For online shoppers, Amazon has become the de-facto resource for purchasing a plethora of products. The best-sellers list includes everything from fresh food to smart devices and cellphones. With the pandemic, more and more people are turning to this online retailer for their everyday shopping. However, just because a site is popular doesn’t mean it can be trusted; counterfeit products, fake reviews, and hijacked listings are waiting to prey upon unsuspecting users.
Perhaps the biggest problem currently facing Amazon.com is the variety of off-brand merchandise deceptively sold as genuine. Though fashion is a common target of counterfeiters, where generics are sold as designer clothing, actually all industries can be affected. Under the Amazon umbrella, retailers have sold perfume containing urine, batteries which catch fire, and eclipse glasses which offered little real protection. It’s not just third-party sellers either; items sold by Amazon.com carry many of the same risks. This is because Amazon mixes all their items together, provided the SKU is the same, even across different sellers. The only exceptions are those sellers who pay to keep their product separate.
Even without the threat of ingenuine products, it’s hard to know what you’re getting on Amazon. Reviews, perhaps the best answer to the dangers of online shopping, are getting harder to trust. A study from UCLA and USC found as many as 320,000 people participating in Facebook groups where sellers solicited fake reviews. On popular listings, the company Fakespot estimates as many as 40% of reviews could be false. This vastly skews the numbers and makes it hard to see what’s worth buying.
Despite this other illegitimacy, users might think they can trust official Amazon’s listings at least. However, even those listings have been hijacked by bad actors too. In these cases, foreign sellers are listing unrelated products like clocks and knives under Amazon’s official pages for cables and other basics – they just list it as a different “style.” They can then capitalize off the reviews for the real product as it’s all lumped together.
Though Amazon.com might be too big to fail as a company, they’ve already begun failing their customers. The sheer number of fake listings, products, and reviews makes it likely for an average customer to be wronged; and while they can return the product with prime, that doesn’t make it right. Smart shoppers should either scrutinize everything or take their money elsewhere.
Author: Grey Ruessler