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Amazon’s Fake Review Problem is Worse Than Ever. Here’s Why.

By Chris McCabe

Amazon’s efforts to clean up product reviews have sent the problem underground. Fake reviews are still around, but are harder to detect.

Amazon’s Fake Review Problem is Worse Than Ever. Here’s Why.

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Tom

The fake negative reviews that I receive are repetitive and they don’t talk about the product much at all. If they do they do so vaguely without any real details. Real reviewers don’t talk from the stand point of a seller. I think the more they restrict what is said to comments about the product the better.

This problem has improved quite a bit IMO in the last 6 months. The problem I see with the guy I know who is doing it (yes, I have met them personally) is that they haven’t changed their behaviors after getting in trouble after I reported them and they have multiple other products doing the same crap. They have no inbound traffic from outside of Amazon and barely use PPC; people like this need to really get in trouble and banned if they get a second offense as Amazon needs to promote real brands. Companies that undercut prices with sketchy products and fake reviews could lead to Amazon having low quality products like how Kmart became associated. Google has a list of people’s names in a similar manner for manual penalties and as they have become stiffer with new penalties it has been a factor in them cleaning things up over years.

I am guessing Amazon continues to improve over time with this. For now I have reported a seller who offers inventivised reviews on his website and gotten mixed reviews. Sometimes they get in big trouble, sometimes reviews get erased, and sometimes they get in no trouble at all. I hope it becomes more predictable that when people break the rules they consistently get dealt with.

Chris McCabe

Replying to Tom

you’ve met them personally? So you know who it is, and they admit doing it?

Mal

Replying to Tom

From Last week a person, we are guessing this is another seller, has multiple buying accounts, buys from us, cancels and leaves negative reviews. This was happening everyday, I reported this to Amazon Via phone and Email and it has been 6 days and we still don’t have a response. Our seller feedback was at 89% now it is at 65% all because of the same buyer accounts ordering, canceling and leaving negative feedback. Please contact me at [email protected] if you have any advice for this. Thanks

anon

Great article Chris. I believe Amazon is complicit with the fake reviews because it leads to more sales. They were fine with incentivized reviews until customers started noticing. Nowadays customers do not realize how many reviews are fake, and reporters are not calling out Amazon about the issue. Amazon is the king of creating algorithms and there are a few simple algorithms that would clean up the marketplace in an instant. Example – Monitoring Review-to-Orders Ratio would clean up at least 95% of the listings with fake reviews that I come across.

Here’s some research I did that shows the extent of the issue of Amazon fake reviews and how some sellers are building fake review empires:

A brief summary of how one Chinese company is manipulating Amazon, and Amazon allows them to continue selling:

There is a man named Long You, the President of Sundix Inc. and Usagi International. https://www.corporationwiki.com/p/2gctsm/long-yu

Each of these parent companies, own a lot of other companies that are all selling on Amazon, many of the same exact product, and all are loaded with fake reviews, often hundreds.

Here’s Sundix American subsidiaries per Official Florida State website: http://search.sunbiz.org/Inquiry/CorporationSearch/SearchResults/OfficerRegisteredAgentName/sundix/Page1

Here are Sundix trademarks that they own directly:
https://trademarks.justia.com/search?type=trademark_owner&q=sundix

Here’s Usagi’s American subsidiaries per Official Florida State website:
http://search.sunbiz.org/Inquiry/CorporationSearch/SearchResults/OfficerRegisteredAgentName/usagi/Page1

One of Usagi subsidiaries, Gainesville Cable Retail, LLC – Owns Adoric Trademark https://trademarks.justia.com/868/70/adoric-86870092.html

Sundix has many duplicates of the same exact product listing. Each listing that Sundix launches immediately gets countless verified 5 star reviews, becomes a very good seller, and eventually starts to get bad reviews from real customers. That’s when they launch the next duplicate listing through the same process.

Sunnest Star projector https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074N55291/
Sunnest #2 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075SY5V7G
Adoric Star projector https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XSSLH32/

If you look at review images from the Adoric brand you will see Sunnest logo.

Sunnest is a trademark owned by a Sundix Inc. subsidiary – Duractron, LLC. https://trademarks.justia.com/868/70/sunnest-86870094.html

As you might notice, there are different sellers on the listings, but you start to see the same names twice. At the bottom of this comment you’ll find an incomplete list of seller accounts and brands that are owned by Sundix/Usagi.

You’ll also find sellers like Benewell and Toplus sell products from both Adoric and their own brand name. If you have a Amazon Business buying account you can see that these sellers are selling thousands to tens of thousands of orders per month.

-snip-

Dayve Ward

Replying to anon

It’s April 2019 and it’s still going on. I noted one of the products had hundreds of reviews with repetitions. It was so easy to spot but despite Amazon’s apparantly sophisticated algarithams they are still rife. It seems that Amazon may not be too bothered after all.

Chris McCabe

Replying to anon

Also, have you reported this info to Amazon? You should let me know what you need to do so the right way.

Chris McCabe

I totally agree that things have begun to change, Amazon is beginning to understand the size of the problem and grapple with it on the headcount and perhaps even tools building side. But there’s a lot of work to do, and so far things are moving very slowly. Hope to see more progress as the year goes on.

Beyond that, make sure you’re reporting this violator properly, and keep at it, escalations and follow ups. Don’t give up! They need more examples of abuse to develop the best tools and SOPs. Thanks for the comment.

Dayve Ward

Replying to Chris McCabe

April 2019 and it’s still very much going on. There was a Which report into the scale of it. I checked one product to find multiple identical reviews. Not so much progress after all.

Chris McCabe

Replying to Dayve Ward

Unfortunately, I thought more would be done last year, and here we are, so many months later. Not much improved in terms of enforcement, but the clamor and public disgust is up about ten fold. I hope they create some better tools and turn around the training on the teams responsible for this material.

Mark

Has anyone checked out Netgear’s reviews?

Melita

And unfortunately, they’ve gone too far the other way with trying to stop it.

I found this site because I’m trying to figure out why I’ve been perma-banned from reviewing. I am a regular Amazon customer, have been since 2001. Been a Prime member since they first offered it.

I’m not a top reviewer, never have been. I have never been given a product free or discounted for a review. Have never had any interaction with a seller outside Amazon at all, every contact has gone through Amazon Marketplace email.

I’ve only ever had two reviews kicked back to me – once for mentioning a price in a review, and another for saying I didn’t receive the product at all (something from China, left the review at 60 days past order date, and there were other published reviews saying same).

The only thing I can think that might have raised a flag is that I left a review when I was annoyed by a seller pestering me for a review (via Amazon Marketplace emails), for an extension cord. Sarcastically, I said – “Seller begs a review, so here goes. It’s an extension cord. It has a 3-prong male plug at one end, and three 3-prong female plugs at the other end. It carries electricity from one end to the other.”

Heuristically, if they did actually take the time to look, they’d see that I have never gone straight to some product and purchased it – I search for something, look at several before selecting one. I buy the same types of products from different sellers, only rarely do I go back to a seller I liked and buy something different (but still within the same family of products, for example aquarium supplies).

I do tend to leave my reviews in batches, because Amazon is set up that way. When they send you the reminder in email (Amazon Marketplace itself, not an individual seller), it brings you to a page where you can review everything you haven’t previously reviewed.

This was actually how I’d discovered my suspension as well. They didn’t send me anything – it was when I went to review something and saw that the first thing on the review page was something I knew I’d already left a review for (I was in fact the first/only reviewer for it). And then discovered that all my reviews had disappeared.

At that time I called Customer Service and asked about it, and was told that it was just a glitch while they were updating their review system. The CSRep said he’d reviewed my account and seen no violations, assured me that my reviews were still ‘there’, and that they should reappear in 11 days or so.

Then this morning, I get the ‘you’ve been suspended forever and this is final’ email. And I still have no idea what it is I’ve done, or what flagged my account/reviews.

Called Customer Service again, and the rep assured me they’d look into it – but then the conversation got cut off, and I didn’t call them back.

Since 2001, the only time I’ve had to call Customer Service has been when a Kindle was stolen (called to report it stolen so it would be registration-blocked). However, since April of this year, I’ve had to call CS at least five times – three times for items horribly packed (no damage to outer box) that were destroyed in shipment, and now twice over reviews. Was already beginning to reconsider some of my subscription-purchases (the three destroyed items were on monthly Subscribe&Save, and were being thrown in with larger S&S items, same box and no cushioning – the larger items were crushing the smaller.)

At this point, I am definitely not feeling like a valued customer. Especially when nobody seems to be able to tell me why I have been forever-banned from reviewing, with no warning and no explanation. I don’t see how any of the reviews I’ve ever made, other than the one mentioned, could be considered ‘not-real’, especially given my purchase history (stretching back 17 years). They were all real, normal, upfront purchases – but I don’t know how I’d prove that. Give them access to my PayPal account so they can see that all the transactions there are outgoing, none incoming? Give them access to my bank account? Where do I go from here?

I’m kinda left with trying to decide if I want to continue to do as much business with a company that believes I’ve violated their rules; and if I want to buy things knowing that I can’t share my experiences of those things (good or bad). I also have subscriptions to Kindle Unlimited and Cloud, I have Subscribe and Save monthly items, I am a Prime member – all from way back. And I’ve replaced most of my physical books with Kindle editions. Do they really think I’d risk an account that has so much with them, going so far back, just to give a seller some feedback they hadn’t earned?

Sorry for the long comment, I just don’t know where to go from here. I’m still more than a little stunned. I am all for the idea of getting rid of fake feedback, but at the same time I am a real customer who feels like I’ve been tried, sentenced and found guilty when I still don’t even know what the actual crime was. 🙁

Margaret Skrovanek

Replying to Melita

Sadly, I am in the same boat. I became a vigilante by posting reviews for products/sellers that receive “F” grades from Fakespot.com.

This week I received my official ban because “Customer Content violated our guidelines and Conditions of Use. We won’t reinstate your posting permissions for this account.” So Amazon is penalizing us for trying to point out dishonest sellers!

There must be an organization that deals with this. Have you had any luck since your posting? We should ban together!

Margaret

Chris McCabe

Replying to Margaret Skrovanek

Hi Margaret, you became a vigilante? you’re going to be banned of course, it looks like retaliatory strikes against another seller, or fake review behavior.

Dayve Ward

Replying to Melita

That’s so sad to hear. I wonder if the fakers are reporting the genuine reviews. Amazon clearly don’t have the staff to actually review these reports so maybe they just automatically take action in the reporter’s favour. Great scam though. The genuine reviewers get banned leaving the fakers to do their worst. Just my sceptical theory. Anyway, it’s now April 2019 and Amazon still haven’t got a grip on fake reviews.

Sheery

Replying to Melita

Same thing has just happened to me. I kept getting emails to review some bathbombs that bought for my daughter. The emails was reminders to review and they were feom amazon. I paid for these I did not get anything special feom them. Just the same normal purchases that I always buy. I checked the link in the email to review and now it says I can’t review anymore. I’m not happy about it especially after paying yearly for prime and I have been a member for as long as I can remember

JACOMM

@Melita
So glad to have found your post here and realize – I’m not alone.

Seems like most larger corporations that ignore a problem when they finally get a fire under them they overcompensate and “throw the baby out with the bathwater”.

I too have no idea why my account reviewing privileges were suspended. Heck, I can’t communicate at all publicly on Amazon.

I too have been an Amazon customer for YEARS. Since they started only selling books and occasional software.

All I can think of is that after being injured and NEEDING Amazon for goods related to my injury and resulting surgery, I was reviewing all the pre and post surgical products in one bunch after not being able to do much on a computer for months.

Maybe this red flagged, but their accusations of having relationships with sellers or gaining payment for reviews was so disheartening to me after being through a major traumatic accident, surgery and difficult recovery that I’ve refused to personally purchase on Amazon for the last four to five months. If I absolutely need something I have a family member buy and ship it to me.

There is no such thing as “too big to fail” only “too big to have common sense and treat people right” all in pursuit of ever growing gains.

It’s sad, Amazon really was almost THE pioneer in bringing products to your door through the Internet. Too bad they have an opinion of themselves that far outreaches the reality of who they really are, and how they truly treat people in the race for the almighty “dollar”.

Mi

If I were Amazon, I will open some review service to provide fake reviews. So I will know which sellers potentially use fake reviews to grow their business on Amazon. lol

Richard Bryan

I buy a lot of hiking and backpacking equipment on Amazon and very frustrated with the fake equipment reviews. So many times they’re so obvious because of the same poor sentence structure and Chinese-English usage of words and phrases and punctuation. Reviews used to be a trust worthy way to evaluate whether to purchase a product but not anymore.

Chris McCabe

Hi Richard, glad to hear you’re a fellow hiking and backpacking enthusiast! Unfortunately, Amazon still hasn’t ironed out the best ways to identify and scrutinize reviews that are all copied from another listing, or use the same sentence structure over and over on the same listing, which you’d think they could do fairly easily. Plenty of engineers to figure this out! There’s been a lack of will to act, and a lot of technical solutions or tools, or both. The PRA teams definitely aren’t staffed with enough knowledge people who can handle the load, either. Tough times for product reviews now, where you really want to know what’s safe and effective and what isn’t. The good news is, I think in 2019, they won’t have a choice. They’ll have to fit together some of these broken pieces into a fixed strategy to regulate these properly.

Christopher C Smith

Looks like I am not alone. I became frustrated with reviews that have nothing to do with the product listed as verified purchases for the seller. I raised the issue with Amazon. They stated they would of course take care of it, NADA. After I Complained 3 times they started blocking my comments and even questions to sellers.

First I understand that this is a huge issue. Amazon likely has lost control of this and it is difficult to manage. With people buying reviews it has gotten worse. Being able to count on the validity of reviews is next to impossible in many cases.

Second, it appears that looking the other way to protect revenue is the direction that has been taken for now. While the problem exists, it is simply more cost effective to look the other way instead of dealing with it.

Third, I have actually spoken to several sellers who provide very good follow up and are just starting out. I feel like the odds are against them as they struggle for positive reviews. It is not fair to them to enter into a system that is corrupted and stacked against them to from the get go.

This brings me to FTC violations. Why is this not illegal? If Amazon is complicit in allowing this activity they should be called on it. Has anyone written to a legislator about these issues?

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