Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Wed Nov 29 2017 13:47:54

Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier

By: Ina Steiner

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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." 

Bloomberg 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. 

Forbes 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?




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Readers Comments

Perminate Link for Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier   Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier

by: FeelingFroggy This user has validated their user name.

Wed Nov 29 14:34:45 2017

All reviews and especially feedback should be done away with on all sites.

They are nothing but a form of blackmail where the seller can never win...

Useless.

Perminate Link for Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier   Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier

by: ebayout This user has validated their user name.

Wed Nov 29 15:11:08 2017

Maybe the reports of the death of B&M have been greatly exaggerated...

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This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Wed Nov 29 15:48:40 2017

Two solution possibilities: (1) ban Chinese sellers as many of them have the same ethical framework as our dear leader (2) make ebafia.com for North American sellers only

Of course neither of the above will happen because ebafia is strictly money driven and honesty and integrity be damned

Perminate Link for Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier   Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier

by: ignatz This user has validated their user name.

Wed Nov 29 16:37:14 2017

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.
---
Is it really a matter of US vs Chinese, or does it have to do with how much the sellers contribute to Amazon's bottom line.

And just BTW - how many times does Ina have to ask the people here to stop making political comments that have NOTHING to do with the subject matter?   If someone is REALLY so concerned about "ethics", they should CONSIDER THEIR OWN "ETHICS" and abide by her wishes.

Perminate Link for Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier   Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier

This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Wed Nov 29 16:55:02 2017

The part that upsets me the most is the cheap ePackets

It's just not fair that the US Postal service gives a better deal to the chinese then they do here in the United States.

When the ePacket hits the west coast it can go to NY cheaper then I can ship the same package from LA to NY, it's just not right. . .

If the US Government would fix this it would level the playing field a little bit.

Our own government is selling us out to the chinese!

Perminate Link for Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier   Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier

by: sellerchick This user has validated their user name.

Wed Nov 29 22:05:42 2017

I watch my buy-box win percentage, as well as my sales directly fluctuate based on how many of these scumbags have piggybacked on my items. Sure they get kicked off, but they have plenty of names in reserve. And now the new names have these fake feedbacks piled on top of them. With my normal competitors I get the buy box 95% of the time. When these dirtbag redundant names pile on all my listings, my % is 45%-60%. But I have learned to diversify into marketplaces that DO screen their sellers like Jet. I guess not enough consumers have been burned yet by Chinazon for it to really get out there.

Perminate Link for Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier   Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier

This user has validated their user name. by: RKTOYS

Wed Nov 29 23:27:50 2017

"Our own government is selling us out to the chinese!"
Republicans are selling us out to the Chinese in this case.  ePacket is just another vector through which to attack working Americans.  First, it attacks labor by attacking the postal worker union.  It does this by making the postal service look unprofitable, thus providing excuses to strip mine postal workers of benefits, pay, and jobs.  Second, it attacks small businesses, the real kind (sole proprietors, owner-operator, mom and pop, etc), as many of us rely on the postal service to deliver our products safely, efficiently, and reliably.  They'd love nothing better than to foist UPS/FedEx's extortionate rates and discriminatory practices on us and remove any competition that might threaten their corporate friends.

Perminate Link for Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier   Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier

by: smallstuff This user has validated their user name.

Thu Nov 30 01:00:19 2017

I find Amazon product reviews generally reliable but agree there is a lot of junk mixed in and you have to work to find the good sellers and good products.  I sometimes use fakespot (https://www.fakespot.com) to analyze the reviews when I suspect someone is trying to manipulate the scores.  

Perminate Link for Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier   Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier

by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.
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Thu Nov 30 03:34:48 2017

@RKToys - Not sure why you are blaming Republicans on this especially as you have no proof of what any one or more Republican or Democrat for that matter, has done.  Since this is suppose to be a non-political forum, that is all I will say.

Perminate Link for Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier   Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier

by: BargainzBabylon This user has validated their user name.

Thu Nov 30 04:35:17 2017

One of 45's planks in his platform was to get rid of this absolutely ridiculous subsidy for China post. Whatever happened to that?  Make them pay whatever other international shippers have to and it will put an end to a lot of this rubbish - it was a good policy and the sensible thing to do for American business. Once upon a time I had great hopes that this would be enacted.  

Perminate Link for Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier   Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier

by: treasureattic This user has validated their user name.

Thu Nov 30 07:48:52 2017

@BargainzBabylon Our President is trying his best to deal with things such as this, however he is getting little to no help in anything from Congress. And it's Democrats AND Republicans who are hindering President Trump in many areas. Not supposed to get political here, so I will leave it at that.

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This user has validated their user name. by: RKTOYS

Thu Nov 30 08:20:23 2017

@Moonwishes
Because everything they do is anti labor, anti representative government, or both.  Blaming government as an abstract entity for an attack on government as represented by the USPS is stupid.  I suggest you look up who pushed for the bill requiring the USPS to fund their pensions 75 years out as just one example.  It was a plot to cripple the post office, blame pensions, and garner support from a jealous populous that can't see past the end of their noses to break the postal union (which employs many veterans by the way) and steal them.  It's classic shock doctrine and people keep falling for it.

Perminate Link for Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier   Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier

by: Barbbie This user has validated their user name.

Thu Nov 30 09:14:10 2017

I thought this was all put into general knowledge a long time ago.
The secretary of state among others including USPS decides the epacket costs every 4 years and so the next change in 2018 will have been under Kerry's negotiation. I do not think the last 2 were Republicans (Clinton and Kerry). I only noticed this problem in 2013 as far as my own sales go. The republicans will not be involved in the epacket negotiation until next time. Supposedly Kerry raised it a little, whatever it is, we will have to deal with it for years.

Perminate Link for Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier   Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier

by: b86fiero This user has validated their user name.

Thu Nov 30 11:38:01 2017

I recently purchased a large and fairly expensive light box on Amazon for photographing sale items.  Lots of reviews posted on this particular item.
The most helpful were the 4 star reviews as the comments contained such useful info as "could use a second side light for added contrast"  and "larger and heavier than expected" and "easy to open and set up" and "easy to carry."  
The least helpful were the 1 and 2 stars as they read like rants from competitors and liar buyers who didn't get the partial refund they hoped for.
As to ebay's product review system - it's already a hunk of junk.  Finding rants about the seller, shipping time complaints, reviews appearing on all variations of a product instead of just the one variation the buyer actually purchased.   Many manufacturer's use just one UPC for an entire BRAND of merchandise including all of the product variations.  One disgruntled buyer can damage an entire brand with one negative review.  And those negative reviews are front and center when you click to read the reviews on the listing.  

Perminate Link for Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier   Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier

by: JoelHellmann This user has validated their user name.

Thu Nov 30 17:35:50 2017

Amazon's feedback is perhaps the worst metric in all of online retail. I currently have a rating of 80% positive. that is because no one leaves positive feedbacks on Amazon pretty much only negative. If you look at the negative of all my orders, I have a 99.8% feedback. And it is only that low because amazon's mistakes in shipping my FBA orders which are almost always sent late or damaged. But amazon does not get penalized I do. And they send a refunb when they make a mistake, that I pay for. No other company could do this and stay in business. amazon between lost items, damaged items, late shipments and damaged shipments have litterally 10 times the mistakes I do, and they have tried multiple times to suspend me and no one will come to the phone who has the authnority to adress the issue. A government break up is the only answer to this company.

Perminate Link for Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier   Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier

by: Troy Stiffler This user has validated their user name.

Thu Nov 30 21:33:33 2017

It's always been ugly. For those who buy products in bulk and add their own branding - this has been a long time problem. Everyone files counterfeit complaints, unauthorized dealer complaints, etc. against each other.

For anyone interesting in getting into that business - don't. Chinese companies are currently working to cut out the American middlemen and sell straight to the US consumer. That's what's happening with all of the China ePacket shipments, the Wish app, etc.

I'm on the overstock/salvage/surplus side of things. What I see, is that people enter into that business, charge up their credit cards and spend their life savings, and then get squeezed out after someone sabotages their listings. They end up going broke and liquidating their inventory for pennies on the dollar. I see lots like that become available daily. It's pretty brutal.

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by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Fri Dec 1 07:58:16 2017

Amz has to get ahead of this quickly.  I read the forums on AMZ and the FBA sellers are miserable.  The only sellers who seem to be happy are the big boys (big box stores).

Perminate Link for Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier   Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier

by: mcposty This user has validated their user name.

Fri Dec 1 13:14:52 2017

I agree, consumer reviews are insanely unhelpful to me, as they most often are either snipers brushers or just bitter people who are not reviewing the actual product but mad they had to wait an extra day.

Remove all reviews completely, theres plenty of options for returns so there is literally no risk involved in purchasing.

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by: mcposty This user has validated their user name.

Fri Dec 1 13:17:58 2017

also, of course it is more linient to chinese sellers, those sellers are the Chinese government who owns and operates many many manufacturing factories with slave labor and most likely have lucrative special deals with ebay and amazon and the us government.

its sad really, even when trump said it was lookign toward china, they threatened to nuke us and trump backed off..so much for make america great again.. i rather be nuked than be a total cuck to china.

Perminate Link for Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier   Clawing Ahead of Rivals on Amazon Gets Uglier

by: wackymacs This user has validated their user name.

Sun Dec 3 14:22:17 2017

@mcposty - China "...threatened to nuke us and Trump backed off...". WOW, that's a new one - never heard of it before! That "news" sure would have absolutely collapsed the stock markets, theirs and ours.  



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