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Amazon says it’s permanently banned 600 Chinese brands for review fraud (theverge.com)
418 points by WaitWaitWha 38 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 297 comments



Amazon is filled with cheap junk nowadays. I don't trust them for anything important. Case in point: I recently purchased an air purifier but was worried that I would get a fake product since they are notorious for co-mingling. I ended up buying one from Target online which also has free two day shipping now. For anyone who is looking for an alternative to Amazon, it seems like the big retailers (Walmart, Target, Best Buy) have finally caught up with their online offerings. I don't think I'll ever buy anything important from Amazon again until they fix their trash problem.


If you're worried about quality, you should really look into Costco. Their business model incentivize them to have top notch quality.

I've also worked with some of their buyers / purchasers - best in the business for sure. Very QA focus company


>Their business model incentivize them to have top notch quality.

I worked at a competitor to Costco; I would argue this isn't quite accurate, and that this statement applies to Amazon about as much. The key distinction between Amazon and Costco is Costco sells a small (1-10 thousand) number of SKUs while Amazon wants to have as many as possible (100s of millions). Costco can vet every product, and can quickly discontinue products that have a lot of returns or complaints. Amazon scales in the opposite direction and concentrates on building tools for sellers to sell whatever will sell.

But here's the rub: by limiting the number of SKUs Costco has to appeal to the masses. You won't get the best TV, or air purifier, or cheese, or pants, etc at Costco. You will get something that has been vetted to be good enough for most people and provides a good price point. When you buy their white labeled products (Kirkland et al) you will sometimes actually get substandard products as they shift suppliers without telling their customers, but that's another topic.

If you really want the highest quality you have to either have to seek out brands that optimize for this or dig into the supply chain and understand where your products are actually coming from. For something like an air purifier I would choose Amazon over Costco any day because it allows me to choose the brand and model I want.


I have found Kirkland brand products to usually be the highest quality available without spending crazy amounts of money. One product that comes to mind is the Kirkland olive oil. There was a report that found that many of the major brands and even high dollar Italian brands of olive oil actually had other types of oil added to them. Kirkland was one of the few, if not only major brand that was pure olive oil.


I'm always amazed at what Americans put up with in terms of food. In France, where I live, when you buy olive oil, it's olive oil: simple.


That may not entirely be true, at least as recently as a few years ago. https://www.economie.gouv.fr/dgccrf/plan-controle-2016-des-h...


As this page says, it depends quite a bit on where the oil is from. It’s easy enough (if a bit expensive) to find great oil from small producers.


That's an hilarious statement given the horse meat scandal.


As you say, it was a scandal and we did not accept it.


That's a fair point. Although I feel like if the same thing happened in the states, head would roll just for the fact a lot of people see horses as pets, not cattle. It would be akin to people learning they've been fed dog meat against their will. I would literally expect people to get murdered over that.


I'm certain that there are worse olive oils than Costco/Kirkland, but theirs isn't what I'd call good olive oil. It might be good enough for large scale commercial kitchens, who need to work on a thin margin, but it's not fit for any serious home cook, or an upscale restaurant.

It may be pure, but it is a blend of tens, if not hundreds of olive oils. And it's enough for one of the oils in the blend to be not-that-great (or outright bad) to make the whole blend less than the sum of its parts.

Just like wine, the best olive oils are mostly small-batch, made from olives from just a few orchards, preferably from just one olive cultivar that is listed on the label, and have a taste specific to that and their terroir.

In California, I found not bad oils at ~$25 for half a liter, which isn't too bad of a price, considering the exceptional oils could be double that.


I think its generally the case that people wildly overestimate how much they can actually differentiate between 'superiour, expensive' and 'pretty good, reasonably priced' quality on items like this. Once you achieve that pretty good level double blind taste tests stop showing significant differences. You're literally paying for the experience of spending more money. Nothing wrong with that, if that's your thing.


Olive oil is definitely something where you can go quite a bit higher than the cheapest brands (even the cheapest "Extra virgin" olive oil) and really taste the difference. Say, up to £10/£20 for a 1/2 litre bottle. Possibly higher, but I've not tested more expensive brands than that. Cheaper olive does have some flavour, but is mainly a carrier for other foods and tastes. Really good olive oil tastes absolutely amazing just dipping bread (or even a finger) into it.

I certainly don't buy such olive oil regularly, but I can easily tell the difference if I do.


Chef and bestselling cook book author Samin Nosrat disagrees. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/costco-olive-oil_n_5981e0abe4...

Kirkland organic olive oil has won quite a few blind taste tests and awards. Something that many small batch wines cannot even do.


Actually, I don't know if Kirkland actually produces anything. It's a relabel of other brands. https://moneywise.com/life/lifestyle/the-big-brands-behind-c...


Kirkland isn't a relabel. Kirkland is a house brand, and they specify the product, and contract a company to produce it. Sometimes, the spec is "make same thing you already make, put it in Kirkland packaging". Other times, the specifications result in a different and unique product. Amazon does this with their Amazon Basics and there are probably other house brands, too.


That doesn't necessarily mean it's exactly the same products. Costco can request changes to turn the product into something they are happy to put their label on.


The Kirkland olive oil that has won many blind tests is specifically Kirkland "Organic" Olive Oil. It has to have organic on the label. Try their avocado oil. Much higher smoke point and cheaper. I don't use olive oil in cooking much anymore, mostly just for bread and in salad dressing.


Always buy government or state certified olive oil if you want the best. These types of oils certify the origin of olives For example, the Italian Agriculture certifies the origin of Italian olive oil with a DOP or IGP on the bottle.


Yes, I believe several of the Italian olive oils tested were certified DOP or IGP - the ones that turned out to have canola oil mixed in. I think the Italian mafia was involved.


Kirkland fish oil is also excellent, and reasonably priced as well.


For most purchases, what you described is exactly what I want - something that will be solid without having too research too much. For the few things I really care about, I will research and source differently.


This used to be exactly what I used Amazon for before the listings became polluted. Since then I've switched to Costco for the reason the other commenter mentions: They pick solid products for everyday things and I can trust their incentives on some level. I have no confidence in any of the products on Amazon anymore that aren't big brands and even then I'm uneasy.


That kind of sounds great -- for most things, you just want (a) good enough, and (b) not fake. Amazon has gotten really bad at both of those.

I recently needed to replace an air filter, and there were endless complaints about fakes on amazon. I ended up having to buy it directly from a specialty manufacturer which was a pain.


In my mind there is a"spend without much thought" threshold. That is about 10:1 for Costco: Amazon.


The reason Costco is able to do this is because of the "buyer" team of Costco. There have been many articles talked about Costco's secret recipe. I believe Sam's club did the same to some extent though not as good as Costco's team.

Amazon operated on a complete different model, more leaning towards ebay than Costco. Comparing Amazon to Costco is like orange and apple. Amazon's model let the 3rd party seller resolve the market and quality, well, didn't quite work out when met with Chinese sellers who're from a society of bottom line driven all the way business philosophy.

Unfortunately, Walmart has followed Amazon foot steps but fortunately not quite enough to run into Amazon's problem.


> You won't get the best TV, or air purifier, or cheese, or pants, etc at Costco.

And I'd argue it's the exact opposite. If you want a mid-range product and not top of the line you'll never find it at Costco. High end stuff they're great at, and that's pretty much always what I want. But you want a $15 pair of shoes because you're painting in them and know they'll get ruined? Look elsewhere.


A 15$ shoe is not mid-range though. That's absolute bottom of the barrel. And looking at the Costco website their shoes can be had for 18$ and the most expensive shoe i can see is 35$, which i would still classify as cheap and not even mid-range.


I genuinely don’t think I’ve ever had a negative experience with Costco. Or any negative experience I might’ve had they fixed so quickly that I’ve forgotten it, either way.


And their employee actually gets treated pretty well - when I go to Sam's club, I always feel bad; maybe I'm projecting.


I’ve shopped at both (based on location I lived), and the Costco employees always seemed in a better mood than the Sam’s employees. I figured it had to do with how the company, and maybe the customers, treated them.


>and maybe the customers

I don't think people give this enough credit. It's one thing to be shit on by your employer, but having the customers treating like shit as well is just as bad. Getting the double whammy of getting it from both sides must be brutal.


> It's one thing to be shit on by your employer, but having the customers treating like shit as well is just as bad.

Spent a few years in retail, and can tell you: if management treats employees badly, customers will treat employees badly, which in turn causes another cycle of management treating employees badly. It's a cycle that is caused when management and employees aren't focused on the one thing that really matters in a retail exchange: having happy customers.


I was going to say: I think there’s a mixture of customer selection and signaling from management going on here. I think Costco (and all stores really), subtly signal how their employees are to be treated, which creates a norm and a social expectation that most people implicitly follow.

I think the fact that Costco employees don’t have to wear a full uniform is part of it. They have a clear identification that they’re an employee, as is necessary, but they also don’t have to wear a uniform that strips them of as much individuality as possible.


At the local costco, many employees have stuck around for over a decade (you can tell because of the badge).

At an Amazon warehouse, they go through employees like a runny nose goes through tissues.


Just don't buy an extended warranty for an expensive piece of electronics. The SquareTrade warranty I bought with a Dell XPS 15 was absolute trash. Sent it in three times due to a swollen battery. Replacements only held 5 minutes of charge. After the third time getting a fake battery I just gave up.


> The SquareTrade warranty I bought with a Dell XPS 15 was absolute trash.

I'm dealing with a trash warranty from Assurion on an electronic drum kit I bought at Guitar Center for my son. Not a good experience - I have to ship drums back to some warehouse to get a gift card? Um... that's $50 worth of packaging right there. Oh, and then I have to buy the warranty again if I want the replacement covered. Yes, I should have read the fine print in detail... but maybe the retailer shouldn't offer horrible experiences like this for a premium.


SquareTrade is a third party company so I suspect they cut corners. It's arguably worth buying a manufacturer warranty for certain devices, particularly business class laptops.


Right, but I think this speaks poorly of Costco, too. If, as claimed, Costco does their homework on QA and vetting brands and products, it's a huge hole in their reputation that they did such a bad job vetting the extended warranty vendors they allow to sell in their store.


No doubt. Costco has no business offering these as the poor quality is associated with their own brand.


Costco also sells weird trash products, but a least you can normally tell by the description:

https://www.reddit.com/r/Costco/comments/ojhrts/costco_is_de...


I've found Costco to offer products that have premium "specs" at affordable prices, but I'm often underwhelmed by the product itself.


I've never had to deal with it but I've also heard they have great customer service too so if that's something that you're worried you'll miss out on by switching, then don't be.


I had a funny one - I was returning a bunch of unopened wine and I told the guy, there is one that was opened, indicating that when you see the open one please give it back to me.

He was kinda rude and I was like wtf. And then he proceeds to return all of the wine, I asked him "dude wheres the open bottle?" And he said "I thought you were returning that one too?"

Turns out in some states - they allow you to return opened bottle of wine. We laughed it off


How much do you have to return? That could be the most rewarding bottle recycling plan I've heard of. Screw your 10 cents, I want a refill.


haha, by his attitude, I'm assuming that people have abuse this policy before. I'm thinking if you return the empty bottle, they'll still take it, albeit a bit gruntled.

Mine was about 2/3 gone. Definitely beyond of the point of "hm..this wine taste funny"

Over the years I've had so many little moments like this with Costco, whether it is a friendly exchange with a gas station attendee, a door person stopping me and pointing out that I was over-charged, a service rep who couldn't find an off-brand pedialyte I purchased so they gave me a pedialyte and told me "eh yeah just don't tell anyone", it really started to make sense to me why when you mention Costco - some people would light up and say "man I LOVE Costco", when it's just a store.


Completely agree, there are a few business cases that completely exemplify this. Don’t let the shallow information internet comments tell you otherwise. Anyways, Costco model is simple … but large quantities of high quality products and work as a trusted distributor for business traders. They don’t always get it right, but they loose money doing so. If a product doesn’t sell and gets devalued, they will hold thousands across the world.


I'm just not a huge fan of the subscription model. The last time I had a subscription I only ended up making a single purchase during my entire year.


Prime is a subscription model, and is twice as much as Costco's.


It's also optional though, Costco membership isn't.


Why would you shop at Amazon as a non-prime member? If you're going to be sold knock-offs and returns sold as new products, you might as well get some videos and movies to watch for the hastle.

Edit: you can also find a friend with a Costco membership and go with them. It's not like it's that exclusive.


This is actually a good point. Amazon is only able to sell that cheap crap because their return policy is so good. Without prime you literally might as well just order the stuff straight from china.

And to be fair, Costco worked a lot better for me when it was in the general direction of where I work.


And a long with that, why would you buy from Amazon without Prime, and deal with slow, non-free shipping, when many competitors (Target, Walmart, etc.) have upped their game and offer 2-day shipping with a relatively low total purchase amount, with no membership fee needed?


I wouldn't recommend a costco subscription unless you grocery shop there.


one thing I dislike about costco - costco-specific models make finding reviews hard.


They take the pain out of returns though.


I can vouch for this. I have returned items a year later. Without original packaging. Without a receipt. They gave me my money back no questions asked and they were even friendly about it.


Why would you need to return something (opened, used, without packaging) a year later?


It fails to do what it lived up to do.

I had an IOT plug fail (plastic melt) and returned it, and they took it back, no questions asked.


> Amazon is filled with cheap junk nowadays

This makes it sound like there isn't a reason to shop at Amazon anymore. While it's true that there are a lot of fake reviews, fake products, and generally poor quality merchandise, I haven't personally had a big problem with it. I spend thousands on there every year and almost always get exactly what I'm after for a great price.

Now I don't buy a lot of cheap Chinese junk there, but I have(phone accessories, bluetooth devices, LEDs and lights, etc) and it's generally worked out great. If I want something Chinese I generally try to buy it for less on Aliexpress or another site, but that said, Amazon, for me, is still well worth the prime membership.


I was like you. Prime member. Several purchases a month. Never had a problem with Amazon. Until I had a series of bad experiences.

The first one was a wireless phone charging pad I bought. Skimmed through a gazillion options in the search listing. Found one with hundreds of good reviews. When it came, it looked much cheaper built than what I'd ordered and didn't work very well. I didn't seem to be able to place the phone anywhere that would consistently charge. Could have been a counterfeit.

Returned it, which was a minor hassle (rebox it, get shipping tag, etc.). Then I went to look at the reviews, and now all the recent reviews were *BAD*. Like they had gone from 4.5 stars to 1 star. And the product was no longer for sale. I read more closely and realized all the old good reviews were for a completely different charging pad. When I searched for the item by name, I found a new listing with more great reviews. Yep, review fraud!

The second issue was a power strip I bought. Plugs would not go into it! I opened it up and one of the parts was in backward. The sodering was extremely shoddy. At this point, I canceled Prime and walked away. I'm not going to be electrocuted or have my house burn down because Amazon is unable to stand behind the products they sell. I complained, but only got an offer to return the product for a refund. Never again.

If I want to buy cheap shit, there's always eBay. It at least doesn't pretend to be something it's not.


> I read more closely and realized all the old good reviews were for a completely different charging pad.

It completely boggles my mind that Amazon lets sellers completely change the product title, description, photos, and even product category on an existing listing and keep all the reviews and everything.

I've seen weird things where the reviews for a product were talking about something completely different... like the listing being for a pet toy, but the reviews were talking about kitchen knives.

It's just so obviously fraudulent.


The rule is that it has to keep the item barcode (SKU). SKU recycling is common practice even among ‘legitimate’ sellers - agree that it’s completely ridiculous though.

Amazon are aware it’s happening but ignoring it because it’s good for business. If they really cared about it they would do more than ban 600 sellers - given an afternoon I could put a big list of fraudulent products together because they are so easy to find, so it wouldn’t be difficult for Amazon to do the exact same.


Based on the experience below, that doesn't seem to be the case. Reviews for Klein bottles were hijacked and moved to apply to black-head remover.

https://www.kleinbottle.com/Amazon_Brand_Hijacking.html


I believe this has been done by setting up a SKU-Variant. The same-SKU technique is definitely correct - I was contracted to work on an inventory management system about 2 years ago and there were some requirements about how there might be different products with the same SKU barcode for this (unless it has changed since then).

I'm not saying it's the right thing to do - but it's also just how being a large Amazon seller works. If you sell LiPo batteries on Amazon and have worked for 5 years to get lots of reviews and the top spot on the listings, and then your supplier discontinues your best-selling range, starting again with fresh listings can completely destroy your business. So you change suppliers and keep the same SKU and change the description. I'm not saying it's 'right', but unfortunately if you want to be an Amazon seller it's just what you have to do.

There might be different techniques to do the same thing too though.


Interesting. So from Amazon's perspective, it is perfectly fine for a SKU to refer to two products from entirely different industries? I'll admit that I'm not an expert here, but to my mind, a SKU should be akin to a GUID.

For the case you are listing, I would absolutely say that there should be a new SKU, because it is a new product whose quality assurance is entirely disconnected with the original product. If it is only a component rather than the entire product that has changed, I could see there being variations listed with different sub-values, but any review should then be listed with the exact ID that was being reviewed.

I'm of the opinion that any change to the product must be clearly communicated, even if it doesn't change the listed features, because there is an implicit statement that two identically described products are identical. I ran into this a few years ago, after passing down an old desktop to a family member. They needed wifi access on it, and I recommended a USB dongle that I had previously used with that computer. However, the newly-purchased dongle didn't work, because the manufacturer had switched to a new chipset without changing the listing, and that new chipset wasn't supported by the OS version I had installed.

I know that "compatibility with Linux kernel x.y.z" wasn't an explicitly listed feature, and therefore it didn't fall under the strict interpretation of false advertising, but I still consider it to be fraudulent. It was marketed as being the same as a previous model, but didn't have the same functionality as a previous model.


A SKU barcode is unique and is issued by a central authority (gs1) but you can always decide to change the title, pictures and even product category, and you can even have multiple suppliers for a single SKU.

You are right that there should be a new SKU, the issue is just that it’s not in the sellers interest as they will lose all their history and reviews which effectively means that if you have a top selling product you have to start again from scratch (which if you are an established top seller in reality means you just lose all your sales and go to the bottom of the listings).


You should really have a correction in the title, because the problem is coming from american wholesale accounts that purchase things around 100mqo from ali warehouses, it's not chinese people talking in english and scamming english speaking consumers into buying cheap plastic bought for 2$ a piece sold for 20$ on amazon, that's purely american greed.


The title is correct - 600 Chinese brands were banned, and the reason for the ban was that the manufacturers were including incentives for leaving positive reviews within the product packaging.

The issue isn't product quality in this particular instance, or buying something for $2 and selling it for $20, it's that these brands were including incentives to write fake Amazon reviews inside the packaging of the goods they manufacture.


This used to be the space that paper magazines handled, and to a limited extent orgs like Consumer Reports still do.

"User" reviews are bullshit, and far too easy to game. And Amazon's system bodges together distinct products, so you can't even tell if you're reading a relevant review of the thing you want to buy or a different model/size/anything.

I sometimes wonder if an independent review site would be a business idea. Crap merchants would avoid it anyway, but anyone with a solid product would get a tear down, lab report, subjective review, and objective performance details, with a couple of follow-up purchases just to check the product hadn't been substituted.

Result would be high-value products standing out from the noise, with some objective reassurance for customers - which is the opposite of the Amazon model.


Prime membership has no bearing of whether I buy at Amazon or not. I buy expensive electronics on Amazon because they'll refund broken/repacked pre-used/counterfeit stuff without question. I seriously do not get the point of prime unless you're ordering a $5 item every day for no reason as to not qualify for free shipping, or like the associated services like video (matter of taste, I guess).

FTR I only buy sold and fulfilled by Amazon products, I don't use the marketplace, and the seller "Amazon" always obliged to my demands.


Amazon definitely isn't the place to go if you want any semblance of quality. You pay new prices for returned, used, or counterfeit goods. It's a disaster


If the product quality doesn't match its price or it's used, just write an honest bad review. The seller will chase you by e-mail and give you back 50% or even 100% to edit the review. At that point you just temporarily edit it, get the gift card, and then edit the review back to the honest review.

And then you have yourself a good deal on a used product.

All we need is some AI to automate the above process and make a one-click interface to get discounted used stuff for 0%-50% of the price.


I personally don't think that's fair and more importantly it doesn't solve the problem. You will pay less, true, but you still get a used or poor object. At least to me, that's not appealing at all.


Surprisingly, I’ve actually seen that for many items in home improvement, Amazon is much higher quality than Home Depot. That may say more about Home Depot than Amazon.


Why haven't consumers stopped buying?


Who said they haven't?


Amazon's revenue.


Revenue is a laggard metric. Amazon's sideways share price should be more eye opening.


I reviewed my purchase history and I stopped heavily buying from Amazon on 2017. Today I went to find an item I bought 5 years ago from them but their price has 30% markup from HomeDepot/Target/Walmart. Guess who's not getting my business again today!

For years Amazon pricing has been getting worse, and they don't care


They don't care because they don't set the prices except when it's an amazon branded product.


Oh I don't disagree, I'm only pointing out that this has been going on for years. On any year I purchase ~$200 at most from Amazon now, and usually only items I can't find somewhere else

"Amazon Branded"/"Fulfilled by Amazon" and whatever other tier exists isn't a distinction I care to make


Hit the nail on the head. Walmart Plus is my goto these days. Always two day shipping, and if they have it in the store, you can have it brought to you same day. And sometimes even if you say you want it shipped, they'll still just drive it over if it's in the store. They do have third party sellers, I ignore them completely.

I basically use Amazon for things Walmart doesn't carry, and things I don't like WM quality on.

Hint to anyone like me that had previously avoided WM for years: they've recently started carrying higher quality, and higher priced things. It's not all bottom barrel custom garbage anymore, but that still exists and the price reflects it.


Walmart+ has been great for pandemic shopping. It has two features that help.

1. Free delivery on grocery orders.

2. "Scan and Go". When shopping in-store you scan items using the Walmart app on your phone. At check out, you scan a QR code on the self checkout terminal, tell it how many bags you are using, hit the pay button, and you are done. It takes under 10 seconds.

With Scan and Go I can do my in-store shopping at a time when the store does not have many customers (such as 9 AM on a weekday) so it is easy to avoid coming anywhere near other shoppers as I grab items, scan them, and dump them in my cart.

Then it is 10 seconds through the self checkout (and the terminals are far enough apart in the self checkout area that I don't have to be close to anyone else) and I'm heading out the door. I don't bag my groceries there--I just keep them loose in the shopping cart until I reach my car. I then transfer them to my cloth bags there.

It's a little slower if you have items sold by weight. When you scan those it tells you you will have to weigh them at checkout. At checkout it prompts you to put them on the scale, weighs them, and adds them to your order.


Wow, I had no idea that 2 existed. I'm a bit of a Luddite it seems, I still get awkward with self checkout. But this sounds like a really cool idea. So you can bring your own tote bags and fill them as you go, then at the end just...pay? Sounds awesome. But also sounds really ripe for abuse, unfortunately.


> So you can bring your own tote bags and fill them as you go, then at the end just...pay?

Exactly. It's become more or less a standard option in the UK, with most larger supermarkets even offering a wall of handheld scanners that clip onto your cart if you don't want to use your phone. Still strikes me as weird, but that's probably just me getting old.

Not sure how they deal with fraud.


> Not sure how they deal with fraud.

When you scan the QR code at the end it will usually tell you just to pay, but sometimes it will ask you to wait for an attendant to check that you have scanned everything correctly.

Assuming everything was accurate, it then updates a ‘confidence’ score in the background for you - and if you always scan everything correctly the checks quickly become less frequent / almost non-existent. If you always scan everything wrong, the attendants will be asked to check it every time.


Ah, hence the requirement of joining the loyalty programme -- lets them track scores even when using a store-provided scanner. Makes sense. Thanks!


They will get more value from the extra data they collect on people and basket data than from the extra % of fraud that will inevitably happen.


Here in Italy it is been a thing for at the very least 10 years.

There is a sample system that every once in a while it ask an employee to check that you enter everything correctly.

I guess that if you repeatedly make conveniently expensive “mistakes” there will be repercussions, but never experienced any issue.

Even though, it happens that I made small mistakes.


Why don't you bring your bags in and put stuff into them as you scan it?


I've tried that. In theory it should save time because items could go straight from shelf to bag instead of going from shelf to cart to bag.

In practice not so much because packing the items reasonably well in the bag usually require an ordering that does not match the ordering they came off the shelves. Most items thus still have to be buffered in the cart.

The only savings then is whenever an item happens to come off the shelf at the same time that a good position for it is available in the bag.

The net result then is a small savings in total time but at the cost of the bag packing time taking place in the store meaning more total time in the store


Doesn’t Walmart do co-mingling just like Amazon now?


> Walmart Plus

Is that US-only?


For the time being, it seems.


I don’t know why they waited so long to try and fix this. Their reputation online, 5 years ago, was golden. People were obsessed with the company. Now, nobody will buy anything important without going to a fake review detector site first and then they might still chicken out because they worry it will be an illegitimate item (Eg, fake windows licenses were a big problem 2 years ago last I checked)


Wait, are fake review detector sites a real thing? What is an example of one?


The couple that I know of are https://reviewmeta.com and https://www.fakespot.com/analyzer

Looks like ReviewMeta's creator has left the project, but the site still seems to work. Fakespot really wants you to use their app or browser extension, but the link I pasted allows you to ad-hoc check item URLs.


FakeSpot has purposefully limited prior functionality from their site and only allows those features via installing their browser plugin.

They really want that browsing history. So perhaps use a private tab.



I've had better luck than most with Amazon, I think.

Walmart.com is just as open as Amazon and eBay -- there are all manner of sketchy listings.


I truly dont understand the Amazon hate. I spent 8k from it last year (about 500 items) because I have a very intensive hobby and have virtually none of the issues people complain about. I got the wrong item once (not sure if it was fraud or a mishap in packaging) and Amazon refunded me and told me not to ship it back. Of the 500 items I bought I probably return 20% of them and have never had an issue with a refund.

Perhaps my needs are different than others but I personally find it truly amazing. The one time I tried ordering something off Wal-Mart it came three days late and returning it was a nightmare.


Exactly.

When I see these threads I'm always lost. What Amazon are these people running into? If you're in the US, this isn't a common experience from my circle of friends / family. I only order things from Amazon. I go out of my way to order from Amazon because I don't want to deal with bad customer service. I once ordered ~1-2K worth of home good items and sent it to my old address mistakenly. They sent every item to my new address and told me not to worry about it.

They're STILL one of the most trusted brands. If these issues are as widespread ... ya know the market works? People will go elsewhere.


I get fairly decent results, but something extra… literally.

There's some old account I used, with a slight variation on my name. Must've been years ago. Any credit card associated with it is long dead. I don't get billed for this account… but I get STUFF from this account. Not as much as some folks: I've heard stories of people really getting buried.

Just the occasional weird garbage. Crappy things of various sorts. 'Free' in the mail. Because if the address has had a real thing sent to it, it can be used for a verified review. Someone's got control of that account and is spending their own money to send me things like an LED seasonal affective disorder light, sent in its own clearly recognizable box so I could see what it was. I knew I hadn't bought one of those, but there it was.

Why?

When I went to look the product up on Amazon, it was #1 in its category. That's why.

There are plenty of things that I'll get through Amazon, including 'off-brand' stuff like color-changing LED light bulbs from severely off brands where I know it might be sketchy but it's priced accordingly, or guitar strings, or funny little adapters and HDMI cables.

I just know not to trust them. That's the Amazon I came to know.


>I only order things from Amazon.

So because it hasn't happened to you, yet, you assume everyone else is making it up?

>People will go elsewhere.

Where is the disconnect? You are complaining about people telling you they are leaving because it differs from your experience, yet you then say you don't think people are going elsewhere.


I think the charitable interpretation it to just assume people are bewildered by reports of bad experiences when they themselves have none. I don't think anyone is suggesting that people with bad experiences are lying about them.

I, too, have had very few bad experiences with Amazon, and the few I've had were resolved easily and quickly. I'm not surprised, though, that some people have had a rash of bad experiences that were not resolved well.


I’ve had only very very few bad experiences and I’ve been an active customer since the beginning. I wonder if their system is setup so the whale customers are treated better.


I'm not discounting their experiences. I just can't explain it, both anecdotally and terms of Amazon's business performance and perceived image.

If this is widespread we should see it show up elsewhere vs. only here (for me), where it's a known thing that Amazon co-mingles inventory, and hey, ya know that can lead to counterfeits! Which may explain it. HN's population may be more careful and examine items received more closely?

HN often doesn't match reality (see often cited Dropbox initial criticisms), so it's not too strange.


I have a fairly similar spend pattern on amazon and I’ve had tons of issues.

The most egregious example in the last few months was I bought an $800 Warn winch, “new”, shipped and sold by amazon, and they send me a not only clearly used, but used in such a way that it was extremely dangerous in a way that was only apparent to a trained eye.

Amazon’s dishonest practices like labeling used returns as new if they think they can get away with it is not only unsafe, but leads to a ton of returned-item fraud where people buy equipment, replace it with a superficially sort of similar knockoff, return it to amazon, and amazon sells the fake item as new. This happens a lot with things like optics (scopes, binoculars, etc) where there’s a robust market for fakes in China.


I don't really buy large or expensive things on Amazon, pretty much for that reason, and then maybe getting stuck with the bad equipment because Amazon won't return it.

This was a recent article about a couple buying a $7k camera and getting an empty box. https://petapixel.com/2021/05/26/couple-buys-7000-camera-fro...

This guy bought an expensive camera from Amazon, got rocks, returned it and then got bricks. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXPnOq-XJg8&t=0s

I have no problem buying $5/$10/$100 items. But for a $3k camera, no, not Amazon.


> This was a recent article about a couple buying a $7k camera and getting an empty box.

> This guy bought an expensive camera from Amazon, got rocks, returned it and then got bricks.

There's apparently a whole genre of "ordered iPhone, received iPhone box with Play-Doh inside instead of the iPhone" complaints.

The theory I've seen is that this is a scam by the purchaser against Amazon's return policy, not a scam by vendors on Amazon against customers. That second option doesn't work, because the customer just gets refunded.


There were some failed unionization attempts that generated a lot of anti-amazon agitprop on various websites that cater to that audience -- e.g. verge, huffpost, etc. The slew of anti-amazon hitpieces was so brazen it was pretty laughable for a while.

I think most of that has died down, but there is still a chunk of the click-heavy demographic that thinks they are consuming edgy media or displaying correct opinons when they read some "expose" about Amazon.

Honestly Amazon is a pretty boring company. They have done some cool stuff with AWS, of course, and but their retail arm is fairly vanilla and you need to really stretch to paint a picture of big box retailers like Walmart being the good guys when it comes to a debate as to whether you should go with Amazon or a rival. Point being, there is no rival that is materially better than Amazon in any meaningful sense. I use Amazon as well as others like Walmart and Costco and have had a fairly positive experience with all of these. Yes, the current global supply chain is a mess with lots of sketchy producers. That is not really the fault of retailers so much as producers outsourcing everything to cheap Chinese (and other third world) manufacturers that then steal the designs and create knock-off versions that flood the US market. Outsourcing is not really something Amazon can stop, and as long as there is outsourcing, there will be a market for cheap clones that are virtually identical to the "official" versions but with less QC and inferior materials, resulting in a lot of confusion for end purchasers who end up scammed.

This is a tough problem and is worthy of real discussion - even real investigative reporting! -- but an honest look at this problem will show that Amazon's bottom line is hurt by this stuff and that Amazon is in fact taking steps to try to reign it in, so it won't be the kind of superficial Amazon hit piece that so many seem to crave.


My experiences:

Bought a charger with a UL mark so my house wouldn't burn down. The UL mark was fake. Tons of complaints on the site about the fake UL mark. Amazon did a refund (great), but kept selling the bad charger (ayfkm). Also, I had no charger that I felt safe using.

Partner has gotten fake cosmetics. Which go on your face and lips and are ingested.

I tried 3 times to buy a new battery for my car keyfob. All of them died within 2-6 weeks. Gave up and bought one from my local hardware store; it lasted 2+ years just like the original.

Amazon is great if it's a book, and the failure mode of a bad book is the pages rip or something. I wouldn't buy anything you need to trust -- food, cosmetics, etc.


My experience with Amazon has been positive, too. I’ve ordered hundreds of items from Amazon over the past year and a half—books, toys, tools, food, office supplies, exercise equipment, guitar strings—and haven’t had any problems. I live in Japan and most of my orders have been through Amazon Japan, but items I ordered from Amazon US have been fine as well.


Your Amazon experience depends on how savvy of a consumer you are, just like eBay. Lots of scams and lots of people with legitimate items to sell, sometimes at a discount.


Even if you only order from Amazon, your experience also depends a lot on how Amazon have handled returns. I’ve had Amazon ship out returns they’ve processed where the item was supposed to weigh about 10kg, because it was a pack of 60, but weighed little more than the box because somebody kept 59 and returned just one. If they’d done a simple weight check on shipping then the whole thing could have been prevented.

This is a problem that bricks and mortar stores are also faced with – especially when the box has been resealed in a way that makes it look like it was never opened.


You returned 100 items in a year?! Were they broken or something?


I do a lot of DIY electronics stuff so if I need a part I've never worked with and not 100% sure what size will fit best/look best I just order several variations and keep the one that works best. Sometimes I may need something and not sure of the exact quantity so I just order many and then return the ones I didnt have to open.


The question is whether they commingle- Amazon does, Walmart and target (for now) do not.


One interesting thing about air filters is that many of the ones on Amazon can't be shipped to California. CA has strict standards for air filters apparently, so I always viewed this as a red flag. But it turns out those certification standards don't actually include filter effectiveness:

https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/list-carb-certified-air-cleaning-devi...


> I always viewed this as a red flag. But it turns out those certification standards don't actually include filter effectiveness

Not too long ago I looked up the legal standards for (US) butter grading. Turns out they are exclusively based on a taster's professional opinion of the butter's flavor.

This seems like a piece of regulatory apparatus we could do without.


Walmart has the same marketplace concept and shares many of the same vendors as Amazon.

Best Buy and B&H have most of my business now. Other than Prime shipping, everyone has caught up on price.


> Walmart has the same marketplace concept and shares many of the same vendors as Amazon.

But Walmart doesn't commingle inventory, as far as I know.


I'm unaware of how they handle warehousing and fulfillment for their marketplace, or parallels to Amazon's Fulfilled By (and if that's the end game...).

This is definitely a plus.


And Best Buy will sometimes do free same day delivery on specific items shipped from their stores. I was price shopping an air purifier from Amazon and Best Buy earlier this year. When I saw it could be shipped same day from BB, it was a no brainer. Downside is not every item is eligible, and I'm not sure what makes an item eligible.


> Best Buy will sometimes do free same day delivery on specific items shipped from their stores

Yes! I abuse this a lot, even when it's $9.99. For the first year of my last start-up, I ended up buying from Best Buy a LOT because I wasn't told about new hires until the day of or things just break and you need a same-day replacement. They have this for a lot of their LA stores.


You do realize best buy also has a "marketplace"?


I'm unable to find any evidence of this on the U.S. website, and nothing but a few links to Canadian resources otherwise.


You're right, it seems to be specific to the .ca website.


I was really panicked for a second. Complete denial, skipped straight to the anger phase. Best Buy has honestly been such a refreshing experience the last few years, now that Newegg is less and less an option.

It's one of the few stores I still physically visit just to browse, with no specific purchasing goal in mind. It's how I ended up with a Philips Hues light setup and I'm actually very happy with it.


What happened to Newegg?


they turned into a marketplace.


Amazon has also made some of interesting decisions in my zip code.

When the pandemic started deliveries went from 2 days to about 5. Normally they shipped from the next city over. They argued this was to prioritize health products.

Then a very large distribution center started being in panned/submitted to the county, under an alias. There’s been som pushback.

Suddenly my zip code is having deliveries stretch out to 7-14 days. It’s pretty predictable. To the point I can have them shipped to the office and get back to 2 days but to my home, that mouse I ordered last weekend still hasn’t shown up.

Rather than putting pressure on my coonty board members to approve the warehouse I wrote a letter to the opposite. Canceled prime and moved to other services to find gear. I bought something on Newegg for the first time in years partially because of this issue and partially because of the fraud rife with Amazon and I didn’t want the “new” hard drive I ordered turn out to be a refurb in new “clothing”


I've mainly had good experiences recently, but I'm in Australia. I try to only buy from the stores that are associated with the Prime offering, as I figured it'll help filter bad things?

My items have included a number of different signal cables, coffee bean storage canister, knife sharpener, microfibre cloths - all top notch quality.

I had one shipment get lost in the AusPost system which was frustrating (the tracking was active, but it ended up in a truly weird place), but received a refund as soon as I escalated it.

And I do recall needing to vet the knife sharpener as there were a bunch of fakes; the one I ended up with was top notch.

I wonder if the Australian branch performs some vetting, or if I've just been lucky.


Yeah I’m in AU too and generally buy 1-2 things a week from Amazon for the last couple years (thanks to lockdown etc), and I’ve never had a single fake/returned item. I only buy from local Amazon and never the international ones, and only things with Prime.

Might be because we’re too small of a market for it to be an issue yet? Not sure.


You can also buy air purifiers directly from the manufactures for a few bucks more than Amazon. I’ve done that for both Austin Air and Coway.

Other products can also be bought that way, but of course not all.


That's the damnedest thing, though. Review fraud has me manually curating a mental list of trusted brands which I'll preferentially by from, rather than using a marketplace for discovery. Seems totally backwards.


Marketplaces are terrible for discovery: nobody trying to sell stuff are interested in acting as a trusted impartial observer, or giving anybody accurate information.

Marketplaces are about balancing out competing sources of stuff by roughly their quality value without oversight, provided the underlying 'rules' aren't too egregiously ignored (no committing actual crimes, no stealing things to sell them at prices below their worth, no lying or pressuring people to lie on your behalf or stealing their identities to lie with).

When you enforce a lack of crimes, marketplaces work to allocate resources without top-down control, and scale as big as you like without losing that quality. THAT is the point. It has nothing to do with discovery and in fact they're not at all great for discovery.

The person who allocates more money and energy to being discovered by you is always going to come out ahead of the one who worked to deliver you a better product and didn't put as many resources into, quite literally, marketing. All expenditures in marketing are literally you paying to be sold on a thing, literally you paying to distort the marketplace in the product's favor (regardless of its value, could be garbage or a Veblen good that is otherwise of unimpeachable quality)

The LAST thing you want is a marketplace for discovery. You want discovery to do an end run around the market and give you the realities of what's being sold. The market then allocates resources based on your hopefully enlightened input.


I hate to break this to you but Walmart and Target are now doing co-mingling as well now, though Target is on a much more limited scale. I wouldn’t trust Walmart either now.


I have mostly good experiences with respect to the quality of products that I buy from Amazon. However, I think this is because I don't take recommendations at face value.

Instead, I look at multiple products, research them, and evaluate reviews. I don't weigh reviews equally. Instead, I look for thoughtful reviews.

In today's information manipulation landscape, you either do your own research or outsource it.


It's not just the reviews - It's that they mix inventory of the "same" item from multiple manufacturers.


The part about fakes may be specific to the US. Amazon Germany’s also filled with cheap junk to the point one must search for specific products, but they are not mixing inventory (yet).


Actually, fixing Amazon is very simple, but I believe Amazon does NOT want to do this.

You see, the trick is to only buy when the seller is "Amazon". These products almost always have high-quality, and are authentic.

You see, Amazon makes it very difficult to filter "Amazon" as the seller. There is no "default" and I believe it reverts to "All sellers" on every search. I believe this is deliberate.

The "seller" problem applies to Walmart, Bestbuy, etc. But for some reason, it's much easier to filter the seller on these sites.



I do this when I have to buy something from Amazon, but it does not really solve the problem. Amazon commingles product so what you get shipped may not be the product that Amazon actually sourced from their distributor, it may be third-party after all.


Amazon used to be awesome and Prime felt so worth it, you could just get stuff sent to you and skip a trip to the store.

Now we call it Scamazon and you spend like 30 minutes weeding through crap, scammy duplicate looking listings and fake reviews for any signs that a single item is worth buying before you give up and go to Walmart.

It's so sad that it's gotten to the point where I think Walmart has better quality and prices than Amazon.

We see dollar store stuff on Amazon for like $27 all the time.

It's like they let their brand erode to pure garbage.


Sigh. So true.

Curation is an important part of any retail experience. I don't need a thousand "brands" for a product. I need to know what the top few are, so I can choose well.

I hate the fact that there are a relatively small number of actual manufacturers of some classes of product, and then a massive fragmentation of "brands" that are just the same things, repackaged.

On Amazon, the brand is Amazon -- because there's a small (and getting smaller) chance you've ever heard of the brand before. So when it comes to trust, our trust relationship is with Amazon.

The main thing Amazon has going for it is the liberal return policies -- those transform the lack of trust in the general buying experience into a two-way door.


Honestly, you could probably make a business out of a store that sells only high quality gear. Like headphones.com but for more than just headphones.

I'm sick of spending hours researching shit just to find something decent, whether it's screwdrivers or thermostats or lightbulbs.


The problem is every single site like that turns into an affiliate garbage-fest where you are paying for the "top-rated" item based on the biggest affiliate fee it pays. Sure it looks legit because they only pick what appear to be all high quality items that still pay good affiliate money.

Hard to make money otherwise as someone will always see your traffic and make it really worth your while for you to cross the line on recommendations, and hey, since you never meet or see the people who use your site and they'll probably only buy once, why not?

You can't really trust any site or article about quality or ratings, because they all exist solely to do this, or it's some random dude's blog that you'll never actually find or believe in anyway. If he does get traffic he decides he wants to make a go at making money, and whoops, there we go again!

Of course you could run a real store with inventory and such, but man that's too much work when the other way is so easy.


This is perfect. Thank you.


https://www.buyforlife.com/ is one place that's trying to do this, and while their product selection is pretty limited it seems like they're sticking to their principles.


It's interesting that I'm not the only one thinking along these lines.

It's a recurring theme throughout history that products or services there were once only available to the wealthiest elite of society eventually trickle down to everyone, often due to improvements in technology.

Think of a product, and it was once unavailable to the masses: refined sugar, spices, cars, etc...

A significant luxury that the rich enjoy is having personal shoppers that eliminate the hassle of having to wade through this crap themselves, deal with deliveries, and return things if they don't work out.

I can imagine a web site that works like that, but utilising efficiencies of scale to bring the cost of this service down to mass-market levels. Affordable by the upper middle class, instead of just the multi-millionaires.


I'm not sure that would work quite the same. The personal shopper has very different abilities and incentives. They can actually be at your house to manage the delivery and potential returns, they will get to know your preferences in a way you probably wouldn't or couldn't express even on an open-ended form. And most importantly, their only incentive is you. There is no additional cost for them in rejecting an item and starting over. I'm not sure what common payment structures are, but it's even possible they are incentivized to be as picky as possible as long as they can do so quickly enough to not bother you.

The problem is that kind of incentive is really difficult, or maybe impossible, to do cheaply. How do you scale anything in a way that doesn't turn extra pickiness for a specific customer into a cost?


Oh, I don't mean a personal personal shopper! As you rightly pointed out, that wouldn't be cost effective, which is why currently only the rich can afford this.

I mean what the parent-to-my-post suggested: a curated shopping site, where all products are guaranteed to be high quality, end of story. No fakes. No drop-shipping from untrustworthy suppliers. No bargain basement products.

You could do this for basically anything! As a random example, my building was constructed using the cheapest supplier for electrical outlets and switches. Fully half are broken in just a couple of years, and one of them shorted so badly it nearly set the apartment on fire. That's absurdly dangerous, yet they did it to save something like $2 per outlet.

I went online and tried to do some research to find a reputable vendor, but I got lost in the sea of options. There is no review that is trustworthy. There's no site I can judge to be reliable by myself.

Steve Jobs told his team that all of the Apple products should fit on a table. There shouldn't be fifty models with varying levels of quality. There should just be one of each, the best, end of story. Customers shouldn't have to do research, or figure out which one has flaws that they can tolerate at a preferred price point.

Sure, this flies in the face of economic theory, but Apple become the world's biggest company under Jobs' leadership, and their brand is basically magic. Maybe he has a point.


> Honestly, you could probably make a business out of a store that sells only high quality gear.

Those businesses (they used to just be called "stores" or "retailers") are being driven either to transform or out of business by models like Amazon.


I've often wondered if Monoprice (my source for cables for 15+ years) will ever go down the Amazon path of descent into scammers.


If they get bought out, absolutely. That's what happened to Newegg.


Those "free" returns are then packaged onto palettes resold to the highest bidder who extracts a few valuable products, trashing everything else. And none of this is free, it's just included in the price you pay when you buy what would be a $1 item on AliExpress for $10 on Amazon.


As someone who's been a customer since it sold books, it's disappointing these past couple of years that I have to shop at other sites for trusted items. The whole point of reviews is to provide insight and lessen risk. Now it's a whole exercise in avoiding getting scammed. I had an experience recently where I wrote a review (which I rarely do) that was 2 or 3 stars for a product (jars) that had glass which cracked in the fridge. They flagged and removed my review.

The same thing happens on sites like Airbnb, where it's trivial to delete bad reviews.

With a system like this, you can skirt ethics by showing only positive reviews, and then you can't exactly be accused of fraud or fake reviews.


Had a low star review pulled the same way recently. In a pique, I went in and deleted all my reviews. If AMZN isn't interested in preserving honest, critical reviews I'm not going to lend my name to legitimating them. Best Buy, B&H, Sweetwater are reliable sources of quality products. EBay will even do in a pinch, although ordering from them always seems a bit like a game of roulette. The paid ad scam corps have almost totally destroyed my reliance on reviews, as the insanely overhyped copy coming out of the Middle Kingdom has wrecked my trust in online product descriptions. Good work guys, you killed the goose: much luck staying afloat as the majority of shoppers are getting wise to you.


This is the perfect response. Thanks for the excellent suggestion!

They deleted my last one star review too for a fraudulent fake product that wasted my time and money.

Scamazon no longer deserves the SEO juice of previously entered legitimate reviews.

Logging in to delete my past reviews now...


Seconded on Ebay. I feel more confident buying from the same seller - or just a seller with many many reviews - than the increasingly dubious Amazon experience.


ive also had ebay remove my legitimate reviews of bad sellers. its trivial for sellers to get bad reviews removed


I've also had legitimate reviews rejected when I gave a low rating and described receiving a counterfeit product. There's a lot of review fraud going on, but Amazon seems to be making it worse.


> since it sold books,

I feel for you. I telneted to books.com, before there was a "million book river" amazon ...

Sic transit gloria mundi, etc.


What are you buying on Amazon? I have had really good success and I don’t feel like I have to wade through too much crap. I just want to understand how other people’s experience is so different from mine and part of it has to be the type of things we purchase.


Maybe different shopping habit? I only use Amazon when I am looking for a specific (type of) product. It takes a little work but the end result is usually satisfactory. I have not done much "browsing" on Amazon as one would in a regular physical store.


Yeah, when I go to Amazon, I usually know exactly what I want and I'm just comparing prices by that point. If the product I want is on Amazon but is only available through third party resellers, then I'm likely to look elsewhere unless the third party reseller's reviews look balanced.

All my ahead-of-time product research happens through reddit and YouTube and if it's a purchase that's super important to me, I'll think on it for weeks.


Maybe you just haven’t noticed? The counterfeits can be quite convincing. I’m reminded of this wire cutter post[1] from a year ago. I think the counterfeit Philips Toothbrush and Tweezerman packages look better than the real thing. The others seem a bit suspect when you look carefully and compare them to the real deal but I definitely don’t think I’d be suspicious if I saw them on their own.

[1]https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/blog/i-bought-these-thing...


Unless I missed one, every one of the counterfeits came from a third party reseller.

I avoid most resellers by default unless the reviews look balanced or they are obviously based in the US or Canada. And if I want something and it only appears to be available through less trustworthy third party resellers, then I will just buy it elsewhere.

To be clear, just because I've been able to avoid it doesn't make the situation good, but for me it's relatively easy to avoid being scammed. Be skeptical of third party resellers by default, and it will go a long way.

And to avoid "intermingling of fulfillment", all you have to do is verify it says "Ships from and sold by Amazon" in the text under the price. Any mention of fulfillment in that text implies third party somewhere in the chain.


I let my Prime lapse years ago and I've been boycotting them ever since.

Prime is a scam anyway. If I need something immediately then I goto the store. If I can wait then a week is fine (everywhere else has 2 day shipping now anyway). 2 days is a weird timeframe. It's fake convenience, an uncanny valley.


2 days does seem weird, but in the UK it's next day; in London (and perhaps other cities) it's same day. (In both cases with a time cut-off.)

It would cost me money and time to go I don't even know where to buy the item in person, it's a very non-trivial convenience to me.

And then Prime aside, the no-nonsense support/returns is something I knowingly sometimes pay a premium for. A few quid extra at Amazon vs. unknown site, or especially say eBay is worth it IMO. Not to mention the convenience of already having payment details there and not suffering through Sage/WorldPay/Pal for some one-off guest checkout.

(Aside: scummy PayPal created an account for me from such a checkout process, and refuse to close it without me first 'verifying' it by providing photo ID and other PII. Such nonsense.)


I meant to say same day for some products, I assume it's just whatever happens to already be in a London 'fulfillment centre'. Plus groceries.


Well - one of the nice things about Prime (at least here in Ann Arbor) - is there is a ton of same day stuff that is available as well for free shipping. Also - Expanse justified a bit of expanse. And, if you have "Family" sharing your Prime account, that also offsets the cost.


I really wanted to buy a quality “splash pad” on Amazon. I was willing to pay triple the price of a normal priced pad. But it’s all junk. I ordered the most expensive one I could find, something like $110. It never worked well (the water didn’t spray from all jets), and just died after a month.


And the free two-day shipping seems to be limited to only select items now. I know it was never universal, but free two-day shipping has turned into free 5-7 day shipping, but you're still paying for prime. I'm really re-evaluating whether prime is worth it anymore.


Yeah I always check whether Amazon is the seller and whether or not there are other 3rd parties selling the same product on the same page. If yes, I will go to another store instead.

I definitely no longer mindlessly shop on Amazon anymore.


> spend like 30 minutes weeding through crap, scammy duplicate looking listings

I'm confused. What are you shopping for if this is your experience? I've run into a lot of fake reviews but otherwise I still goto Amazon by default for any purchase outside of groceries or bulky, cheap items.


One of the upsetting things about this crackdown is that some of the brands mentioned in the article actually produced good products. I'd have much rathered people purchase products from Ravpower and Aukey than DiHines, AINOPE, Ailun, yootech, SMALLElectric, TT&C, or Amoner, all of which appear on the first page of results for "USB C charger".

Besides the review misconduct, I do think a lot of people's issues with Amazon stem from purchasing no-name products from unknown sellers, an action that is made horrendously easy by Amazon's UI. I've purchased tens of thousands of dollars worth of items from Amazon, and I have had a perfect experience by following two rules: (1) always buy from Amazon (not a marketplace seller), and (2) always buy a reputable brand.

Others have mentioned the issue of co-mingling inventory, and while I believe it's an issue, I've never come across a purchase from Amazon that looked anything less than legitimate.


Just buy them from Aliexpress. All those noname Chinese products on Amazon are available on Aliexpress for somewhere between a significant discount and a fraction of the price. Buying Chinese electronics on Amazon is a complete ripoff.


The difference is that whilst you're paying the 'drop-shipping fee' you get the product within days (next-day delivery in the UK on Amazon) rather than waiting for the item to make its way from China which can be flaky at the best of times.

Time is money.


Time is money, which is why I'll be saving both by not using amazon anymore. A week and a half ago I bought a small item I need soon. I found a listing which was clearly a no-name Chinese seller but the listing was prime. Today I checked on why the package hadn't arrived yet. It turns out it shipped from China a few days ago and was expected to show up sometime in a month. I got a refund and ordered from Home Depot.

Amazon is good for nothing right now.


Many Chinese sellers now actually have warehouses in the EU.

So you buy from AliExpress and it's shipped from Poland or even Germany with DHL/Hermes/etc.

Which I guess might not help British buyers anymore, but look for "UK fulfillment/warehouse", maybe some will have them.


Aliexpress delivery has not been faster than a month for me ever


Look for products that advertise 10 day delivery. I usually get them around 1 week after ordering.


10 and 7 day listings, with full refund if they're over.

That's to England, and it does work. I've used it a lot since the flu made it essential.


Aliexpress is definitly not as cheap as it used to be. Also, expect to wait many weeks for shipping and returns are trivial at all.


I have found that purchasing SanDisk USB thumb drives and SD cards from Amazon is like playing Russian Roulette. It’s not until you plug them in that you realize you have been scammed. Now I only buys these items from Micro Center.


Genuinely curious: would you mind confirming that the seller of those items was Amazon (your order details should mention the seller)? I've purchased Samsung microSD cards nine times, and various flash drives also nine times over the past decade and all have been genuine. Small sample size, I know, but hardly a Russian roulette from my experience!


One thing to be aware of. To verify if flash drives work, you have to fill them fully with data and then verify the integrity of all the data.

The scam for many flash drives is to provide a working one that's only a fraction of the size (but it reports the full size).

It works fine as long as you don't use more than the real capacity, that may be a just few percents or as much as half.


How would you know they're genuine? Some of the fakes looks pretty good.

Either way, it doesn't matter if they're sold by Amazon since they intermix inventory in their warehouses anyways. Might as well buy the same, cheaper item from the sketchy seller, because it's getting fulfilled out of the same bin anyways.


I bought 32GB microSD cards that were actually only 2GB. Close inspection reveals the number 3 was added later (misaligned font and lighter white).

Each was also somehow doctored to report back as showing up as 32GB in windows explorer but would freeze once you tried transferring more than 2GB onto it.


Was the microSD card shipped and sold by Amazon? You should be able to confirm on your order details page.


No that particular bad experience was eBay.

Nowadays I rarely buy from eBay unless it is niche/unique/local.

Never buy from Scamazon any more. Used to love them now it's just a gamble hoping you get exactly what you paid for


If they're not genuine, these things are absolutely remarkable forgeries. Indistinguishable.

I mentioned the mixing of inventories, but as I've said, I've purchased literally tens of thousands of dollars worth of items from Amazon. I average about 1.5 orders per week over the past decade, and I've never received an item that I doubted the legitimacy of. Furthermore, after some research it seems that Amazon does not mix their own inventory with third-party sellers inventory; they only mix third-party seller inventory when the seller opts into having their inventory mixed.


> Furthermore, after some research it seems that Amazon does not mix their own inventory with third-party sellers inventory; they only mix third-party seller inventory when the seller opts into having their inventory mixed.

Would you mind sharing the source of this information? If this is true it I think it would be a relatively recent change as this particular issue has been at the center of several high-profile consumer products liability lawsuits in the last few years.


I saw those lawsuits as well, and I was also unable to find a definitive mention of Amazon selling an FBA seller provided item under the "Ships from and sold by Amazon" descriptor. The Daimler lawsuit from 2016 alleges that Amazon did in fact do this, but as far as I can tell that lawsuit didn't go anywhere, so I'm not sure if any evidence was presented.

I did read the FAQ that Amazon provides to sellers[1], but it doesn't definitely say whether Amazon Retail items can be fulfilled by FBA merchants. (Interestingly, it does say that consumable products like cosmetics aren't eligible for virtual tracking, and a lot of the online reports from people are those types of products.)

[1] https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/external/G200141480


Amazon's fulfilment system co-mingles. Checking the seller is pointless, it is an accounting thing only. If it's fulfilled by amazon, then the source can come from _any_ FBA merchant.


It still specifies "fulfillment by Amazon" in the text under the price, though, implying they aren't selling it directly.

A clear indicator that it's directly from Amazon and not intermingled is "Ships from and sold by Amazon". Any mention of fulfillment in that text should make you slightly more cautious.

Obviously, this entire situation is stupid and they shouldn't force you to parse their little blurbs about selling/fulfillment, but the information is there.


You have to check whether the item is being sold by multiple sellers and whether or not they are using Amazon for fulfillment. I never buy anything if it’s not sold by Amazon AND if there are multiple 3rd party sellers who store their inventory at Amazon.


Does anyone know whether this type of co-mingling is also done by Amazon UK?


I've gotten a counterfeit SanDisk microSD card from Amazon.ca with them as the seller. I think maybe it was my first or 2nd SD card from them too. Now if I get one from there I only pick smaller known real brands that only have 1 seller like Silicon Power.


I am convinced relying on "seller is Amazon" thing is useless. Even if the product you buy is genuine, it seems manufacturers aren't sending their best to Amazon. This really becomes apparent for things like shaving razors.


I’m so grateful that I live close (enough) to a MicroCenter and I genuinely regret the years I purchased from Amazon instead. I no longer buy anything from Amazon that goes in my body or in my machine because the risk just isn’t worth it.


Yeah, I don't think cracking down on the most prominent brands is going to fix the Amazon fake reviews problem. It means that companies can't build an actual reputation based on the quality of their products, so buyers are more reliant on the easily-faked Amazon reviews and ranking of listings.


I’ve had a few mpow bits and they are good. Shame.


This is somewhat infuriating.

From a USB C charger perspective, many of the banned brands were actually quite good , selling GaNFast chargers which are as good as it comes. Most of what remains is unknown.

It's hard to blame these companies , Amazon pretty much made the place such that once one brand started doing this, you were dead if you weren't.

So no, I do not see this as a good thing. There are other steps they could've taken but no.

Stopping co-mingling would be one but I haven't heard them doing so.

Curating products and taking responsibility would be another but LOL.

As I mentioned before, my favorite product on Amazon demonstrating the utter lawlessness of a place is a powerstrip with a C5/C6 coupler input and a few NEMA 5-15R sockets. It ships with a CEE7/16-C5 cable (!!) and a couple plug shape adapters. I have been trying to decide for years whether it's a bigger fire hazard than an electricity hazard but I just can't make up my mind. Without a doubt, if a retail store attempted to sell this, it would be closed down, razed and the place sown with salt for good measure. Or at least fined into oblivion. It claims to have a TÜV Süd safety mark, it's obviously a fake one -- I'd pay good money to see the face of a TÜV Süd engineer when they see a power strip with a 2.5A input feeding 15A sockets. And of course losing ground because who needs the safety ground to be connected to ground. It is 4.5 stars with 7966 ratings and an "A" from FakeSpot.


> From a USB C charger perspective, many of the banned brands were actually quite good

That doesn't match my experience, I have started to just put the word "anker" at the end of my searches because that seems to be the only brand amazon carries that don't break after a month


I have the Ravpower 100W, 2 port USB-C charger and it works great. I've been using it for a few months now, all over Europe.


I have 2 RAVPower batteries, both 20k. One had a 120v outlet on it, and I love them both. They don't overheat, have yet to lose capacity, and charge fast.

They were the only ones I was happy with after using Anker, Duracell, Best Buy branded, etc. All would charge/output slow, heat up, lose capacity, etc.

My next purchase from them is going to be their Solar Cell and their portable charging station.

Def gonna try that charger out, had been eyeing it for a bit now, thanks for the heads-up!



>It's hard to blame these companies , Amazon pretty much made the place such that once one brand started doing this, you were dead if you weren't.

That's the job of a market. If it's demonstrated that this is the new rule under which competition happens, the job of a maximally efficient marketplace is to make everyone else comply as quickly as possible.


Echoing other posters, I no longer can shop with confidence on Amazon. The ease of making a purchase is dead and the fast shipping doesn’t counteract the reality that there is no quality control.

Having to sort reviews by most recent and really study the product and seller defeat the point. That’s why I’m back to ordering online with Home Depot and the like.


Don‘t forget Amazon took down Fakespot from the App Store, an app to check Amazon product review quality and detect anomalies, and afterwards the Amazon app appeared as an ad when searching for Fakespot on the App Store.


I don’t know if it’s 1/2 the replacement, but I’ve been checking things with reviewmeta.com and it’s been ok - except -

It seems Amazon only gives API access for the last 10,000 reviews, which might seem like a lot, but I bought something the other day that had 30k reviews. Low percentage reported as fake, but that doesn’t mean a ton, that product could have played they system on the first 10k reviews to establish itself as the most popular option.

I agree with everyone else, I think the “safety” is higher on traditional sites.


you can still access fakespot via their website if i'm not mistaken

https://www.fakespot.com/analyzer


Fakespot is a privacy nightmare: https://www.fakespot.com/privacy-policy

Personal Information We Collect

Identifiers: User ID: Such as screen name, handle, account ID, or other user- or account-level ID that can be used to identify a particular user or account. This information could be provided via your Fakespot account, Apple ID, Google Account, or other accounts you may use on the Services. User ID also includes your account password, other credentials, security questions, and confirmation codes.


That's literally just saying that, if you log in to Fakespot, they'll record some basic information about the user you're logged in as. None of this is unusual or noteworthy.


For what it's worth, their addon want full access to literally any site you visit while reviewmeta only requests access to amazon sites


How is collecting a unique user id a privacy nightmare?


“User ID also includes your account password…”


This willl blow your mind: when you sign up on a website they save a hash of your password so that you can login again later! Also, when you post a comment on hacker news, hn saves it on their server! What a privacy nightmare am I right?


This was too harsh, sorry


In my best Jeopardy voice: I'll take "changing your name to get around a ban" for $500 please


No kidding; I have a couple AUKEY dashcams, one of the removed brands. Searching for an AUKEY DR02 on amazon.co.uk returns an identical model from a brand ostensibly named "ABBB", whose product listing even includes identical images and a description ripped straight from AUKEY's website, for the same price.


That's to be expected as Aukey is also just a brand name for rebranded white label products of varying quality. The difference is a little card in the package promising compensation for a positive review.


All these brands seem to come from random name generators anyway. You can trust that GESMATEKIiI has the best usb chargers and mattress pads :P


Ha, yes it’s not like they’re all going to shrug and go back to college is it.


Jeopardy! hasn't had a $500 clue in 20 years


>Amazon has now permanently banned over 600 Chinese brands across 3,000 different seller accounts, the company confirms to The Verge.

The keyword here is "brands", I think. I assume this means you cannot sell any product of that brand name, regardless of who you are.

But then the article states:

>Even though Aukey was one of the first high-profile companies to get banned in May, the company was still selling earbuds under a sub-brand as of July, and you can still buy a pair of them on Amazon even today. I also found a Choetech wireless charging pad, and a RavPower battery.

Okay, so fraudulent sales continue and this is basically a non-story?


European (decent) consumer rights are against the retailer. The warranty is almost a politeness. But amazon often denies being the retailer, who may be a random name abroad. This completely undermines the consumer rights to quality and durability and any future right to repair. Retailers that actually stand behind their goods get forced out. This is the really corrosive part of their business model in my opinion.


600 Chinese brands on Amazon… so that’s got to be at least six sellers, right?

Given how hard it is, at least for a customer, to match any kind of real-world entity to a XINKDS or MOLYPOW, and how many new vaguely pronounceable permutations of letters show up as new “brands” every month, this actually seems like a low number.


Some of those shell companies even claim to be American, and even go to the extent of making a website. But by looking at the whois info for the domain you notice that they are registered via Alibaba Cloud.


It's not about the products themselves but about the fake reviews and the little cards in the box promising compensation for a positive review. As such it does not matter if the same products (some of which are genuinely good) will be sold under a different name.


600? My (totally unsubstantiated) feeling is that the number of brands (Chinese or other) committing review fraud is at least an order of magnitude higher.

This just feels like Amazon making an example of some of the worst offenders (or the easiest targets) so it makes people think they're doing something.


In my opinion, the more interesting article is the South China Morning Post one linked in the article [1]:

> Amazon.com said on Friday that it has closed about 3,000 online merchant accounts, backed by about 600 Chinese brands, [..]

That's pretty significant. Names like RavPower and Mpow are quite big in this space, it's crazy they did not already make some effort to clean-up their act. I guess this may be the wake-up call they need.

> The company’s campaign is not intended to target China or any other country [..]

It's just that the ban almost entirely only affected Chinese brands. I really am glad Amazon are finally taking notice of shitty seller practices.

> While questionable practices like paying for positive reviews often go unchecked on Chinese e-commerce platforms, [..]

This does not speak highly of Chinese e-commerce platforms.

> The crackdown has prompted some Chinese merchants to start investing more on other international online retail platforms such as eBay and AliExpress, according to the Shenzhen Cross-Border E-Commerce Association.

Seems interesting that rather than attempt to clean-up their act and not buy reviews, they would prefer to move platform entirely and continue this obviously immoral behaviour. I suspect it's mostly posturing though, Amazon is a massive platform and gateway into the Western marketplace.

[1] https://www.scmp.com/tech/big-tech/article/3149203/amazon-cl...


It sounds dramatic but give it about ten days and I think the headline will be “600 Chinese vendors join Amazon Marketplace.

To quote Michael Scott from The Office, “If tomorrow my company goes under I will just start another paper company. And then another and another and another. I have no shortage of company names.”


I received a gift card pursuant to a review. So I left a 1 star review explaining that gift cards were being used for good reviews (the product was otherwise fantastic).

Amazon took the review down.


Yes. "Permanently banned". Because the brands certainly won't change their name and go right back up.

Until Amazon starts actually vetting the products and sellers that they offer a platform to, they will continue to be full of fraud and scams.


I've ordered from Amazon Germany and have occasionally left justified 1-star reviews in English. Amazon took these reviews down but I can see they leave 5-star English reviews up.

Its not just these brands that are fooling with the review system.


Similar experience here - I once left a detailed positive review of a product and many liked the review. Amazon showed it as the first of many 100's of reviews. A few months later, I bought the item again for a friend, and noticed that the specs had now changed but Amazon still listed it under the same product listing. I updated my review and pointed out this discrepancy. Suddenly my review which was at the top, was buried deep. Another issue I noted with Amazon reviews was that if you post positive reviews, Amazon slowly hikes the price of the same product when you buy it next. I just don't trust Amazon's review system anymore.


Indeed. Additionally, if you want to save a few bucks on something, check it out on Amazon, add it to a wish list, then ignore it for a few days. When you go back to check your wishlist, it will be a little cheaper than before.

They play a lot of manipulative little games like this.


Is the claim that Amazon shows different prices for the same product to different buyers?

(I'm guessing it unlikely that one person adding an item to a wishlist would cause the price to drop for everyone.)


Yes. In fact, it's not a new thing - years back, some people had noted that Amazon used to show higher prices to those shopping with their Mac. ( https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/11/03/... ).

With the level of data collection possible today, it is possibly to target users with dynamic prices. I recently noted that an Alexa device with a display has an always on bluetooth that cannot be turned off. This aloows Amazon to scan for other devices in your house and use that data to determine something about you.


Yeah I don't believe that either. What is probably happening is that many products have over 20 different sellers that don't stock all products at all times, while amazon usually chooses the one with the lowest price currently available that they fulfill themselves


I'll never forget ordering an Intel i9900k processor and receiving an unsoldered microchip for a random RC brand.

Not once, but twice in a row; then Amazon accused me of lying.

I just use them for video streaming, now.


I think another problem is the lack of good brands in all sorts of gadgets. I was shopping for a webcam last week. Basically it’s logitech + random brands. Also, I don’t believe the review/ratings of those random brands at all. I think they must be fake.


That's tricky. I've got an old Xiaomi Yi action-cam that punches way above its weight, though I wouldn't want to drop it on a floor or anything. I also use Teensy processors in things, but I'm aware of some of the 'no name' processor boards that are waaaaay cheaper and still functional.

Anything like integrated circuits, cameras etc, there is definitely the possibility of somebody coming up with a high quality knock-off that's functionally competitive with the known version. You just won't be able to tell if it's a good knock-off or a broken knock-off.

Some things you won't get. There won't be an equivalent of my API microphone preamplifiers: not nearly a large enough market, and too tricky to make properly. But something like a Logitech webcam or a budget Focusrite pre, you are already getting compromised design to hit a price point, and that opens up avenues for a knock-off to try to do the same thing without paying for brand building or discovery in the normal sense. And that's when you find out how much it cost to make the actual object (sometimes, also knocking off the design process and outright pirating it).


I recently had an experience with a seller that kept sending me new tracking numbers as the shipment got “lost”. At first it seemed like great customer service because they would send me a brand new item because the shipment failed to come through or waive the shipping fee on my order. In the end, I got wise to what was going on and on the last day asked for a full refund from Amazon before the appeal time expired. Amazon gave me the refund but that was close.


The first page of any search now is filled with so many weird brands. So many orders now come with a card with info about how to get Amazon card for a 5 star review. Also, who knows about 1 star reviews because these brands like to sabotage each other too...

Example: (all the 5 star reviews with photos were paid (40$)) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08398XN1G/


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