My issue with Amazon reviews is the ease that sellers are able to change the product and keep the reviews. I recently tried to buy a decent pair of USB C headphones. The top two recommended products both had 5 starts with hundreds of verified reviews... for a dvd copy of a classic movie. I've decided I just can't trust Amazon reviews anymore.
My last employer sent out a company-wide email asking every employee (and their friends and family) to order their flagship product (IoT device) on Amazon, write a 5-star review and e-mail the marketing department for reimbursement and product return. The returned products would then be re-shipped to Amazon.
Needless to say, it was the shortest time I've ever spent at a job.
Problem is its not even a scummy thing to do. Its just the only way to do business on Amazon. If every single company is faking the reviews then you can not afford to be the only one not faking them. An individual actor is not able to do the right thing because everyone has to at the same time.
Which society has collapsed because of this? I minored in history, and I can’t think of a single one.
Even modern America was largely born out of giants of industry serving their own self interest and fucking everyone else including the climate over.
Governments are build by people who serve a greater good, and they typically get replaced once they become too corrupt, but they become corrupt exactly because society as a whole is typically very self-serving.
A society doesn’t have to be perfectly honest, but being able to trust one another, especially in minor interactions, is a massive economic benefit. Societies with lower levels of trust waste significant resources compared to those with higher levels of trust, and it shows in the product. Unfortunately, once the trust starts to decrease, it can be almost impossible to reverse course again.
> Even modern America was largely born out of giants of industry serving their own self interest and fucking everyone else including the climate over.
Modern America, and the prosperous parts of the world more generally was built by people coming together in sweet commerce to come to a mutually beneficial exchange of goods and services, made easier by the medium of money. The giants of industry that you denigrate made things people wanted more than the money they paid to get them and the engines of capitalism made whole societies richer than the kings of a century ago in comfort, leisure, health and material goods. This is not to deny the part government and labour movements played in that miracle but if you took the wealth of Britain in 1900 and distributed it perfectly equally among the people we would still consider them wretchedly poor. Hand washing clothes, minimal indoor heating, medical care that’s on average worse than nothing, travel for leisure being a once in a lifetime experience if that, the improvements that we take for granted come from the work those captains of industry did and the work they made possible.
Modern America was built on inter alia the acquisition of huge areas of land for nothing, the business practices of companies like Standard Oil, and the exploitation of immigrant workers in conditions only slighly above slavery.
> wealth of Britain in 1900
Similarly this was at peak Empire time period, when a vast British Army was marching across South Africa herding colonists into concentration camps. What part of the wealth of the Empire was really freely acquired in a mutually beneficial way?
America was indeed unusual among first world nations in the relative positions of labour and capital, but not much out of the ordinary in its growth rates. There were many other New World nations with similarly devastated native populations and land for the taking. The US has grown faster than any comparable country, not because of the abundance of natural resources but because of its political, legal and economic systems. Canada, Argentina and Chile all had similar benefits and none are as rich.
I’m going to pass on the labour practices of Standard Oil just because living standards in the US were on an unbroken upward trend during the entire period between its establishment and break up. This, combined with the US tradition of labour unrest make the idea that working conditions were slightly above slavery ridiculous. In a tight labour market you can’t treat free labour like slaves. They’ll leave. People who are willing to cross an ocean are not going to hesitate to move states for work, especially in an era of unprecedentedly cheap transport due to the railways. This is a myth, like the myth that the trusts gained their market shares corruptly. They gained it by increasing production and quality and driving down prices.
> University of Chicago economics professor Lester Telser, in his 1987 book, A Theory of Efficient Cooperation and Competition,4 points out that between 1880 and 1890, the output of petroleum products rose 393 percent, while the price fell 61 percent. Telser writes: “The oil trust did not charge high prices because it had 90 percent of the market. It got 90 percent of the refined oil market by charging low prices.” Some monopoly!
Lester Telser, A Theory of Efficient Cooperation and Competition. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
Regarding Britain power was partially built on its colonies but its prosperity was not. If it had been we should be able to see it clearly in the growth rate of its economy after the conquest of Bengal or after the loss of India. Invisible in both cases. Economic progress in Western Europe was built on trade and industry, not plunder. If it hadn’t been the U.K. would have been vastly richer than Sweden and France richer than Germany. Despite the enormous disparity in colonial holdings they were roughly as rich. Colonies were everywhere a boon to the scions of the ruling classes, providing military and civil service posts but the economic impacts were nugatory. British wealth was as much a product of its empire as Italy’s, somewhere between trivial and non-existent.
Slave labour was never cheap. Buying slaves was always very expensive because being able to keep the fruits of someone else’s labour was always a great way to make money. And natural resources are nice to have but if you don’t have them but you have money (perhaps gotten from productive industry) you can just buy them. Singapore and Hong Kong went from poverty to the first world in a generation based on good institutions and sound economic policy. And again colonies were never a big deal for the metropole economically. The Nordic countries didn’t have any colonies of note and they did just fine economically over the 19th and 20th centuries. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was doing worse economically than the German in 1912, but not much, and it wasn’t because of the lack of colonies. The Netherlands’ economy basically didn’t notice the loss of Indonesia, ditto Belgium for the Congo. Natural resources just aren’t that important. Equatorial Guinea is swimming in oil and its people are poor as dirt because their government because it’s governed by a kleptocrat. South Korea was a bombed out hellscape in 1954 and now it’s a first world country. That’s not because of natural resources, it’s because of export led growth, same as Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong. None of them are particularly blessed with oil or minerals. Switzerland’s natural resources are hydropower and beautiful scenery. The beautiful scenery is a bigger deal economically. Saudi Arabia is sitting on the biggest oil fields in the world and once people stop caring about oil the country will go to hell. Norway is also sitting on loads of oil and will be just fine because their economy isn’t all natural resources.
Under competition, acting like this is the best way to raise to the top. If Amazon started penalizing fake reviews heavily, it would disincentivise its users to leave fake reviews. If they let companies get away with it, it'll be the only way to survive in their marketplace.
> Under competition, acting like this is the best way to raise to the top
Do you have evidence for that, or is it your guess?
The study I am aware of on the subject concluded the best strategy in a competitive environment is to act fairly and assume fair play on everyone's behalf, but if someone crosses you, respond with all out force.
I think it's called "Generous Tit-for-tat". I don't think "be shitty when you have something to gain" is recognized as a good strategy in Game Theory.
If you want academic support for "if everyone else cheats and gets away with it, you'll have to cheat too" you might enjoy The Market for Lemons 
This argues that, if 50% of used cars are good and worth $8000, and 50% are bad and worth $4000, and customers can't tell them apart on the lot, the buyers' expected value is $6000 so the sellers of good cars will make a loss and go out of business. That in turn will reduce the buyers' expected value to $4000.
Obviously, that issue is specific to markets without seller reputations, reliable independent reviews, useful warranties, or effective consumer protection laws. Is Amazon Marketplace that way? You be the judge!
Generous Tit-for-Tat was the winning algorithm in a very particular scenario: repeated prisoner's dilemma. Each player knew the full history of its opponent's participation in the game and knew therefore that there would be consequences for its behavior in the current game. In this scenario your identity and reputation are perfectly known. This is a very different game.
For iterated prisoner's dilemma, you need the game to be infinitely long, meaning neither player knows when it will end. The moment either player realizes when the game is going to end, the game reverts to a regular prisoner's dilemma, and the first player to betray the other will win. The last round has no benefit for playing a Nice strategy, so you need to stab before the other player also realizes the game is going to end.
Yes, that's what I'm saying. Whether it applies to society or not depends on how often you have repeat interactions with the same person. For example, in a big city where you can expect to never run into someone again, I would expect people to favor Betray over Cooperate. Whereas, in a small village where you can't escape the people around you, I would expect people to favor Cooperate.
> but if someone crosses you, respond with all out force
How do you do that with Amazon? Stop buying from this one seller? Report them? But chances are you were not going to buy anything else from them anyway and I am not sure how much of a problem a report is. And you are not doing anything about the other bajillion bad sellers, so your next buying experience is like ly to turn out just the same.
True, and penalizing misbehavior is a big part of the solution here, but it's also true that there are practical social limits on behavior (including competitive behavior), and these can wax and wane culturally, giving rise to greater or lesser degrees of trust and good faith in commerce. ("What can I count on from people in general?")
I would say societal collapse happens when regulating bodies no longer align participant self-interest with the greater good. Everyone is self-interested, which is why central authorities must step in for things that benefit individuals but hurt society such as tax evasion, pollution, and (maybe one day) fraudulent reviews.
Note I'm not saying this is practical to implement or easy to do, just that central authorities exist for this very purpose.
Second, the "self-interest" argument doesn't excuse shitty behavior. It might be in my self-interest to steal my neighbor's wallet he forgot outside. It has money in it! Doesn't make it a good idea nor something I would consider as a "self-interested" person.
Plus, it's also in my self-interest not to contribute to lowering the bar of a review system. As someone who uses Amazon and other review sites, I don't like the idea of phony reviews, so even if I worked for a company that "depended" on these reviews, I wouldn't feel good about adding to the problem (nor would I feel good that my employer supposedly needs to rely on falsified reviews).
But if you start from the realistic premise that some actors are bad, the market feedback loop immediately rewards them - which forces other actors to make a choice between acting in similarly unethical ways or being punished for non-compliance.
The real shitty behaviour is Amazon's. It has ultimate control over this fiasco but Bezos clearly has no interest in stopping it - and it can easily be argued that's an example of the same systemic problem with market fundamentalism, but at a higher level.
I get where you're coming from, but I remember an all hands back in the mid 2000s and someone asked Jeff, what's up with Amazon MP3 isn't that going to cannibalize our CD sales? And Jeff said, absolutely, but if we don't cannibalize our CD sales someone else will. Controlled autophagy is healthy. Coincidentally, this principle applies generally, which is why intermittent fasting is a thing.
Its funny to read this today. I'm working my way through Atlas Shrugged and the utopia in the book is the opposite: pure self interest > greater good, and there is a 'for the public good' apocalypse taking place.
It seems to take a weird stance that self interest has to go hand in hand with productivity and free trade though, or else the sentiment is labeled anti-life or looting (or murder in later chapters). Its a bit of a strange argument, I'm not certain its as coherent as it is romantic.
Anyway, the book would not be nice about how it described a company that posted fake reviews.
I remember reading it years ago and thinking it was a large collection of straw man arguments (and this is perhaps too generous as it implies that there are actually reasoning present; in fact the story is more along the lines of: “heroes leave society, society collapses”).
Given this, it is beyond me how much attention and how large a following the book has gathered.
One of the notional heroes is intentionally wiping out his investors (which is OK, because every single one of them is a Very Bad Person) and another is a pirate. Whilst Stadler joining the State Science Institute is singled out as a particularly egregious example of villainy.
Takes an odd definition of honesty to conclude that it's a book about celebrating honesty...
The book is written by someone whose self professed philosophy is badly argued nonsense. See objectivism.
If she could at least write entertainingly she could at least have done one thing right. As it stands she could have contributed more to society by selling hats. Even badly made ugly hats keep your head dry. Her books neither inform nor entertain.
It can be 'the rules of playing the game' AND also scummy. The overall system may be structured such that it basically forces such behavior. Saying it's scummy doesn't mean that this particular seller went out of their way to be scummy or likes acting in that way. But this doesn't stop it being a scummy practice from the consumer's perspective.
> Its just the only way to do business on Amazon. If every single company is faking the reviews then you can not afford to be the only one not faking them.
That's... the only way to do business selling generic garbage on Amason, I guess. But it's not the only way to do business. I mean, the example is headphones. Bose and Beats and Shure no doubt sell a ton of hardware on Amazon on the basis of their established brands and not just reviews. And I'm sure they do fine, and Amazon is happy to have the business.
The problem here is the search results, that searching for "headphones" (which is indeed a particularly bad category) gives you a bunch of garbage and not a good selection of products that match your search.
This always happens with various editions of books too especially for classic books. For example: I want to buy Meditations by Marcus Aurelius but there are so many editions of that book with different authors who translated these books but you'd see the same exact reviews on all of these editions. It is very hard for me in that case to choose the right book.
I know what you mean. It took me a while to find the original version of Napoleon Hill's "How to Think and Grow Rich" because everyone and their mother's posted $0.99 versions.
That's why I like Standard Ebooks. It's a website where volunteers transcribe public domain books into high-quality books for various eReaders. A lot of ebooks tends to suffer from poor formatting and grammar issues, but all the books on Standard Ebooks go through a rigorous proofreading process.
You shouldn't have to do the following, but there is a way around that mingled-reviews problem: Go to the "all reviews" page, search that page for "filter by", and and change "all formats" to the format you're viewing.
My biggest complaint about books is not the review mixing problem, although that's bad. My biggest complaint is that different translations shouldn't be mixed at all, while identical translations by the same publisher (for instance, ebook and paperback versions) should always be comingled. On Amazon, both principles are routinely violated. For example, you can search the books category for "marcus aurelius hays meditations" and find the paperback (black cover red bird silhouette) as the first real result, but the ebook format under that entry is NOT the Hays translation. I don't see any way to get to the Hays translation from that search. If you search for the same keywords in the kindle category, the kindle edition is the first real result. (In both searches, you get two sponsored search results which are not the Hays translation but Amazon promotes them anyway).
There you have it... the world's biggest online bookstore is incapable of selling books properly.
An alternative would be to mix all editions, but have a clear well-designed selection interface so that it's clear which translation you're selecting, and then under each translation which edition (format, publishing date, and/or edition number if there are numbered editions) you're selecting.
A commercial modern translation of something like Meditations might only have one ebook and one paperback by the same publisher. An out-of-copyright translation might have a dozen different editions made by taking the gutenberg edition and slapping a more engaging cover on it.
If you're selling books and you make it difficult to navigate book editions in either of those common cases, you have utterly failed at being competent in your line of business. That incompetence might not show up in sales figures, because people who want a specific edition will grudgingly search until they find it, and people who don't want a specific edition will pay for whatever random awful edition catches their attention first.
> For example, you can search the books category for "marcus aurelius hays meditations" and find the paperback (black cover red bird silhouette) as the first real result, but the ebook format under that entry is NOT the Hays translation. I don't see any way to get to the Hays translation from that search.
This. I feel your pain here. Amazon should develop a simple UI to navigate through various editions/translations and also once one selects a specific edition/translation then the UI should only show all formats (Kindle, Paperback, etc.) for that particular edition/translation only.
Amazon gets a lot of heat on HN for their review-spam problem and their counterfeit goods problem. But the product variant selection problem, whether it's different editions/translations of books, or different colors/styles/sizes of clothes, or different variants of other consumer goods, is easily solvable by comparison. And it's not getting solved. Every product with multiple dimensions of variants (e.g. color, size, # in pack) feels like it has a different interface, random mix of radio buttons and drop-downs, and a change in one dimension can cause other dimensions to disappear or shift around.
Is there any management or programming talent, with the power to implement fixes, left in the retail/marketplace divisions? Or has it all moved to AWS and logistics?
I had the same problem and came to the conclusion that there is no Kindle version of the Hays translation. The really frustrating part is that I already purchased a physical copy of a different translation, so when I found the physical Hays book and clicked the Format -> Kindle option it offered me the ebook for a steep discount... and it let me choose amongst many version none of which were the Hays version.
I really think Amazon needs to fix this. I'm about two shitty products away from cancelling Prime. Their business model is "good enough products shipped really quickly without needing to think about it much". Recently, things I order aren't good enough. I find myself thinking about whether I should just drive to Target so that I can see the thing before I buy it. This seems like a problem for Amazon.
I used to feel this way, but I've recently turned a corner. Returning things seemed easy when my return rate was say 5%. Now that it's more like 25% and I'm mostly returning junk sold deceptively, it feels like an awful hassle.
I'd much rather shop somewhere where I could choose from, say, three relatively expensive but good options, get one of those, and nearly always keep it, rather than a place where I have 100 cheap options most of which are junk, such that it takes me a couple rounds of returns to get something I want.
While Amazon Germany (afaik) does not yet have many of the problems of Amazon US (I often hear on HN about fake products and the fake reviews of TFA), what really annoys me is the completely different products as one. I was looking at a drill, it's variants included a jigsaw. The reviews were almost all for the jigsaw and at some point, Amazon even removed the notice which variant was reviewed. Utterly useless.
This! In many ways shared reviews for SKUs of the same product make absolute sense (if the blue bag is made well, so should the red one). But there seems to be huge abuse in defining the base product as you've highlighted. I presume sellers have complete autonomy to set them up, and Amazon might argue that it's "infeasible" for them to administer this, but from the perspective of the consumer I completely agree that it erodes confidence in "reviews".
Over the years I've noticed a shift in the products I most readily find on Amazon from well established brands to utterly unknown Chinese manufacturers. I've been burnt enough times by buying such products that I've reverted to mostly looking for products which satisfy 1) from reputable company, and 2) positive reviews.
In an unregulated market, brand identity and reputation becomes a very strong differentiating factor. The strongest brand on Amazon is Amazon, so by allowing the generic market to rot they are allowing their own-brand basics products to establish themselves because consumers can assume that Amazon products won't have this fake review problem.
It does also work for other brands too of course. I was in the market for some Lightning cables recently and almost every single cheap cable was a switch-out with review for different products. The only brands I recognised were Amazon and Anker and both their stuff was legit (I bought from both).
This is yet again another, surely well-known 'leak' in how products are presented and displayed, since it can still happen, Amazon is tacitly complicit with the fraud.
Most of these issues could be mostly cleared up with some basic operational policies: purchase only reviews (or sideline the others), no 'changing the product', some degree of manufacturer verification etc..
"Why would a product change even be allowed they're different products."
Because Amazon has chosen to allow that, for reasons which probably have to do with money.
The comments here indicate a surprising degree of naivte on this issue i.e. "I head to email email@example.com about this" - as if after 20 years of operations Amazon isn't 100% aware of all of these issues.
Of course they know what's going on. In detail.
If Amazon were some old, big, dumb company with slow moving ops, barely competent staff, then we could write all this off as lack of operational competence - but it's not.
Amazon is actually a very well run and operationally competent company from top to bottom, and Bezos is a hands-on leader, intimately involved.
Folks: Bezos knows exactly what is happening.
Since they haven't made very small adjustments which could help fix a variety of these issues, it's not due to 'lack of will' - it's a choice that Amazon has made. Amazon wants lots of 5 star fake reviews by unverified sources or they would just get rid of them, which they could do, instantly, by sidelining reviews with no purchase, for example. Among a variety of other things.
It's unbelievable the level of hagiography that goes on with these 'industry leaders' that we build up like Jobs, Zuck, Bezos, Welch etc. - especially when we have issues waiving us right in the face.
I accept that business at scale is 'making sausage' and there will be unpleasant things. Factory workers can't make $80K (probably). We inherently lose some privacy on social media. There will be some fake reviews and fraud no matter what. Surely.
But the scope and level of chicanery, combined with the fact these companies haven't made obvious changes proves they are complicit and it should definitely weigh into how we think of these companies and individuals. FYI people can do 'good stuff' and 'bad stuff' at the same time. Bezos and Zuck can build/fund schools for kids at the same time they are doing totally unscrupulous stuff, it's not a paradox.
Fraud, fake reviews etc. is a problem not dealt with remotely enough by Amazon, this is obvious and the fault/concern is theirs, and it's Jeff Bezos - as founder, owner, CEO world's richest person to do it.
Literally the richest guy in the world is gaining this wealth in part by promoting tons of counterfeit goods with fake reviews - 2019.
I don't think the top people at amazon are aware of the issue or think it's so severe. spam in different forms is very difficult for even the most advanced companies to fix. look at gmail putting good email in spam or spam sneaking through to regular email. it keeps happening. spam comments on forum postings. amazon is facing another version of the spam problem in fake reviews, fake products, etc. it obviously competes against their agility to have more spam detection vs making it easier for people to sell stuff there.
Fraud and fake reviews are a major strategic concern, it has been since the start, i.e. for 20 years. Leadership is intimately aware of the problem.
There are many easy things they could do to reduce fraud, #1 being only allowing reviews from actual purchasers, or at least now allowing the others into the rankings.
As mentioned on this thread, there are 3rd party companies that do a decent job at detecting the crap reviews. This means either Amazon is incompetent, and is not even capable of basic filtering, or they are competent and complicit.
It's the later.
Yes, there will always be spam and fraud, but not remotely the levels we see on Amazon. It should be relatively rare.
As it stands, it's pretty easy for a regular person simply to go on Amazon and literally find fake products. This is totally unacceptable. They are trying hard not to find the spam and fraud.
> Because Amazon has chosen to allow that, for reasons which probably have to do with money.
Yea.. that, nor the tirade that follows comes close to answering my question.
I also suspect your thinking and reasoning are incredibly misguided.
While Amazon isn't stupid they aren't nearly as money focused as you seem to believe.
What I suspect but do not know for sure is that their reviews were/are a massive part of their business model. Acting as big SEO signals and including a number of nice benefits when it comes to sales and marketing.
What we are likely looking at now is friction at scale.
Amazon has unleashed a large amount of Alibaba trash into the market in order to compete with a very real competitor, hell sales/revenue wise Amazon is the underdog.
We will likely see moves to clean up reviews.
So in the end I guess you were right "duh money" but it's a bit more nuanced than that and far from direct.
"they aren't nearly as money focused as you seem to believe"
If by 'money' you meant 'profit' - then yes, they re-invest.
But Amazon is very deeply 'money focused' - they are a low margin business, growth oriented, they have innumerable competitors - everything is accounted for.
"What I suspect but do not know for sure is that their reviews were/are a massive part of their business model."
We can suspect a lot of things, but ultimately, what we know with certainty is that they are willful participants in tons of fake reviews. They 100% know about it, and 100% allow it to happen because there are several alternative paths for them to choose. They are complicit, by choice.
I suggest they would just rather have the fake reviews, than the cost and burden of higher business friction. They've calculated that the fake reviews are net better than hunting them down.
A couple months ago, I googled 'whiteboard amazon', clicked the first result, and was taken to a well structured amazon page for a whiteboard that had 5 stars. Looking at it a little closer, I noticed that of the 143 reviews, 143 were 5 star reviews. On top of it, every review followed a similar structure, was made by an account that had thousands of 5 star reviews, and was so beyond the pale obvious fraudulent that I felt the need to email jeff@amazon.
Today I was looking at some vitamins, and I checked every single result for a certain supplement that was 4 or 5 stars and every single one of them ranked D or worse on FakeSpot.
How the fuck does Amazon not know how to deal with this? 100% of reviews coming in for a product on the same day? MAYBE THAT'S A SIGN, AMAZON.
They are trying and failing - my wife is a seller and easily 20-30% of completely valid positive reviews from repeat customers disappear without a trace.. at the same time a racist tyrade of a review from a buyer who has swastika as user avatar is impossible to get rid of ( 5 or 6 tries so far)
Probably. You are selling in a niche that scammers likely don't care about. If you were selling a Macbook or iPhone, there'd probably be a lot of shady buyers.
I've bought a ton of stuff on Ebay, but only ever sold a laptop when I wasn't getting any bites on Craigslist. It was a limited-edition Dell laptop, so the buyer was really enthusiastic about it and you could tell he was a normal person and not a scammer.
Fortunately I live in a big city now and have never had issues selling in person via CL/Kijiji.
There are many 3rd party sites (like fakespot.com) which do a better job than Amazon does and are not incredibly sophisticated. Amazon just doesn't care, that is the only conclusion that is possible to draw from the available data. They are not even doing a half-assed job, we're talking about a fractionally-assed job here, perhaps even milli-asses.
Amazon could easily do at least as good a job as fakespot, and then followup with consequences for review fraud. They could also implement various policies and use the huge amount of data they have available to go well beyond that level and make some headway against the problem. But they haven't done so. Because they can't be bothered. Because people being suckered into buying shitty products hasn't hurt their bottom line yet. They are complicit.
I was in the market for headphones. I bought a pair and was looking for another because I was dissatisfied. I saw my exact model under another listing...but oddly it had ~150 5 stars. I thought no way in hell THESE were loved by everyone. Every single review was made in the same day, with broken English reviews.
These were electronics, and knockoff airpods to boot. But if I 100% need the real thing, I buy else where. For example I just purchased several bottles of Vitamin D for my infant. I'm not trusting Amazon even though Amazon would have shipped faster.
I felt like they know there's a large industry built around it and now that it will likely just adapt to taking simple measures like that. By leaving it the way it is for now it's super easy to spot product pages with fake reviews by anyone that cares to look.
My theory is that they have metrics for selection they are trying to optimize. If customers only bought the 10 best of any item, how could some PM get a promotion for increasing phone charger selection 100x?
Some years ago, there were some studies trying to estimate the percentage of fake reviews. It came out to 2% to 6%. I'm sure things have increased since then, it does look quite bad given all the anecdotes I have come across.
But unless Amazon has thrown away the bulk of the 140 million or so reviews they have between 1995-2014, I doubt there really are more fake reviews than real ones now, in total.
It would be interesting to do a follow up study to estimate the percentage, given all the blatant issues (such as reviews for other products, etc) Amazon is obviously ignoring. Given what I know, it shouldn't be that hard to process the obviously suspect things but the important question is always: how much profit is there for Amazon to do all that work, given it probably won't increase sales/revenue that much? It is not in Bezos' interest.
The easiest thing would be to block off all of China's IP addresses....
Amazon already has the number of helpful vs unhelpful votes for each review.
They could start with that voting data, and then use metadata (geoip, account usage/posting timing, client fingerprinting) to create quality metrics for each user. They could even have separate trustworthiness ratings per product category (a good book reviewer might not be so good at rating appliances). From there, they'd have a rough idea of which reviews are real and fake, and they could start training a NN on the text.
Figuring out when sellers are complicit, and when it's competitor sabotage, is more difficult, but Amazon has a ton of data about sellers and reviewers and buyers and the social/commercial graph connecting them. Amazon doesn't appear to be working on solving simpler problems, such as incorrect product/book comingling. Therefore, I have trouble giving them the benefit of the doubt that they're working on hard problems like addressing fraudulent ratings/sellers.
Good plan. See my previous comment; I did my MSc on classifying fake reviews. The behavioral / non-text features are far more useful than the text, based on all the research. There is no technical reason Amazon could not capture all the signals, except for the scale of the effort. So I'd say someone has decided it is not worth the effort/cost given the likelihood it won't improve sales that much.
As for NNs, .... an ensemble of classifiers would be best (but of course I'd say that).
These kind of review patterns are easy to spot. I used to read through recent review etc. These days when I find a product on Amazon that I feel like buying, I go to reviewmeta.com and check the review trend before deciding.
"you start approaching generalized AI to defeat them."
This is, of course, bullshit. Human moderators could defeat them, Amazon is just not willing to hire them. A seller reputation (including bans) could defeat them, Amazon is just not willing to lose the cheap knockoff stores. A listing fee would discourage a lot of the shadier stores, Amazon is just not willing to lose them.
It's not that it's an insurmountable problem, it's an insurmountable problem if you combine it with boundless greed.
We had the same problem a century ago. (Cf. the origins of the term 'snake oil salesman'). We solved the problem, through regulation. It's time we solve it again, through regulation.
I can pretty much guarantee that making Amazon liable for damage from fake reviews will solve the issue. It won't happen in the US - regulation is up for sale here - but it will happen in the EU. It might just be enough to drag Amazon into sanity, kicking and screaming.
And maybe that's the way that Amazon goes down; quality over quantity. Hey, this is HN and we should be able to spot a deficiency in a business plan, right?! Here's how you go about toppling Amazon and building an empire:
1) open a store for online goods
2) take reviews seriously
Let's expand the plans a bit:
1) open a store for online goods
2) take reviews seriously
3) profit, for a while
4) get bought out by amazon or someone else who will then proceed to kill "2"
5) if resisted, be a target of coordinated media smear campaign and/or hacking attempts, each totally not ordered and covertly backed by amazon or another player whose piece of a pie you are eating
6) crack under pressure and just give up
If you think this is a first world problem, you might want to look up the history of regulations, and how many people had to die due to shitty products before we finally said "enough is enough".
We're heading that direction again. Our current flavor of capitalism strongly favors externalizing of all costs, and short of enforced liability for products violating standards will always opt for violating whatever low standards bar you set.
(I'd also like to point out that the part of the government that is truly over-bloated is the one that the "lean government" people oddly never want to gut, the military)
Not for running a normal business it isn't. A deposit would probably get rid of all the dropshippers, who are really just a form of arbitrage; I think that's probably necessary to get rid of the review chaos. People actually manufacturing their own goods ought to be able to find that kind of money.
However, if we're going to have deposits, there need to be absolutely clear rules on when they are forfeited, with a real, transparent dispute procedure.
Keep a percentage of gross to go towards a deposit and don't remit payment immediately on new accounts. Imagine a 1K deposit wherein only $200 was paid up front and the rest was paid in terms of 2% of sales.
Further if you spend a week selling counterfeits and as it turns out that you make 800 usd in scam sales. The 2% towards deposits might only be $16 + $200 deposit but if the seller hasn't been paid out yet its trivial to claim the entire $800 in sales as the forfeited deposit.
The seller instead of profiting $400-$600 is now out $200-$400 in inventory and $216 in deposit with nothing to show for it.
The deposit needn't be ruinous. Just enough to make being a bad actor not worth doing.
That's what I've been thinking. I get more spam than legitimate email, but over the course of a year or so Thunderbird's Bayesian classifier has gotten to probably 98% accuracy with <.1% false positives.
You're right that there is an arms race between fake reviewers and Amazon, but the conclusion - that because it's a race Amazon shouldn't try, is spurious. Amazon should pursue the race aggressively, and because they can allocate more money and software developers to the contest than any one group of fake reviewers, they should also ultimately win.
Google beat email spam, but has fared much worse with fighting blackhat SEO. Email spam has evolved remarkably little in the face of spam filters, and it may be that they were able to "solve" it simply because there never was all that much money to be made from it in the first place.
It's either that, or they are failing really miserably at controlling the flood of bogus/fraudulent review.
I find the latter hard to believe. We're not talking about a mom-and-pop shop here. This is Amazon, they employ many thousands of very smart people that could no doubt build solutions that are better than the status quo.
It's not just the fake reviews that bug me. I can use fakespot to weed through a few of those. The thing that has really made Amazon less usable for me in the last year or so is seeing the exact same product twenty times under different nonsense-word brands. Recalling a recent example, in about a minute I can find the exact same pair of water shoes sold as: gracosy, MAYZERO, LINGTOM, Wonesion, JointlyCreating, Centipede Demon, hiitave, and more. Another one is Belilent, Alibress, SUOKENI, Zhuanglin, Dreamcity, and so on. Same pictures, almost same descriptive text, with only minor cosmetic differences.
Are these different companies that happen to use the same supplier? It's possible, but it could also be one company creating multiple pseudo-brands to game the system. I could probably even find out, but I don't care. The same physical thing shipped for the same price from the same Chinese factory shouldn't show up twenty times. As long as search results are filled with crap, they're useless. It's the combination of fake reviews and this kind of flooding that makes me want to leave and never come back.
The store is an absolute mess, even with major brands. The exact same pair of Nikes could be listed in a half dozen separate categories sold by two dozen different sellers at shipping speeds ranging from two hours to two months and prices ranging from $0.06 - $649.58.
You end up having to spend 10x the amount of time down the rabbit hole of different categories, vaguely different product titles, different sizes ("size 10", "size TEN" "10(m)", etc.), and different names for the same color shoe, all to desperately find that low price/size/color combination that drew you in from the search results in the first place.
The store desperately needs moderation to tidy it up. I'm sure the devs are patting themselves on the back for all the extra engagement they are milking out of me, but frankly I'm using the site less and less to the point where I've cancelled my prime membership. The only thing keeping me is milking their free shipping and 3% back card, and only if local alternatives fail me.
I let my Prime lapse this year, for similar reasons. Gone are the days when Amazon tended to have medium- to high-quality items. Now it's a 50/50 chance I will get some cheap tat which has been expertly misrepresented by the seller (i.e. photos which make the product look bigger than it is).
I don't miss Prime and I'm not buying much from Amazon and this is fine.
What you're experiencing is called dropshipping, and it's becoming popular because amateurs are seeing it as a "get rich quick scheme." There's a product called Oberlo (https://www.oberlo.com/) where you can easily browse Chinese items for sale and add them to your own Shopify store. Then you can use a free plugin to integrate Shopify with Amazon. That's why you're seeing a million of the same item, because it's tons of people browsing the same products with this same setup.
This is one of the most problematic. I think 3 out of 5 products I usually search for turns up massive levels of white-label crap. I suspect these are Alibaba based sellers who rebrand their white label fake products in Amazon literally 20 to 50 times under different cool sounding brand names. They have different costs and slightly different descriptions but otherwise no real way to differentiate them. These listings completely takes over search results and pushes out any genuine brands not savvy with SEO way out on 3rd or 4th page creating denial attack on customers. Now I have made habit of not falling for these white label crap and explicitly look out for "made in XYZ" in description. I think lot of US based genuine brands have gone bankrupt because of these.
Amazon needs complete reboot of their search given this level of white label spam and their inability to effectively de-dup results.
yeah fake reviews are an industry thing and it's basically not much different than advertisement and once you treat them like that they aren't such a grating issue... what is a huge problem to me instead is that their search is completely useless because everyone is writing everything on their pages, even if you look for a specific brand of items, even if you further filter by brand, nothing seem to work and a lot of junk fills up the result page.
that and commingled inventory.
currently I trust more aliexpress to deliver the product as pictured than amazon.
I can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened, but at some point in the last year or so I completely lost trust in purchasing goods on Amazon.
I’ve been a Prime customer since Prime launched. I loved it for a decade. It used to be an automatic reflex for me: need something? Type it in Amazon and click buy.
But now I don’t trust Amazon search results at all, and when I do purchase I only do it via direct product links from other sites I trust (like Wirecutter or the manufacturer’s site). Increasingly I buy direct from the brands websites.
I wanted to drop Prime this year. My wife argued we should keep it because the kids watch a lot of Prime Video. But we’ve already got Netflix, and with Disney launching their thing I think I’d rather buy that than stick with Prime any longer.
Not sure where Amazon is headed, and I wish the fate of AWS and Whole Foods weren’t at least somewhat tied up in the fate of Amazon’s retail operation.
Find Lock Picking Lawyer on YouTube and his reviews of the locks Amazon recommend. See him open them in seconds. Share videos with wife. She will be with you on cutting the umbilical cord to Amazon after that.
The locks they recommend in 'Amazon Choice' have known vulnerabilities that design solutions were found for many decades ago so the products are essentially naive. If Amazon deliberately set out to hype the most useless locks so you would have your stuff stolen (and have to buy more from Amazon) then they would struggle to do a better job.
Of course the locks come with hundreds of five star reviews even though they can be opened in seconds with low skill attacks.
I received an email at least once a month, to an address I used exclusively for Amazon purchases, inviting me to join a website that will reimburse me via PayPal if I purchase products and review them.
I have forwarded the emails to Amazon a couple times explaining that my email address is used exclusively for them making it easier to narrow down who might be sending these emails. They always respond with a warning that my account might be suspended if I partake in such sites.
Blog it with any specific info you want to protect redacted. Give newspapers and equity analysts a chance to find what you are saying backed by evidence. This is the only way $BIGCO will ever care. Do you care enough to do it. I probably wouldn't.
Same here. Cryptic alias on my own domain that I never use for anything else. It's rare though, I get one spam email to that address once every few months now, and it's always shopping/review-related. I've contacted Amazon to ask how, when and with whom they shared my email address and their response was basically "we don't ever, but here's a month of free prime for your trouble".
I think some people are just mad for whatever reason. Maybe they really like amazon? Or maybe jeff? Or maybe they find the idea of a CEO email address that is never actually read by the CEO to be just silly in general.
I don't know for sure, someone will need to speak up.
I wish I kept a link, but there was looking to buy a book on music theory or something similar. One of the books had 13 or so reviews, all glowing. Many were of the form "Exactly what I was looking for!" or "Just perfect!" with nothing more.
Two of them had the same surprising word that made no sense in the context of the sentence: both reviews used the word "goal." Then it hit me: either the directions telling them what to review or in their own attempt to translate to English, the auto-translation picked the wrong synonym, choosing "goal" instead of "score."
I never thought it would get that way but I feel more comfortable now buying from ebay from a seller with good feedback. Amazon is such a cesspool of weird sellers. For example I looked for flashes of Godox brand. Listings had "Godox" in the title but when I looked at the listings they were all from different sellers and not from Godox. I think is intentionally misleading by Amazon. As a tech person I sort of understand what's going on but a lot of people trust Amazon and don't understand that Amazon isn't really the seller and does nothing against sleazy listings.
One product (power bricks for MacBooks) had over 1000 5 stars, then the 1 star reviews came in where people actually had their power adapters catch on fire. Amazon, or maybe the seller, shut the review/product down. Now, it's back:
Lots of verified purchases. All the reviews are within the same date range. It doesn't take machine learning or advanced AI to catch this; a simple SQL statement should be enough to flag these. But still, they persist.
It's not ML/AI problem. The problem is that Amazon wasn't able to punish counterfeiters financially or legally which in turn may be because they don't have a process to ensure seller identity that is legally traceable. This is equivalent to someone coming to BestBuy, sell to them bunch of fake products and get away with it without a scratch every single time. You wouldn't blame that BestBuy doesn't have AI system, would you?
Even better is "Made in XYZ" in description. If you are putting something in/on your body, this is absolutely important. But even if you are not, my experience is that products made in countries with trustworthy legal systems lasts 2X to 10X longer.
One thing that surprises me is that why online stores are not forced to display this explicitly. When you go to brick-and-mortar store, you can almost always look for this label but Amazon doesn't enforce it on their listing.
There is a Chrome extension available. I personally find FakeSpot best used to help avoid bad buys -- not to ensure that buys are going to be good (due to adversarial gaming, or FakeSpot itself being targeted).
Unfortunately, no physical retailers around me have random things like 3D printer filament, various specific fasteners, or a particular inexpensive picture frame. Amazon wins at sheer variety of inventory.
Also, if a particular popular brand/model is at a big box store, the Amazon listing is almost certainly the actual thing. Random off-brands might be fake, but you run the same risk at Walmart as you do with Amazon then.
> Unfortunately, no physical retailers around me have random things like 3D printer filament, various specific fasteners, or a particular inexpensive picture frame. Amazon wins at sheer variety of inventory.
They don't have to have a physical store near you.
> Also, if a particular popular brand/model is at a big box store, the Amazon listing is almost certainly the actual thing. Random off-brands might be fake, but you run the same risk at Walmart as you do with Amazon then.
I highly doubt it. Amazon doesn't vet its sellers to well, and co-mingles supplies unless you pay a fee. I think Walmart probably does it better because it isn't trying to court every seller under the sun.
I used to think the same way about Fry's back in the day, until it came put that they were reshrinkwrapping broken returns amd putting them back on the shelves. After seeing the recent article about fake Chinese iPhones being returned to Apple stores for exchanges, I wonder what wave of fraud is next on the horizon. All of the stores you named have open box discount items too.
Had this happen to me - I returned an item to Fry's since it was completely nonfunctional. I explained that at the return desk. The guy nodded and took it. I wandered around the store for a while, then went to look for a replacement for the item, and saw the exact item I had just returned, back on the shelf with a small discount. I know it was the one I just returned because of the way the packaging had been cut open - they had just taped it up.
Haven't been back since.
If they are re-shrinkwrapping broken items then I guess things are even worse now since there is no way to even tell it is a return.
When I had an issue with my MotoZ (which I got through same-day Prime delivery), Motorolla told me they won't cover it because the IMEI said its from India and can only be covered if I send it to India.
BestBuy in my experience makes it fairly hard. First you have to buy at their high price from the store. Then you must do customer support call and send them screenshot of Amazon listing within 14 days. I even tried that just to find that their website was down and other times they had office hours on different time zones. I wouldn't recommend price match for all but very determined customers. Their store employee refuses to match price on the spot even when shown Amazon website price.
That hasn't been my experience at all. I've used it twice in the last few months. Once for a SSD (saved $20), and once for a monitor (saved $160). In both cases, I asked about a price match and in both cases the person ringing me up checked the price on their phone, and then made the adjustment immediately.
I’ve had bad experiences with B&H. I purchased a $1k+ gimbal from them for an upcoming project. I ordered it in advance so that I’d have some time to practice using it. Unfortunately, I delayed using it for a few weeks and when I finally opened the package, it was defective. When I reached them for a refund, they said there was nothing they can do as I was outside the return window. Based on my experiences with Amazon in the past I know I would have had a much better experience if I ordered from them. Regardless, I no longer trust B&H for buying expensive camera gear.
I recently ordered a small device from Amazon, it was poor, so I gave it a 1 star rating with a short, negative review.
About a week later, I received an e-mail from the seller (via Amazon's payments communication system) asking for me to delete my review in return for being refunded the total amount, and stating that I could keep the device.
Whilst I didn't take up their offer, I assume many others did which shows how Amazon is 'not flooded with one-star reviews'.
I had exactly the same thing happen recently with a light bulb that wasn't nearly as bright as advertised. Seller said they'd refund me, let me keep the crappy bulb and send me a brighter and more expensive bulb for free.
I didn't take them up on this, as it wouldn't be fair for future customers; after all, I'd bought the crappy bulb because there were no bad reviews...
batteries, chargers, flash drives/SD cards, any sort of food
Also printer toner. The asking price is close to the price quoted on the manufacturer's website, but you never know if you'll get an original, a half-empty or a remanufactured cartridge, and the reviews reflect that. The cherry on top is that if you try to sell a spare cartridge yourself Amazon won't let you sell toner, you need to apply for permission!
Have you had actual experiences with fake food? Some reviews for bottles of Evian or Fiji water sounded alarming when I wanted to order from Amazon (labels attached incorrectly, bottle cap unusual tint, things like that), so we just stuck with local supermarket delivery.
I have never had luck buying laptop battery from amazon. Nor a cell phone battery. They are all fake, since none of them would retain charge or even function. I could have extended the life of samsung S5 if i had been able to find a battery.
Well I suppose this comment is HN too from your perspective, but I also thought it was all HN until it happened to me. I was looking for Apple earphones, and found Apple earphones, and ordered them and it all looked great until they showed up, with a little cable tie in a clear plastic bag. And they worked, but when I then ordered Apple earphones off the Apple Apple branded Apple part of Amazon (which took a while to find and is covered in ads of knockoff Apple) I ordered them at the much higher price of $29.99. They arrived packaged in legit Apple trade dress, and I unfolded them from the cardboard packaging which I then used for the first Apple-but-not-Apple-Apple earphones. I first compared the two and sure enough they had minute differences and the Apple-Apple earphones sounded better...hard to say why but noticeably, and were louder at max volume, which is a difficult technical accomplishment. And the mic and buttons worked properly. Plus that packaging was as beautiful as Apple packaging has always been, I regarded it when it was empty as a paper insect that could be pinned to framed insectologist menagerie.
At any rate, I didn't lose much money and got more or less what I wanted, but...
Acting as a basic Joe Consumer I can tell fakes from reals with nothing but a browser, three minutes, and a simple checklist. Why can't Amazon which has a fucking battalion of mercenary machine learning cyborgs do the same a trillion times faster and cheaper and save me the (I can't believe I'm logging on to Amazon to check how much I wasted...) $12.70 I blew buying from "CR Land"?
Maybe you have just been lucky. I am in Amerina and have gotten poor quality items before from Amazon. I now try to check everything I buy from there and avoid the site altogether if I can. Some examples of bad products I have gotten are cheap usb cables which did not work, phone cases which peeled after 2 weeks of use and a coffee mug with a blurry poor picture printed on it. I have also found many very suspicious products that are very underpriced and have all 5 star reviews which get an F on fakespot.
There is a review from me, calling out the fakes and providing detail, and the other 4 that are clear-as-day fakes. The previous product page, which I referenced in my report to Amazon, had numerous high quality, legit reviews averaging around 3 stars with tons of detail.
I use Amazon a lot but I won't buy expensive brand-name stuff there anymore. Case in point: I am going to buy a Starrett combination square and Amazon has a nice price with free shipping, but I'd bet there is a 50/50 chance I get a counterfeit.
I'd also put your chances of getting a fake $9 Casio watch on Amazon at 50/50.
As a software engineer I kinda sympathize with Amazon -- no matter what system you come up with, people are going to game it. It's a very complex moving target and you will never be able to eradicate all of the scammers. At the same time, I think they could do a lot better than they do today, and I wonder if they actually try.
Weeding out fake products is not a software or machine learning issue. It's a process issue and much simpler to solve. You require all your merchants to provide their legally traceable identity. Your agreement should require merchants to put payments on hold when fake product complaints are received with arbitration fees. All big brick-and-mortar shops do this. It would be very hard to introduce fake product in Fred Meyers or Costco by any merchant without financial and potentially legal consequences. Amazon just needs electronic version of that process.
The trick is to implement such a process without the overhead the process has at a place like Costco. Keep in mind that Amazon operates in many countries.
There is also significantly more incentive to fake a legal identity for sellers at Amazon than at brick and mortar stores. Even if it costs a million dollars it might still be worth doing -- you might make a lot more than that by the time you get caught.
When buying on Amazon, I'm mostly interested in the 2-4 range reviews; I find this is where people discuss the pros/cons instead of just the pros (5 - best product ever!1!) and just the worst (1 - it had a defect because I threw it in the pool even though it said don't throw it in the pool and the company doesn't want to reimburse me, never buying from it again yadayada - kind of reviews).
Doesn't have to be significant, and it can be done by upvoting those reviews so they rise to the top without leaving any reviews yourself (and I've heard people talk about using this specific tactic). Conversely, I've heard people complaining their competition left negative reviews and/or upvoted their bad reviews to the top.
Amazon is making money on all sides: ads, "amazon's choice", and when you buy something that will break soon, you buy twice, and Amazon gets their commission twice. So far, I don't see any incentive for them to change anything.
What bothers more even more is the injection of sponsored ads that ignore not just the keywords you search for, but even the filters like price.
I search for a brand name watch or camera with a price of 300$+ and half of the results are no-name knockoff 25$ watches without even an easy visual way to distinguish them. They just put a very faint "Sponsored" that you have to squint hard to see it.
I buy my supplements like vitamins, protein bars and powder from Amazon. The stock mingling and counterfeits is worrying me now. Should I switch to local shops or am i being too paranoid? For non edibles, with all the fake review sites out there, are sites like the wirecutter and consumer report still trust worthy?
I've switched to Vitacost for my supplements, and am very satisfied. I'm in CA, and they have a warehouse in NV, so I often get my stuff within 48 hours. They have a decent selection, and frequently offer promo codes. Currently, some promo codes can even be combined, although that might not last much longer.
I should add, I don't rely on Vitacost reviews either. I use ConsumerLab to narrow down my choices.
The overlaid label is suspicious. It reminds me of the whole Chinese baby formula crisis. Amazon needs to add rigorous control before someone gets severely ill or even dies. It looks like a giant liability for legitimate sellers and Amazon itself to me.
My cynical nature assumes some Amazon MBA has done the math and concluded that the gain in revenue from Amazon-only brands will exceed that lost from people abandoning the rest. This is based on the assumption that Amazon's Fulfilled By Amazon cobranding program does not allow third party participation for Amazon's in-house brands like Amazon Basic.
In light of that admittedly negative view what's Amazon's motivation to limit fake reviews since it doesn't damage their own brands, albeit at the cost of damaging their brand as a whole.
Really? My experience has been universally positive so far. To be fair to Amazon and maybe I've just drunk too much SV koolaid but I assume there are some very smart people actually working on the two related problems: validating both reviewers and supply-chain members to reduce fraud. It just remains to be seen how they solve the problem.
Even if you add the ability to filter, it won't help unless it's the default. You'll still have a huge number of buyers choosing the product due to fake reviews and driving up the sales numbers. Since they aren't the smartest shoppers, they're also likely to leave their own review and be influenced by the other 5 star reviews.
The only reviews worth reading on any site are 1 and 2-star reviews. I honestly don’t care if someone is happy with a product, I want to know what the problems might happen or what situations it doesn’t work for.
I recently paid for a Consumer Reports digital subscription to get reviews for appliances and it’s been worth every penny of the very reasonable $35 annual subscription.
I disagree. Most 5-star reviews are garbage, but sometimes you find one that goes into great detail about real-world device specs from their own measurements, and even disassemble them and note various upsides and downsides of the design.
And conversely, many 1- and 2-star reviews are also garbage - the most common case is when the reviewer complains about item not being delivered or delivered late, or not what they wanted due to some misunderstanding.
What's really needed IMO is some kind of reputation for reviewers, that is easy to track.
That said, Amazon could buy Fakespot or one of its competitors with small change from Jeff Bezos' sofa, and they are clearly doing a better job than Amazon at rooting out fraudulent reviews.
Ironically, Amazon's enforcement was turned against them. Unscrupulous merchants are planting obviously fake five-star reviews on their competitors. Amazon then takes down the framed competitor. Genius!
doubt. Amazon has unlimited data on everything, they could fix that if they wanted to. They just have zero incentive to: the sales happen on Amazon's platform, a lot of them use FBA, so Amazon is getting paid.
Not only fake positive reviews, amazon postings are saturated with fake negative reviews and counterfeit and knock-off products (95% of cheap electronics). But it's not an amazon problem, it's a customer problem. Amazon monopolized online market and destroyed other sellers. If they bring order it would lead to honest prices for honest products and would allow other sellers back to the market. Why should amazon do so? It's better for them to forfeit this market than give up a share of it.
Star-based reviews basically need to go away. There just isn’t any reasonable way to process the information contained in the rating itself. I know that I always think twice about a purchase when there are mediocre reviews, despite knowing all the ways that the reviews could be basically outright lies, because I know I don’t plan to spend all the time it would require to actually discern real from fake.
I was thinking about how even simplified systems like thumbs-up/thumbs-down for music don’t make sense either. In my car, there is a great way that they could infer what I like: how long is it playing? I essentially will let at least half a song keep playing if I like it, whereas I will quickly flip away from one I don’t want. I am more likely to flip to the next song than click a thumbs-down, especially while driving. “Time actually played”, perhaps as a percentage of total song length, would probably be a great way to automatically rank my music for me.
And I think it would work for Amazon and other systems too. For example, if a product was purchased and never returned, maybe it doesn’t suck. If it’s a consumable item that was purchased again, maybe it doesn’t suck. We don’t need reviews and star ratings to figure this kind of thing out, and it’s extremely hard to fake.
I'm with Amazon on this one. Reviews are for the product, not to side-talk other reviews. Report the other reviews if there's a problem. Of course they probably aren't likely to do anything even then, but cross chatter between reviews is not a trend they'd want to allow either.
I trust the verified reviewers especially those that post pictures of the item. For example if I am buying a computer case and someone posts a review with the case and their system inside and they say the airflow is good and the build experience is great too then that adds a lot more weight than 100 five star reviews.
Oh, and the keyword stuffing is horribly obvious and Amazon's antispam team should get in touch with Google's. These product pages should be flagged for keyword stuffing, suspended until fixed and permanently banned for repeat offenders.
When I first heard of sites like JD.com and Alibaba, I visited out of curiosity and noped out fast. The UX was horrible, the sites were a jumbled mess, and I'd see the same product marked up at different prices, and a bunch of fake-seeming reviews. "Thank God we have Amazon here", I thought.
Tried searching for bluetooth headphones on Amazon Canada (which has a much smaller selection than the US site). It was almost exactly as I remember the old Chinese ecommerce site. Wall-to-wall rows of indistinguishable products, 500+ 5 star reviews for each, many of which are obviously for other products.
Lately, the Prime app hasn't even been working on my PS3, so it might be time to start moving back to brick and mortar for my purchases.
That really only works for high-demand, current products.
Back when I used to be engaged with Amazom I wrote a lot of reviews for out-of-print secondhand books that I borrowed from libraries or bought from specialist shops. I was usually quite harsh with my reviews but was often the only reviewer and usually the book was out of stock at the time.
People seemed to appreciate the long-tail reviews and I was up in the top 100 UK 'most helpful' reviewer list.
If I had only reviewed books I'd bought on Amazon I would have written about 10% as many reviews.
Seriously? Go hang out at Amazon for a hot second. You'll see:
1. Fraudulent products
2. Fake products
3. Ripoff obvious clones
4. Fake stores
5. Fake reviews (5 star AND good 1 star like the bot got mixed up)
6. Bad of the above mixed in the supply of the "good" legit products
7. Amazon Piss bottles (0)
Amazon is now, what Walmart was 10 years ago - a scourge and a horror to work at for any length of time. It's no surprise that a company that was to sell off even more underlying ethics would be walmart at their own game.(1) In that, Walmart only has the upper hand because of local stores...
To clarify, 1/2"x28 is the standard thread pitch used on most .22 and 9mm caliber firearms for muzzle attachments. In most cases it's a flash hider or a recoil compensator, but suppressors can attach in the same way.
Also, this one is an example of an "ambiguously legal" listing. The thing is, after all, an actual oil filter, albeit a poorly made one. Owning it alongside with a firearm it can attach to would likely constitute constructive possession of an unregistered NFA item, but that's buyer's problem. Although I would imagine the seller can still be sued if it can be proven that they knew how most of their customers are using them (which is evident from reviews), and intentionally designed them for that purpose. But, well, good luck suing a noname Chinese merchant.
After receiving fake items a few times, I just stopped buying from Amazon altogether. Especially now that Amazon collects taxes for my state, it is just easier to go to a brick and mortar store and buy legitimate products in person.
Amazon reviews are a huge issue and a huge let down from the platform. I love shopping on Amazon but today, I rarely do it due to 1) not believe any review 2) seeing the same product branded twenty times.
Various teams at Amazon need to do a rewrite of the entire reviews specs and treat them like CC details. It's totally abnormal to find reviews about another product belonging to a former product from the same seller. It's unacceptable to have most of the reviews on new products coming from paid gigs and fakers.
They need to sort this quick – even my mother who barely understands a thing to computers is now wary of Amazon reviews.
"ReviewMeta, a US-based website that analyses online reviews, said it was shocked at the scale of the unverified reviews, saying they were "obvious and easy to prevent"."
Unverified reviews may be easy to prevent by disabling unverified reviews, but then the scam just includes one extra step, having each account reviewing a product purchase the item on Amazon, then reimburse the account. Easy verified purchase.
You also would lose out on actual purchasers who bought it elsewhere than Amazon who would want to leave reviews.
The problem of bad reviews is definitely an unsolved problem, as even if you build in trust mechanisms (and Amazon surely does this already), the scammers will build networks of self-reinforcing bots. You could calibrate the system to heavily discount reviews of reviewers which have any "scam" tags, but then the networks would just take longer to build, leaving legit reviews to build up trust, and then leaving false reviews after having built up that trust. These cat and mouse games will go on a long time.
The same issues happen across every open network where identity isn't verified. As much as I (and others historically) have benefited from pseudonymity, it's definitely being weaponized (Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, etc) to benefit certain entities (companies, governments, etc), and the ultimate result is a loss of trust in the networks at large. I don't know what the solution will be, but the solution will be incredibly valuable.
I've thought about some sort of hybrid account handle system where you have one account that has two handles associated with it -- one, your real-world name, and another your pseudonym, but the single account is verified by real-world ID. As a contributor to the network, you could post as your pseudonym or your real world name, depending on the contribution that you are comfortable making, and as a consumer of the network, you could choose at any time to only view content of the network posted by real-world names, or pseudonyms. This would limit the number of possible astroturfed accounts, but still allow for sensitive discussion of heated matters.
Just throwing the idea out there because the need for some kind of solution to this destruction in network quality is something that affects us all.
It has gotten awful. Every single time I've searched for a generic product (or even a specific brand + model), I'm inundated with these nonsense branded listings. I'm very close to canceling my Prime membership.
I think the best thing that Amazon has accomplished is pushing other retailers to improve their fulfillment process. Just yesterday, instead of dealing with the endless stream of copycat products on Amazon, I purchased a bunch of running gear directly from Nike and it was shipped in less than 12 hours.
Nice to see, that the main stream media takes note of services like https://reviewmeta.com/ . There is also https://www.fakespot.com/ . Both services show, how bad Amazons filter for fake reviews really are. I still believe Amazon is basically doing nothing to prevent fake reviews.
Amazon needs to disallow unverified reviews. Their current acceptance is a holdover from a time where people were much more likely to have bought a product somewhere other than Amazon. Amazon needed these outside reviews to curate its own offerings and give customers confidence in their shopping choices. That hasn't been the case for a decade now. Amazon should delete all non-verified reviews entirely.
As everyone's pointing out, this problem seems to have exploded in the past 1-2 years.
I myself had a few trivial counterfeit purchases (batteries, lightbulbs) and one serious one: a ladder. The rung snapped out from under me, and it was dumb luck that I wasn't seriously injured. Anyhow, it's time to move on. Amazon is moving into advertising, and the convenience no longer outweighs the other costs.
The many problems with Amazon reviews are hardly news to most of us on HN, I'm sure. What is noteworthy, though, is to see such a report make the front page of the BBC News site. I think we easily forget just how little public awareness there is of issues that are obvious to us as "insiders" in the tech world. Anything that helps to raise awareness, even just a little, is welcome.
I bought some cologne from Amazon, (seller was listed as "Amazon") which turned out to be fake. The scent was wrong, the bottle... except the box which seemed authentic but had the barcode excised with a razor and covered up with a sticker.
When I left a straightforward review, it was taken down with no explanation and no recourse. I called and got a refund, but the fake 5-star reviews are all still up.
Forgive me for being naive, but isn't this an easy problem to solve? Amazon tracks shipments, I assume. Couldn't they just create a mechanism where a completed shipment gives the purchaser one allowance for adding a review? This way you can only review if Amazon has verified that you bought the product.
How it typically works is the company requests that you buy the product and tells you they will refund your purchase if you leave a 5 star review. On Amazons side it looks like these people really did buy the product. Fake reviewers get paid in free stuff and the company just uses their marketing budget to give stuff away.
I've even been offered free products by a retailer that I have purchased an item from - 'Free Dash Cam' read the email subject line and provided me with all of the instruction with what to do, and a copy and pastable bit of text to use aswell - I reported this to Amazon, and gave them copies of the emails etc too.
Is there any facet of human society that hasn't been subverted by the relentless pursuit of profit?
Other than heavy-handed regulation (like verifying each and every account as unique), some form of guaranteed minimum income may be the only way to buffer people from resorting to such deceptive tactics in order to get by in the world.
This article talks about unverified purchases, but in my experience, a lot of verified purchases are also fake. I have stopped trusting positive reviews and only go through the negative reviews and assess the product.
How to spot fake reviews - They are long, explain the product in detail and similar to other fake reviews.
This is why I just pretend 5 star reviews don't exist. I figure all the other reviews are probably legit and look at them. If all the other reviews are 1 or 2 star I'm not going to buy it. If there are 4 star and 3 star reviews it's probably decent.
Fake reviews are common on Airbnb.com as well. New hosts just request their friends to book their house and then pay them back for the same. In this case Airbnb may even benefit (unlike Amazon) since they receive their non-refundable fee when a friend books the house.
It's not just Amazon its everything. Companies spend large quantities of money on media control, we all know this. I probably a hand full of media companies in the USA, China, and India that are selling a review control service.
Yeah and I feel the bots or human assisted bots are getting more and more sophisticated. Even here on hacker news it feels like there is something less organic than before about posts and comments rankings.
It may be that I am getting old and that the culture has changed but I'm not sure...
If I was to setup such a service I would have a simple text bot scanning popular sites for occurrences of my brand name and when a hit occurs it would make an Amazon Mechanical Turk ticket so that workers in Nepal could log a system that cycles accounts to that service so that they can leave a good review to counter the bad one. 10 cents a "counter" review. Why spend a bunch of money for in-organic robo-reviews when you can have real people writing reviews for dirt cheap.
A second service would be to have Americans pressure a site to have detrimental user content removed. For example, if someone starts a thread about how the name of my product was stolen from an indigenous community's recipe, our service would nip that in the bud.
Your brand management department would love us. These services already exist.
This is the sound of one of the AI bubbles going POP
Expect more frequency to come. Expect it to overcorrect so that AI is a dirty word sometime soon and fantastic uses of statistical learning will be poison in funding. It's all so predictable even an algo can see it coming.
I’ve commented on how scammy Amazon is multiple times on here. For whatever reason I feel like there are more people on HN ready to defend Amazon than not and call out those who say it’s become scammy as “overreacting.”
Like everything else online, do your research. I assume we all know plenty of people who have taken online reviews at face value, I have done it myself. Like most other things on the internet, they can be faked. It is sad that people take advantage of good faith systems like this and do not feel the consequences.
Side note: Having the consumer group be named "Which?" and to include the question mark in it makes it jolting to read in the middle of a sentence. I can't tell if I like the name or dislike it a lot.
There are many categories where this advice sounds a lot easier than it is. There’s a whole industry creating fake review sites, farming things out to people for favorable social media reviews, etc. and it takes a non-trivial amount of time and skill to figure out which sources are reliable. As long as the internet runs on advertising there’s no reason to expect this to get easier since companies like Google make considerable amounts of money from all of those ads.
While I agree with you, I am not sure what the alternative you are searching for is. Either you don't buy it, or put in enough diligence to find out more about the product you are purchasing. I would assume a normal person would put in the amount of effort that somewhat equates to the value of what they are buying. I would never spend days researching the best brand of umbrella to buy (not knocking umbrellas) but I would if it was a mouse or maybe keyboard. The mouse has a higher perceived value to me and makes it worth it. Also, word of mouth is still relevant and probably always will be. If my friends/family enjoy a product, I am inclined to believe I will too.