Amazon

Some product reviews on Amazon are sketchy. That’s a given; there are bad actors out there.

More troublesome is how some terrible products still earn glowing reviews on the e-commerce site because of what Amazon itself is doing.

According to an investigation by The Guardian, Amazon sometimes “bundles” reviews of different products, allowing completely different — and often inferior — items to get propped up to four-star-plus levels. The examples cited include poorly translated Kindle versions of books, a TV version of Dirty Dancing (which was rated as if it were the original film), plus various electronics and gardening equipment. The problem appears most frequently when items are similarly named (e.g., different versions of the same book) or made by the same company, although reviews are sometimes mixed up for no apparent reason — like a Henry James and Mary Shelley novel that somehow shared ratings.

“Most of the reviews do not mention [which] edition is being appraised,” The Guardian notes, while also pointing out the star system only shows the average for all reviews, even if you manage to drill down to each rating level and suss out the misidentified products.   

Our suggestion: click on all the one-star reviews, especially if you’re buying a book in the public domain or an item from an unknown brand. From personal experience, incensed people tend to go into great detail about the product they dislike. As well, this Reddit thread has a few good pointers for avoiding inflated reviews, like being more wary of third-party sellers and items with multiple five-star reviews that were published on the same day.

All this comes as news that the government is looking into cracking down on counterfeit items on sites like Amazon, which could be beneficial to consumers and the sites themselves (who could gain more trust and put better protocols into place to avoid sketchy listings).

Photo: Christian Wiediger on Unsplash