Murky Business of Chinese Merchandise on Amazon’s US Site

As Amazon “aggressively recruited Chinese manufacturers and merchants” to sell to US consumers, its China team “saw increasing patterns of fraud, counterfeits and unsafe products.” But consumers have no clue where the sellers are and where the products came from.

Everybody who buys enough on Amazon has noticed this: Buyer beware!

You get a mix of Amazon’s own merchandise and the third-party market place, which accounts for over half of Amazon’s physical gross merchandise sales. You’re surrounded by good merchandise, fakes, and dangerous products made overseas. There are legit sellers, legit manufacturers, and dubious sellers and manufacturers. You don’t know who or where the seller or manufacturer is because they don’t have to disclose it, including many sellers in China. It’s all there, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and buyers have to sort it out on their own. Even many of the product reviews are fake.

We’ve had good experiences too: We bought a set of cotton sheets via the Amazon platform from the manufacturer in India. Because it cut out all the middlemen, except the Amazon platform, the price was a fraction of the price of similar-quality sheets – also made in India – at a big-name US department store. And we got it a couple of days after ordering it. That’s one end of the spectrum.

The other end of the spectrum is more sordid.

The Wall Street Journal has been investigating the products on the Amazon platform listed by Chinese vendors. In today’s episode of the sordid saga, it explained the magnitude of the issue, as Amazon has for years “aggressively recruited Chinese manufacturers and merchants” to sell their products outside China:

A new product listing is uploaded to Amazon from China every 1/50th of a second, according to slides its officials showed a December conference in the industrial port city of Ningbo.

And there are issues with this push to recruit Chinese sellers, the WSJ pointed out, citing a prior investigative article:

The Journal earlier this year uncovered 10,870 items for sale between May and August that have been declared unsafe by federal agencies, are deceptively labeled, lacked federally-required warnings, or are banned by federal regulators. Amazon said it investigated the items, and some listings were taken down after the Journal’s reporting.

Of 1,934 sellers whose addresses could be determined, 54% were based in China, according to a Journal analysis of data from research firm Marketplace Pulse.

In the US, Amazon doesn’t require sellers to disclose their location, and unless sellers voluntarily disclose it, Americans have no idea where the sellers are. But Mexico does require the disclosure of the seller’s location. And by combing through this data on Amazon’s Mexican website, the WSJ and Marketplace Pulse were able to identify the same sellers on the US site as being in China.

New data via Marketplace Pulse, cited by the WSJ, found that “among the 10,000 most-reviewed accounts on Amazon’s U.S. site whose locations could be determined in October, about 38% were in China,” up from 25% three years ago.

Fakes and knock-offs galore.

The WSJ cited some examples of fake products, including a duvet by a seller in China, claiming “100% Fill With Goose Down.” The WSJ bought one and had it tested: It was filled with cheap duck feathers. And it sold for a lot less than the real-goose-down duvets made in Canada, but US consumers didn’t realize that this deal of a lifetime was a fake.

The WSJ obtained Amazon’s response to the article, which is the canned corporate-speak you’d expect:

“Bad actors make up a tiny fraction of activity in our store and, like honest sellers, can come from every corner of the world. Regardless of where they are based, we work hard to stop bad actors before they can impact the shopping or selling experience in our store.”

Amazon said it took enforcement action on the duvet seller and that its products were no longer for sale on the site. The seller’s listings appeared to be gone from Amazon’s U.S. site as of last week.

But the fake duvet didn’t disappear from Amazon’s US website until after the WSJ confronted Amazon with it. The aggrieved real-goose-down-duvet maker in Canada, who’d been selling its duvets on Amazon since 2014, and whose business has been hurt by the cheap fakes, hadn’t been able to get Amazon to remove the fakes from its site.

It’s hard for US companies to sue the sellers and makers of fakes listed on Amazon because often they cannot even determine where the seller is since Amazon doesn’t disclose this information.

Not our problem.

Amazon has denied liability for the products sold on its platform, even if they violate US safety and other regulations. WSJ sites a legal case:

Amazon buyer Irvin R. Love Jr. of Georgia bought a hoverboard on Amazon in November 2015 that caught fire and burned down his home, according to a suit he filed February 2018 against Amazon, the seller and others, in Georgia federal court. In an amended complaint this year he alleged that Amazon was negligent for not removing the hoverboard from its website before Mr. Love’s purchase. Amazon argued in a legal filing that it doesn’t owe damages because it didn’t design, manufacture or sell the hoverboard.

Mr. Love also sued the seller, Panda Town, which his lawyer, Darren Penn, said appeared to be a Chinese company, based on sales information. Mr. Penn said that he can’t locate the seller and that Amazon declined to provide its location.

Growth at all cost – that’s the motto, and Amazon’s platform for third-party sellers is the ideal vehicle where it claims it can dodge responsibilities that retailers in the US face.

But, perhaps seeing what might come at it in the future, Amazon is now including this among the risk factors in its annual 10-K filing with the SEC, under the headline, “We Could Be Liable for Fraudulent or Unlawful Activities of Sellers”:

The law relating to the liability of online service providers is currently unsettled. In addition, governmental agencies could require changes in the way this business is conducted.

Under our seller programs, we may be unable to prevent sellers from collecting payments, fraudulently or otherwise, when buyers never receive the products they ordered or when the products received are materially different from the sellers’ descriptions.

We also may be unable to prevent sellers in our stores or through other stores from selling unlawful, counterfeit, pirated, or stolen goods, selling goods in an unlawful or unethical manner, violating the proprietary rights of others, or otherwise violating our policies.

And it fretted in the filing that “we could face civil or criminal liability for unlawful activities by our sellers.”

The WSJ cites Zhao Weiming in Guangzhou, who claimed to sell $50 million a year in cosmetics and essential oils on Amazon. The products are made for him at factories in China under the name Lagunamoon. On the US Amazon page, consumers see no indication that the products are made in China, or that the seller is in China. The WSJ:

Listings for some popular Lagunamoon essential oils claimed they were U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved, until the Journal raised the matter with Amazon and Mr. Zhao in early November.

An FDA spokesman said essential oils wouldn’t meet the agency’s definition of an approved product, although it was possible some component—a dye, say—might be approved.

Mr. Zhao said FDA requirements are complex and he didn’t want to use tens of thousands of words to explain.

Amazon said [after being confronted by the WSJ] it was investigating the case and would take proper action.

“Concerns at Amazon about Chinese listings arose several years ago in its China team, which noticed that as local sellers flocked to the platform, it saw increasing patterns of fraud, counterfeits and unsafe products,” the WSJ said, citing former Amazon employees in China.

But even product reviews won’t help sort it out as counterfeits and fake reviews “have all gone through the roof with the rise of Chinese sellers,” the WSJ said, citing Chris McCabe, an investigator for Amazon until 2012, now a consultant helping Amazon sellers counter illicit competition.

These fake reviews are designed to manipulate the Amazon algo to boost the listing of the products to get them in front of customers’ eyes.

To get products from China and other countries into the hands of US consumers faster, Amazon offers sellers its logistics system, “Dragonboat,” for a fee. Goods are brought from China, India, and other countries to Amazon fulfillment centers in the US, where they sit on a shelf until a customer in the US orders the merchandise. The customer receives it a couple of days later in an Amazon box, not knowing it came from China.

Paying the University-Corporate-Financial Complex and the big bifurcation. Read… The State of the American Debt Slaves, Q3 2019

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  130 comments for “Murky Business of Chinese Merchandise on Amazon’s US Site

  1. Vespa P200E
    Nov 11, 2019 at 9:07 pm

    “Growth at all cost – that’s the motto at Amazon, and its platform for third-party sellers is the ideal vehicle where it claims it can dodge all responsibilities.”

    Heard AMZN ruined some reputable sellers based in US and sounds like they became the conduit to shady Chinese sellers to proliferate to boost their revenue and fleeting profit. Add to this litany of fake reviews galore…

    Caveat emptor for all on-line buyers.

    • 2banana
      Nov 12, 2019 at 12:05 am

      Just like:

      Uber
      Airbnb
      Facebook
      Twitter
      Etc.

      Seems to be a pattern.

      “where it claims it can dodge all responsibilities.”

      • 91B20 1stCav (AUS)
        Nov 12, 2019 at 11:54 pm

        …The pattern of privatizing all profit while socializing all attendant risk (or, modern capitalism for you).

        May we all find that better day.

      • Sheilarwashington
        Nov 21, 2019 at 5:40 pm

        Yep! Drive out th 2:30p legitimate and then, “Look out!”

    • Greg
      Nov 12, 2019 at 3:08 am

      Completely agree, it’s the same in the UK – don’t ever buy a battery of any sort, I have 2 “apple” batteries & some rechargeables at a total cost of about 150 USD – none work. No interest by Amazon – so I rarely use them anymore.

      • nhz
        Nov 12, 2019 at 3:14 pm

        I regularly buy OEM Li-ion camera batteries from Ebay for 10-15% of the price the camera manufacturer is asking. Many of these are sold on both Ebay and Amazon. I have never had a real problem, sometimes capacity spec is a bit too optimistic or performance under heavy load is slightly less, but they all worked fine. YMMV …

    • fajensen
      Nov 12, 2019 at 5:02 am

      Crazy theory:

      Maybe Amazon decided to ‘bust out the joint’? The new business plan for the Amazon store is to rake in as much as possible as fast as possible to pump the numbers before selling the husk off to ‘private equity’ (or go bust with as much debt as possible)?

      Amazon does this now, because with them having won the ‘MIL-SEC cloud’ contract, the logical next-move is to repurpose their logistics service towards ‘MIL-SEC fulfilment’.

      If this is the goal, they have the problem of the renowned low-margin Amazon store business competing with the supposedly high-margin ‘MIL-SEC fulfilment’ service for ‘logistics bandwidth’, so store ‘bandwidth’ has to be throttled.

      OTOH, one does not just drop a successful business in which billions have been invested. There is a rational process. First one must make sure that ‘the numbers’ becomes indisputable in favour of shutting down a clearly unsuccessful business. The normal tools used by management, underinvestment and incompetent leadership, could take years to work.

      Adding looting and fraud leads to a faster resolution process and is a lot more fun, especially if ‘Evil Chinese’ can be blamed for the criminal parts and the ‘bust-out management team’ only need to deliver on the normal underinvestment and incompetence.

      • David G LA
        Nov 12, 2019 at 5:50 pm

        I thought Microsoft won that military cloud contract?

        • morticia
          Nov 12, 2019 at 11:01 pm

          It’s doesn’t really matter, the Amazon-Services is now much bigger in profit margin than reselling junk.

          Amazon&Google are now the IntelQ CIA/NSA tools for storing all spy data on earth,

          PURE PROFIT, unlimited fiat for all.

          Reselling books and chinese junk are chllds business models.

        • California Bob
          Nov 13, 2019 at 12:23 am

          They did.

    • Dale
      Nov 12, 2019 at 11:48 am

      It truly is ‘caveat emptor’. Or maybe ’emptor ne vigilanti’.

      If a buyer can discern a problem, they can send it back for free. Earlier this year, I bought an inexpensive WiFi repeater averaging 5-star ratings on Amazon. (It turns out those ratings were faked, and somebody at Amazon removed the lower ratings. Nice.) And returned it immediately.

      I recently replaced a pool pump. On Amazon, that pump is $600. On Amazon, all the parts required to make that pump totaled $250. (That is because the pump motor is still relatively new.) Everything works fine now.

      This is no excuse for Amazon’s lax policies. But it is a way to work with them.

  2. Joe
    Nov 11, 2019 at 9:21 pm

    Trust on a multitude of levels has broken down and getting worse. Too many companies involved have over the decades gone cheaper, switched ingredients, shortened the packaging or ignored safety for profits.
    You see this all over in everything.
    You can’t even be certain the medicines and injections are safe anymore.

    • Kent
      Nov 12, 2019 at 6:34 am

      The American people of been demanding deregulation for decades. Enjoy it.

      • Unamused
        Nov 12, 2019 at 6:51 am

        Irresponsible corporatists have been demanding deregulation for decades. It inhibits profiteering.

        FIFY.

      • Mark_2
        Nov 12, 2019 at 10:03 am

        “…deregulation…”
        True, but it’s just one of many systems out of balance. Too much/too little. When we start working together that’s when issues get resolved…for awhile.

        • Mark_2
          Nov 12, 2019 at 3:01 pm

          I ran across this quote that explains better what I meant when I say “balance.”

          “Tao” meaning the study of how stuff works from a time before television!
          ———–
          Only the Tao provides a common human law of action which can over-arch rulers and ruled alike. A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery.”

          [Full Quote below]
          “We have been trying, like Lear, to have it both ways: to lay down our human prerogative and yet at the same time to retain it. It is impossible. Either we are rational spirit obliged for ever to obey the absolute values of the Tao, or else we are mere nature to be kneaded and cut into new shapes for the pleasures of masters who must, by hypothesis, have no motive but their own ‘natural’ impulses. Only the Tao provides a common human law of action which can over-arch rulers and ruled alike. A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery.”
          ― C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

      • Jon
        Nov 12, 2019 at 12:00 pm

        I would argue that it isn’t deregulation. Denninger claims Amazon is violating anti-trust law by using its web services profit to fund its failing retail in order to push out competitors.

        If this is the case, then it is the fault of our leaders and not deregulation.

    • Petunia
      Nov 12, 2019 at 9:18 am

      I only shop discount and it’s just as well because the quality of branded goods is down sharply. I just saw a handbag on sale at the discount branch of a major department store. The bag is a luxury brand but it is no longer made from leather, now they are made from PVC. I own an old original, so I know they were leather made in Germany. Now they are “coated canvas,” which is PVC, and made in Korea. Even at the 40% off discounted price it is overpriced.

      • BradK
        Nov 12, 2019 at 10:28 am

        I was thinking the very same thing. While AMZ is certainly a major conduit in the 21st century consumer product life cycle of China -> U.S. Consumer -> U.S. landfill, selling off-brand absolute garbage, many of the venerated brands that we all grew up are in the same race to the bottom. A fancy — and expensive — label no longer guarantees the quality it once did, only the price.

        Buying on line without first being able to inspect and handle the merchandise only enables and accelerates this trend.

      • Dale
        Nov 12, 2019 at 11:49 am

        Sounds like private equity has absorbed that brand.
        Everytime a brand becomes shoddy, I check. It’s always PE.

        • California Bob
          Nov 13, 2019 at 12:26 am

          Now PE wants Walgreen’s. Check your prescriptions.

        • Nov 13, 2019 at 12:55 am

          KKR may end up with all the prescription data.

        • Mike G
          Nov 14, 2019 at 2:16 am

          When PE buys a company, you can bet the product quality is going straight down the drain. Because under PE the product is short-term profit, and everything else is expendable.

  3. bruce lee
    Nov 11, 2019 at 9:23 pm

    People don’t realize that Baba is 10x bigger than AMZN

    In ASIA Taobao (BABA) is aliexpress, lazada, alibaba, and many other company’s, they also own bitmain, which makes 99% of all crypto-mining hw on earth, they also own the mining farms in China. This means they get first cut at all new mining, then ship the HW out to the public when difficulty rises. It means that no matter where you mine on earth, they know everything, because their boxes ‘call home’

    I have always thought that in time, when crypto’s go live, its funny that China will have the monopoly, that people will work for bitcoin, and spend it at the company store ( alibaba ), …

    AMZN problem is that they have the USA market, which is dying, and BABA is a 10X or more customer base, Africa, MENA, SE-ASiA, all of Asia, its all owned by Baba.

    Then there is Alipay, which is cash-less society, also owned by BABA, and they don’t care if you trade Bitcoin(or any crypto ) or USD or Yuan.

    Now to the bad, Alibaba has gone 180 terrible this year, almost 90% of my purchases I have problems, and its near impossible to get a refund, and even if you go to your USA credit card company, it turns out that many of the charge-backs companys that handle the arbitration have been bought by BABA, it can take six months or more to get your money back, and they’ll just re-issue the charge, buy a ‘drone’ but the bill shows up as a restaurant, or grocery charge; This is very clever because everybody knows its hard to get your money back, after you eat the meal.

    Here’s another deal with BABA, there no humans, its all done now by AI-Chat-Bot ( BABA leads the world in AI ), they bought the entire Stanford Team and shipped them to Shenzhen.

    Sof if you have a problem, if you to spend days with a bot doing the circular conversation, its the old ‘wear you out’ game of getting your money back.

    Up until this year I was always 99% success with all alibaba/lazada/aliexpress purchases, this year its like 80% of the time, it doesn’t get shipped ( but I get the bill ), it arrives but doesn’t work, or it gets seized by customs because they cheat the system ( infinite scams here )

    • Vespa P200E
      Nov 11, 2019 at 10:32 pm

      “Alibaba has gone 180 terrible this year, almost 90% of my purchases I have problems, and its near impossible to get a refund, and even if you go to your USA credit card company, it turns out that many of the charge-backs companys that handle the arbitration have been bought by BABA”

      Ma left the mantle as BABA is becoming source of the scam perpetrating theft of its customers – so typical of Chinese ways of working…

    • MCH
      Nov 12, 2019 at 1:54 am

      Uh, comrade Bruce, are you shilling for BABA because you own their stock or something? Because if so, Pony would disagree with your assertion that comrade Ma rules the word. Pony thinks Comrade Ma is a short little phony guy who couldn’t conquer the world if he tried, after all, why is Comrade Ma on Wechat if he was so glorious.

      • bruce lee
        Nov 12, 2019 at 4:44 am

        No actually I’m trying to explain that BABA owns Amazon, that the two companys are tied, that all these cheap products sold on Amazon, came from Alibaba in the first place, that BABA owns most of the factorys, and tells people to make this junk. That Amazon & BABA are siamese twins, and that Bezos and Ma were pals back in the day.

        You can’t explain Chinese junk and it being sold by Amazon, unless you understand where it all came from in the first place.

        Amazon & Baba are working together as a team to rip off each others customers.

        But this fact that BABA is 10x bigger than Amazon, needs to be remembered, and that fact that Baba’s customer base is 10x or more bigger than Amazon’s, and you just know Amazon wants to expand into the ASAN markets.

        But the over all trend here is bad quality, no refund, no recourse

        Thus it is safe to say that ONLINE-SHOPPING could very well be on its death-bed in future years.

        Right Now its like they’re stuffing all the returns and JUNK into the system; It’s like they know the gig is UP.

        Lastly, the CCP asked Jack Ma to join the CCP, and be the technical leader, this is the highest thing a person could do in China, and Jack Ma had no choice, but to step down from Taobao, and go into the CCP.

        p.s. Yes, I do own BABA stock, but only because I missed out on the AMZN scam back in the 1990’s, and I figure this will be much in the same.

        You need not worry about selling-junk, as most of BABA’s biz now is stuff like ‘Alipay’, and as you might know, its replaced cash in China, and most of ASIA.

        I see Baba as the ultimate company store, you will work for them, buy from them, and they’ll pay you in crypto that they ‘mined’, not a bad racket

        The writing is on the wall, and the key’s to kingdom are about time to be handed over, besides Bezo’s doesn’t need to stick around.

        ….

        PONY, CCP rules China, China rules the world and Jack Ma has #2 post, I would call that ruling the world, and most Chinese aren’t even aware of who is who in the CCP. There are only like 100 people chosen, and they’r life appointments.

        I don’t think that CCP brought in Ma because of shopping, they brought him in because he owns the spy-cameras in china, he owns the online-banking platform, and he owns crypto mining hw, some morning your all going to wake up and be told to put alipay on your mobile phone so you can get access to a toilet.

        • Petunia
          Nov 12, 2019 at 9:51 am

          From my understanding Ma doesn’t own anything anymore. He was forced to sign over his holdings to a group of his masters.

        • JackMa2
          Nov 13, 2019 at 7:13 pm

          bruce lee, “some morning your all going to wake up and be told to put alipay on your mobile phone so you can get access to a toilet.” What if I don’t own a smart phone (I have only a flip phone) and I want to take a you-know-what?

        • Mike G
          Nov 14, 2019 at 2:22 am

          Jack Ma also owns the Pro China…er, South China Morning Post, the dominant newspaper in Hong Kong. CCP tentacles in everything.

  4. KMOUT
    Nov 11, 2019 at 9:35 pm

    And, the counterfeiters also enjoy last mile USPS domestic delivery to your home (which of course American manufacturers do not enjoy) due to a 1950 era law that labels China as a developing nation (as Trump tried to alert the dumb ass American consumer to) in an effort to create another market for OUR goods.

    • Vespa P200E
      Nov 11, 2019 at 10:15 pm

      USPS ought to scrap this 70 yr old give-away as it’s giving unfair advantages to the Chinese sellers who can ship stuff for pennies on eBay and other e-tailers while US sellers and consumers/business pay a lot more.

      • alex in San Jose AKA Digital Detroit
        Nov 12, 2019 at 1:08 am

        As an Ebay seller yes, this is a real problem. It’s a better deal for them than Book Rate shipping inside the US, but Book Rate at least has some merit (you may think it’s outdated by try being out in the boonies, blind and needing physical Braille materials, etc).

        A lot of US sellers are saying “ships from USA” now.

        I’m considering trying selling a product on Amazon that will be a quality product, needless to say made here and shipped from here … it will be interesting to see how it goes. All I want is a trickle of sales.

        • RD Blakeslee
          Nov 12, 2019 at 9:44 am

          Some of the best products I have bought, on Amazon, EBay and elsewhere, have their country of origin clearly identified. They are NOT from China. I favor these products and know I pay a premium for them.

          In my case, I think I “get what I pay for”.

          alex, if you’ve read my posts, you have a pretty good idea of the kinds of stuff I buy. Do you think I would use your product? If you do, and can name it here or privately (Wolf can give you my email address), I’ll contribute to your trickle. (-:

        • alex in San Jose AKA Digital Detroit
          Nov 14, 2019 at 3:29 am

          RD – Anyone following my story will know I got sick, very sick, sick enough to go to the emergency room, and find out, however many fat stacks of printed documentation I send back and forth, I am somehow too poor to get medi-cal.

          So I scrimped and saved and paid what I could, and paid the bills I got, and today I found out I’m being charged AGAIN for a bill I’d already paid. They’d cashed the check. (This by the way is why I do everything on paper, I’ll get a copy of the canceled check from my bank to prove it.)

          Now they’re trying to charge me AGAIN. So I need to go back into panic mode. Keep no more than $200 in the bank, and do as little as possible “on the grid”. Needless to say, selling anything on Amazon is very much on the grid, so I won’t be doing that.

          I will make the product I have in mind for myself and that’s it. It’s just a trumpet cleaning tool, nothing that too many people would be ga-ga about.

    • Gandalf
      Nov 12, 2019 at 1:23 pm

      The US did scrap the 1990s era favorable rates for Chinese retail imports about a year ago. Dunno if you’ve noticed, but shipping rates and total costs for stuff from China has gone UP significantly since then, on all platforms- AliExpress, eBay, Amazon.

    • Dave
      Nov 12, 2019 at 6:02 pm

      I didn’t know a law like that was on the books. I didn’t think I was dumb 🙄

  5. bruce lee
    Nov 11, 2019 at 9:39 pm

    Another thing to Remember here is that Jack Ma owner of BABA ( taobao ) is one of the largest holders of AMZN, and likewise Bezos is one of the largest holders of BABA.

    BABA & AMZN are so tied, that its funny to even suggest they’re not siamese twins sharing a common rectum.

    Now Jack Ma is the “Tech Director of Communist Party” that’s why he stepped down, this is equivalent to being director of NSA&CIA in USA. Anything considered by the CCP in China that is TECH, Jack Ma oversee’s.

    AMZN compared to BABA is a minion, people need to understand this, also BABA is miles ahead of AMZN in technology.

    BABA has installed 100’s of millions of cameras in China all with AI, and USA wants this technology, and AMAZ wants to be the seller/shipper to USA-GOV. The AI-Camera boards now sell better than the bit-coin boards, as its the same technology, mining bitcoin/crypto’s, or doing facial recognition, just crunching trillions of numbers, mostly GPU boards, but lots of RISC hw. The Chinese (BABA) used cash-flow of selling bitcoin-miners to west, then used research profits to make image-recognition boards, then improved those boards to mine ALL crypto’s. So now CHINA owns all the crypto’s on the planet, and makes the best AI spy hw on the planet, and the cheapest.

    Coming, worsening depression in USA, means if AMZN wants a customer at all it must be cheap, thus they have no choice here.

    Quality, and trust is GONE, here in ASIA Baba doesn’t care if its suppliers cheat the customer, in fact I have found that most suppliers are owned by BABA. They know that people don’t have a choice, if you want to order online there are only 3-4 companys, and they’re all owned essentially by Jack Ma (CCP).

    USA is a guppy in this big picture these days, INDIA, ASiA, Europe are already engulfed.

    But I guess it makes sense to talk about one of the smallest markets, and a dying market off most peoples radar, … e.g. USA-AMZN

    Service Quality will continue to get worse, until there is no point in an online transaction, at this point it will not matter, you must work for crypto, to order your food onlne, pay your rent online (alipay), food quality may be bad, but you have no choice to use, some people will choose to quit using technology, but like ASIA today and USA tomorrow, it may be hard to find a vendor that takes cash.

    WRT to quality, I think that’s what is going on right now, they’re taking quality to such a low-bar, they’re trying to figure when people quit shopping, if you junk breaks in a day, or doesn’t work at all, do you send it back, or just accept it? I think with all this AI, and lowest price supplier the end result is parasites accepting garbage, and they just ignore those who demand quality. With social-scores administered by same people, who is to say that returning a defective product doesn’t effect your score?

    • RD Blakeslee
      Nov 12, 2019 at 9:51 am

      “… food quality may be bad …”

      Food can be (and is, hereabouts) produced locally. It is very good, indeed!

      As with many other circumstances, avoidance – getting out of “the system” – offers a better life.

      • Frederick
        Nov 12, 2019 at 10:48 am

        I totally agree Buy local or grow it yourself if possible Stay away from Kmart and fast food and you will be healthier for it My neighbor has a small farm and gives me lots of great fruits and Veggies during the season anyway Free range eggs too which are great

  6. Wisdom Seeker
    Nov 11, 2019 at 9:39 pm

    Been burned by this myself – more than once now – and it’s clear Amazon will be losing customers over this. Amazon used to be a quality online bookstore that took care of its customers. But now it’s just a scammy online fleamarket. Even my most recent book purchase turned out to be a scam.

    So Boycott Amazon whenever possible, until they take responsibility for protecting their customers against the evils that are being sold in their marketplace. This isn’t about reimbursements for errors, this is about not allowing others to scam people within the space you control.

    Customers and regulators need to be able to hold vendors accountable for crap products and if Amazon won’t support that, they can go to heck – in a straight line!

    • bruce lee
      Nov 11, 2019 at 9:47 pm

      Well I will say this about AMZN, if I order a laptop, and its defective, they ship another and/or refund same day, with ALIBABA it can take six months and 100’s of hours of BS to get your money back.

      BOOKS are a terrible problem, I order a book a week from AMZN for the titles not found in ASIA shipping is flat $9/book, but the books are shipped in a flimsy bag, 90% of the time the covers are ripped, and the pages bent, no foam, no box, just toss the book in a shipping bag, you can usually tell the quality of the book by other reviewers.

      And of course AMZN does every thing it can to get me to buy KINDLE, which I will not, as I want to HOLD my books and highlight them, but no matter how hard I try, they always return my searches to KINDLE, so I suspect that in time AMZN may just get out of the physical book biz

      Another good is that AMZN still uses humans for customer service, and they’re still good, but seriously how long before they start using the alibaba-bots?

      IMHO in time TAOBAO (BABA) mother company, will must buy AMZN, and probably most of the USA when it goes on fire-sale.

      • alex in San Jose AKA Digital Detroit
        Nov 12, 2019 at 1:15 am

        I’ve had decent luck with Amazon. Had a couple of things simply never arrive, had to call Amazon on the phone, got refunded.

        I know what you mean about the flimsy envelopes, but they’re bubble mailers and not that bad. Heavier things go in boxes. The packing’s a bit slapdash but so far …. good enough.

        One b!tch is ordering a carpentry fixture and getting it back, obviously had been opened and used, then put back into the package incorrectly – it still had sawdust on it too. It didn’t harm the tool in the least, but it was kind of sloppy.

        I’ve had super good luck with returns, so no complaints there.

        Long ago I ordered some trumpet mouthpieces that came from China, and they were truly as crappy as I expected them to be. Nickel plated too, and I’ve got a nickel allergy. They took forever to come, and thinking back I dunno why I ordered the things.

      • RD Blakeslee
        Nov 12, 2019 at 9:58 am

        Amazon is also trying to force its Prime members out of using their TVs to display their movies and videos.

        Recently received the message onscreen: “Amazon no longer supports the device you are using”. Then (paraphrasing): “See our sales pages for an appropriate device”.

        • Eferg
          Nov 12, 2019 at 3:57 pm

          I had a similar experience. Rented a movie and the TV displayed an error message. Spent almost the next two hours being hassled by Amazon. Was told that TV’s operating system was no longer supported (it is a four year old major brand TV). I told Amazon that they promised my movies would always be available and that promise was broken so refund all my movie purchases. Fat chance of that #1. Then send me DVD versions of all those movies. Fat chance of that #2.

          Oh, but wait, Amazon sells a Fire TV Stick you can plug in to your TV. Great! Send me one of those at your expense. Fat chance of that #3. After a great deal more hassle, Amazon gave me a $25 “courtesy” credit on a $35 purchase. I will say that the “Stick” works better than the TV’s system.

      • Jon
        Nov 12, 2019 at 12:40 pm

        Bruce,

        It sounds like you don’t have a problem with Amazon, but FYI, often the book resellers have their own websites, where you can buy the book without giving money to Amazon.

        Another option is half-price books. Many of the amazon resellers are also on HPB’s website.

      • Dave
        Nov 12, 2019 at 6:06 pm

        Are you the real Bruce Lee or a cheap knock off copy?

    • Petunia
      Nov 12, 2019 at 10:23 am

      Try Edward R Hamilton Booksellers for discount books: hamiltonbook.com.

      I have been buying books from them for decades. They don’t have everything, they sell overstocks and closeouts. I highly recommend them, they are EXTREMELY reputable. They are based in the state of Connecticut and I don’t know if they ship internationally, but take a look.

    • Zantetsu
      Nov 12, 2019 at 1:13 pm

      I dunno … I buy almost everything except groceries on Amazon, and have done so for years. My good experiences have far, far outweighed my bad experiences, and things seem no worse to me now than they were in years past. I am good at evaluating products though; I can usually tell when reviews are fake or real, and I take real reviews seriously, so I very often get exactly what I thought I was getting.

      • Zantetsu
        Nov 12, 2019 at 1:21 pm

        Example: my son bought a used iPhone on Amazon last week. I was a bit worried about it given that the reviews were hit and miss on whether or not the phone would be good quality. But anyone with any experience with Amazon knows that they lump all reviews of the same product together even if they come from different vendors. When I first ordered it I saw that the vendor that it was coming from had 10% negative reviews over the past 30 days, so I cancelled the order and made another one and got a much better vendor with like 1% negative over the past 30 days.

        The phone arrived quickly and looked so perfectly brand new that I could not believe it was used. And it’s working flawlessly.

  7. Brant Lee
    Nov 11, 2019 at 10:10 pm

    Watch out for fakes galore on silver and gold coins on Amazon as well on Ebay. Unless you are a seasoned collector, don’t buy. A reputable bullion dealer is much safer. PCGS and NGC coin grading services plastic holders are also being faked from China.
    Amazon and Ebay: have there been two entities in history that have sold more stolen or counterfeit merchandise?

    • Vespa P200E
      Nov 11, 2019 at 10:27 pm

      Good point as I almost bought 1 oz Perth Mint gold bar packaged in assay card from eBay. eBay and Amazone allow FAKE silver and gold-plated American Eagles till they are flagged. That is why I stopped buying silver A Eagles altogether even from the reputable eBay bullion dealers.

      APMEX was my fave dealer for years till they began to charges Cali sale tax starting 4/1 and as of 10/1 eBay charges sales tax across the board for CA residents. I ship the silver and gold eBay purchases to WA address to avoid sale tax.

      Certain popular coins are counterfeited with fake NGC/PCGS cases from where else but China. There are some good youtube videos on how to distinguish fake plastic holding cases.

      • RD Blakeslee
        Nov 12, 2019 at 10:01 am

        For the uninitiated (me), I think it’s hard to go wrong with junk silver. Impossible to counterfeit profitably.

        • Frederick
          Nov 12, 2019 at 10:51 am

          You are truly a man of wisdom Mr Blakeslee I like how you think and yes junk silver will be perfect if and when the SHTF

    • alex in San Jose AKA Digital Detroit
      Nov 12, 2019 at 1:16 am

      Ouch! However, I see this more as a metals and coins environment risk than an Ebay or Amazon risk. Fake coins go wayyyy back.

      • nick kelly
        Nov 12, 2019 at 2:28 pm

        In the late 19 century there was an attempt to regulate the ratio between gold and silver by something called the Latin Union. It fixed it at around 16: 1 making silver much more valuable than today.
        The arrangement collapsed when both Greece and the Papal States (then ruling a swath of Italy) were caught minting debased silver coins.

    • Vespa P200E
      Nov 12, 2019 at 9:37 am

      10% cashback via eBay Bucks (including certain gold coins( in next 2 days for those who received offer! Just picked up another gold coin with 10% discount.

      What is the Promotion?
      10% in eBay Bucks on every qualifying item of $50 or more (the “Promotion”).

      Who’s eligible?
      Only invited, registered eBay Bucks participants who receive the promotional offer from eBay in My Messages are eligible. Sorry, no forwarding—the offer is not transferable.

      I’ve been buying gold coins at eBay whenever they offered 8 or 10% Bucks cashback since 2014 on 2 accounts. Max cashback is $500/quarter and eBay did clamp down on a lot of 1 oz coins which maxed out at $100 per item so I buy fractional coins in paper and money (not Bullion) category.

      • Frederick
        Nov 12, 2019 at 10:53 am

        Whenever I see discounts on precious metals my BS light immediately lights up bright flashing red

        • Vespa P200E
          Nov 12, 2019 at 1:48 pm

          The 10% cashback is offered by eBay and not the sellers. One has to jump in early though as few folks know about this awesome eBay Bucks offer and easy tom ax out $500 quarterly limit per account. Bought another coin and this time the Bucks offer is for 3 days vs. typical 2 days.

    • Zantetsu
      Nov 12, 2019 at 1:14 pm

      Seriously, why are you even trying to buy goods that are so easily faked and would be such a target for scamming on *any* online store? A very little common sense goes a *very* long way here.

  8. Nov 11, 2019 at 10:11 pm

    I’ve quit buying anything on Amazon. I usually can find what I want on Craig’s List, eBay, or some other website..

    • Zantetsu
      Nov 12, 2019 at 1:16 pm

      Really? eBay is like 10x worse when it comes to scamming and not getting what you expected. I’ve never tried craigslist but the horror stories I have heard …

  9. Memento mori
    Nov 11, 2019 at 10:22 pm

    Yeah, amazon is full of made in china junk. I got some fakes too and the thing is, given how cheap this junk is, its not worth complaining or even returning.
    However, I noticed recently that Amazon doesn’t publish (makes it very hard if you insist) your negative review anymore.
    They figured it is bad for business, more sales means more commissions for them, screw the consumer.

  10. unit472
    Nov 11, 2019 at 10:33 pm

    Just WOW! Thanks Wolf Richter. This maybe your most useful blog yet.

    Unfortunately, because of the inability of the banking system to offer secure transactions, I have been thrown back into the 20th century. Whereas I used to pay bills or do transactions on line and use paperless bankiing I no longer do. I submit my payments telephonically.

    I might also suggest that no one buy any durable good from Target. I paid over $300 for a small A/C unit that I could mount in a sliding glass door in case the power went out. I plugged it in and the condenser fan rattled violently and then the appliance crapped out. I bought a ‘Coleman’ battery powered lantern and it too did not work. Finally, tempted again, by a $20 Lava light, of the sort people had in 1968, I bit again. Took it home and plugged it in and a glob or two of wax tried to rise but simply failed and sank back to the bottom. All three items no occupy a landfill.

    • Vespa P200E
      Nov 11, 2019 at 10:37 pm

      Take it all 3 items you mentioned are Made in China and you got your money back because you bought from Target?

      I’m impressed with eBay who gives prompt refund if one is fleeced by Chinese sellers for defective and not as described products.

      • alex in San Jose AKA Digital Detroit
        Nov 12, 2019 at 1:18 am

        Speaking as an Ebay seller, we’re pretty refund-happy around here. We want to see the customer get what they ordered and be able to use it and be happy.

        Maybe it’s my inner Hank Hill but the idea of selling something that’s fake, not up to spec, etc. makes my skin crawl.

        • California Bob
          Nov 13, 2019 at 12:34 am

          +1 for the ‘King of the Hill’ shoutout.

    • David Hall
      Nov 12, 2019 at 1:58 am

      Walmart stores have better quality control. At Sketchers I was able to try on shoes to make sure they fit and did not squeek. Even nitrite processed meat has been declared a Group 1 carcinogen like tobacco. There are all sorts of harmful things for sale. Alcohol abuse is a leading cause of early onset dementia. There are no warning labels. No one to sue over hazardous bacon.

  11. Keeper Hill
    Nov 11, 2019 at 10:44 pm

    Amazon would sell you down the river for a profit. The idea they care about honesty or quality is rich. Bezos needs a wealth tax at a minimum for his sins.

    • Frederick
      Nov 12, 2019 at 10:55 am

      Don’t worry Mr Hill I’m sure his name is on some list somewhere One of the club that Carlin mentioned years ago

  12. Trinacria
    Nov 11, 2019 at 10:49 pm

    Guess what folks, you keep buying crap from these crappy places and they will keep feeding you more crap and consumer credit keeps going up in the never ending cycle of unhappiness and perdition. I personally see all this consumption as a spiritual defect (as Carl Jung alludes)…yes, I am being judgmental as this needs to be condemned. I truly feel sorry for these mindless consumers as they just don’t seem to get it. Many even stand in lines on black Fridays (there are so many black Fridays now…and Tuesdays, Wednesdays…. rather than be with their families and give thanks. It is so liberating to live a simple and mindless-consumption free life !!! As in song “where have all they flowers gone”…when will they ever learn? ….that less is truly more!!!

    • Petunia
      Nov 12, 2019 at 9:38 am

      If people stayed home on Black Friday, we wouldn’t get to see all those scary videos of them fighting over junk, on Saturday.

      • Frederick
        Nov 12, 2019 at 10:56 am

        Wouldn’t that be horrible(sarc) right?

    • RD Blakeslee
      Nov 12, 2019 at 10:07 am

      Amen!

  13. IdahoPotato
    Nov 11, 2019 at 11:03 pm

    There are new products on Amazon with 30-odd five-star reviews. All 30 reviews are in bold font. Have got to be trolls or bots.

    The main draw of Amazon for me used to be the customer feedback.

    • RD Blakeslee
      Nov 12, 2019 at 10:19 am

      I used to get pleas from Amazon sellers to please contact them if I had a problem, before publishing a negative review. I suspect the info absorption blob has IDd me as a write-off. They don’t contact me anymore. I only review a purchase that was unusually good, or bad. Why stuff the universe telling folks what you bought was what you expected?

      But I recently got a really surprisingly crass attempt to subvert Amazon’s customer feedback integrity: A professionally printed, snail-mailed post card offering me a freebie if I would five-star review a product I had recently bought!

  14. Mick
    Nov 11, 2019 at 11:13 pm

    For the past three thousand years, Chinese are professional scam trader. The only purpose of their business has been to enrich themselves at the expense of foreign counterpart . Americans should have noticed this historical fact much earlier.

    • fajensen
      Nov 12, 2019 at 3:27 am

      They are just sore that they’d met their match, Finally!

    • Tededfred
      Nov 12, 2019 at 11:35 pm

      They sound like Ferengi….

  15. R2D2
    Nov 11, 2019 at 11:13 pm

    There may be downsides. But don’t forget the (huge) upsides.

    I just bought a pair of Xiaomi stereo-music earbuds from a Chinese supplier for US$15. They look and sound just as good as my wife’s Apple AirPods that cost US$150. Saved me a fortune.

    • Vespa P200E
      Nov 12, 2019 at 9:27 am

      Counterfeiters proliferate and get rich because people buy fake CRAPs stealing IP and made with subpar components. Xiaomi is a infamous copycat and there is good chance your Xiaomi may be counterfeit as well.

      I used to go to Shenzhen/DongGuan often on business and was offered FAKE iPod that was better than Apple because it played WMA files. One time a couple of touts followed us near the Lowu train station, a mecca for fakes, peddling Microsoft software. My pal and I smiled and showed them our Microsoft business cards and those hustlers ran away like bats out of hell. :)

  16. Littlebit.
    Nov 11, 2019 at 11:40 pm

    I have bought some things from Amazons ad’s that were evidently frauds. They need to vett their adds. `The ads are not going to be near as saleable to legitimate companies if people just stop buying anything from their adds as I have. I no longer even look at them not knowing whether they are frauds or not.

  17. Free Stuff
    Nov 12, 2019 at 12:00 am

    Well all you have to do is look at the way AMZN treats its employees, no toilet time, clocks on toilet use, employees advised to wear diapers, … GPS tracking on all employees.

    Bezos doesn’t care about the USA, not about his employees, in fact what we know is the ONLY thing that Bezos cares about is sending selfies of his Genitalia to his girlfriends. Seems odd that Bezos fetishes are not so much different than our leading politicians in the USA.

    So then step back and ask. What does Bezos think about his customers? Not Much

    Remember what Zuckerberg said long ago “Anybody who use’s Facebook is a F**king Idiot”, I’m sure you all know Zuckerberg & Bezos both belong to the same team

    Today is “Singles Day” in China, Alibaba’s biggest day of the year, 10X sales over AMAZON prime day.

    Bezos created his company selling books, then moved on to selling everything, but now get all their money from “Amazon Services”, which is “the cloud”, which essentially means that like Oracle, Amazon now has replaced the NSA as the main repository for all USA Gov, biz, security, and INTEL data, .i.e. You type in your Dossier, and Amazon keeps your data forever.

    In summary I doubt that Bezo’s any gives “Amazon Shopping” much concern, given its not even an important revenue stream.

    Lastly, lets remember that USA doesn’t make anything, anymore, so the fact that useless Chinese stuff ( title of article ) is a problem, well I guess it could be worse, what we they sell if there was no ASIAN JUNK? There would be no Walmart, in fact there wouldn’t be much of anything in the USA for the “Shopping Class”

    • 2banana
      Nov 12, 2019 at 12:50 am

      Um….no.

      US manufacturing stood at $2.2 trillion in 2015.

      “Lastly, lets remember that USA doesn’t make anything, anymore”

      • alex in San Jose AKA Digital Detroit
        Nov 12, 2019 at 1:22 am

        We make plenty of stuff here in the US and I’m waiting for people to discover that if they have a garage, shed, barn, etc they can make things, I dunno, house slippers or just about anything, and unless I’m very wrong, should be able to sell that thing on Ebay or Amazon just fine.

        • RD Blakeslee
          Nov 12, 2019 at 10:24 am

          … and, as you know from my prior posting, alex, we can make things for ourselves with no thought of launching them into commerce.

        • Frederick
          Nov 12, 2019 at 10:59 am

          I’m in the process of making a TV table for my wife as IKEA makes cheap particleboard and they usually fall apart in five years Enjoying the woodworking to be honest

      • fajensen
        Nov 12, 2019 at 3:38 am

        US manufacturing stood at $2.2 trillion in 2015.

        How much of that was military? I’d bet a lot of it!

        Which is not good. I saw a similar trajectory happen in the UK (1980-2000) where the clever designers and good engineers all went into MOD-projects, as independent contractors, on cost+ contracts. The UK transitioned from having decent volume manufacturing back to artisanship and now they can’t ‘scale up & out’, ‘China’ owns that. The only ‘volume’ thing left in the UK is the car assembly for foreign makers and Brexit will put a rusty nail in that.

        • MC01
          Nov 12, 2019 at 5:18 am

          By 1980 the downfall of the British manufacturing industry had already been completed. The causes are many and varied, but generally speaking the causes can be attributed to a poor management, capital starvation, idiotic government policies and the very “paternalistic” nature of British Capitalism.

          I’ll give you just an example: up until 1974 Triumph, the motorcycle manufacturer based in Meriden, had a full time employee whose sole job was to stand at the end of the production line armed with a crowbar and rubber mallet and make the silencers on the motorcycles look more or less straight. He didn’t have any measurement instruments, he just relied on his eyesight.
          As much as many would appreciate this as proof of “character” Rolls-Royce had far better quality control in place thirty years earlier on the assembly lines where thousands of Griffon, Merlin and Meteor engines were being hastily manufactured for the war effort.

          Would you buy a motorcycle made using this “That will do” sort of philosophy or a Honda which would take you to work every morning without having to fiddle with the electrics? As Bert Hopwood, the chief designer at Norton, had to admit “No wonder our customers started buying Japanese!”.

  18. Mike Earussi
    Nov 12, 2019 at 12:27 am

    I’m very careful about what I buy on amazon and the only reason I buy anything from them is their excellent return policy. And some things I won’t buy at all like anything easy to fake that usually sells for a high market.

    Let the buyer beware is old but still good advice on anything you purchase. All businesses have figured out that the best way to make a profit is through thief, it’s just that some can get away with it better than others, the Chinese are especially adapt at doing so.

  19. panatomic-x
    Nov 12, 2019 at 2:48 am

    take particular care when buying safety items. for example, there are a lot of bicycle helmets on amazon that do not have any crash protection. they appear to be identical to us crash tested items some are fraudulently labelled with the logos of name brands. here’s an abc news piece about it: https://gma.abc/2YUU8Lc

  20. CRV
    Nov 12, 2019 at 4:19 am

    I buy/bought from AliExpress as well as Amazon frequently. But lately on Amazon there are so many Chinese vendors, that there is no reason to go to Amazon anymore. Even more so because the prices for the same things are much lower on AliE then on Amazon.
    Furthermore, Amazon i liked, because it had more established brands you could trust. But now you’re rolling the dice like with AliE. Which is OK for items that cost only a few bucks. But with more expensive stuf i’d like some assurance. That’s gone with the Amazon of today, unless you filter on the brands you trust(ed).[beware of the fake counterfits].

    That an on-line store is not a store by law, is outdated. And that law should be changed. The item is displayed on their platform and they provide the means for money transfer. That makes them stores in my book. And when something is wrong they should be (at least partially) liable. That way there would be an incentive to screen their vendors.
    As it is now they could care less.

    • buyer
      Nov 12, 2019 at 11:10 pm

      I would say little stuff on Ali-Exp is fine, under $10, chips, ic’s are fine,

      BangGood is also very good for drone stuff, no problems

      But when you get over $100 USD with AE, or alibaba then there are always problems, that’s where the cheats step in, as its often more expensive to ship the product back, as we all know here, they can send it to us cheap, but if we return it might cost the $100USD and they know it, years ago it was better, but this year I’m seeing 80% of the time that they’re shipping merchandise that doesn’t work. It’s like they’re clearing their return inventory, knowing the gig is up, I suspect its because Trump has destroyed the profit model on their side.

      Above $1000 I always have problems with alibaba, as they always cheat on shipping, my using their own shippers (boats), and then when it arrives at customs they demand 5-10X cost for import fees ( unloading, … ) even though I paid all fee’s in advance, they always find new fee’s to add like, seasonal-charges, … Alibaba always refuses to refund, then I have to take to credit-card company for charge-back dispute, and then alibaba refunds, but then two weeks later turns around and re-charges and the credit-card company starts all over again, … never ending scam.

      I specifically asked capital-one, Does ALIBABA own most credit-cards companys in USA now? They refuse to answer, it seems clear that rulings are always in chinese favor, even when product never actually was shipped.

      • Nov 13, 2019 at 12:53 am

        buyer,

        Sounds awful. Are these purchases for business or personal?

  21. Steve Graves
    Nov 12, 2019 at 6:13 am

    Say what you will, but Amazon still has excellent customer service. Every problem I have experienced – and there have been many – has been cleared up swiftly and fairly, with virtually no questions asked.

    Unfortunately we can no longer trust their reviews, which used to be one of their strongest selling points, given that so many of them are clearly fake these days. And the buyer has to be far more careful when choosing which products to purchase, as the site is flooded with… well, crap. Then again, that’s true of just about every retailer these days. Just more so on Amazon, where there’s a zillion more products.

    Long story short, “let the buyer beware” still applies. While it doesn’t always work, due diligence should always precede your mouse clickery.

  22. Deanna Johnston Clark
    Nov 12, 2019 at 6:43 am

    I miss the anticipation of mail and meeting people in little stores online and in real life. it can all go down, except Etsy, No sweat…

    Some of us still like the personal life.

    • Petunia
      Nov 12, 2019 at 9:46 am

      My post office loses on average one of my bills every month.

      Small businesses now can’t afford to take returns. We recently returned an item to a small business and had to pay a 15% restocking fee. It’s hard to support them at that level.

      Overall, things have changed and nothing works the way it did or should.

  23. Kent
    Nov 12, 2019 at 6:57 am

    I probably spend $50/year with Amazon. First of all, their prices are too high. I use them to find out what products are available, then usually buy them directly from the manufacturer, or at least the American distributor of the same.

    Why are people buying so much stuff? What do you get out of it?

    • Unamused
      Nov 12, 2019 at 8:47 am

      Why are people buying so much stuff? What do you get out of it?

      It’s to try to fill that certain emptiness in the soul.

      Ever since culture was replaced with Marketing, people have been taught that if they buy this, they will be happy. It doesn’t work, of course. Your happiness depends on what you are, not what you have. As always, the best investment one can make is in the capital of one’s character, not doodads, not financial instruments.

      In the fourth century BC the Greek language had to invent a word, pleonexia, to denote this appetite for “more and more”. Billionaire tycoons all seem to have this disease and try to treat it with chrematistike, the busy pursuit of riches, regardless of the planetary collateral damage. As the disease vector, marketing seems to have infected just about everybody.

      It’s why people feel the need to go on holiday, or to the cottage, or go camping, to “get away from it all”, instinctively knowing but not consciously realising that living this way really isn’t good for them. It’s a sure sign that their souls are trying to recover a bit before they get back to their tread mills and the rat race in the leper colony of commercial consumerism.

      Not being a cog in something turning, I seem to have some immunity. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be just fine. It’s you guys I’m concerned about.

      Was that a rhetorical question?

  24. Unamused
    Nov 12, 2019 at 7:38 am

    “Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men, for the nastiest of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all.”

    – John Maynard Keynes

    I haven’t had a single bad experience with either Amazon or Alibaba.

    Because I haven’t had a single experience with either Amazon or Alibaba. It’s not outside the realm of possibility, I suppose.

    The last time I made a mail-order purchase from a catalog it was from Sears Roebuck & Co. The catalog was printed. On paper. The purchase order was made by post, with a cheque. It was an agricultural implement. We lacked a necessary fabrication capability back then. Still got it, all these many years later. That was a long time ago. You guys are all going to be too young to remember.

    I never did become a tool of my tools. Nobody reads Thoreau anymore.

    • RD Blakeslee
      Nov 12, 2019 at 10:29 am

      ” Nobody reads Thoreau anymore.”

      Wrong!

    • Zantetsu
      Nov 12, 2019 at 1:31 pm

      OK Boomer.

      • weinerdog43
        Nov 13, 2019 at 9:02 am

        Ha ha! You kids get off my lawn!

    • Lisa_Hooker
      Nov 12, 2019 at 3:24 pm

      … or Emerson

  25. Xypher2000
    Nov 12, 2019 at 8:06 am

    I use Wish, Ebay, or Aliexpress for my online purchases (never food). I have never have had a bait and switch and I only have had one thing not arrive out of 300 plus products purchased. On Wish, if something is wrong with the order (not working properly), they fully refund you.

  26. Dave
    Nov 12, 2019 at 8:12 am

    Wolf, I’m glad you write this article because in late 2018 I ran into this issue on Amazon several times. Products advertised for low prices and whe you order them they don’t show up. Lots of fake reviews. Reviews that dont correspond to the product that you are looking at.

    I recieved prompt refunds from Amazon. I wrote several negative reviews. If Amazon does handle this problem aggressively they may end up losing alot of business because customers won’t trust them.

  27. timbers
    Nov 12, 2019 at 8:13 am

    I was recently in the market for a desktop computer and was shopping at Amazon. I noticed a disturbing pattern in customer reviews at Amazon.

    Vine Voice is a reviewer Amazon claims consists of trusted people it reaches out to when existing reviews are thin or unreliable. (translation: Amazon gives free products in return for favorable review to promote it’s business? I don’t know).

    I noticed a few instances of PC’s getting bad reviews, but then, a flood of Vine Voice reviews would dramatically change the overall the product reviews rating into positive territory. If you removed the Vine Voice (Amazon sponsored) reviews, you get a very different customer rating.

    Further, many vendors might have close to 100% rating. But they can be skewed by recent good reviews which out weigh older more numerous bad reviews. If you read the older bad reviews you see in scary issues like this:

    “Product represented as brand new. When I called the manufacturer, they told the the warranty had expired.”

    That settle it in my case. I decided to avoid Amazon regarding a new desktop PC.

    I ended up getting a PowerSpec PC tower at Mirco Center in Cambridge. I decided not only was it well priced, but after reading Amazon customer reviews, I absolutely must see a new item contained in a new up-opened box.

  28. DaleJ
    Nov 12, 2019 at 8:20 am

    One thing I have found lately and I should have known to start with, is to always check the vendors reputation and the date of last comment about the vendor.

  29. Just Some Random Guy
    Nov 12, 2019 at 10:02 am

    China is awash in fraud and corruption. Everyone understand this. But demanding a fair trade agreement from them is the most worst thing possible.

  30. Just Some Random Guy
    Nov 12, 2019 at 10:09 am

    I avoid anything from China like the plague. It’s not always possible of course, but I do my best. I can’t fathom why any American would buy from Baba. Think McFly think.

    • buyer
      Nov 12, 2019 at 11:17 pm

      If you live in ASIA, you don’t have a choice, BABA owns all three of the big online venues.

      If you live far from a big city, or you hate going to a big city, then its impossible to get ‘stuff’, like electronics, or drones, or ic’s, or computer parts.

      Like fixing laptops, the only place that sells stuff to fix laptops is Aliexpress, even amazon doesn’t carry weird batterys and keyboards, I have had brand-new name brand laptops fail in months, and warranty is a joke, you never see it again. So I fix stuff myself, I have no choice, I have to buy from aliexpress. But with low-end items like keyboards, chips, and batterys, it usually ok, the criminals avoid the $10 stuff, they focus on the +$500USD deals, that’s where they can make real money.

  31. T Rex
    Nov 12, 2019 at 10:42 am

    The whole mentality in China is about faking it. It’s part of the culture, I hate to say. Here’s a story:

    My small company sells our two products on amazon marketplace, and it’s a crucial part of our business – we’d go under without it.

    My sister in law is from China. She has now offered a few different times to connect me to her Chinese friends (living in the US) who leave fake reviews on amazon. It’s a huge network of Chinese people living in the US, making a living off of gaming Amazon.

    What happens is they buy the product, leave a review, and then you reimburse them, plus a fee.

    They do it for tons of companies and get thousands of reviews for a product in no time at all – that are verified Purchase reviews.

    Amazon is going to look away as long as they can, but this cuts to the core of their business. Everyone I know has a lot of Skepticism about the reviews.

    • timbers
      Nov 12, 2019 at 11:21 am

      Those reviewers could be part of the Vine Voice Amazon admits to using.

      If you read Amazon’s official account of what Vine Voice reviews are, it sounds reasonable to a point but reading between the lines, it could easily be a pig with lipstick on it.

      • MC01
        Nov 12, 2019 at 12:07 pm

        Amazon offers sellers the opportunity to join the Vine Program for a $2,500 application fees, plus the up to 35 products you can send to Amazon to be distributed among their reviewers.
        Fair enough.

        The problem is how Vine Program reviewers are picked. Amazon apparently has internal guidelines for how to pick these folks but from what I have been able to gather they are trying to do an “influencer” thing, as they seem to pick people who somehow manage not just to review dozens of items per month, but to turn them into an audiovisual version of War And Peace, meaning a wall of text with plenty of pictures and video clips.
        I honestly don’t know where these people find the time and leisure to write a barrage of 2,000 words essay complete with pictures about a computer mouse or a set of cheap screwdrivers, but they are apparently celebrities in the Amazon community, kinda like influencers on YouTube and other social media.

    • Zantetsu
      Nov 12, 2019 at 1:34 pm

      Those fake reviewers are going to have to up their game, because I have no problem spotting them.

  32. DF
    Nov 12, 2019 at 10:45 am

    Maybe not. I’ve had good luck with Chinese-brand earbuds/headphones. Apparently good headphones/earbuds are not that expensive to make.

  33. billy
    Nov 12, 2019 at 10:57 am

    I recommmend fakespot.com to determine if the reviews of an Amazon product are legit. The reviews of many/most Chinese crap are fake. fakespot rates the reviews (collectively) from A-F. Anything below a C and I won’t buy.

  34. Millennial
    Nov 12, 2019 at 11:12 am

    It’s not only Amazon’s problem.
    My girlfriend bought nail polish from China on eBay, when she received it, it was written “Made in Spain” on the package.

  35. Nov 12, 2019 at 11:16 am

    This story has been out there for a while. Just about any product is vulnerable. Whether you buy junk or quality you take the same risk, and good vendors do not always honor defective products. Some buyers scam the vendors, buy a second version from a reputable vendor return counterfeit or defective version. Pocket the difference. I have no doubt this story is timed (WSJ) to coincide with the Trump trade war resolution with China. The long list of anecdotal comments which fall into a general line, amounts to propaganda as it exists in 21st century America. That you are all being played, WSJ, Wolf and his followers, may offend you, but that is the way it is. The president is being impeached and he needs some help (from a supportive newspaper, against the WaPost and it’s owner) so he sets up a phony trade war with China then calls it off and gets lots of praise. Bejing has been doing business with the US for thirty years, and being paid in worthless Treasury bonds. I could also mention that I remember the same tirades against Japanese goods, but really it is not the same when you outsource labor to prisoners including pro-democracy political dissidents. Maybe all this will help us move ahead but we cannot get there without enforcing trade regulations, and I don’t see even a faint attempt at that without creating an EU style bureaucracy.

  36. Tom Stone
    Nov 12, 2019 at 11:26 am

    My favorite is the Full auto switches than can turn any Glock into a machine pistol.
    The price has recently gone up to about $20.
    Apparently the BATFE is not amused and they are pursuing all 8,000 plus US purchasers who thought owning one would be fun.
    That’s 8,000 purchasers, not 8,000 units.
    Lots of easy felony busts there…
    Even more amusingly, someone posted a pic of a home made full auto switch made from a metal coathanger using two pair of pliers.

    • Gandalf
      Nov 12, 2019 at 1:36 pm

      As Glocks are well known for accidental/negligent discharges, that would be a great way to accidentally shoot yourself or a bystander multiple times instead of just once

      • California Bob
        Nov 13, 2019 at 1:43 am

        re: “Glocks are well known for accidental/negligent discharges”

        You’re calling an inanimate object ‘negligent?’

        Counterpoint:

        https://www.eaglegunrangetx.com/police-accidents-one-hundred-percent-operator-error/

        Automobiles are pretty dangerous in the hands of incompetent and/or negligent operators; i.e there is no such thing as a ‘safe’ automobile (although they’ve gotten more crashworthy over the years).

        Disclaimer: I don’t own a Glock, but I’m considering it.

    • Just Some Random Guy
      Nov 12, 2019 at 2:42 pm

      Good to know the federal govt has its priorities straight. Pursue MS13 or Mexican drug cartels operating out in the open in every American city and town? Nah. Who has time for that? That’s also hard and dangerous work.

      Let’s bust 8000 law abiding citizens for buying something on Amazon instead. One step closer to getting that sweet sweet pension.

  37. pieter
    Nov 12, 2019 at 2:44 pm

    If you want some insight on China:

    Poorly Made in China: An Insider’s Account of the China …
    https://www.amazon.com › Poorly-Made-China-Insiders-Production

    • Mike G
      Nov 14, 2019 at 2:32 am

      This is a good read. In short: ripoffs, shoddy product quality and substitution of inferior materials are rife, and contracts are routinely torn up or ignored.
      There are hundreds of mainlanders crossing into Hong Kong daily to buy infant milk powder and cart it back across the border because nobody trusts the same product distributed on the mainland not to be adulterated or counterfeit.

  38. Tim J
    Nov 12, 2019 at 8:00 pm

    I had a paperback book arrive today from Amazon in a thin shipping envelope (scant padding). The book had all kinds of dings in it.

    Remember when Amazon’s thing was just selling books online? Now they seem inept at it.

  39. Anon1970
    Nov 12, 2019 at 8:41 pm

    I bought a wireless headset from Amazon over a year ago and I have been very pleased with it. The brand, MPow, appears to be sold only on Amazon and, yes, it is made in China. The headset was recommended to me by a neighbor. I originally bought a headset made by Sony, but then discovered that it could only be recharged by being plugged into a computer, which would not have been very convenient on a vacation I was planning. I returned the Sony to Costco. The MPow was less than 1/3 the price of the Sony and performed very well on a long plane flight. Even with its low price, it come with a noise cancellation feature, which is very useful when you are listening to music on a plane ride.

    Not every purchase on Amazon has met my expectations, and a Chinese made LED flashlight came with no instructions and no warranty information. Amazon took it back at their expense.

  40. Sammy Iyer
    Nov 12, 2019 at 11:35 pm

    In India Amazon has captured a lion share of the online retail market. But online share to physical Brick & Mortar sales is still in its infancy. Long way to go.
    Amazon started in India in 2013 .Amazon got liecence from Indian Govt only as a “market place operator” . It can only store & sell (amazon fulfilled) 3rd party vendors products (apart from 3rd party vendor direct shipping).It can not sell on its own. To circumvent this rule amazon formed 49:51% joint venture with ex founder of Infosys (software major) and formed many Pvt corpoartions named Cloudtail India etc & started selling stuff at 20% discount on whole sale prices of all big brands. (Amazon absorbing the losses) .Very soon who’s who of Indian retailers have started selling thro amazon’s cloudtail(instead of selling direct) In2018-19 Amazon’s loss was arounf Rs 50000 million (say $750 million;1$=70₹) . Amazon is also successful in a digital payment system called Amazon Pay. One can pay all kind of bills like tel landline/gas/water/broadband/postpaid/mobile prepaid& post paid bills thro amazon pay .AmazonPay gives tiny discounts like 5-10% all the time .(another $500 million loss in that division ) But they have decimated competition . Only local online plyer Flipkart (bought by Walmart for $15 billion last year ) stands a chance . all other online portals including Paytm funded by Alibaba are crashing . (Paytm is the one who pioneered digital payments in india) In online retailing in India Amaon is king . 50% of all big brand merchandise sold by Amazon India (say Nike shoe or similar) are fakes. Amazon has captured the Indian policy makers with heavy bribes.They have buily 10 big fulfillment centres all over India . Chinese sellers direct shipping to Indian buyers does not work here as Indian customs is tough .Morever Amazon employs over 100,000 bodies in India in huge campus’s for it’s off shore support. (USA/UK/Australia /Singapore back end+some front end support functions.) Since amazon employs so many people in India for off shoring $ USA jobs, it carries a clout with policy makers here. So it gets away with anything here in it’s India domestic retail operation also. Amazon is big in grocery business also here (Prime) 2 hour delivery is available in all big metros. Due to the huge population , unit wise India is amazon’s biggest market ! $ wise soon it will become 2nd or 3rd next us/europe.

  41. aspnaz
    Nov 13, 2019 at 5:12 am

    Amazon not responsible for the goods it sells from its website? Tim Dotcom – of Mega fame – will be taking heart from this. How can you proscecute TD when Amazon is doing worse? I know, this is purely a moral argument, not a pragmatic one. Of course, TD is not a US citizen, so that probably changes the set of laws he is required to obey.

  42. truthalwayswinsout
    Nov 17, 2019 at 9:38 am

    These companies such as Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook all have one thing in common.

    You cannot sue them. They have made a set of documents and agreements such that it is impossible to sue them. As such they continue to lie, cheat, and steal and make some of the worst products every made with no recourse. And even worse now that many of them have monopolies you have no choice and cannot go anywhere to get the “same” product functionality.

    This is because left of left judges over the past 60 years have misapplied contract law where the law was great for individual and small groups but they took that same law and allowed it to scale to infinite size, which it was never intended to do.

    Hence you have the wonders of the alleged super tech companies and super billionaires.

    Take away this legal advantage and everyone of the companies listed would be sued out of business in less then a few weeks allowing others to come into the space and provide better products and services.

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