Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Some Shoppers Are Fleeing Amazon Because of Counterfeit Goods

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There was a period of time during which Amazon was the retail darling. You really could find whatever you needed — often cheaper than anywhere else. Even better, most items even had reviews from real people so you could make an educated decision about whether a product was a good buy.

Yes, Amazon was once a real boon for our bank accounts. Unfortunately, those days seem to be gone.

You can still find a little bit of everything on the digital shelves at Amazon.com. But it’s not often that you’ll find much lower prices than you can get elsewhere. Free shipping isn’t even the unique incentive it used to be; most major brands now offer free shipping, too. Plus, Amazon has become infamous for not shipping within its advertised timeframe.

And these problems aren’t even the worst issue plaguing the retail giant. Amazon also seems to have a rampant counterfeit problem that is finally breaking the company’s hold on consumers’ wallets.

Many users report receiving counterfeit goods

Have you ever purchased something you use regularly off of Amazon that just didn’t look right? Maybe the stitching was odd, or the quality seemed poor compared to what you’d usually expect.

There’s a good chance it could have been a counterfeit product.

Social media is awash with complaints from users who have been sent fake or counterfeit goods despite thinking they’ve purchased from a name brand.

In the BuyItForLife subreddit, a single post on counterfeit Darn Tough socks — an expensive but high-quality sock brand — has over 900 comments from users sharing their own stories of fake and counterfeit goods sent to them by Amazon. It also has nearly 8,000 upvotes to date.

And that’s just a single post on the issue; there are thousands more. If even a fraction of the complaints are true, then Amazon’s counterfeit problem isn’t one or two products — it’s a systemic issue.

Spotting the fakes may be impossible for users

What makes this entire problem worse is that Amazon seems to make it as difficult as possible for shoppers to avoid these counterfeit items.

For one thing, according to many user reports, Amazon stores products together regardless of the seller. So, you could have three sellers who send their products to Amazon to sell and ship. When those items hit Amazon’s warehouse, they are reportedly stored all together, with no way to distinguish which product came from which seller.

This means that even if two sellers have legitimate goods, counterfeit goods from the third seller could be shipped to anyone who orders the product, regardless of which seller they thought they were using.

Another big problem? You can’t trust the reviews.

It’s long been known that Amazon has a fake review problem. But that’s not the only issue if users are right. I’ve read a ton of stories from (former) Amazon users who report their critical reviews — including those pointing out counterfeit goods, even with proof — were taken down by Amazon. Furthermore, many users say they were banned from leaving future reviews.

Your go-to for low-quality consumables

At this point, I am one of the many consumers who don’t use Amazon for anything important. If I want a package of AA batteries, sure, I may order them from Amazon (the Amazon Basic batteries work just fine, in my experience).

But if I want something from a name brand, like a Samsung product, or even just my favorite shampoo — well, I head to the brand’s website, or to a different retailer. I’ve simply been burned by Amazon’s rampant counterfeit problem too many times to trust what I receive.

On the one hand, it’s sad to see such a convenient shopping platform devolve into something I only trust for low-importance items. But, on the other hand, I’m kind of glad for this incentive to stop using Amazon so much.

After all, Amazon isn’t exactly known for being a great company; it’s notorious for treating employees badly and being unapologetically anti-union. So, when you think about it, selling fake goods and censoring critical reviews is actually right on brand.

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The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.John Mackey, former CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Brittney Myers has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Amazon.com. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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