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Be careful on Amazon...

Old 12-03-18, 10:57 AM
  #1  
Kedosto
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Be careful on Amazon...

Just listened to a very interesting Podcast about the shenanigans going on at Amazon. Things like page hijacking, false reviews, etc. I'm not a big online shopper, and can count on one hand the number of items I've purchased from Amazon in my lifetime, but some of what they discuss is pretty alarming and has really shaken my confidence in Amazon. I just thought many of you might find this just as alarming.

The Podcast is called "Reply All" by Gimlet media. Episode #124 "The Magic Store" and can be found here.


-Kedosto
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Old 12-03-18, 11:36 AM
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Quick read of the transcript says to me that this guy did NO research on the product or company he was actually buying from and is upset at Amazon for his poor choices?

There are more than a few people and companies out there with an axe to grind with Amazon. I have only had minor issues with a few shipments/products which Amazon went out of their way to refund or make right. Due diligence is important no matter where you purchase from.

I call shenanigans on this "article".
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Old 12-03-18, 11:39 AM
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Amazon is the latest Walmart bogeyman
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Old 12-03-18, 11:40 AM
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Originally Posted by FBOATSB View Post
Amazon is the latest Walmart bogeyman
Of no doubt they are hurting retailers everywhere. I have read some things regarding how they treat the warehouse employees that aren't awesome...but at the same time the shipping companies can't hire people and buy trucks fast enough to keep up with demand. It's a trade off.
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Old 12-03-18, 11:44 AM
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Do a little googlin' about how they treat their "logistics" employees. Sad.
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Old 12-03-18, 11:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Juan Foote View Post
Quick read of the transcript says to me that this guy did NO research on the product or company he was actually buying from and is upset at Amazon for his poor choices?

There are more than a few people and companies out there with an axe to grind with Amazon. I have only had minor issues with a few shipments/products which Amazon went out of their way to refund or make right. Due diligence is important no matter where you purchase from.

I call shenanigans on this "article".
With regard to the toothbrush I completely agree with you. I probably should have been a lot clearer, but I struggle to figure out a way to describe without a post as long as the original Podcast. What's upsetting about this is the "gaming of the system" by sellers using trickery and algorithms to separate us from our money, and the seemingly lack of interest from Amazon. Or maybe it's better described as a lack of ability by Amazon to control a beast it created. The Podcasters involved don't have an ax to grind with Amazon, but have simply noticed (and investigated) some shady seller activity.

In direct response to your post I would ask, how can I as a buyer exercise "due diligence" if the info, reviews, etc are all a scam? I mean, I understand I have a duty to know what I'm buying (at the very least) but if I cannot trust the very webpage I'm viewing, well, what then?


-Kedosto
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Old 12-03-18, 12:00 PM
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I shop amazon, reading "reviews" with a grain of salt...buyer beware. Dismiss both the glowing and axe-grinding reviews for anything resembling usable info. The two and three-star reviews are the only ones worth considering. After seeing prices go up regularly on products I've put in my Wish List, or simply viewed, it's difficult to trust that company. The conspiracy theorist in me views higher dollar products [that I'm close to pulling the trigger on] on devices not linked to me (lunchroom pc, library pc, etc). I agree that amazon now = walmart for trustworthiness. I've gone out of my way to buy products by pick-up at another store. E.g. I've bought a full size food processor and a A/V receiver in the last month from regional big box stores to leverage a good if not better price---AND not having to concern myself over porch piracy...you never know.
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Old 12-03-18, 12:08 PM
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Plug the Amazon url into fakespot.com
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Old 12-03-18, 12:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Kedosto View Post
With regard to the toothbrush I completely agree with you. I probably should have been a lot clearer, but I struggle to figure out a way to describe without a post as long as the original Podcast. What's upsetting about this is the "gaming of the system" by sellers using trickery and algorithms to separate us from our money, and the seemingly lack of interest from Amazon. Or maybe it's better described as a lack of ability by Amazon to control a beast it created. The Podcasters involved don't have an ax to grind with Amazon, but have simply noticed (and investigated) some shady seller activity.

In direct response to your post I would ask, how can I as a buyer exercise "due diligence" if the info, reviews, etc are all a scam? I mean, I understand I have a duty to know what I'm buying (at the very least) but if I cannot trust the very webpage I'm viewing, well, what then?


-Kedosto
Speaking for myself, if it is a product that I am not familiar with I read both on and off site reviews on the product, as well as manufacturer details to see what my own thoughts are. In regards to the seller, I always try to look for the "trusted seller" logo and hope for good reviews as well. Commonly you can find info on the seller themselves with a web search, sometimes you can't. In regards to shills, yeah mostly impossible to know. I find that oftentimes a specific product will be at a pretty much set price. If you see a price too good, and not used, pass. And in some cases you just have to decide if the money put out is worth what may be a risk.

As to the specific case above...I also always (always) buy prime items only. They guarantee two day shipping most times, or are very specific with shipping time, and should get a confirmation email immediately upon business hours. In the cases that I haven't, I call Amazon CS right away and demand a refund. It has always been a decent experience at the worst.

Edit to say that I don't see online "shill" and review scamming as an only Amazon-like practice. A while back I purchased a few cycling items from a bike shop in New York that also sells online. Not only did they misrepresent the products, I got the wrong ones and basically was told there wasn't anything to be done for it. Additionally, my poor reviews never posted to site. I wasn't "mean" or dishonest about the product I actually did get, but pointed out that they weren't what was listed.

Last edited by Juan Foote; 12-03-18 at 12:50 PM.
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Old 12-03-18, 12:42 PM
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Originally Posted by skijor View Post
I shop amazon, reading "reviews" with a grain of salt...buyer beware. Dismiss both the glowing and axe-grinding reviews for anything resembling usable info. The two and three-star reviews are the only ones worth considering. After seeing prices go up regularly on products I've put in my Wish List, or simply viewed, it's difficult to trust that company. The conspiracy theorist in me views higher dollar products [that I'm close to pulling the trigger on] on devices not linked to me (lunchroom pc, library pc, etc). I agree that amazon now = walmart for trustworthiness. I've gone out of my way to buy products by pick-up at another store. E.g. I've bought a full size food processor and a A/V receiver in the last month from regional big box stores to leverage a good if not better price---AND not having to concern myself over porch piracy...you never know.
I have often wondered if there is some algorithm or program that causes this price increase thing. Almost without fail if you put in cart, or save for later the price increases.
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Old 12-03-18, 12:56 PM
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I ordered something on Amazon that I'd looked at on Bangood. The choice was between the lesser of the evils, and I've been seeing Bangood ads for the product with a lower price after I placed the order.
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Old 12-03-18, 01:38 PM
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I don't know if there is "gaming the system" or not.

One has to realize that Amazon has a mix of:
  • Sold by Amazon
  • Sold by other businesses as well as individuals.
  • Sold by others, fulfilled by Amazon
  • New & Used Merchandise

The sold by others, fulfilled by Amazon is the most interesting because they use a distributed warehouse model where inventory from all the different sellers gets mixed up, and potentially a "bad apple" could make chaos.

A nice thing is that 50 sellers can join a single ad, so then Amazon can sort them for the best deal. However, it also brings in risk.

And, of course, not everything is clearly 2018/2019 products... A bit of a problem if one wishes last year's items. But, one can't always expect an item to be immediately obvious that it was old production.

I haven't bought any electric toothbrushes on Amazon, but with books, I frequently find a book, then click on "Used Books". Then I get about a 3 word description of the condition. For used items, personally I'd like to see photos of the actual item being sold. An additional link taking a buyer to that item?

A while ago I was looking at a kid's encyclopedia set. I ended up not buying it because I couldn't ascertain whether I was looking at a whole set or a single volume out of the set.

Imagine trying to buy used vintage bicycle parts on Amazon, and only having an descriptor "new/used good/used worn".
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Old 12-03-18, 02:12 PM
  #13  
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Tangentially related. Have fun with this:
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/...bbit-hole.html

Recently, one of my students at Stanford told me a strange story. His parents, who live in Palo Alto, Calif., had been receiving mysterious packages at their house. The packages were all different shapes and sizes but each was addressed to “Returns Department, Valley Fountain LLC.”
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Old 12-03-18, 02:58 PM
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Originally Posted by noisebeam View Post
Tangentially related. Have fun with this:
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/...bbit-hole.html
Interesting story, although a little long winded. Hopefully the family contacted the police and filed an "identity theft" complaint. One risk is that the company could also be cheating on taxes... transferring money electronically, with everything else leading back to the unsuspecting family.

I wonder if there is unsuspecting dropshipping without a formal agreement. Say I find that I can buy an item for $10 retail. Then I resell it for $20, and as soon as an order comes in, I simply place the $10 retail order. Hopefully keeping track of stocking prices so I dont't get snagged with a jump to $30 (in which case, I would simply cancel the order anyway).

Last month I was looking for some casting supplies. And, what do you know, the company listed a local Portland address. Ok, local-ish. 100 miles away as the crow flies, closer to 200 miles by bike. So, I decided for the initial purchase, I'd ride my bike up there. Got to the address, and it was a big warehouse shipping distribution center, without a retail office. The number that was on the address wasn't on any of the buildings. Probably just a mailbox somewhere. I tried to call, but I was at 4 or 5 PST, which was after hours EST where the order would be routed.

I'm sure the company was legit, but the Portland office was likely just a corner in a warehouse used for shipping transfers.
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Old 12-03-18, 03:23 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
Interesting story, although a little long winded. .
Yeah, I only read the first page or two
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Old 12-03-18, 05:00 PM
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Take ALL reviews anywhere with a grain of salt. You need to do your research and know what you're buying. If you look at most of the really bad reviews they will usually have something to do with something totally unrelated to the product. People will complain about anything.
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Old 12-03-18, 05:17 PM
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Originally Posted by mtb_addict View Post
I notice Amazon began to hold the package at the warehouse for a few days, if I select free shipping.

Must be their way of encourage customer to sign up and pay for Prime?
I pay for Prime. What I noticed is that they will often jack up prices to offset "free" shipping.

There is a reason why Bezos makes almost $200,000/min.
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Old 12-03-18, 06:06 PM
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Originally Posted by no motor? View Post
I ordered something on Amazon that I'd looked at on Bangood. The choice was between the lesser of the evils, and I've been seeing Bangood ads for the product with a lower price after I placed the order.
And since I posted this I've seen the same item advertised with both higher and lower prices.
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Old 12-03-18, 06:14 PM
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Originally Posted by mtb_addict View Post
I notice Amazon began to hold the package at the warehouse for a few days, if I select free shipping.

Must be their way of encourage customer to sign up and pay for Prime?
I don't know. I noticed that I got free shipping on just about everything on my last order, although oddly it tried to charge me for free shipping.

Some things seem to take a tremendously long time to arrive. However, one thing that Amazon does is their distributed warehouses. They may also do "last mile" delivery. So, say one's item is in New York, it may get piled into a container until the container is full, then get routed in a truck from New York to Portland, then unpacked and delivered to the Post Office for local delivery.

They may play games such as printing the shipping label before the item actually is delivered to the post office, so it may appear to have been shipped, but the post office may not have it yet.
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Old 12-03-18, 06:55 PM
  #20  
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I'm not gonna waste time reading another "Amazon bad!" article, blog or ill informed opinion piece. Whether it's from the perspective of a consumer, employee or small local business owner, it's useless unless it includes a balanced perspective that takes into account the realities of free market competition as it's always been, and the realities of today's economy.

And unless the writer is experienced with and fully informed about how Amazon works, it's just more disinformation.

As other folks have noted, Amazon isn't just a seller but also a host for other sellers. That complicates matters somewhat but it isn't difficult to tell whether you're buying from Amazon or a vendor using Amazon as a storefront. All the info is available.

And as StupidlyBrave posted, check Fakespot for an estimation of the integrity of customer reviews. I find fakespot is usually accurate when the sampling group is statistically significant. Even when a new item with relatively few reviews triggers fakespot's caution flags, that doesn't mean the product or seller is a fraud. The seller may be relying on shills to kickstart a product, but over time real reviews accumulate if the product is any good. It all balances out.

Regarding harm to small local businesses, the bogeyman has never been Walmart or ebay or Amazon. It's always been the same three factors:
  • Lazy or complacent business owners who fail to adapt.
  • Employees ripping off employers.
  • Customers ripping off stores.

When small local businesses adapt, they succeed. I still buy about a third of my bike stuff locally because they have what I need at a price I'm willing to pay and they provide a service I can't get online. Recently I paid $30 for a used but excellent quality Japanese made forged bottom bracket lockring wrench. Why? Because the stamped wrenches costing $15 or so are junk and don't hold up under heavy use needed to secure those lockrings on old school flexy steel frame bottom brackets. For that $30 the LBS threw in a good used saddle from the bargain bin that I'd been perusing. And that LBS has done lots of minor service work for me at no charge -- ranging from loosening a pedal stuck to a crank arm, to straightening a warped rim. It was worth paying more for a good tool, considering all they've done to earn my loyalty. I never leave that shop without buying a little something, even if it's another tube or patch kit I don't actually need.

But when local businesses get complacent, disregard customer service and fail to adapt, the businesses fail. Doesn't matter what the era or current big bogeyman. We've all experienced local businesses that are just going through the motions, barely bothering to stock what customers want, keep up with trends, or appeal to customers to earn loyalty. Those businesses were destined to die. Nobody owes them an existence.

You want to know the biggest enemies to small businesses? Theft by employees and customers. Not Walmart or Amazon.

Most grocery stores operate on thin profit margins. They can't afford loss to theft. That's one reason why most grocery stores eventually relocate to relatively stable neighborhoods. It's not for the convenience of all local residents and customers. It's to minimize loss.

So poorer neighborhoods become food deserts, where the only source of foodlike substances are convenience stores selling overpriced junk. So occasionally a discount retailer will set up where larger grocery stores abandoned neighborhoods. Places like Dollar General, Dollartree, etc. If conventional grocery stores operate on thin margins, dollar stores operate on razor thin or vapor thin profits.

And they still go out of business. I've lost count of the discounters that have come and gone in my neighborhood -- a formerly upper middle class blue collar area once populated by employees of the once prosperous aircraft and military contractors. With those jobs gone the neighborhood has declined, taking stores, restaurants and jobs farther away.

And you know what happens? Employees and customers rip off those dollar discount stores that are trying to provide a service.

I can already see it happening at the local Dollartree. They started out well. Conscientious employees, good stock, store kept neat. But it's declined and now I'm seeing blatant shoplifting by ... well, they aren't customers. They just walk in, take stuff and leave. They don't even run or try to hide it. At this rate it won't be long before that store closes and the neighborhood becomes a food desert again. Many of my neighbors are elderly and disabled, without transportation. They'll need to travel a mile and cross busy, dangerous streets to reach the nearest grocery store. That's a huge effort and risk for folks on canes, walkers and wheelchairs.

Walmart and Amazon didn't do that. Indifferently run businesses and thieves did that.

Regarding employment at Amazon, I've known folks who worked for them and said it was better than many similar warehouse jobs they've had. Better conditions, etc. I remember a couple of years ago an often-quoted Mother Jones article in which the writer complained about conditions. Well, she also admitted she'd never done warehouse work before. It's always hard work. Usually the conditions are much, much worse. When I was younger my part time job 30 years ago was loading and unloading big trucks on a freight dock for $10/hr. It was hot in summer, cold in winter, dangerous, frustrating and not worth the money. It's not an Amazon problem and it's not a new problems. Jobs like that have always sucked.

Last edited by canklecat; 12-03-18 at 06:59 PM.
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Old 12-03-18, 08:00 PM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
Regarding employment at Amazon, I've known folks who worked for them and said it was better than many similar warehouse jobs they've had. Better conditions, etc. I remember a couple of years ago an often-quoted Mother Jones article in which the writer complained about conditions. Well, she also admitted she'd never done warehouse work before. It's always hard work. Usually the conditions are much, much worse. When I was younger my part time job 30 years ago was loading and unloading big trucks on a freight dock for $10/hr. It was hot in summer, cold in winter, dangerous, frustrating and not worth the money. It's not an Amazon problem and it's not a new problems. Jobs like that have always sucked.
Yep. We have 5 fulfillment warehouses within a 10 mile radius of my house, so I personally know several people that work in them. They all say the same thing-- it's a warehouse job, no better or worse than any other. Warehouse jobs aren't easy. That's why the turnover approaches 100%.

You wanna hear real complaints, go talk to an EMT.
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Old 12-04-18, 08:08 AM
  #22  
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I have no issues with Amazon's service or products except they're not as much of a bargain as they used to be. I've ordered books with wear rating and got higher value than what I expected.

If I stream a movie it comes through instantly and without any hang-ups or issues. If I order by mistake, its cleared instantly. No debiting my account and waiting days for it to clear before they can apply my refund.

I order all my appliances and electronics from Amazon, but Newegg beats them for computer parts and accessories.

I also got better deals on my camera bodies from 4k4Less and Adorama, but all my accessories (tripods, lenses, batteries, straps, cards, card readers, cords, filters, cases, cables, flash drives, hard drives, bags, etc. come from Amazon.

Their protein is not cheap, but all other supplements (vitamins, oils, creatine) are all competitively priced. I also order workout cloths and paraphernalia, e. g. lifting belt, glove, cycling gloves and that's where the items are pretty cheap, but I don't pay a lot for workout clothes, so you get what you pay for. I can't recall where I sent anything back.
Originally Posted by mtb_addict View Post
I notice Amazon began to hold the package at the warehouse for a few days, if I select free shipping.

Must be their way of encourage customer to sign up and pay for Prime?
Nope, they bundle with Prime as well.
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Old 12-04-18, 09:32 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by Juan Foote View Post
I have often wondered if there is some algorithm or program that causes this price increase thing. Almost without fail if you put in cart, or save for later the price increases.
Leave it long enough and it goes both ways.

I have a $50 gift card from my health insurance benefits. I get one every quarter for wasting time watching videos. Saw a simple TV stand for $66 I liked and want. A couple other things and I'm at $100, thus waiting for this quarter's gift card to arrive. During the wait, the $66 TV stand went up to $88. It bounced around a while and after my 2nd gift card arrived, I let it hang out in the cart some more. Bingo, saw the price drop to $64 and I bought it along with the other thing that was $9, rose up to $20, and back to $11. Bought 2 of the $11 items to give one to my brother.

Last year I was buying a video game controller. Normally $300. Caught it on Amazon for $199. Again, I had gift cards coming so I waited. Price went back up to $300. Found an app on the phone that will watch and report the price on Amazon if it drops below a set threshold. Low and behold, price dropped back to $199, I bought it, and 5 minutes later the price went back to $300

It's always moving in both directions on Amazon.
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Old 12-04-18, 09:39 AM
  #24  
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camelcamelcamel help ones understand if a current price is on the high or low end
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Old 12-04-18, 09:41 AM
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DrIsotope
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That's just the free-flowing motion of marketplace sellers. I've had a Light & Motion headlight in my "Saved for later" for almost two months. The price has fluctuated +/-25%.

A buddy of mine used to do fulfillment selling. If you stock an item and list it as available, Amazon puts you in a rotation. When an order comes in, if you're geographically closest, you get the order. Or if someone chooses you as a seller directly. Or, if you've tried to limbo under the algorithm and priced your identical item 1¢ cheaper than everyone else, so you come up at the top of the search results. Amazon is mostly a big market bazaar now. Other sellers selling things for Amazon, other people having their orders fulfilled through Amazon, sellers selling through the Amazon storefront but shipping their products directly. You gotta shop to find the price you want. There's usually a seller that will save you a couple bucks but not get it there in 2 days. Always a trade-off.
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