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Old 08-28-2019, 10:35 AM   #1
Apache
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Why You Should Beware of Amazon's 4 & 5 Star Reviews

Per Consumer Reports Article
Quote:
Consumer Reports’ latest investigation has found that a loophole in Amazon policy lets sellers hijack other company’s positive ratings to boost their own product’s image. Here’s how it works: An unscrupulous Amazon seller finds well-reviewed products, scoops up those positive customer ratings, then dumps them under their own review section to boost their star ratings.
Maybe you’ve noticed it. You’re looking at headphones, but the positive reviews below include unrelated items such as dish soap, garbage bags, and vitamins. These hijacked reviews can even earn 1-star rated products the coveted ‘Amazon’s Choice’ label – tricking you into thinking you’re buying a well-reviewed product!
This latest revelation adds to the growing concern that Amazon doesn't have control over the quality and safety of many of the products sold on its site. Just last month, Consumer Reports uncovered that various bike helmets being sold on Amazon failed to meet federal safety standards, and sellers only removed them after we contacted them.
I did not post a link to the article since it is behind a paywall.
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Old 08-28-2019, 10:51 AM   #2
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The WSJ is running a series of articles on the Big Tech companies and some of their issues. Last week, they had some articles that focused on Amazon and it's long time policy of basically abdicating their catalog management to the various sellers. It's something that I've complained about with regards to ebooks for a long time.

Amazon has long had issues with sellers gaming the review process. It's an natural by product of Amazon's business model. In general, if a product is over a certain amount of money, I don't use Amazon's internal comparisons or ratings to decide what to buy.
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Old 08-28-2019, 11:03 AM   #3
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Or, I don't know ... maybe just don't give much credit to reviews that "include unrelated items such as dish soap, garbage bags, and vitamins" when you're looking at headphones?

A modicum of common sense (not to mention due diligence) will always be required when vetting potential online purchases.

Are people really silly enough to not peruse the actual content of some reviews before clicking the buy button?

What would be "better?" Having to decide whether to buy something sight-unseen with absolutely no customer review system whatsoever? Or having a customer review system (albeit inherently game-able) to assist them? I guarantee that more people would be getting duped with the former.

Last edited by DiapDealer; 08-28-2019 at 11:08 AM.
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Old 08-28-2019, 11:22 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by DiapDealer View Post
What would be "better?" Having to decide whether to buy something sight-unseen with absolutely no customer review system whatsoever? Or having a customer review system (albeit inherently game-able) to assist them? I guarantee that more people would be getting duped with the former.
Or how about a review system that isn't so easy to game? The problem of reviews being copied to other products sounds like something that can and should be fixed.
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Old 08-28-2019, 11:41 AM   #5
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Old 08-28-2019, 11:42 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DiapDealer View Post
Or, I don't know ... maybe just don't give much credit to reviews that "include unrelated items such as dish soap, garbage bags, and vitamins" when you're looking at headphones?

A modicum of common sense (not to mention due diligence) will always be required when vetting potential online purchases.

Are people really silly enough to not peruse the actual content of some reviews before clicking the buy button?
The article says: "An unscrupulous Amazon seller finds well-reviewed products, scoops up those positive customer ratings, then dumps them under their own review section to boost their star ratings."

If the latter part is true, the boosted star rating will appear in the listings. It will be visible when the reviews of unrelated items aren't.

If every seller started doing this, it would break the rating system entirely. It is therefore a flawed system, regardless of common sense.
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Old 08-28-2019, 11:43 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by rkomar View Post
Or how about a review system that isn't so easy to game?
I'm all for it. Unfortunately that's a constantly moving target. The game evolves in lockstep with the system. I'm merely noting that the worst review system imaginable still puts customers in a much better position to make informed decisions than no review system whatsoever. Whingeing that "it should be better" is a fairly pointless endeavor for the most part. Especially considering that it's been a steady diet of "better than it used to be" all along. *shrug*
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Old 08-28-2019, 11:51 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HYPE View Post
The article says: "An unscrupulous Amazon seller finds well-reviewed products, scoops up those positive customer ratings, then dumps them under their own review section to boost their star ratings."

If the latter part is true, the boosted star rating will appear in the listings. It will be visible when the reviews of unrelated items aren't.

If every seller started doing this, it would break the rating system entirely. It is therefore a flawed system, regardless of common sense.
That's not how I read it.
Quote:
scoops up those positive customer ratings, then dumps them under their own review section to boost their star ratings.
The "scoop" includes the mention of the unrelated products in the individual reviews. They would still appear in the individual reviews. Only the star average and the breakdown of the star-ratings for said product would be artificially boosted. Someone's review that "these bags didn't leak a bit!" would still be visible (and highly suspect) under the headphones' reviews (otherwise why did they mention this fact at all?). And as I said: who purchases based on nothing other than the overall star rating?

Even under the flawed system, they still have more tools available to them to spot unscrupulous sellers and questionable products than they ever have in the past.

Last edited by DiapDealer; 08-28-2019 at 11:54 AM.
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Old 08-28-2019, 08:22 PM   #9
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Another possible way to avoid getting burned is to stick with well known names and try to decide between the best of those. E.g., if you're buying a frying pan you could limit your choices to Calphalon, Cuisinart, All Clad, etc.
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Old 08-29-2019, 08:08 AM   #10
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Another possible way to avoid getting burned is to stick with well known names and try to decide between the best of those. E.g., if you're buying a frying pan you could limit your choices to Calphalon, Cuisinart, All Clad, etc.
Unless of course it's a seller who is dealing counterfeit merchandise, which can be an issue with electronics. Amazon does shut them down when they get complaints. Once again, it's a natural result of Amazon's business model.
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Old 08-29-2019, 09:51 AM   #11
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Unless of course it's a seller who is dealing counterfeit merchandise, which can be an issue with electronics. Amazon does shut them down when they get complaints. Once again, it's a natural result of Amazon's business model.
Not just electronics; also designer merchandise and health and beauty products, among others. The only real protection against fake goods is to eschew third party sellers.
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Old 08-29-2019, 10:14 AM   #12
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The only real protection against fake goods is to eschew third party sellers.
While I prefer Sold by Amazon/Fulfilled by Amazon (even if it's a little pricier), I will occasionally settle for merely Fulfilled by Amazon (provided the seller's reputation is sufficiently high, and didn't begin to be tracked yesterday). But buy something that doesn't ship from an Amazon facility and isn't covered by Amazon's return policy?? That's not happening. No matter how high the product's star rating is, or how much cheaper it is than the alternatives.
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Old 08-29-2019, 10:28 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by lumpynose View Post
Another possible way to avoid getting burned is to stick with well known names and try to decide between the best of those. E.g., if you're buying a frying pan you could limit your choices to Calphalon, Cuisinart, All Clad, etc.
With cookware I tend to look to America's Test Kitchen to see if they have tested the items I am looking to buy. For most other things I look first at Consumer Reports. Even with both of these I still do further research before I buy.
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Old 08-29-2019, 11:11 AM   #14
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While I prefer Sold by Amazon/Fulfilled by Amazon (even if it's a little pricier), I will occasionally settle for merely Fulfilled by Amazon (provided the seller's reputation is sufficiently high, and didn't begin to be tracked yesterday). But buy something that doesn't ship from an Amazon facility and isn't covered by Amazon's return policy?? That's not happening. No matter how high the product's star rating is, or how much cheaper it is than the alternatives.
Yes, it is just middle-class eBay.
I wish there was a reliable way to filter searches to only ever show Fulfilled by Amazon items, the rest might as well not exist for me.
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Old 08-29-2019, 11:23 AM   #15
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I have my own reliable rating system. Works really good and I am almost always happy with my purchases ..
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