Reply All: #124 The Magic Store
July 13, 2018 5:26 AM - Subscribe

Sruthi asks a question "— why does it seem like Amazon has suddenly gotten a lot sketchier?" Alex investigates.
posted by Tevin (5 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I worked for a smallish vendor whose business was split between brick and mortar stores and selling to Amazon vendors.

The Amazon vendors were the absolute worst. We had pretty strict agreements with them that they could only sell below at a certain price, order so much over a certain amount of time, in an attempt to keep our prices somewhat competitive with brick and mortar which still sold pretty well.

Besides the hassle of constantly policing them they were frustrating to work with because (except for one or two) they were just on a grind to move as much product as possible. It wasn't about running a good business or building anything at all but just selling for the sake of selling even if by their own admission it didn't make them any money.

And yo, let's not even talk about if you do have one of the products that Amazon wants to sell directly. This company (and others I have worked for) sold to just about every major retailer you can think of and Amazon is far and away the worst to work for. A common phrase in our office was the simple but effective "fuck Amazon" and whoever was in earshot would echo with a "fuck 'em!"

Amazon is not interested in building sustainable business relationships that can be profitable for all parties but only interested in achieving absolute market dominance so they don't have to pretend any more.
posted by Tevin at 5:38 AM on July 13, 2018 [7 favorites]

I just listened to this episode. So much truth to the fact that has become unreliable crap lately. I never can tell where things are being shipped from, I don’t trust the reviews, and I don’t trust that I will get what is advertised. Plus just trying to filter through the crap that shows up in a search makes it an exercise in frustration.
posted by fimbulvetr at 4:21 PM on July 13, 2018

I've made a lot of stupid mistakes online. I've booked airline tickets for the wrong month, ordered cables whose lengths were measured in centimeters rather than feet as I'd expected, and trashed the computer attached to a $500k piece of lab equipment because I didn't realize the first search result for "firefox" was malware. Mistakes happen. And, I'm a fan of Pinnamaneni. She's a great producer and talented reporter. She seems like a thoughtful and kind person.

But, it's really hard to sympathize here. If you buy the wrong toothbrush from a UK vendor, who delivers it to the US for the specified price, the appropriate response is to joke with your friends about the dumb thing you did. "This UK vendor sold me a toothbrush with a UK plug," isn't a reasonable complaint.

The rest of the piece was really interesting.
posted by eotvos at 1:16 AM on July 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

The most disturbing part of this to me was that people have been unsuccessful in suing Amazon when they facilitate sales of dangerous products. I swear, half the episodes of Reply All are ultimately deregulation horror stories. Between that and the episodes about Racist Twitter, Reply All should be called Reagan's Legacy. I guess the internet as it is today should be called that, actually.
posted by latkes at 6:22 PM on July 15, 2018 [9 favorites]

I thought this episode was good at talking about various problems with Amazon and third party sellers. But it never got to the heart of Sruthi's mistaken order; how did she end up with a European shipment of an old product at 2x the price of the thing she was trying to buy?

My guess was typosquatting; easy to misspell "philips sonicare". But I couldn't reproduce the problem easily. Amazon seems to treat the obvious misspellings "phillips" and "soniccare" as synonyms for "philips sonicare". I can believe aggressive third parties scamming the listings are part of the story here, but I'm still curious how she ended up at $70 for a $40 product when Amazon's default is sorting by price.

(My solution is to be 100% doctrinaire I only ever buy stuff fulfilled by Amazon and available via usual Amazon Prime shipping. That weeds out a lot of crappy merchants.)
posted by Nelson at 4:16 PM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

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