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Written by : Hai Rodrique
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from counterfeit goods to fake n95 masks price gouging to disappearing orders shoppers on amazon have a growing need to proceed with caution before clicking buy now since amazon's early days reviews are the one big metric customers rely on to determine the quality and authenticity of a product turns out many of those reviews can't be trusted the review system as of today is broken before the pandemic the the usual benchmark around our average fake reviews was 30 the norm has now become close to 35 percent 40 in recent years thousands of fake reviews have flooded amazon and walmart ebay and others just as sales numbers have skyrocketed and as shoppers stay home online orders are up 57 since the same time last year and the number of reviews is up 76 there's an element where you simply want to trust those stars and you want to trust the numbers because if you can't trust that how do you know what you're buying from facebook groups where bad actors solicit paid positive reviews to bots and click farms that upvote negative reviews to take out the competition fake reviews have boosted sales of unsafe products caused huge brands to sever ties with amazon and hurt business for legitimate sellers we can't compete we can't surface our products that are new and innovative and truly valuable to consumers because other products that aren't so great are playing this game of review manipulation we decided to find out why fake reviews have infiltrated amazon how customers can spot an unreliable review and what the trillion dollar company and others are doing to stop them one big draw over competitors like walmart target and ebay is that amazon's listings often have hundreds or even thousands of reviews instead of just a handful it's so easy no matter what site you're on to simply say the most reviews with the most stars means the most level of happiness it's just simply not the case if those amazon customers aren't really customers or if they're an organization of paid individuals who just sit there and go five-star five-star five-star that doesn't really tell me anything meaningful about the product review software company bazaar voice did a study of 10 000 consumers at the end of last year 42 of consumers are saying that that fake reviews from the brand itself would cause them to lose trust 82 of those consumers are saying that would cause them to never buy that brand again the problem is fake and real reviews are getting harder to tell apart when you have no reason to think it's fake review that's when the consumer is in the most danger and as shoppers increasingly turn online for things they'd normally want to shop for in person like the nursing bras made by simple wishes there's a higher chance of serious repercussions from the purchase of a counterfeit or low quality product and if the products amazon page is filled with fake positive reviews shoppers won't know to steer clear we see reviews of people saying that their breast tissue was torn and irritated and bleeding because of irritating seams and you know we see things like this or like this product broke or it tore after i wore it three times you see those real reviews surface and then all of a sudden they'll just be massive positive reviews a high rating can also trigger the coveted amazon's choice patch although amazon did say it will delete the badge if a product isn't adhering to policy amazon prohibits any attempt to manipulate reviews and told cnbc it will suspend ban and take legal action against those who violate these policies for any review even the most genuine it always is worth asking why is someone writing that review what is the incentive to write that review free products and payment are increasingly common incentives sellers solicit pay-for-play reviews through popular twitter accounts and facebook groups with thousands of members so i joined some of these groups just to kind of poke around and the first groups i joined there were five different postings from our competitor asking for a review i felt like i just struck gold finding my competitor there reported it to amazon and nothing happened ucla and usc released a study in july that found more than 20 fake review-related facebook groups with an average of 16 000 members in more than 560 postings each day sellers offered a refund or payment for a positive review usually around six dollars amazon told cnbc it works with social media sites to report bad actors who are cultivating abusive reviews outside our store and we've sued thousands of bad actors for attempting to abuse our reviews systems the ftc requires reviewers to disclose any payment or connection to the product being reviewed on some sites like fiverr and freelancer users get around this by advertising marketing services a thinly veiled reference to pay for play reviews there's also the more direct approach where sellers include a note inside a package asking for a review in exchange for a discount or other compensation it's hard to keep on top of 5 million sellers and 600 million products there's always a few bad seeds in the mix and it's the bad seeds that get the attention it's not that amazon's sitting back doing nothing it's that the scope of what we're dealing with is so vast there are legitimate paid reviewer programs like amazon vine early reviewer and amazon associates which require reviewers to disclose that they've received a product for free in exchange for what's supposed to be an honest review but amazon has little way to detect a compensated review when deals are made outside these programs there's a velcro panel in the back so you can constantly reset the size and it's always the proper support sisters joy kosak and deborah abbaside designed a new type of hands-free pumping bra and started selling it on amazon in 2009 where sales took off quickly but for the past three years sales have been flat dropping off after amazon started to openly court chinese sellers to join its marketplace cheaper bras with an exceptionally similar design to theirs started popping up getting hundreds of five-star ratings seemingly overnight when that happened we saw a pretty immediate race to the bottom in terms of pricing the sisters have been tracking review activity on listings from competitors like mom cozy and sharing the data with amazon our best seller where we used to be number 25 and baby we over the past 10 years of being on amazon we have collected a little more than 10 000 reviews it took them a couple of months to to increase by 4 000. big brands like nike and birkenstock have been so burned by competitors selling knockoffs with thousands of five-star reviews that they stopped selling on amazon altogether although nike's landing page still appears active on amazon the items there are being sold by third-party sellers they're fake they're counterfeit they're either bought from you know alibaba or ebay and then they're resold on amazon so a lot of these sellers are actually ruining nike's reputation and they're putting in all the reviews into the official listing for nike at times big brands themselves are soliciting fake reviews last year for example skin
Thanks for your comment Manuel Irvan, have a nice day.
- Hai Rodrique, Staff Member
every year more than 11 million containers arrive into the US by sea another 13 million come from Road or rail and another quarter billion packages enter the US via air travel it turns out a growing number of these shipments contain counterfeit or fake goods seizures of counterfeit products at US borders have increased tenfold over the past two decades the total value of seized goods if they've been real reached nearly 1.4 billion dollars and 2018 most are coming from mainland China or Hong Kong the Chinese counterfeiters pop up so fast the moment you take them down another one pops up the rise of e-commerce has fuelled counterfeiting around the world Amazon said it blocked more than 3 billion suspected fake listings from its marketplace in 2018 international ecommerce sellers must step up and do more the economic cost of counterfeiting is mounting the OECD says fake goods account for more than 3 percent of all global trade while some estimate the sale of illicit products could result in more than 5.4 million net job losses worldwide by 2022 US businesses are going out of business because of counterfeit goods we visited one of the busiest entry points in the u.s. to get a glimpse at the influx of fake products and to find out what authorities are doing to stop counterfeiting counterfeit goods are unauthorized copies of products protected under intellectual property regulations Louie Vuitton Michael Kors Gucci and you see this has some rating on us in another language sellers try to trick consumers into buying imitation goods by using logos symbols and features that identify certain brands you've probably seen counterfeit products before like knockoff Louis Vuitton purses or fake Rolex watches some are made using lower quality materials so they're less expensive to produce counterfeiters make money by luring consumers to these well-known brands trying to convince them they're getting a deal on the real thing selling counterfeit goods is against the law in the u.s. most Americans I think have the misguided impression that if I buy a Rolex watch and I know it's a fake because I bought it for 20 bucks on the street not for 2,000 bucks in the store who gets hurt by that the reverse question is the more important one who's benefiting from that overwhelmingly it's organized transnational crime that is running counterfeiting networks counterfeits come in all shapes and sizes according to US Customs and Border Protection the most popular counterfeit items are apparel and accessories watches and jewelry Footwear and consumer electronics we got Nike sneakers one of the first things you look at is you can barely bend this I'm actually having to use a lot of strength just to get a little bit of bend out of this counterfeiters take advantage of Nikes name brand recognition and multi-million dollar marketing campaigns to sell fake versions of the signature sneakers do you see a lot of counterfeit Nikes yes we see a lot of a lot of conference IQs consumer products and pharmaceuticals also make up a big share of counterfeit goods these are especially dangerous because they pose health and safety risks in 2018 Europol intercepted 13 million doses of counterfeit drugs ranging from opioids to heart medications worth more than 180 million dollars the agency said it's seen a rise in counterfeit medicine in recent years they're not held to the same standard they can go under the radar they don't have to worry about the FDA not only is it not going to probably treat the element that you have but it's potentially going to give you other that's because you just don't know what's in that product with more consumers shopping online it's becoming easier for fakes to beat out legitimate products on marketplaces ecommerce platforms like eBay Amazon and Alibaba have ushered in a golden age for counterfeiters one of the great opportunities of the digital economies that someone in a small town in Delaware can come up with a really neat product and they can sell it globally relatively seamlessly but if it really catches on and someone else can simply counterfeit it or copy it then your competitive advantage is dramatically reduced ajq bonny is the CEO of telegrams a New Jersey based company that pioneered the concept of as-seen-on-tv telegram says it has sold billions of dollars worth of products like the petit vac or lint lizard through TV infomercials the counterfeits pop up on Amazon within 30 to 60 days of us launching a TV commercial so now when consumers go to Amazon and search for our particular product more people buy the counterfeit because it's a cheaper price than by our original product this is the original product and this is the counterfeit side by side you can absolutely tell the difference the counterfeits on Amazon have had a devastating impact on our business khobani said he was so frustrated he took his concerns all the way to President Donald Trump and met with Trump that in Bedminster New Jersey at his Golf Club we just pulled a chair up to the table and started talking to him and once he said counterfeits on Amazon that's all we had to say we had his attention COO Bonnie said counterfeits on Amazon are threatening the business models of companies like telegrams the firm invests in finding developing and advertising new products it expects to recover those investments once the products are sold that's not happening thanks to the fakes think about it you know if we put all these resources time energy money you know the design make sure the consumer wants to buy it come up with an marketing campaign to launch the product and do all that effort and find within 30 days the product dies a very fast death because the counterfeits it's not much incentive to be innovative and continue to come up with new products tella brands is one of many US firms struggling to fend off counterfeiters online in January 2020 the Department of Homeland Security issued a report saying the rise of e-commerce has intensified the problem of counterfeit trafficking and puts US companies and entrepreneurs at risk it puts them out of business that's the that's the cost Bob rkz testified in a House Judiciary Committee hearing in 2019 about how ecommerce presents new opportunities for counterfeiters at the click of a mouse you could get product and you get it directly shipped to your house booming ecommerce sales have led to a surge in shipments of small packages there were 161 million Express Mail shipments in 2018 and 475 million packages shipped through international mail the International Chamber of Commerce found counterfeiters use smaller shipments to try to lower their risk of detection meanwhile US Customs and Border Protection officials are being inundated by a growing number of small shipments arriving into the country everyday a rule that allows packages valued at under $800 to enter tax-free has exacerbated the problem we're talking about early 2000s you're looking at about between three and five thousand seizures now you fast-forward to today we're almost pushing forty thousand seizures a year not only does it increase the workload and that really gets the officers i
Thanks Edmond your participation is very much appreciated
- Hai Rodrique
About the author
I've studied chemistry education at Waynesburg University in Waynesburg and I am an expert in mathematical optimization. I usually feel blissful. My previous job was real estate appraiser I held this position for 16 years, I love talking about book collecting and martial arts. Huge fan of Ted Jorgensen I practice dog sledding and collect ephemera.
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