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Caveat emptor: tactics of lot of Chinese sellers on Amazon today.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of sellers from Asia are now looking at Amazon as good trading front for their business. While not being stereotypical and there are always exceptions, there are a awful lot of "cost effective goods" sellers here (read: awful goods when you truly get what you pay for).
I have found (by my own prolonged experience) that great amount of these sellers on Amazon nowadays employ following tactics (almost identical, save by bits of difference here and there):

  1. Design an item which has as many features in the list as possible (e.g. ruler with laser and spirit levels, pen with ruler+level+screwdrivers, etc)
  2. Make it cheap, at the expense of quality.
  3. Take best-looking photos only of best items of the batch.
  4. Sometimes, employ "permanent sale" tactics - set base price to over-inflated (and clearly nonsense) value, then make a massive (sometimes like 300%) discount on it. This creates an impression of deal too good to pass - but seller never actually intends to sell at "true" price and "sale" is always on 100% of time (I've tracked couple of such items and verified it personally).
  5. Solicit reviews by giving out free/discounted samples to best Amazon reviewers at the exchange for the reviews. Nothing shady, just asking for honest reviews. But, a catch! - obviously for these samples do extra quality control so people reviewing only get best items.
  6. When selling to general public, now go full blast with quality/cost saving.
  7. Obviously lot of people will get a defective/bad quality items, but nearly not everyone will bother putting negative review.
  8. If somebody actually *does* put a negative review, start chasing them via emails/Amazon messaging and asking them to rewrite/remove bad review - in the exchange of free/discounted/fixed item. Obviously this time only send them a good quality one as a replacement.
This creates a listing which too good to be true - a very cheap item with big amount of high reviews and little to none of critical reviews. And figures, its too good to be true exactly because its completely skewed representation of reality. And its serious - to my rough estimate nowadays there are *thousands* of such items on Amazon UK.
I've did a little digging and apparently there is nothing in Amazon seller rules to combat such model, e.g. soliciting reviews is legal and its impossible to prove that seller uses different quality control for review samples and for general sales.
Fortunately I've found its fairly easy to spot such items:
  1. Many reviewers are honest and note something like "I've received free/discounted sample in exchange of honest review". If you see many of these, this is a *huge* red flag.
  2. See how many reviews are actually from "Verified Seller" (e.g. the person who actually bought item from Amazon and not somebody who just came to Amazon and wrote a review without even proof that they've bought an item). Its surprising that Amazon does not make this more prominent, e.g. there is no way to tell Amazon to compute review scores only based on verified purchases and you have to drill into "detailed reviews" for the filter to become available (and to actually notice that sometimes *none* of many reviews are actually credible).
  3. If not above, see if significant number of people write something like "I've received defective item, but seller sent me a replacement and its fine". Ask yourself if you want this hassle even if you get a "good" replacement (what will be guarantee that it will last anyway).
  4. See if people state that they've changed review to more positive and especially if seller contacted them about it.
  5. And lastly, do not base your decision on if this is a Chinese seller - lot of Asian goods are actually pretty good nowadays and you are equally bound to find same tactics even with "Truly UK-made" stuff.
I hope that article will help you to have more pleasant shopping experience!


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