Selling to US shoppers has become a vital source of revenue for sellers here and abroad, and things are getting really ugly as the competition gets fiercer.
Two reports came out within the past week about some outrageous practices that are harming legitimate Amazon merchants. Bloomberg reports on a nefarious practice called "sniping" (not the bidding kind you see on eBay), and Forbes reports on a practice called "brushing."
The reports come after Amazon tried to crack down on the practice of paying people to leave positive reviews for their own products - the new practices that some sellers are adopting are far worse, and it's unclear what Amazon is doing about them.
Sniping is when a merchant sabotages another seller by hiring people to leave critical reviews for the rival and then voting those reviews as being helpful: "Freelancers in China and Bangladesh willing to do this for $10 an hour are easily found online."
talked to a seller who suspected a toy he was selling was the victim of sniping: "Even though the toy has a 4.8 star rating out of 5 based on more than 1,100 reviews, shoppers first see a string of critical one-star reviews and many may get scared away." The seller told the news agency it was devastating to his business, estimating he could lose $1 million in sales this season.
Brushing is when a merchant "borrows" the identities of real US shoppers by creating user profiles for them and then shopping for their own products under those accounts. This allows them to leave stellar "verified" product reviews. Forbes talked to a woman in Pennsylvania who started receiving cheap hair ties in the mail from China that she hadn't ordered - she was an apparent victim of brushing.
explained that the low cost of sending cheap items from China via ePacket was worth it to merchants whose products then moved up in sales rankings, "which means everything for e-commerce merchants." And it wrote, "The hair ties that McGeehan receives are more than likely not the actual items the Chinese brushers are leaving reviews for. Basically, they are low cost stand-ins for the real products."
Bloomberg also reported other scams that are harming sellers, including merchants filing false trademark infringement claims against rival sellers to eliminate the competition.
What do sellers think about Amazon's response to such problems? Longtime seller Zu Adams published a blog post
on Saturday, "The Chinese Invasion: Amazon Courts Chinese Sellers & Then Lets Them Wreak Havoc On Their Site."
She says Amazon requires US merchants to comply with policies such as its strict image requirements, but appears to be more lenient with regard to violations by Chinese sellers.
Adams said eBay ruined its marketplace when it courted Chinese sellers years ago, and she believes Amazon has been going down the same path.
Speaking of eBay, it rolled out a product reviews feature for items in its catalog (commodity goods) - is it likely that eBay can do any better a job as Amazon on preventing sellers from gaming the system?