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A foreign seller has hijacked my Amazon Klein bottle listing (kleinbottle.com)
2682 points by _Robbie 24 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 601 comments

Guess I'd better say a few things.

First, I deeply appreciate that so many on Hacker News have come out for this. Enough to awaken me from a sound sleep on a Tuesday evening!

I don't really care that much about selling Klein bottles over Amazon - it's mainly to reach parents over the holidays. But I do wish that Amazon would do something about this kind of thing.

Finally, I"m very low on stocks of glass Klein bottles. It's weird for me to ask my friends not to buy the things I've worked so hard to make, but I guess I'd better. I hope to have more manifolds in mid to late summer.

Warm wishes all around,

-Cliff (way late on a cloudy Tuesday evening in Oakland)

My reciprocal appreciation to Fury, Atlanta/n, and Meester (and my many other friends on Hacker News).

I deeply appreciate the kindness and support of the hacker community - sends me back thirty five years to when I was fooling with a Unix workstation and stumbled on a small accounting error. Back then, I was surprised by the outpouring of help, suggestions, and collaboration from other computer folk.

At this moment, I again thank this community -- across decades and across the globe, I'm heartened and happy to be one of the gang.

Warm wishes all around,


When I had my little ISP in the early 90s, Cliff's book was given to every new customer for the first few years.

You seem like a really cool and interesting person, Cliff.

Do you still use the RC mini forklift for storage? I've always thought that seemed like a lot of fun.


Cliff, if you ever read this, I have a computer science book club that could use reading suggestions. Thoughts? Anything from management to best practices ... we will be adding your seminal work to our list too :)

Hey Cliff, I just have to say thanks. I read the Cuckoo's Egg in the early 90s and while I was already interested in computers, the idea that there were "networks" of them out there... well... it blew my mind.

I immediately went to my school librarian and said I wanted to try to connect computers together, or try to dial-up to library information services, etc. We started learning together.

You were a huge inspiration, thanks.

There was also a television adaptation, "The KGB, the Computer, and Me" produced by PBS Nova in like 1992, starring Clifford Stoll as Cliff Stoll!

Here is a bootlegged youtube link--it's the best I've got. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGv5BqNL164

A legend!

Thank you for the link. Amazing. And Cliff as himself ! I read the book but just could not stop watching the documentary.

Next time I am in Hannover will have to take a photo in front of the flat. It got a repaint though...


Ooh ... I visited there way back when. Down where that bike is parked there was a coin-operated cigarette machine. And they sold Benson & Hedges ciggies (which were the passwords that the hackers had chosen). Sends me way back, Belter.

Wanna really nerd out, here's the Grateful Dead show Cliff cut out of hacker chasing to go attend: https://archive.org/details/gd86-06-21.sbd.brame.15406.sbeok...

"A bass guitar note took my attention from the hacker’s trail. The Grateful Dead were playing outdoors at the Berkeley Greek Theater, only a hundred yards downhill from the lab. The police couldn’t keep people from sitting in the field overlooking the concert, so I skipped over there, mingling with a thousand others in tie-dyed shirts. Burnt-out panhandlers, left over from the sixties, walked the crowd, begging tickets and selling posters, buttons, and grass. The drum solo in the second set echoed from Strawberry Canyon, adding a weird backbeat appreciated only by us cheapskates in the fields. Life was full: no hacker is worth missing a Dead concert for..."

"The Cuckoo's Egg" - Pag 35 (on my edition)

Complete agreement — wouldn’t miss a Dead concert for anything.

Hmmm - I seem to be agreeing with myself. I tend to do that, occasionally.

It looks like archive.org also has it: https://archive.org/details/The_KGB_The_Computer_and_Me_1990

That you are linking to a bootleg copy of video on this thread is...ironic, to say the least.

Don't worry, I'm sure "AMVOOM The KGB, the Computer, and Me" will be listed anytime soon.

Fascinating movie, thank you for linking to it! I loved to see what logging and tracing looked like back in the day. Looks a lot more fun than just dumping terabytes to S3. I also really enjoyed how stoked and energetic Cliff was about the whole thing. What a gem!

One of my (very sincerely held) goals in life is to be as excited about _something_ as Cliff Stoll is about _everything_.

Ha! I didn't know the klien bottle guy was the accounting error guy. That's very cool.

Googled him there and he's listed as an astronomer. But the astronomers consider him a computer guy ;)

You should read his book! He discusses this in the first chapter. He helped (or maybe solely) design the lens at W. M. Keck observatory, and you can see him on Numberphile a lot.

Definitely, I read it in a day it was so enthralling.

Took a year to write. Asynchronous I/O, I guess.

So long as more than 365 people spent a day or more reading it, you got your revenge on the universe… ;-)

Aaah - a tilt of the karmic plane!

I did! A long long time ago. That's why I mentioned it. It always stuck with me :)

Brilliant read.

I just wanted to jump in and say the same thing. I had the hardback of the Cuckoo's Egg as a teenager in the 90s. Huge inspiration to me and I have worked in and around tech ever since. Thank you.

I read it only last year. A brilliant and now historical book.

Mind slightly blown. The Cookoo's Egg is a great book, Cliff is amazing to watch in the Klein Bottle videos, but I've only just realised they're the same person!

There’s a movie about it, with Cliff Stoll himself on the lead role.

There's a movie about the hacker: 23 – Nichts ist so wie es scheint.

That’s true. I like both movies.

Same here, my copy from 1989 is still on my bookshelf. Thanks for being inspiring!

a fantastic and inspirational read. also great cookie recipe! made them many times

That book changed my life.

Changed mine, too. Q-Bert.

Don't buy this guy's klein bottles, they're a scam - they're only THREE dimensional! Such a rip off. How am I supposed to store a ŷ̶̺̎͌͐̿̽̊́̕ŏ̶̗̈́̓̍̎̃͠g̶̝̺̜̜͋̿̚ͅ-̷̧̛̈́̔́s̷̰̀͌́̈́ơ̷̝̭̫͛́͘ẗ̴̹̱̖̥́h̸̡̡͙̻̀o̸̹̘̾̀͗̇̕t̵̗̠̄̽̈́͑ḧ̵̳̰̩̲͈̜͉̝́́͌͐ in this thing?

No it's your space that's 3-dimensional. Just make sure to store your klein bottles in 4d space and they will be free of holes and self intersections.

PEBCAK (Problem Exists Between Chair And Klein bottle)

Cliff Stoll stores Klein bottles i in the crawl space under his house and manages his inventory with a frickin' robot. The head clearance seems a bit short for a4 4D space!

This is what comes of neglecting the storage instructions.

The classic Klein bottle is a 2D surface. It doesn't embed in R^3 regardless of whether you give it a little thickness so you can make it out of matter.

Worse, the klein bottles did nothing to remove my black heads

Does anyone else see 10 vertical lines of characters that look like the ‘matrix’ font overlaid on the word ‘yog so Thoth’ in the last two lines of qwertious’ post?

That's He Who Shall Not Be Named's hand reaching into the material world, making himself known to all who would dare parse HTML with regular expressions.

And signalling the immanentizing of Tony the Pony.

Do not speak his name.

Arguably, they just _typed_ his name -- maybe they didn't say it out loud :)

The four dimensional answer to this one dimensional question will also answer your question and many others:


Strangely, I had that very page open on my three dimensional computing device last night and it was still open just now.

This Must Mean Something.

Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn

A small dog has just materialised and widdled on my foot. Please be careful when summoning the Old Ones.

The Puppy of Tindalos! Ia!

no, it's just you.

What post?

There are no antimemetic posts.

yeah, but I see those everywhere... all the time!

I do

how did you do that?

Something like http://www.eeemo.net/

Thanks for that helpful answer. Big no thanks to those people who downvoted a genuine curious question. I'm allowed to not know something.

Just remember to keep the formulaes for the descending node (or dragon's tail) handy.

Hi Cliff, I'm an independent amazon consultant.

Your Amazon problems would be solved with a regular USPTO trademark. They don't recognize common-law trademarks because they are heavily arguable in litigation.

USPTO is a database of trademarks already scrutinized by trademark attorneys and government. It's not perfect, but it is a collection that Amazon recognizes.

You can do this for $2000-ish and never think about it again.

then GS1.org for barcodes

Now you can sell your bottles in museum gift-shops!

It's a shame that a small-time reseller like Cliff has to go to the trouble and expense to register a trademark to protect his listing (which I doubt Cliff will bother with).

Until about 5-6 years ago the changes Amazon made almost universally made their service better and more pro-user convenience/efficiency. Since then it's really become a nightmare. I realize they are being abused by scammers who are scheming every way to subvert the system but as a technologist familiar with web tech and distribution, it's clear there are some anti-consumer experience issues which Amazon could fix but is choosing not to.

For example, allowing vendors to list alternate "versions" which aren't really the same product at all. It makes it harder to tell what the star rating averages are for the version I actually want (and I have to sort reviews by version which is only accessible on a subpage. Frankly, I'd rather they just go back to one listing per product. Yes it's less useful for a hundred different sized machine screws but it seems like a major source of these issues.

Then there's the nightmare of letting different sellers sell on the "same" product listing. Crap clone products flit in and out contaminating the integrity of reviews because a shoddy version slips in but only from one seller out of six or seven.

As someone who deals with them everyday, do you think they are NOT doing some of the things they could to stop these issues due to strong incentives (Amazon makes more $$$ allowing users to be frustrated), or do you think they are sincerely doing what they can (within reasonable costs) to solve these chronic issues? They used to understand that accuracy and transparency ultimately yield more sales (even if lower for an individual product). I'd like to believe Amazon didn't change their ethos from the early days, but...

Amazon is filled to the brim with predominantly Chinese scammers that they have shown no interest in stopping. Scams I've seen:

- 2 pack scammers that sell someone else's product as a bundle, but it costs more to buy the 2 pack than it does to buy the real item twice.

- Listing swaps, where someone will take a commodity listing with lots of reviews and change the listing to sell overpriced broken garbage

- Counterfeiting or extreme product cheapening after a listing receives recommended status

- A mountain of fake review schemes now including this.

These bad actors don't contribute to the Amazon market. There's little reason not to ban them for ToS violations.

> These bad actors don't contribute to the Amazon market. There's little reason not to ban them for ToS violations.

These bad actors are optimizing for sales, and Amazon benefits from each sale on their marketplace. Their actions result in more money for the bad actors and for Amazon alike.

It's a similar situation to VC-funded social media platforms turning a blind eye to bots and automation early on because bot activity increases growth and engagement metrics, both of which in turn can increase the platform's valuation in future funding rounds or an IPO.

That's gotta be a very short term thing though hasn't it? Honestly Amazon is two, maybe three, knockoffs away from me never using them again (currently: 0). I can't be arsed with faff.. that's why I use Amazon.

It'd be daft for them to not be curbing this!

I believe that they assume they've bought enough goodwill from segments of consumers that things like this don't really matter.

My older relatives generally assume that Amazon will have the best prices online for everything despite that not being the case for 5+ years now.

They're counting on customers like my relatives and yourself not changing their assumptions or habits.

Funny you mention the 2-pack scammers. I was literally just looking for a center-post mounted bike seat for a child yesterday and noticed that exact scam. I thought to myself, "why would someone want a two pack of these bike seats?" Lo and behold the actual product cost less than half as much as the two pack. I didn't realize what was going on, just thought, "this doesn't seem legit" and bought a totally different item. Poor bike-seat manufacturer.

Sure, that sounds good, banning scammers. But then important metrics would not go up and to the right. Metrics executives see! You can't just run around prioritizing the customer experience willy-nilly. Who knows what that would lead to?!? /s

When you scroll tho y the end of the reviews they have a link that says something like show reviews from other countries. If the reviews for different versions worked this way it might cut down on some of the version scamming.

Making the step from a hobby to a business means having to make the necessary investments, some of which may be costly and a pain in the ass, to protect one's intellectual property.

I think it's ironic that you're saying he has to pay to run his business safely, when Amazon's set things up this way specifically because they don't want to pay to run their business safely.

It's a little outrageous that a 3rd party can come take over your storefront without any avenue to challenge.

It’s not “your storefront”. Your listing is only there at Amazon’s discretion and subject to whatever arbitrary and capricious and erratically enforced rules they choose to make up. That’s the deal you accept if you choose to make Amazon (or AliExpress or Facebook or whoever) a critical part of your business.

There is nothing wrong with Cliff's store front: https://www.kleinbottle.com

The problem is in Amazon's storefront, and there millions of sellers are operating in the same space, so doing some due diligence is required. If Cliff could just seize ownership of his storefront from a thief, why couldn't a thief seize it from Cliff? The solution is to register a proper trademark.

Like it or not, the world is messy, and it costs to keep it clean. Registering a trademark is like buying locks for your home and vehicle, and buying soap to wash your clothes, and changing the oils in your machines.

This logic assumes that it's cheap to get a trademark, whereas the parent says it'll cost $2000.

This leaves small hobby stores like Cliff's with no practical defense against scams like this if they've only made a few thousand in profits through amazon sales, especially if they don't have that cash on hand (and suddenly lose their amazon revenue stream!)

Like it's easy to say "well you should have trademarked your product" after the fact, but very few people have even heard of this scam when it happens to them.

It's interesting that you say "some due diligence is required" and go on to put the burden of that diligence on Cliff, rather than the creator of the marketplace.

It should be pointed out that in a country like India or China it IS often the marketplaces legal responsibility to prevent counterfeit merchandise from being sold in their market. If you go into many malls for example there are signs up on the walls with a hotline to report people selling counterfeit merchandise. In India, they have a service you can contact that enforces returns/refunds of any counterfeit item that you purchase from a vendor (though usually mentioning the hotline and threatening to call it is more than enough to convince the vendor to give you a refund).

The solution is for Amazon to be less horrid.

There really are no polite words to describe business practices.

Stop buying from Amazon. Quite easy actually.

Exactly, stop buying from Amazon.

There a software company running a software market, all the power is in there hands, and they choose to do nothing.

Why should anyone be able to seize anyone else's Amazon listing without thorough human review by an Amazon employee? This seems like it would be a non-issue on a sane platform.

Except selling Klein bottles is a hobby, his actual business is teaching.

Oh yes, Speeder.

Thank you!


I'm not sure why the parent was downvoted. The trademark scheme was built to make marketplaces more efficient, by giving producers a carve out in the conversation--a word or phrase or logo--so that they and consumers and distributors can engage together confidently with some bright line rules to work with.

The alternative is anarchy, and much more expensive then filing for a trademark if you want to sell in the marketplace. Like insurance, everyone that wants to be in the market pays a little, so that it makes it easier to avoid something like this.

While this would probably work, it seems insane to me that this would be the only thing to protect his listing from a completely different category of product being merged with another.

You're not wrong.

Because Amazon's system is insane unless you realize it's designed only for the benefit of the corporation, not for any kind of fairness or quality.

The success of Amazon retail is in part because of the ~feature~ of seamless, rampant IP infringement and zero legal or financial liability on the part of Amazon for making money off it.

Which has gotten worse over time, and one of the several reasons why my Prime membership will not renew this year.

Has there been a study on the volume of counterfeit goods flowing through amazon's marketplace?

Seems likely they are now the #1 seller of counterfeit goods globally, by a decent margin.

I’ll bet a six pack of decent beer the % of all sales that are counterfeit goods is double digits.

What's unfortunate is that ideally fairness & quality should be in the interests of the marketplace.

...or the fact that the only way to get this information is a HN comment from an independent Amazon consultant.

Let's say that Acme is a low-down, dirty-rotten, rip-off con who has been usurping somebody else's trademark to make a quick buck with counterfeit merchandise.

Why would Amazon merge the reviews of that product with the reviews of the authentic, high-quality, reputable Chinese vendor's actual product?

Why does Amazon allow a "color" to point to a product from a completely different seller? Why does Amazon allow product aliases at all?

Thanks, Blair. I've spent an afternoon pawing through the USPTO trademark & their TESS system. To self-register a trademark with already-listed goods (eg, a T-Shirt or a clock) costs about USD$350. The cost bumps up for every class of goods your trademark covers (say, your trademark covers T-Shirts and Clocks). And oddball, unlisted items (Klein bottles) cost noticeably more.

I have felt for awhile that fees for Trademarks, and Patents should be tied to 1040 income level.

A wealthy corporation (person) should pay more than the poor, or little enterprise.

I looked into a patent a few years ago, and couldn't justify even the fee at the time. When I had disposable income I was ready to patent, but I was too late. A corporation with over 60 patents beat me to it.

That shouldn’t be required. Amazon should verify the seller. Scam sellers sell knockoff trademarked items everyday on Amazon. Trademark won’t fix anything.

It's kind of sad if the only way to stop having your item listing in Amazon from being hijacked is to trademark.

Do Amazon care about jurisdiction, UK registration is ~£200, perhaps any registered trademark will get you recognised by Amazon [in all jurisdictions]?

If someone is squatting one's trademark you can still sue them with an unregistered mark, and perhaps crucially if they're using Amazon then Amazon should be up for contributory infringement.

This is not legal advice and represents my personal views only.

I was thinking similarly, what about state trademarks? I've got a Massachusetts trademark because it was quick and easy, and cost only $50. My lawyer advised me that, while not as iron clad as a federal trademark, it would tend to discourage anybody else from filing federally on the mark because they'd do a search and mine would turn up and they'd rather pick a different mark than be limited in one state. I don't sell product on Amazon though, so I don't know if it would work in that instance.

I can save him the money…it would be highly unlikely the USPTO would grant a TM for “ACME Klein Bottle”.

In either case, or even in the case the was a seller legitimately infringing on a valid trademark, Amazon should not be reassigning reviews from one sellers product to another seller under these types of matters. How in the hell would that be beneficial to Amazon shoppers?

Indeed, "Klein bottle" is not descriptive of the origin, it's descriptive of the type of goods. Trademarks indicate origin and must do so distinctively to be registered.

This post is my own view, not legal advice, and unrelated to my employment.

And “ACME” is very likely already registered in any desired class for the particular good.

It also creates bigger questions about Amazon’s brand/trademark practices vis-a-vis forum selection where registration fees and criteria are minimal and rights are liberal.

Assuming it was successfully filed, actually returning the marketplace/reviews to OP would actually be more troubling…in other words Amazon would be willing to take the marketplace/reviews from a legitimate Trademark holder with an earlier filing date and give it to a legitimate Trademark holder with a later in time filing date from another jurisdiction.

Disclosure: I’m a lawyer and have actually represented a client that registered trademark A, sole the product on Amazon, then Amazon began selling a competing product with a similar (not identical spelling but pronounced the same) name they successfully trademarked B, ironically the USPTO rejected our clients trademark for C on the basis it was “to similar to B” whereas the USPTO never found B was similar to A. The difference between A and C being addition of a logo to the word mark.

> Amazon began selling a competing product with a similar (not identical spelling but pronounced the same) name they successfully trademarked B

Trademarks are published for opposition for this reason, right? Client could have filed an opposition against the confusingly similar mark during the opposition period and it never would have ended up in that situation with trademark C. Monitoring trademarks posted to the Official Gazette is an extra burden but important if your brand is valuable.

> USPTO is a database of trademarks

No the United States Patent and Trademark Office is not a database of trademarks.

It has one, though.

What about the following listing (first result for the search "acme klein bottle" ) :

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08YWM31V4 by "Brand: Cradle & Dew"

"Kleinverse Exquisite Glass Klein Bottle, Handmade Math & Science Education Vase, Mobius Strip Glass Display for Gifts, Geometry Decoration & Theorem Glass - Collab with Mr Cliff Stoll" $74.90 + shipping

How linked to you is this ? Are these just reselling your products or are they independently made ?

Edit : In the description it states "These Klein bottles are proudly designed in Singapore, The Garden City".

I was going to ask about this too -- my suspicious nature immediately thinks they're improperly taking advantage of Cliff's name to promote their product. But maybe there's a genuine collaboration and it's all above board?

Seems they are also ripping off his product descriptions.

Anything that can be done to get these people off of amazon?

Get it to affect their revenue somehow (people used to do boycotts for things like this, but now everything is one company, so what do we do?)

There was a story about a guy who had a self published book. He was the only person printing / selling his book.

Until someone showed up on amazon and sold it too, they just copied it and printed it themselves.

The copied book is identical, cover and all, images in the Amazon listing too ... Amazon chose to do nothing.

I have a similar issue; I have a $10 self published book on Amazon and somebody re-listed with an earlier (like 1900!) publication date, so it shows up first when looking for it and it's listed at like $100.

I don't know who can fall for this in my case but I'm sure if they can they have probably done this at scale. When I search in Amazon I see a lot of results with wide range of prices so I'm sure some people are just counting on showing up on results, users being "lazy" and arbitraging the difference between their listing and the cheapest vendor.

I have ordered 2 service manuals on eBay, and both times I got some shitty photocopies of the official manual, yet paid full price for the official manuals. You email the vendors and ask why you got this shitty copy, and they claim it's official, and that they're licensed by the company to reproduce them. So eBay won't do shit.

And if we charge back eBay they just prevent us from using their marketplace.

> The copied book is identical, cover and all, images in the Amazon listing too ... Amazon chose to do nothing.

Amazon will still get paid whether they sell the real book or a knock off, either way. It's not like a small time author has the resources to actually do something about it in court.

I refuse to give money to a business that behaves the way Amazon does.

He should just sue for copyright infringement.

IIRC: Amazon won't tell him who it is and he suspects it's just someone out of legal reach / as the book is just self published his legal resources are pretty limited.

Which is what the infringers hope - and the major engine driving much of Amazon's profits.


I remember when people used to (heck still do) get worked up about Walmart but those same people not only order from Amazon all the time, they even join B mans private club (Prime).

You sue Amazon for contributory infringement. Subpoena for the number of fraudulent copies they sold and then press for triple damages plus all of your fees. Even if that number is tiny you'll cost them much more in legal bills.

I'm not sure why I'd spend $50k forcing Amazon to spend $250k. They can play that game a lot longer than me.

Honestly, all the stories in this thread make me very glad I canceled my Prime subscription. I still use Amazon occasionally, but now most of my purchases go direct. With the exception of books; there I order from my local bookstore.

> Amazon won't tell him who it is

Does that matter to the police? Surely police reports don't have to include the name of who you think caused you some injury.

"It's a civil matter"

The police are never going to bother trying to seriously curtail online fraud. There's a reason why so many scam calls try to trick vulnerable people into paying them with iTunes gift cards and Google Play gift codes. Even with the added friction and blatantly farcical nature of the scam they find it more profitable to try and get the funds that way. They undoubtedly lose plenty of victims who might have been tricked into sending it through Western Union, mailing cash, or a cashier's check. They're paying a steep price to funnel it through the app store between the platform fees and whatever they pay the merchant that's laundering the funds for them.

They do that because they know that Apple is never going to try to claw back funds and the police are never going to force Apple to return the money that's still sitting in their accounts. You can call Apple 30 minutes after giving the scammers the code and without fail "oh sorry, the funds are gone!" https://i.imgur.com/oijXbLD.jpeg

That's the status quo, the courts are your only remedy here and you're going to lose trying to sue Amazon over a fraudulent seller. Best case scenario you manage to get Amazon to identify the seller and find out they're in a foreign jurisdiction and for all practical reasons untouchable as far as legal recourse is concerned.

Amazon are selling it; if it's tortuously acquired he can sue them.

My opinion, not legal advice.

Companies are taking a broad interpretation of Section 230 and claim that the law shields tech companies from all liability for their platform[1], online and off, and not just liability for hosting user created content.

Lower level courts seem to agree with them, although one such case has been fought all the way to the Supreme Court[2].

[1] https://www.lawfareblog.com/herrick-v-grindr-why-section-230...

[2] https://www.americanbar.org/groups/diversity/women/publicati...

So just having a web shop shields you for example from the consequences of selling counterfeit goods? How does that work?

They'll argue that they aren't liable for the crimes that users of their platform commit using their platform and cite Section 230 of the CDA.

Which makes no sense, since CDA's Section 230 is saying nothing about being an accomplice to crimes, only about not being treated as the publisher or speaker of some information.

I agree, and there's a case that's gone to the Supreme Court over this, so we'll see how they rule.

You signed a copy of The Cuckoo's Egg for me, oh, maybe 30 years ago, which I still own. I just wanted to say thank you for being a positive inspiration in my life.

Hot ziggitty!



Jay - that looks surprisingly like my signature. Wonder who counterfeited it...

    Cheers,   -Cliff

Just wanted to say while your bottles are awesome, your under-house storage and retrieval system is the stuff of my childhood dreams and my claustrophobic adult nightmares.

How did you go about designing it? Was it fairly organic? Or did you have the full plan from the beginning?

So in 2015 [1] you said you ordered enough bottles for about 10 years, but you're already running out? That's quite the success story you have there!

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-k3mVnRlQLU

Lopis, you're right. Forward planning has never been my strong suit, and backward planning doesn't seem to work for me. There are some smart people in the world who can predict demand. Not me!

And, about twenty minutes ago, I ran out of large Klein bottles. It'll be September before I can get more, what with shortages of borosilicate glass.

Hey Cliff, just wanted to say that the Klein bottle I bought in 2014 or so is the best buying experience I’ve ever had. It’s still the only piece of home decoration I own. Thanks!

Many thanks, indeed, Kabb. I hope the manifold is still working after, uh, seven years. (You're aware, of course, that it's covered by my exclusive 1,000,000 year guarantee.)

Big fan sir - thank you for all you have done and continue to do.

Have you considered filing an FTC complaint? The new FTC commissioner actually seems to care about these things.

This is a good idea. It also would help to reach out to your state and Amazon's Attorneys General offices, too.

I second this!

Cliff, reading `The Cuckoo's Egg` in the 90's when I was in my early teens was a watershed moment in my life. Set me up upon a path of discovery and fascination with technology of all kinds. Countless thanks!

I was going to say, I don’t think that’s the message you were supposed to take from it, but it looks like he retracted his next book.


Much love, I've read your site through, often times out loud to family and coworkers. GL w/ Amazon. Minor nitpick. The link to go back to top of page at the bottom of https://kleinbottle.com/ links to index.htm and not index.html and is thus a 404. I guess you could just link it to / or ideally change <body bgcolor="#fff"> to <body id="top" bgcolor="#fff"> and link to <a href="#top"> to avoid a new page load.

(if anyone's wondering, now fixed )

Fixed, because of your help and advice. >Thank you!< -Cliff (who stumbles over .htm and .html files)

Cliff, Thanks for being in this world. I still own my hardback copy of "The Cuckoo's Egg" from 30 some odd years ago. I also talk about the events that unfolded in that book to my students! It's a great story!

Thanks for your book.

A friend recommended it to me as a “beach book” and I bought it not knowing anything about it. Best beach book ever.

This borosilicate shortage sounds worrisome! I’m inactive now, but did boro flamework for ~20 years and just wanted to say as a fellow glassblower that I love what you do with glass.

Hold lots of respect for you and regret that this has happened to you, but thanks for bringing these specifics to light. Amazon needs to fix this - or regulators need to force them to.

Cliff I love your website, it makes me all nostalgic for the internet of the 90's / early 2000's - full of personality and humor.

Hi Cliff,

I want to buy your books, but suddenly I don't want to buy them through Amazon, is there a better website for me to buy them from?

I love my Klein bottle earrings, there so tiny! Thanks Cliff!

That sucks. Nice write-up of how this scam works, I wasn't aware of the details previously.

Also, if anyone is unaware, this is this Clifford Stoll: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clifford_Stoll - who wrote this brilliant (and true) book: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cuckoo%27s_Egg_(book) - which is a really good read and perfect for HN.

Thanks, DFlock. As you realize, writing up what happens is a necessary part of fixing a problem. That’s why I wrote Cuckoo’s Egg. I’m gratified that my own community has responded; perhaps someone at Amazon will pick up on this.

A minute ago, I added a few more details to my website-writeup.

I've read your book a couple of years ago. When I saw your name on hacker news I thought it sounded familiar!

His TED talk is amazing, his energy for learning is so infectious. I just meant to post the link here but had to watch the whole thing again!


There’s a Cliff Stoll Ted Talk!?? I’ve read the book and watched the complimentary PBS side piece, but wasn’t aware of a ted talk, thanks!

Sigh - sends me back 15 years or so.

I'd prepared a 1 hour talk. When I was about to go on stage, they told me that I had only 15 minutes. So, well, I remembered one of the few things I learned in grad school: talk fast and don't give 'em a standing target.

Covered my points and finished in, yep, 18 minutes.

Well, I bought a Klein bottle and knitted Klein hat after seeing that talk many years ago, so it wasn't entirely useless :-)

I still have the hat. I no longer have the bottle as I moved to the other side of the world a number of years ago, and after inquiring with some mathematician friends it turned out that four-dimensional glass bottles are not compatible with three-dimensional backpacks :-/

When I got the package it was covered in hand-written notes; gosh, I don't remember what it said exactly, but it was hilarious; somehow you even managed to put some joke in Dutch on it. I wanted to email something back but I was shy and didn't know what to say. So, about a decade too late, thanks! Not only was I very happy with the bottle, the packaging absolutely made my day all those years ago.

I saw that talk a long time ago, but I can still hear you saying "I would dearly love to talk about one-sided objects!" I appreciate your infectious energy.

I just watched this for the first time. Your energy is infectious and inspiring.

Thank you for what you do.

>>"Nice write-up of how this scam works, I wasn't aware of the details previously."

I still don't understand how it works. Why can somebody owning something called "Amvoom" claim something called "Acme Klein Bottle"?

An even if they legally own the brand, how keeping the reviews when moving the brand to the new owner is the proper thing to do for the customers? By definition, the reviews are for another provider. I don't get it.

My best guess is that amazon is using the entities associated with the registered trademark as some form of proof of identity. So since there was no registered trademark for Acme Klein Bottle, there was nothing to compare the new identity to when Amvoom submitted their request.

I really hope I'm wrong though because this sounds like a very lazy and flawed system.

> a very lazy and flawed system.

That's how you make $100B, not by "doing things that don't scale" like handwriting thankyou notes to every customer.

Allson, your comment hits home. I like to scribble thank you notes to customers. I was brought up that way. Anyhow, sooner or later, I'll meet the person who bought that Klein bottle - so I'd like to have a good feeling ahead of time.

Has anyone read his other book ‘Silicon Snake Oil’ [1] from 1995 lately?

Sounds like most of his predictions in it (eg e-commerce will fail, digital books will not be viable, etc) were wildly off the mark - but were any prescient?

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silicon_Snake_Oil

Just from skimming through the book, it seems like its central thesis is an enumeration of all the ways in which computers and the Internet are terrible, accompanied by predictions that none of those flaws are ever likely to change. So it's not really a matter of any of his predictions being "prescient", it's just that some things have improved drastically, and others less so.

For example, he complains that nobody will want to look up information from computerized databases because CD-ROMs are too slow; consumers won't shop online because they can't pay securely; retailers won't rely on e-commerce because too few customers have Internet access; nobody will want e-books because you can't read them on the subway; there's no way to effectively search for content online; digital art will never surpass clip art and crude photoshops; it's impossible for networks to be secure because data and credentials are unencrypted; and so on.

On the bright side, he thinks that at least nobody will need to worry about online privacy, because it will be too cumbersome for anyone to effectively maintain databases of personal information.

But on the other hand, with some of his observations, it's at least arguable that they still hold true 25 years later:

> Anyone can post messages to the net. Practically everyone does. The resulting cacophony drowns out serious discussion. Online debates of tough issues are often polarized by messages taking extreme positions.

> An original IBM PC, now over ten years old, is fully obsolete. Likely, it will still work perfectly and do everything it was build for; after all, the silicon and copper haven't deteriorated. But you can't get software for it any longer.

> A word processor may last two years before the next version. These upgrades likely add as many new bugs as are patched, and result in a bigger, more complex program. One that's less and less compatible with old files. [...] Curiously, as computer hardware gets faster, programs run slower.

> Photo retouching isn't new. Digital image processing, however, can be so extensive yet undetectable that it undermines the foundation of photojournalism -- that seeing is believing.

I read in 1995 when it came out. My take away - searching is not the same as browsing, and something is lost when serendipity is removed from the process. And the internet works for a certain mindset to the detriment of other points of view

He completely missed the boat about how Moore's Law would improve upon the power of early prototypes. It's a classic case of underestimating the power of exponential growth by visualizing it as low-order polynomial, and missing that "digital is worse than analog" is a problem that can be solved by increasing the scale of digital power.

But he was right about tech will enable and amplify the worst in social behaviors.

He's also a connoisseur and collector of slide rules and the Curta mechanical calculator!

Here's a video of him describing how the Curta performs arithmetic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OynMJB-2J1o — as well as the SciAm article he wrote on them: http://www.mycurta.com/Calculator.pdf

Connoisseur? Naw! Stop by my place and you'll see a messy collection of oddball things ranging from some old calculators to stacks of old books. I received a Curta Calculator from my astronomy mentor, Ernst Both, when he got an HP-35 around 1973. I was one of his students; today, I can't look at it without thinking happy thoughts using a spectrohelioscope to understand sunspot magnetic fields. But that's another story...

Wow, I'm honoured to hear from someone who loves these old calculating devices as much as I do! I have a Curta II and a number of the HP Voyager calculators from the 80s (11C, 15C, 16C), but the one that takes the pride of place in my collection has to be the Curta. Looking forward to adding a Klein bottle or beanie to my collection some day, too.

He has occasionally stopped by this site: https://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=CliffStoll

And, still do occasionally stop by! (woke up from sleeping, and a heavy load on my raspberry-pi web server told me something was happening...)

Wait, your web server is a Raspberry PI, and its holding up while being on the HN front page.

Do you have a caching service in front maybe?

Hi Bill,

Yep. Cloudflare is out front, so the actual load on the rasp-pi is mitigated by their content-delivery network.

Then, too, my website is almost entirely simple html with compressed images, so there's not a lot of bytes to shovel.

Here in Berkeley/Oakland, Sonic.net has strung quality fiber-optic, so there's 1Gbit to my house. That lets me keep up with things. However, they only give a dynamic ip address;, so my pi must keep track of its address and tell Cloudflare whenever it changes.

Works surprisingly well - from /top/ I see about several dozen simultaneous users (thank you!), and the cpu temp is about 2 degrees above its normal of 50C

The raspberry pi itself is in the crawlspace under my home, fed through a Ubiquity edge router. Much fun, playing with Unix (oops, I mean Linux) -- sends me back to days of yore when everything happened from your command lines.


1. I met you in Kepler's when Silicon Snake Oil came out and we talked about something and you wrote in the inside "I hear you, John". I don't know what we discussed!

2. I am now Cloudflare's CTO and if you want to avoid the dynamic IP address problem you can use Cloudflare Tunnel to connect to us (rather than us to you). https://www.cloudflare.com/products/tunnel/

Yikes! Good stuff! (Just last week I was about to bump up my Cloudflare account. This seals it!)

And that Kepler's talk? Happy memories, indeed. They "paid" me for my talk by saying that I could have a copy of any book in the store. I chose the Times World Atlas (a way-big book of maps). The manager's face suddenly dropped -- and then I told 'em that I'd pay full list price if all of their employees sound sign the book. Result: I now have a terrific atlas of maps, with a dozen signatures of book people. (two of them visited me last year and I showed them their signatures from decades ago -- very sweet!)

Meanwhile, I gotta send out some of the tsunami of Klein bottle orders. But Cloudflare tunnel? Here I come!

Let me know (jgc AT cloudflare DOT com) if you need help with Tunnel.

This is a really wholesome thread... You guys are great.

Hello there. I just spoke to your colleague in sales and she tells me that Cloudflare Tunnel is only available to Enterprise customers. I forget the exact price but it included the word "thousand". (I almost fainted.)

My needs are very similar to Cliff's. I have (or going to have) a home server on a residential ISP which can't accept incomming connections. I need a public-facing server that will return from the cache if I'm ever on the HN front page or my home server is down, TLS handling, and routing to my home server's port 80 when needed.

I mostly serve personal websites but I have aspirations of building a small business. Is there anything in Cloudflare's range that would work for my kind of needs?

Hoping you follow-up on nine-day-old threads, Bill.

1. Please email me (jgc) and tell me who told you this

2. We literally announced free tunnels for all customer here: https://blog.cloudflare.com/tunnel-for-everyone/

I just emailed you. Thank you for following up on such an old comment thread.

From personal experience, any cheap vps that can serve static pages will stand the front of HN.

The blogs that go down here typically back every request by MySQL (ahem, WordPress) which is totally unnecessary and often actively harmful since MySQL has very low default total connections allowed.

The point being: don't serve requests backed by a database unless the results are likely to change very dynamically!

> The blogs that go down here typically back every request by MySQL (ahem, WordPress) which is totally unnecessary and often actively harmful since MySQL has very low default total connections allowed.

WordPress is not my favorite thing and some of the available plug-ins do terrible things with MySQL, but the problem is not too low default connections; it's too many PHP workers. WordPress is generally focused enough that most of the wall time is spent in waiting for the database, so you want to optimize for throughput; one or two workers per cpu thread is plenty for that. More concurrency than execution available reduces throughput, so it's better to queue requests in your http layer than to process multiple at once.

Large numbers of MySQL connections are more appropriate when the web pages do a mix of things, but more/mostly idle DB wise; in that case, you might still want persistent connections to reduce round trips before a query, but are less likely to have a query backlog large enough where task switching overhead becomes significant.

That makes sense, thanks for clarifying.

If you'll excuse me, I'm going to be looking at HTML cache add-ons for my WordPress site.

Yes you can do that or there are static site generators backed by MySQL too. So your data and configuration site can still be dynamic but your served site will be completely static.

The only difference between this and adding a cache is that the cache is another piece of software in your production stack.

Can you recommend a good static site generator?

For WordPress? No. I don't use it. I just know SSGs for it exists and not enough people/companies use it (when they're using WP in the first place). :)

Vanilla SSGs are so simple I ended up writing a basic one out of a markdown and jinja parser in Python every time (for example: https://github.com/eatonphil/notes.eatonphil.com/blob/master...).

If I were not lazy I might learn one of the major ones like Hugo.

It doesn't matter what SSG you pick, they all produce the exact same kind of thing.

When my friends webserver died and they had no backups, I found the wayback machine was s good (historic) static site generator ;-) Just mirror it from there and voila.

Hexo is a good and fast lightweight generator.

No need to even get a cheap VPS. You can just serve up static content in an S3 bucket or similar.

For sure. I've used Github Pages (free site hosting) for a few years now. I'm leaning back toward VPS though so that I can do access log analysis rather than depend on Google Analytics.

But the point was to make a comparison to a Raspberry Pi and emphasize that you do not special compute to withstand thousands of page views. Even S3 and GH Pages are overkill in terms of the compute behind both of them vs. what you need minimally.

Hah! That’s funny and cool. I mean hot.

Also, he did a numberphile podcast which was truly fantastic. I laughed and cried. Do listen to it.

Here is a link to the youtube version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxdcBD4ppF0

And I will double up and say it is a great episode of a great podcast.

Ahhh... unfortunately there's no kindle version. (I'm too inundated with paper books that I tend to stick with digital for new purchases).

Out of interest, is it publishing companies that make digital versions of books, or is it up to the author themselves to do that?

(And if it's the latter this is a small request to Clifford to consider it if it's not too much of an arduous task. And provided their relationship with amazon isn't too soured by the current situation, which I could understand if it is).

There's this documentary about him too: "The KGB, the Computer, and Me" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGv5BqNL164

What is ironic is that there is an annual Award given to an AWS employee called the Cliff Stoll Award: For those individuals who see something suspicious, not working as expected, show ownership and drive it to resolution. As Cliff did to find a KGB spy, and documented in "The Cuckoo's Egg".

I wonder what would happen if someone at Amazon pulled on this thread and not only solved Cliff's problem but also the root cause that enables this kind of product hijacking.

If there really is a Cliff Stoll award, I'd be happy to contribute a Klein bottle for its continuation. (seriously!)

Amazon can afford to buy one from your listing... although the recipient might be in for a nasty surprise!


Unless they have a real blackhead problem I guess!

I've won one in the past. It's no longer being awarded to the best of my knowledge. But the recipients did get copies of your book (it was my second copy!).

Apparently this individual works on AWS and won a Amazon's Cliff Stoll Award:


Plot twist: the root cause is greed

Allowing trusted sellers to be hijacked is not greedy behavior. Keeping 3rd sellers happy will result in less returns, happier resellers, and greater platform usage.

The root cause here is organizational failure from disempowered employees. At one point Amazon had great customer service with empowered represenatives. That's not Amazon today.

> Allowing trusted sellers to be hijacked is not greedy behavior

It can be if that's the side effect of a system designed to make selling as frictionless (and therefore lucrative) as possible. Thence, greed could be the root cause, if not the proximate cause.

> Allowing trusted sellers to be hijacked is not greedy behavior

Depends entirely on how much the sellers are selling. It’s entirely possible they like the idea of making a ton of sales for a bit. It’s not their reputation that gets destroyed.

It is if you make more money from the hijackers, and/or from marginalizing your 'difficult' employees.

I posit that it's not greed. It's laziness. Why do a great job, when "good enough" is good enough for 90% of the people? That's how business works today.

You could be right, Occam's razor and all that, but I think 'good enough' is a carefully chosen strategy tuned to maximise a bottom line rather than an accident.

The root cause is oxygen.

Anyone expecting any other behavior from utility maximizing entities is naive?

I would counter that by saying anyone ascribing that mindset automatically to all humans is cynical ;-)

Disagree. It’s possible to start with that assumption and then design systems with that in mind.

Agreed, but I guess we're talking about slightly different things (and perhaps I missed the point of the 'oxygen' remark) - I was saying, Amazon's system is designed that way because Amazon are greedy (that's the root cause), and that it's cynical to say that it's just because they're human (and therefore implicitly greedy). Vaguely worded statements on my part though, I should've been clearer.

A perfect example of why I buy less and less from sites that support 3rd party sellers.

The problem is even once reliable sites like newegg.com are now playing these games. If I wanted the Ebay/alibaba experience I can get that! Why large retailer sites dilute their brand and frustrate customers in the fruitless chase of "being like Amazon" in catering to 3rd party sellers amazes and annoys me.

At least most other sites let you weed out the 3rd party sellers fairly easily. What's really annoying is with Amazon, even if you are buying from "Amazon" it could be ultimately supplied to Amazon by some hackney 3rd party and not a trusted wholesaler or the original manufacturer. And as Cliff Stoll found out, Amazon doesn't care either.

Talk about coasting on your reputation. It will be interesting to see how much trust they have to piss away before it affects them enough for them to finally pay attention to stuff like this :/

NewEgg is just fine with scammers on its marketplace.

Last year I bought a new mouse. NewEgg redirected my sale to a reseller, who sent me a busted, used mouse in a plastic baggie, with cigarette burns on the buttons. After raising a little hell, I got a refund. Basic on customer reviews, I'm not the only person this seller (betechparts, if you care) is scamming. Despite multiple emails to customer support and the NewEgg CEO, this seller remains active on NewEgg.

I no longer trust Amazon or NewEgg to supply non-counterfeit and unused merchandise.

When you ordered, was it a "Sold by: Newegg" product? Regardless, they're still responsible to handle it.

I maintain that Newegg has diluted its brand (and presumably grossed higher) by adding so many third-party sellers. At least, for me, they've held up their product support thus far.

[Argh, "Based", not "Basic" in the second paragraph]

I don't remember. It probably did not have "sold by NewEgg" checked. That my order was going to a third party seller was not obvious to me, the first time it happened.

I've made reluctant orders through NewEgg since then. Much prefer to buy locally, even at a higher price.

I buy a lot from Walmart now, to drive business away from Amazon (I would never have typed these words a few years ago...). First thing I do is click Retailer = Walmart.com.

I think I’ll start as well. I used to consider Walmart worse, and never shopped there. But for several years I’ve intentionally been avoiding Amazon when at all practical. But I’m going to avoid them at all costs.

Amazon seems both willfully and unintentionally incompetent. They have so many strikes against them.

Their prime dark patterns are hostile enough, and I avoided it for years. But I needed a cheap plastic item quickly so I did a free prime trial with the intention to cancel. So I canceled and got billed anyway because according to their rep, on the back end the check box for “auto renewal” was enabled which wasn’t an option my settings screens. Why would it have been? I’d already cancelled and had a cancel confirmation email so why would an auto renewal option still be activated and bill me? It’s willful incompetence.

And their hire to fire practices and practice of churning through warehouse workers is terrible.

This Klein bottle incident just shows again how little they care about legit users or how easy it is to abuse the system.

They made whole foods a bad experience by treating non-prime members as second class customers. I’ve cut back there and now only occasionally buy coffee beans there, and will be cutting back even more.

And now Amazon recruiters started reaching out to me for data science positions. No I am not interested in working for a hot mess that only cares about money.

They made whole foods a bad experience by treating non-prime members as second class customers.

To be honest, there's not much difference between Prime and non-Prime at Whole Foods. The Prime specials are very few and far between, and usually not worth very much. There are more signs about discounts in the store than actual discounts in the store.

I think the only thing I ever get a Prime discount on is my wife's favorite cheese and occasionally steak. But pre-Amazon, the cheese was $4.99 a package. Post-Amazon, I need a Prime discount to get it down to $6.99 a package.

Where did you buy it before, did they stop selling direct? Any idea why?

I used to hate Best Buy because I had some poor return experiences back in the 90s, but now it's my first choice for online shopping because they only sell first-party items and they have control over their supply chain. This is particularly important for frequently-counterfeited products like SD cards.

Sometimes it makes me feel like a crazy person - I bought some new headphones a few months ago, and walked to a physical Best Buy store to make the purchase, because I had no confidence any online retailer wasn't going to sell me counterfeits, and the manufacturer was selling at full MSRP instead of the slightly-cheaper usual going rate for them.

And for what its worth, the store experience was totally fine. I'll give them my money again next time I need something tech related.

Best Buy isn't immune from this either. I tried to buy a TV from them last year - after a few days I emailed them to ask where they were and they replied to "check my account for the tracking number." Three days and another email (this time unanswered) later, I received an email stating that my order had been cancelled because they were out of stock. The same item was still for sale on their website with no mention of any delivery delay.

I would call it an anomaly but the exact same thing happened when my sister tried to buy a Switch from them a few months prior.

I had some poor return experiences back in the 90s, but now it's my first choice

My wife knows the person who is responsible for this, and tells me that the person who implemented these changes knows exactly what you're talking about because that person had the same horrible experiences with Best Buy decades ago. That's the reason things have changed.

Remember that Walmart and Best Buy also sell a lot of 3rd-party stuff now. I find it strange that on their site I always have to filter by Retailer=Walmart.com to get their listings and even then, it sometimes filters out some of their own listings.

They did this to directly compete with Amazon, I'm constantly baffled as to why they persist with this design.

Every time you hear, "<Crazy thing X> sold on Walmart website!" it's always a reseller, not directly from them.

I'm constantly baffled as to why they persist with this design.

Because "monkey see, monkey do" is pretty much the go-to leadership strategy for a lot of big companies these days.

Bad managers manage badly. Senior "leadership" rarely knows the meaning of the world.

Target has started this as well. It’s baffling that companies will so willingly work to destroy consumer trust.

Walmart has tons of sketchy 3rd party sellers as well, but yes, clicking Retailer=Walmart will get you Walmart. To my knowledge, they don't do the same inventory intermingling that Amazon does.

Amazon is more expensive on many items even with free shipping. Shopping for coffee makers, air conditioners i noticed I could get them cheaper and with free shipping from home depot and walmart.

While amazon is super handy, even food items like can goods are cheaper on walmart, but you have to wait a few days for shipping. Its can goods, theres no hurry, save money and shop around.

Amazon should offer an option where its OK to wait longer for wares as long as its 100% certain that it comes from the manufacturer.

Same thing happened in my country. The online stores turned into a "marketplace" with third party sellers everywhere. I never bought from them again. Can't trust these people.

They're still in denial that they have a problem.

Just read the thread on the previous occasion where listings got hijacked on their own fora [0] - its sad to see the sellers so powerless, helpless and just left to themselves.

You really have to wonder why they even bother...

Edit: also, reading that thread you can also get a feel why big brands have completely left AMZN as a platform (like Adidas, Birkenstock are a few i'm aware of).

Possible co-mingling of inventory, hijacked listings... no, just don't bother - of course not each and everyone is a heavyweight as my 2 examples - but do we really need 100s of dropshippers FBA'ing the same crap? I'd rather buy direct at the source than at Amazon these days.

[0] https://sellercentral.amazon.com/forums/t/review-manipulatio...

I no longer buy anything important from Amazon, this especially goes for anything that plugs into the mains, I just don't trust Amazon any more. Amazon is now just for those low value items that I might need in a bit of a rush. This is especially true now that more and more retailers have caught up with Amazon's shipping (at least here in the UK).

They seem to want it both ways. They have simultaneously tried to argue that they are not responsible for third-party sellers and blame them when fake and/or unsafe goods are sold, but then they work hard to make it appear that everything is coming from one place. It gets particularly annoying when it's a product with lots of variations (colours/sizes etc) where each variant will be a different seller with different shipping.

Like books, ironically.

As near as I can work out, their business model is now based on your being able to send back completely wrong or broken things they've sent you, so I stick to stuff where I've got the luxury of going through a cumbersome return process if things go terribly wrong.

My address has also been used as a target for a scam where, by sending unwanted goods to a real customer, a seller can fabricate a fake review that counts in their system as real. In one case it was a garbage light (shipped directly in its retail packaging so I could see what the thing was) that by a strange coincidence was the top-rated light on Amazon. Clearly an exploit that pays off.

I stopped (I think) that behavior by returning some unsolicited packages to sender, at the post office.

Same. Anything that plugs in, has batteries, or goes in my family's mouths is a no go for me now.

I'm pretty much down to a few books, video games, and obscure fasteners/hardware/tools (which annoyingly they're just about the only good source for).

Don't forget your family's lungs. I don't really order the right sorts of things, but my wife often orders things that arrive smelling like they were dipped in benzene before leaving the factory.

Kind of a good metaphor for how toxic Amazon as a whole is, actually.

McMaster-Carr might have a better selection of obscure fasteners/hardware/tools. Pricier, but often faster shipping than Amazon

Yeah, it depends on what you're looking for. McMaster is great for high quality serious Machine Shop level stuff, not so much for household oddities.

Recently I needed some vinyl siding hooks[0], a really oddball size drawer slide, and replacement window springs. I ended up getting all of them on Amazon - even tracking back the manufacturers they seemed to exclusively sell on Amazon.

0) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B083TPKJN1/ref=cm_sw_r_sms_awdb_im...

The one thing I don't get, and I worked for AMZN in logistics, is the co-mingling of inventory. It is so easy to solve, poses so many problems and yet the logistics benchmark company fails to do it right.

I always assumed they tracked co-mingled sourcing internally, but don't have a reason to make it public.

At least that way they could trace the people who were seriously poisoning the co-mingled well, in circumstances where they wanted to.

They explicitly say on their seller help pages that comingled inventory can be tracked to the original source.


> Note: Amazon ensures that the initial source of the commingled units can be traced throughout the fulfilment process.

The linked FAQ goes into slightly more detail.

Once co-mingling happened, they have no way of tracing one item back to one particular seller, unless the products have serial numbers. And Amazon is tracking those from Goods Receipt to shipping, which they are not. So if another seller is sending in counterfeits, with the same bar code, the whole co-mingled inventory is poisoned. And Amazon has no way of identifying the source of the counterfeits if those are not caught during goods receipt. No matter what they claim they can do.

It's not initial fulfillment that's the obvious problem, it's returns that are resold.

If I order 2 of something and they come from different sellers, and one is fake, how would they know which was which? Or that I selected the correct one to return?

Or if someone orders only 1, but recieve it and return a different one they bought from aliexpress.

Knowing that returned items get sold as new, it seems like the problem could compound, especially if the same item gets returned and resold multiple times. If it's a bad fake, that seems more probable then not.

I hear you, Moe. Can't say that I'm a big brand. Indeed, I want to stay a small one-person shop.

Maybe that makes you incompatible with Amazon, because they are about unbounded growth for its own sake!

Small is beautiful! Stay small!

- from the guy who in September 2000 bought 16 klein bottles since you only charged for prime numbered bottles, and sent you his credit card number as the sum of two 16-digit numbers sent to different email addresses! I still have a beer mug and question mark; all the rest are with friends! <3

Thanatos, your obd't servant, alas, is awake far past his bed-time, so his normally rusty memory is working even worse than normal. So, sad to report, I don't remember this transaction, but it sounds exactly like what I'd do. Just to better support number theory.

In years past, I'd say his business is perfect for Etsy. But that is a disaster now as well.

Ebay still works very well. While not far from perfect, it's amazing how much better they appear in contrast to pretty much everyone else right now!

How sad - they didn't have to get better, everyone else just got a lot worse by comparison.

I was reading stories a couple years ago about how Etsy has been flooded with mass-produced crap, and now it is hard to find actual hand-made stuff by actual crafts-people.

As I understand it, the actually e-commerce was still OK. It was more a problem with discoverability.

> They're still in denial that they have a problem.

They are too big to fail and they can bribe their way out of anything. As long as majority of people don't care, why would they ever want to fix it?

Also for one legit Western company, you can get 1000 Chinese knock-off cheaper ones that don't complain and people buy what's cheaper.

This was a while ago, but I got a counterfeit fitness band (it told me to download a random APK from a 3rd party website) from Amazon, and they repeatedly told me to resolve it directly with the seller who, surprise surprise, were not interested in issuing a refund.

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