from Amazon than the last couple months.

Newegg, Walmart & others seem to be following Amazon here by offering items from random retailers.

That's insane, the worst any motherboard I own gets is dust and maybe overheating, but scratch marks all over? That sounds like someone who buys / sells hardware really often and just shoves parts in / out like it's nothing.

Or retrieved from a dumpster.

Deliberately destroyed and returned to make a competitors product get bad review scores or banned from amazon entirely.

This is the reason Amazon's job is way harder than it looks at scale. Any system used to try and prove that an account is legitimate or not has difficulty telling when an account has been hacked/bought. A smart attacker will bide their time and will do very few falsified reviews. Everyone is trying to game the system, and beat the other "players", and are willing to resort to nefarious means to quash their competitors because money is on the line.

We stopped ordering bird food because it kept arriving opened. Hello no I’m not feeding my bird preopened food. Who knows what contamination it’s got.

We were having the same problem with cat litter

there are clearly a lot of folks returning bad motherboards to amazon as "ordered wrong item" or whatever, and they make no attempt to verify the return. i had to stop getting motherboards there years ago.

These people should really stop returning items this way, and label them as defective so they are removed from the inventory if they are in fact broken.

To offer a counter narrative (although I do have gripes with Amazon) I’ve bought things that were labeled “open box” condition “new”.

Everything was as advertised. Was about 25% off for what amounted to having to download a PDF of the Manual/instructions.

That’s a pretty standard definition of what an open-box product is. Good on them for listing one product accurately?

I used to buy from Amazon because I knew what I was going to get. All these stories make it sound more like eBay.

At least on eBay it’s much more common to get a picture of the actual product and there’s no inventory commingling.

> At least on eBay it’s much more common to get a picture of the actual product

This part can be really annoying. I have been trying to collect all different boxed/DVD/etc releases of an old game and the Amazon listing just shows promotional cover art that I now suspect was never used for retail copies of the game (the publisher on the cover was bought out by another one before the game released). Definitely none of the copies that I got from that listing matched the image shown. On eBay you might need to sift through many listings to find the best price but at least you can usually see which version you are buying.

I had this epiphany last week when I was looking for a winter neck tube (literally just a piece of cloth sewn in a cylinder shape).

I ended up giving up because it was impossible to tell the quality and materials of anything I was ordering.

Yes, it is like eBay in the sense that you really have no idea what you might actually get. However, Amazon still has an excellent return/refund policy, which in some cases makes up for the inventory issues.

Amazon has a decent return policy -- but are you familiar with eBay's buyer protection?

eBay has very little reservations about giving you your money back -- they just pull the money out of the sellers account anyway, they're not themselves taking a financial hit.

And they have way fewer exceptions than Amazon does.

I’d rather pay extra for certainty, and I feel like I’ve lost that with Amazon.

> However, Amazon still has an excellent return/refund policy,

My experience with Amazon's return policy has been consistently bad. My experience with eBay's has been consistently great.

It is basically like eBay, if you ignore who is selling the product.

It's pretty easy to tell when you are, for example, buying Panasonic batteries from Panasonic as opposed to buying no-name lithium cells from a seller with a name like, 'krazedeals'. And sellers with a brand to maintain are unlikely to opt in to the 'comingling' program.

I guess that Amazon could highlight the seller information a bit more, but it's already pretty prominent.

I'm also a little bit confused reading all of these comments - do people think that Amazon sells everything on their website? It's rare to see an ecommerce business run that way these days - new-ish entries like Walmart also have third-party sellers, and old mainstays like Newegg have switched to that style of selling too. Personally I'm not a huge fan, but things have been like this for awhile now across the web. Do people not use other major online retailers? Or does Amazon get more flack because they are the service that almost everyone uses?

> do people think that Amazon sells everything on their website?

No, but people hold Amazon responsible for everything on their site -- which I think is totally fair.

I'm not sure why there are so many complaints on HN re: these junk items. I've had an account since 1999 and don't have issues. I just pay attention to who the seller is for an item I'm looking to buy from. If I'm looking for a new Sonos speaker, I buy from the seller named 'Sonos', not from 'Jims Secondhand Sonos Shop'.

I would think most folks here would be savvy enough to know the difference and pay attention to whom they are buying from on Amazon.

For some products Amazon mixes inventory from various sellers. The seller tells you nothing about the origin of the product.

Yes, but if you're concerned about buying a fake Sonos product, don't by from anyone other than the official 'Sonos' seller that's shipped and sold by Amazon.com.

I don't think you are understanding the point that others are making: for many products, Amazon commingles inventory. If you order from "Sonos Corp", but the closest warehouse has the same item that was sent in by "Sonos Clone", despite your explicit choice of vendor they may send the closer item and you may get a fake. Details about the approach are here: https://ftalphaville.ft.com/2019/03/20/1553085361000/Amazon-...

If anything, rather than going out of your way to make sure the item is shipped by Amazon.com, if you want to avoid fakes, you probably should prefer items that are shipped direct by the manufacturer. And once you are doing that, the question arises why you are shopping on Amazon in the first place. Personally, I tend to agree with the approach of buying only items shipped by Amazon. While the chance of getting a fake might be higher, the return process if I have a problem is easier. But I can see why others might want to avoid Amazon altogether.

I actually tried to buy a product from a manufacturer because of these concerns. Their website catalog just links to Amazon for purchase.

It is a Shenzhen company, though.

People gripe about "Chinese" companies, but everything is made by some Chinese company. Chinese companies who build a reputation for their brand are good.

You're wrong. People gripe about Chinese brands because they are usually terrible.

I buy the open box and slightly damaged warehouse deals when they are available, and usually have fairly modest discounts. So far I haven't been able to ascertain that any of them were actually damaged in any meaningful way. Like maybe the box had a slight dent in it.

Yeah I bought my television some years ago through their warehouse deals for around 40% off. It was seemingly entirely unused, whoever had purchased it previously had gone through the effort of partially attaching (or removing) the included vesa mount. Everything else was flawless; remote control, batteries and 3d glasses all still in their sealed packaging.

I personally haven’t used Amazon much in the last 2-3 years which for me is because I find it so difficult to wade through all the noise in the search results.

Amazon is eating itself alive. The general population may not have figured it out yet but high-users (Prime members) definitely see the problems and most importantly DO. NOT. TRUST. AMAZON. ANYMORE.

The brand is halfway down the toilet in terms of online retail and I do not think they can turn it around in time. Their whole strategy is based on speed and they've found garbage third party sellers a speed advantage. They are not competing on quality at all. They are not offering a quality experience, they are not selling quality, it is not in their product plan.

So if you are shopping for quality experience or quality product you do not shop on Amazon. It is only a matter of time I think before this awareness hits critical mass.

Please don't use uppercase for emphasis. If you want to emphasize a word or phrase, put asterisks around it and it will get italicized.


The only thing keeping me on Prime is my wife, because she really likes that 2-day delivery and a few shows on Prime Video. Since Amazon recently started putting ads on their videos, and because it's harder and harder to sift through the crap.

Unless Amazon does something big, I'll try making the case again to my wife to leave them. She's been ordering more and more from other retailers, so it shouldn't be a hard case to make.

This is the top listing returned in Amazon's search results for the main textbook used in upper division and first year graduate level statistical inference courses in North America


Notice the black mark on the bottom right corner? That's to conceal text saying that it's an international edition not to be sold outside of India -- editions that tend to be dirt cheap compared to North American editions but have poor print and binding jobs, usually no preface or solutions to problems in the appendix, and missing chapters. Notice that it's original price was listed as $999.99 and it's listed as 98% off? The listing price of the NA edition is actually about $100.

This listing shows up before the legitimate listing in the search results. It has been this way for many months. I'm fine with international editions being sold on Amazon -- so long as they are clearly labeled as such.

When this problem has become so pervasive and even impacts Amazon's original core business to this extent, I find myself looking to other retailers... Only to find it impacting many of them as well. I bought an international edition from a third party seller on hpb.com, and my partner is finding shady probably factory produced stuff littered with obviously fake reviews on Etsy now.

I'm really curious what the evolution of this problem will look like for e-commerce marketplaces.

As a resident of India, from personal experience, I can say that while it is true that the print jobs of the Indian editions may be inferior to those of the US editions, the Indian edition books do not miss prefaces/chapters/appendices or solutions.

The only difference is that usually, they have shuffled chapters/ end of chapter problems( but with proper index ) and a black and white/ two colour print job instead of a full colour print.

I would much rather prefer to pay ₹300(~5USD) for a black and white Indian Edition than $900+ for a coloured US edition.

Thank you for your perspective here. I've felt that way in the past and I have certainly purchased international editions intentionally.

For me, as someone who's learning primarily independently, the North American editions tend to have features that make self-study a lot easier, and do sometimes have different chapters. For example, I have both the international/Indian version and the North American version of Michael Artin's Algebra second edition in front of me.

The international edition is missing a preface (I like those because they give you some insight into the author's point of view and approach), doesn't have solutions in the back (useful for validating your work if you're self-studying), the table of contents isn't broken down by section only by chapter (not too big a deal for me), and is missing chapter 16 on galois theory, a bibliography (sometimes I like to use these to pursue topics in more detail), as well as an appendix altogether (the NA version's appendix has a section of proof strategy, construction of the integers, Zorn's lemma, the implicit function theorem -- for me these are 'nice-to-have's but not required).

Much of this I can probably live without -- and if I were a student on a very tight budget, I would probably! But I hope you can see how paying for what I thought was a used copy of the North American edition and receiving the International edition would be a bit disappointing (this particular case happened to me on hpb.com, not Amazon)

In particular I think my point is that sellers of international editions sometimes conceal the fact that what they are selling is the international edition. The example I gave with Casella & Berger in my first post is clearly doing this with how the cover is blotted out and nowhere on the listing does it mention it's an international edition.

So for me it's about transparency and meeting expectations -- I'm fine with international editions being sold at all on Amazon, I think it's great that they can be an accessible option for some people who don't need/care about the features I mentioned.

> The international edition is missing a preface (I like those because they give you some insight into the author's point of view and approach), doesn't have solutions in the back (useful for validating your work if you're self-studying), the table of contents isn't broken down by section only by chapter (not too big a deal for me), and is missing chapter 16 on galois theory, a bibliography (sometimes I like to use these to pursue topics in more detail), as well as an appendix altogether (the NA version's appendix has a section of proof strategy, construction of the integers, Zorn's lemma, the implicit function theorem -- for me these are 'nice-to-have's but not required).

Quite surprised to hear this. Every international edition I've bought has been near identical to the US version (except the print quality).

I wonder: Did you perhaps get a counterfeit copy? Not all textbooks have an international edition. Was this Artin's international edition a sanctioned one, or did someone in India simply violate copyright and labeled it as "International"?

Galois Theory isn't taught in India, because Galois challenged Ramunajan as youngest genius since Newton.

To me, this is a feature, not a bug. I'd be overjoyed to save one thousand dollars on a text book with slightly worse printing.

Saving a few dollars to buy trash... not so much.

Edit: thanks for the response below pointing out that the savings is not so extreme. Still, when I was an undergrad, money was very tight for me, so if I could find a way to save a few bucks, I was grateful for it.

The listing price of the non-international edition isn't a thousand dollars -- it's about a hundred new, with several $50 listings for a used copy. Which is pricey, but not as egregious as e.g. Stewart's Calculus which runs close to $250 new for the latest edition

This is a huge problem for my wife, a resident doctor.

She has reverted to ordering from Barnes and Noble and local book stores because she doesn't know what she'll get off Amazon. If she misses something important because she inadvertently got a knockoff with missing/incorrect info, she can't use the book as an excuse.

Having it available isn't the problem. Having it show up above the regular product, and misleading people about what they're actually buying, is the problem.

Most of my textbooks were international editions or a few editions back, for me that listing is an issue as the international is cheaper elsewhere. On Abebooks (which is great for searching by ISBN) It's $17.41 - not a big difference, but if I thought I was buying the standard edition I would go for the Amazon.

The problem is: it's not clear that it's a different edition, so they are basically lying to you.

It seems odd to complain about that when that's exactly the book that student want. I actually have a cheap international edition of Statistical Inference on my shelf right now that I used in college and it was (and still is) perfectly good.

The listing is scummy dgmw, but the product is legit. I don't know anyone outside of the clique of rich international students that actually bought the "legit" versions.

I feel bad for anyone who had a professor that mandated a specific version and edition but that's really the only people who should be buying it. The maths in the cheap versions are just the same.

In my case, I am self-studying, so I prefer there to be some solutions in the back of the book, a preface to explain the author's point of view and approach to the text, and a print and binding job that is durable enough to last years (rather than just long enough for a class).

I can understand why someone would prefer an international edition -- I've certainly been there, but my expectation with Amazon.com is that the non-international edition would take preference in the search results -- and furthermore, that the international edition would be clearly marked as such

I completely agree with you. It's not a matter of saving money or not, it's a matter of having a clear title and description, making it explicit where's that edition from.

Wow, that is so shoddy, thanks for sharing.

Seems like Amazon needs to police its own marketplace...but does it care if its revenues are all coming from AWS?

I was curious about the normal price of this item and found this in the first link in a google search for "Statistical Inference Casella":


I do not vouch for this site or file, simply sharing for research purposes.

She declined to comment on the Journal’s store.

The most telling line in the story.

Also, there's this:

“Sellers are responsible for meeting Amazon’s high bar for product quality,” an Amazon spokeswoman said.

Apparently at Amazon, they mean "high" as in stoned. Certainly not "high" as in good.

Sellers are responsible, so Amazon is not at fault.

That's the narrative, yes, but all of this is predicated on the fact that Amazon does not regulate its sellers appropriately.

That was the joke heh

Reading it now, it looks like a serious comment. I got defeated by my own sarcasm.

This article mentions a bunch of different practices, some Ok, others not, but seems to disapprove of all of them.

Listing food items you got from the trash? Definitely not ok, whether listed as new or not.

Reselling unopened clearance items you bought at Target or WalMart? That seems perfectly fine, what's the problem?

Reselling unopened liquidation items you bought in a random grab bag at auction from a liquidator who bought them as returns from amazon? That seems fine as well. Should they be listed as new, like new, or used? That's reasonable to discuss.

Reselling thrift store bought items as used? Sure why not. Tons of thrift stores list items especially books on amazon. It's one of my main sources of out of print books. Can't think of a thing wrong with this.

> Reselling unopened clearance items you bought at Target or WalMart?

I object to this because those items may have been purchased from retailers that I do not want my money to go to.

But this, and the rest of the things you list, are actually OK with me, so long as the listing clearly states where the item was obtained from.

Your money isn't going to them, they already have the money regardless of whether the item is sold on Amazon or not. If you want to support specific retailers buy from them directly rather than via a marketplace that allows third parties to list on it.

Yes, but I prefer to stay out of that chain entirely. If someone wants to do business with an entity I object to, well, that's up to them. But I don't want to inject myself anywhere in that chain.

> If you want to support specific retailers buy from them directly

Which I do. The third party marketplace Amazon runs is a significant factor in why I've decided to reduce my use of Amazon to "last resort" status.

Although I'm not talking about supporting specific retailers here, I'm talking about inverse -- intentionally not supporting specific retailers.

I think the way I'm coming to see Amazon is like a street vendor. If it's something I would be willing to buy from a random guy on a street, then sure, I can buy it from Amazon. If I need more assurances... it's a poor source.

At least with a street vendor I can see what I am getting before I pay for it. Amazon is arguably worse than a reputable street vendor.

The only difference is that if there's something wrong with it, you can easily return it. And their returns process is worlds better than any brick and mortar.

> In his view, [former FBA manager James Thompson] said, “Ultimately consumers are the police of the platform.”

While a current Amazon spokesperson disavows this view in the next paragraph, it’s clear from the rest of the piece (and other pieces, and countless anecdotes) that this perspective was foundational in the development of Amazon’s marketplace and cannot be eliminated by the words of a PR rep.

It’s also clear that Amazon is making efforts to redress this with various policy changes and programs. But it certainly appears the problem is cultural, and that only a cultural shift will be able to turn the tide of trust that is slowly draining from Amazon’s supply chain.

Amazon gets its cut anyway and if you order again after a return they get it double, there is very little incentive for them to change

I've never had an issue with the supposed "co-mingling". If I'm careful when I choose what product I order, I have no problem. That said, choosing a good product is definitely becoming harder and harder. Amazon reviews are mostly useless, and some product searches are overwhelmed with the fly-by-night Chinese companies' listings, to the extent that you can't find any legitimate listings at all.

So there's a couple different problems. If there's actively fraud going on, then yeah they need to fight that, but it's not usually true "fraud" when TOPGOODTOYPRODUCTS lists their toy with an SEO-approved title. It's just an obvious garbage listing that I don't want to see when looking for something.

Some counterfeits are good enough you wouldn't know if you have a problem or not. If one out of 1,000 instead of one out of 1,000,000 is defective, 99.9% of people will be "happy" with their counterfeit, and it may be outwardly indistinguishable.

eBay lets you filter for listings from the same country / continent / everything - Amazon definitely needs something like that.

I'm now actively looking and buying from other places unless I desperately need something in 2-days or less and know exactly what I need.

* Searching has simply becoming wading through pages and pages of Chinese junk with incorrect, misleading, or straight-up lies in the description.

* Similarly, the average quality of generic items is so poor, I'm trending back to brick-and-mortar stores. Walmart may have cheap stuff, but at least they put some effort into maintaining their brand.

* Who knows what product a review was actually written for. Lots of basic products are being sold to pump up reviews then being switched to a much more expensive item.

* I've also noticed I'll pay for many name brand items on Amazon that getting them directly from seller or another retailer.

* At least 10% of my orders from Amazon now have something wrong with them. What good is 2 day shipping if I need to return and re-order an item - taking nearly a week total.

> I'm now actively looking and buying from other places unless I desperately need something in 2-days or less and know exactly what I need.

Even then, its getting harder to find somewhere I can "trust". Example, I buy 8TiB Seagate drives, used to be I could depend on Newegg to get them, but now they have a market thing like amazon.

My last box from them was empty, literally. I'm down to B&H photo for buying drives which is fine they're great but I'm getting pissed off at all the things that used to work fine to buy on amazon but now its total sketch.

An Amazon example, I bought a NUC from some random store, but totes shipped by Amazon we promise so I was like well eh, its like the only place on the internet to buy this model.

Didn't even get sent, fortunately I got a refund but I'm DONE buying electronics on Amazon or Newegg. I can't trust that I'll get what I want from either anymore. This ignores the crap like getting a power brick and finding out the stupid thing is a counterfeit and not the name brand it was supposed to be.

I've actually gone back to eBay for many types of products, including computer components. The platform itself is only the transaction layer, and you're able to select the specific company/individual on there to purchase from. Because the reputation is tied to the account, they're more incentivized to match the product description to the actual product delivered.

Ebay is based on the idea that you do not trust the sellers. On the Amazon market they can just hide behind the Amazon brand.

I am convinced the Gillette razors I buy from Amazon are counterfeit or simply rejects. I buy the same item from Target and they last twice as long and shave better.

I've had the same experience. The Gillette blades I've gotten from Amazon are noticeably lower quality.

I would order from BestBuy. I just did this for an M2 and I knew that if there's any issues, I can just take it to the nearest store. They also price match, but you need to go in store or call a customer service line to do it. I just went in store. Less convenient, but less risky for larger purchases.

edit - best buy may not have everything you need but typically you can find a decent drive.

BestBuy or MicroCenter. NewEgg is good too, but it's pretty much like Amazon in the sense it's a marketplace for other stores.

The big issue is that there aren't a bunch of independent e-retailers to choose from. If you want to make it, you gotta make stores on Amazon, eBay, NewEgg, Etsy and Reverb (not all of course; depends on your products). I wrote an article about this recently:


Tiger Direct is a good option as well http://tigerdirect.com/

How's it been since their buyout? I stayed away for a few years since.

I recently started going to BestBuy again. I'd stopped for a few years. I found that I enjoyed the experience of shopping there again.

The realization that the experience that changed was Amazon, not BestBuy was startling to me.

I find that Best Buy is good for prepackaged stuff: like a full laptop or a full desktop. In fact, Best Buy prices are competitive if you're buying those kinds of items.

Best Buy sometimes has GPUs or SSDs at good prices, but its less common. I still price-compare at Best Buy because of that small chance that they win in the price wars, but my #1 goto is still Microcenter (or Newegg if from online).

Cables however is outright offensive; they operate like an airport - everything is $25 to $40

I dunno. I'd rather spend $25 on an unnecessarily expensive cable than get a $10 cable that blows up my $1000 laptop: https://www.amazon.com/review/R2XDBFUD9CTN2R/ref=cm_cr_rdp_p...

The fact of the matter is: Amazon's cables have such low-quality assurance on them, that they're untrustworthy now.

I think for cables specifically, Monoprice has created a good reputation and a good price. Unlike Amazon, who hides behind "marketplace sellers" and "comingling", Monoprice puts their own reputation on the line when they sell cables.


Ultimately, if Amazon wants to be a "marketplace seller", they can. But Amazon needs to do a much better job combating fake-sellers, low-quality products. I'm not even anti-Chinese or whatever, I'm fine buying cheap Chinese stuff as long as there's some long-standing brand name that is willing to take the reputation hit if things go wrong. (Ex: why I'm fine buying cheap Chinese goods from Walmart, but not fine with buying cheap Chinese goods from Amazon. Walmart does step in and take responsibility)

Otherwise, its just Alibaba Russian roulette with your stuff. Maybe things work, maybe things don't, maybe things will blow up your laptop. Maybe the 18650 cell will blow up in your vaping device and give 3rd degree burns on your face. Or the 18650 cells will create a garage fire burning down your new scooter. Etc. etc.

The problem is the distinct lack of brands and accountability on Amazon. If a Monoprice or Best Buy cable destroyed laptops or caused fires, we'd all blame Monoprice or Best Buy. But if an Amazon item does the same, we somehow don't blame Amazon, but some indistinct unnamed entity.

I bought a Samsung Galaxy tablet from Best Buy's secondary (opened packaging or complete returns) inventory that has been absolutely flawless. I was never a tablet person ("if it doesn't fit in my pocket, I want a damn keyboard") but I've ended up using it every damn day.

Two things prevent me from using best buy (in Canada)

1. they too have a giant marketplace of who knows who

2. they require you to stay logged in to paypal if you want to use it for "convenience". The entire reason I use PP is to prevent sharing my payment data with yet another retailer and provide some isolation.

If I need something from them I just order to the store and pay then.

MicroCenter has a good website. For mass market things, I've switched to the Best Buy that is only 2 miles from my house. Fry's or MicroCenter if I need anything else. My wife bought a iPhone to HDMI adapter from Amazon (against my advice) and got a cheap knockoff that cannot even show Netflix on TV - her actual use case is to show movie clips to patients in a group session. I ended up buying her one in person from the Apple Store.

Edit to Add - She KNEW she was getting the generic adapter but still thought it would do what she needed. So this is not Amazon's fault in this case.

Fyi, cheap iphone adapters cannot work. Apple makes their decryption chips (for anything audio, not sure video) very expensive. If the product is priced low enough, it cannot possibly have the chip, since it’s like $3 in bulk, which adds like $10 minimum to final price.

I have started using Best Buy as well because of proximity. Their prices are very much on par with Amazon's and I can trust them to sell me real products.

I went to a Frys in the South Bay recently and everything there was at least 20% more expensive than it would be online.

Fry's (Palo Alto and Sunnyvale locations) has been a ghost town in terms of products, employees and customers the last few times I've been in. I'm reluctant to go there anymore because it's quite likely that I won't be able to find the thing I'm looking for and there's a decent chance I won't even be able to find an employee to ask.

Best Buy matches prices too, they're good for things that are widely available.

At least Newegg has a simple checkbox for "sold by newegg" as opposed to "marketplace sellers". I just got into the habit of checking that all the time.

Except last time, I forgot, and when I needed to return something, it took over a week just to get an RMA and return shipping info from the "marketplace".

Fuck yooooooou, Newegg, for doing this to your brand and to my shopping.

Microcenter serves my computing supplies needs quite well. There's nothing like feeling the darn thing with your hands before buying it.

Even if you don't live near one (there are only 25 locations in the country, including one in California which is well south of L.A.) the online prices are competitive, and the customer service is decent.

I used to live pretty close to that one in California and I've missed it ever since I moved up to the bay. Never realized that it's the only Microcenter in California.

I've only been to the one near MIT in Cambridge. I'd be curious to see how other locations compare.

Yeah, I agree that finding a "good" place for some products is hard, but "computer parts" is not one of those categories, as Microcenter is perfectly fine.

They only have so many locations. I recall being really disappointed being 100+ miles away and not being able to cash in on their CPU/MoBo deals

The cycle will always continue. I went through a Newegg era, then an Amazon era, now a similar B&H era as you, and who knows what store will be my go-to a few years from now. The only constant is the cycle of death of the old and something new taking its place. I’ve come to view it as a feature.

I mean, it's pretty easy to distinguish marketplace listings from normal ones. You can even filter by that criteria.

On Newegg and Amazon.

Buying from Amazon directly will get you a very good returns policy but offers no guarantee of authenticity due to their commingling of inventory.

As a historical note Newegg was bought by Hangzhou Liaison Intrctv in 2016 which kicked off the whole marketplace thing.

Walmart is the same marketplace and it's not like I shop there for "premium quality" but I still can't trust the stuff they send is legit.

Never thought I'd miss the old monopolistic, competition killing WalMart that raced towards the bottom...

I'm glad that a local electronics store ships faster than Amazon usually does even with Prime. I gladly pay the small price difference for the safety and the basic level of phone support of that company. I haven't had any serious issues yet, but the severe decline in product and review quality is obvious and fake products become more and more common.

I still use Amazon for the various products that simply aren't available in stores, but nowadays I first look somewhere else.

Here in the DFW area, I can get same day delivery of some items from Best Buy. I bought my SSD on cyber-monday that way and had it the same day. You do have to check the box that says in-store items or similar. Can't remember the exact name, but that will filter out all of the marketplace items.

Best buy doesn't have marketplace items in the US. They do ship from local stores which might be why checking in store would get the item to you faster.

I recently bought $1.6k worth of computer parts from amazon and they were all fine. But I only purchased directly through amazon/manufacturers and only selected completely new items.

I’ve gotten shitty stuff before but it’s always FBA. So I just avoid that now and I have no complaints (other than the fact that very few things I actually buy arrive in 2 days)

That doesn't protect you, as all "new" stock is treated as interchangeable. If someone sends something to amazon to sell as new and you buy from their marketplace shop you won't necessarily get the one the seller sent, you'll get the one that Amazon can deliver most efficiently.

Why would they do that tho? Doesn't that encourage fraud and damage their brand? I am just scratching my head trying to understand the benefit of doing that besides logistic cost?

The review hijacking as covered in a recent consumer reports article [0] really makes me doubt any item with a significant number of reviews. I have seen similar myself and Amazon's excuse for it happening should not be accepted and probably requires intervention, they are in effect support false advertising and while I have not seen it myself I have seen people claim it occurs on amazon branded products too.

it is just not acceptable a shopping site has so little product integrity that they cannot guarantee a review belongs to the product it is attached too. Amazon could fix a lot of this by assigning each product a unique number that can never be reused; as in ever. Let the retailer point back to the previous version if review history is important but never let it appear as review of the viewed product

[0] https://www.consumerreports.org/customer-reviews-ratings/hij...

Just as a note, Consumer Reports definitely has a financial interest in putting down online reviews. Not that these issues dont exist, but Consumer Reports has its own set of flaws that they dont publish articles about.

I've received a counterfeit item ordered through the amazon marketplace the other month. When I requested a refund there wasn't even an option to signal that it was a fake, the closest item on the list was something like "doesn't match the description" or something of the sort. I suppose it's technically true but the fact that they don't even attempt to single out scammers from potential honest mistakes at this level doesn't really bode well.

I must say that I don't really understand this strategy, although of course it's hard to get the full picture when you don't have access to the raw numbers. It's not like Amazon is aching for money so why risk their reputation like this?

To anyone who receives counterfeit items sold on Amazon: alert the company that makes the real items. Amazon is violating the law by selling counterfeit products, and the companies can go after them for doing so.

I have had the companies reapond with everything from "yup, its another fake, we do not sell our product on amazon" to "here is the product for free because you helped us win a judgement aganst a longtime chinese counterfitting group that is one of amazons top sellers"

Its really out of hand.

I think they don't have that return option because if Amazon were to present a return option that lets you signal sellers sending you counterfeit goods, that'd be tantamount to Amazon admitting they sell counterfeit goods.

They'd never sell you counterfeit goods, so that option on the pulldown doesn't even need to be there in the first place!?!? wink wink right?!? RIGHT??!

As someone who's received a counterfeit board game, I do have to say that they were exceedingly prompt in getting me a replacement item. I know it's probably an uphill battle, but I hope they're able to make some progress on that front.

It’s a psychological thing where they don’t want somebody returning an item for a different reason to think “Are there so many counterfeits here that it warrants its own category?” even though yeah, there are. Same idea as anti-piracy adverts on DVDs being the thing that teaches somebody its possible and even easy to pirate a movie.

Listing “fake” in that reasons-for-return form would be an admission on amazon’s part :)

> Lots of basic products are being sold to pump up reviews then being switched to a much more expensive item.

This is the most frustrating of them all, reviews mean absolutely nothing anymore when the item can be switched out at will while keeping any old reviews.

The frustrating thing is that it seems like a trivial problem to solve. Changing too many attributes of a product should either be disallowed, or automatically wipe old reviews.

> The frustrating thing is that it seems like a trivial problem to solve. Changing too many attributes of a product should either be disallowed, or automatically wipe old reviews.

If it hasn’t been solved yet, it’s probably not that trivial. How many is “too many”? What happens if I change one attribute every week or so until I’ve completely changed the product?

> If it hasn’t been solved yet, it’s probably not that trivial. How many is “too many”? What happens if I change one attribute every week or so until I’ve completely changed the product?

The problem seems trivial, especially for a company of Amazon's size. All they'd need to do is have some prominent part of the product description (say the product name) be unmodifiable without review and approval by Amazon, and have reviewers that are trained to spot patterns of fraudulent behavior. Any legitimate issues caused by the review can probably be mitigated by giving sellers the ability to get pending changes pre-approved before they go live [1].

If a seller doesn't want to go through the approval, they can delete the product listing and create a new one with a new description, but they'd lose all the reviews. Seems like a fair tradeoff.

However, all that would cost a little bit of money, and would require staff. Amazon probably made the business decision that they like money, and don't mind the costs of allowing the fraud since it's mostly borne by customers.

[1] so the Amazon review for a legitimate product name change can happen while the packaging is being redesigned, and it can all go live in a coordinated fashion

> All they'd need to do is have some prominent part of the product description (say the product name) be unmodifiable without review and approval by Amazon

It's more trivial than that -- the product physical dimensions and weight.

Amazon, the store, may have no idea about the description or product specifics.

But you think Amazon, the logistics company, doesn't know exactly everything needed for shipping and warehousing an item?

Sellers have the option to ship things themselves too. They just aren't eligible for Prime shipping.

I think the simpler answer is that data shows that it’s good for Amazon’s sales, so they have no incentive to fix it.

The "curse" of being data driven without the right data or the broader picture. Netflix seems to be suffering from the same thing.

It's hard to capture long-term sentiment towards a product, so short term optimization end up dominating conversations.

I mean - more conventional stores solve this with oversight, but amazon is trying to be amazon scale with zero oversight - can't let those unsustainable profit margins suffer.

> What happens if I change one attribute every week or so until I’ve completely changed the product?

"Five stars! Would recommend this ship to Theseus or anyone else."

We’re at the point now that eBay is more reliable than Amazon.

There are thousands of retailers out there, Amazon seems to be unique in having this problem at scale.

All marketplaces have these problems, I would argue. If they don't, it's probably just because the "scammers" and product "spammers" haven't found it or focused on it yet.

As long as you let such individuals into your marketplace without any oversight or data-cleaning requirements, you will have this problem. It's like email and spam all over again.

>All marketplaces have these problems

No this is a problem unique to Amazon because it has both a marketplace filled with third party sellers and an official brand both operating on the same site without highlighting that the marketplace is less trustworthy. If you want to buy an Asus mainboard then you won't be brought to a seller specific page. Instead there is a product specific page that bundles first party and third party sellers onto a single page and both will appear in the search results. The conflict of interest is pretty obvious. Only Amazon sells the "AmazonBasics" brand and by making all non Amazon brands look untrustworthy through third party sellers they steer people toward buying the Amazon products.

I find it amusing how much Amazon has reminded me of the rise and fall of eBay. eBay was a fun experience when it first blew up. Then enough people decided they were going to leverage it into becoming a business, and it turned into an annoying mess of ads.

It's not a perfect parallel of course, so some lessons were learned I suppose. It just seems like it was somehow fun at first, and then the people who sell on it find a way to ruin the experience.

> It just seems like it was somehow fun at first, and then the people who sell on it find a way to ruin the experience.

Just like the internet.

Point well taken... oh man, that's depressing, I did completely describe the Internet as a whole.

eBay never fell, you probably just stopped using it. It's still good, better than Amazon. You can see what you're buying and most of the time, where you're buying from (either in the listing, or when paying with Paypal). And the feedback system seems much better than Amazon.

I dunno, I always get what I want from eBay, and any issues are resolved quickly and fairly, while Amazon it's pay and pray :/

This is in the EU, btw.

Amazon forgot that their core value proposition was shopping experience, not price or shipping speed.

And they've managed to improve the latter while ignoring the former.

Thing is, Ebay is a skill.

You get better prices, but the barrier to entry for buyers is substantially higher than Amazon.

I don't think that's really true. At least, it's not true in the way that I use eBay -- I never participate in the auctions. If I'm buying something from eBay, I always go with "buy now". If you use it that way, the barrier to entry is no higher than with any other retailer.

That’s just one aspect. Then you have to make the internal calculation « do I want from locally today, nearby soon, or from Asia, but in 6 weeks? »

There can also be a sales tax optimization game included. True for Canada anyway.

Then you have a hundred sellers selling near duplicates that may or may not be identical. Do you just buy the cheapest?

Do you buy it slightly cheaper in $AUD from Asia or in your local currency?

I’ve bought bike lights that used 2032s, then the same looking units a year later that had smaller heating aid cells.

Then there’s the lack of reviews, so you gotta détermine quality based on cues. maybe that vendor has sold a thousand units and Ebay links to some feedback for that exact listing.

Vastly differing return policies. And remember: when it comes from Asia and doesn’t work; just say it was lost. When Ebay asks you to return it, it’ll cost you more to ship it back than the whole item cost incl. shipping.

Just what is up with that account that has 3k listings but just 24 feedback?

But it’s definitely cheaper if you can manage all that.

A lot is product category dependent.

Well, I always search for items that are physically as close to me as possible, and I'm not looking for the cheapest price for anything. If I'm buying from eBay, it's because I couldn't find the item anywhere else (except Amazon, which I only use if eBay doesn't have it).

The lack of reviews doesn't bother me at all, as my experience is that reviews are worthless anyway.

So, I guess it entirely depends on how you're using eBay and what your goals are.

When I want to pay the lowest amount humanly possible: Ebay (or maybe even Aliexpress).

When I need it tomorrow: Amazon.

At least in Canada, there isn’t much in-between on the massive marketplaces.

That seems like a fair number of caveats to be "same as any other retailer".

You realize Amazon went their route because of inspiration from eBay? There's a good ReplyAll podcast about that.

All the big mega-sites (NewEgg, Amazon, eBay, Reverb, Etsy) are really just sites for tons of marketplaces.

I bought a new AOC monitor from Amazon, sold by Amazon.com Services, Inc last year. When it got here, It was obvious it had been an open box item. The stand was wrapped in the worst, most unprofessional packing I've ever seen. It wasn't even in a plastic bag, but rather the plastic bag was wrapped around it with twisted, old, previously-used tape was used to bind it back up. Whoever repackaged it didn't even bother using new tape, even though the old tape was all twisted and nearly worthless. I ended up not liking the monitor and shipped it back.

I'm quite hurt by the recent pattern.

Disruption, freedom, ala internet diverts energy away from good old solutions.. for a while, until it spoils itself under its own flood. By the time we realize, old businesses have suffered tremendously.

Stress is good for health, but too much too fast is called a disease.

Online commerce is a genuine improvement over "good old solutions" IMO, and Amazon used to be great at it. It's not like Uber or other startups who struggle to be profitable while effectively achieving popularity mostly by selling at a loss to kill the competition. Amazon clearly has a working business model that offers value over the brick-and-mortar shops of yore.

Amazon is hurting itself on purpose here, because of greed, not because their model is fundamentally flawed.

I don't think the differences between Uber and Amazon are that large. Lack of regulation, constant growth. Sure Uber was toxically funded from the get go, but amazon now being a near monopoly enjoys letting the system roll without caring anymore.

Anyway, lesson learned.

There are regulations, trademark law for one, the question is why don't enforcement teams act?

In the UK Trademark enforcement seems to be something only large companies get action on against very smalltime operators.

So, presumably it serves government aims not to enforce the laws, in this respect, that help citizens.

My solution may or may not work for you, but here's what I do. I work down this list, in this order, until I find one that will sell me what I need:

1) A local, physical store.

2) Directly from the manufacturer's website.

3) An online retailer that I have found trustworthy and reliable in the past.

4) eBay

5) Amazon, if I'm desperate enough.

I think "local" stores are massively shooting themselves in the foot here immensely. Half the reason most people order online is due to price. So perhaps the "local" stores should be advertising their products online so people can see the price and make the call to just go there.

But no... They hide the price because they want me to come in so a salesman can dazzle, confuse and up sell me to buy something else.

To be fair, they also don't want to put their prices online because it means they'd have to compete with other physical retailers on price instead of relying on rash purchases by buyers that are driven by time and location constraints.

I agree, but some get this right.

My favorite local supermarket, for instance, makes their current inventory and prices available for download (in spreadsheet form, but still...) -- and they even tell you which aisle has which products.

I'm finding more and more local businesses have similar data on their websites. I expect this trend to continue.

That's pretty neat! Could you send me a link, I'm curious to see it?

Another side effect is that the signal to noise of product reviews on the internet have gone way down. It feels like you can only find glowing reviews of any product when you do a search. Youtubers, blog operators, etc are all incentivized to say a product is great and link to amazon with their affiliate code.

After all, how can you read a review on something if you're not going to use it? Which seems like a pretty big impact on the efficiency of the entire market.

The irony is... you know what Amazon's still amazing for?


They should spin off the retail company and keep books + AWS.

They aren't that great for books anymore, either. They've starting shipping books in a padded envelope that don't do much to protect the book. I've ordered a number of books that have arrived all beat up. Not a big deal for a cheap novel that I'm going to read and then give away, or a school textbook that I don't care about beyond the class.

However, the last book I ordered from them was Python in a Nutshell about a year ago. It's an expensive book, so I was less willing to tolerate damage to a $50 book that I want to keep and use a lot. I had to return it twice to get one that wasn't beat all to hell. And even then I feel like I settled for something not in as good condition as I expected.

Amazon used to put books between two pieces of cardboard, shrinkwrap it, then put it in a box with padding. Books always arrived in good condition. Books in the padded envelope always arrive with crushed corners, and sometimes damage to the cover.

The same problem exists for books. Look at No Starch Press as an example: https://twitter.com/billpollock/status/1183094406573748225?s...

If they could manage to ship them. I returned 5 in a row wanting an undamaged coffe table book, i was forced to give up. I have books from the 1700s in better shape than what regularly arrives from amazon.

Last book I got from Amazon was either a counterfeit or done on some sort of ultra low quality press. The paper was like cheap printer paper and the binding was falling apart. The printing was crooked too.

Most retailers have in-store pickup these days. I find myself hardly ever buying from Amazon anyways (unless can't get at a store within 10mi radius) because I'm too impatient haha.

This is not a great alternative, but given how bad Amazon is to their employees, Walmart is also generally quick with their shipments.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact