How merchants use Facebook to flood Amazon with fake reviews – The Washington Post

On Amazon, customer comments can help a product surge in popularity. The online retail giant says that more than 99 percent of its reviews are legitimate because they are written by real shoppers who aren’t paid for them.

But a Washington Post examination found that for some popular product categories, such as Bluetooth headphones and speakers, the vast majority of reviews appear to violate Amazon’s prohibition on paid reviews. Such reviews have certain characteristics, such as repetitive wording that people probably cut and paste in.

Many of these fraudulent reviews originate on Facebook, where sellers seek shoppers on dozens of networks, including Amazon Review Club and Amazon Reviewers Group, to give glowing feedback in exchange for money or other compensation. The practice artificially inflates the ranking of thousands of products, experts say, misleading consumers.

Amazon.com banned paying for reviews a year and a half ago because of research it conducted showing that consumers distrust paid reviews. Every once in a while, including this month, Amazon purges shoppers from its site whom it accuses of breaking its policies.

But the ban, sellers and experts say, merely pushed an activity that used to take place openly into dispersed and harder-to-track online communities.

It’s tough, with some items, to separate out the fake reviews from the real ones. Amazon does indicate which reviews are for purchases – you can post reviews even if you haven’t purchased an item from Amazon, at least for some product categories – but the way the review-for-sale system works is the sellers “sell” the item for free, or for a nominal fee (such as 1 cent).

I know about this, because I have long posted reviews on Amazon, and am a Vine Voice on Amazon.com, and a top-1000 reviewer on Amazon UK. For a while, I would allow companies to contact me to request reviews, and I did review a handful of products like this, but I stopped, because most of them were crap. I reviewed some electronic product once and gave it one star, and the vendor got really angry at me because they had sent me the item, and expected a five-star review.

I no longer accept unsolicited items, but still write review of things I buy; mostly books, music, and DVDs, but also some other items, if I have an urge to write something when Amazon emails me.

As the article points out, there are certain product categories where this is more of a problem. No-name Bluetooth headphones, diet supplements, even Apple Watch bands; these are the areas where cheap Chinese brands try to game the system. For more expensive products, you can generally trust reviewers, at least if the product is a verified purchase. I look at reviews for audio equipment, camera accessories, and even books, and find them to be, for the most part, honest.

But the system is flawed. You can generally trust those well-rated reviewers, but a former number one reviewer on Amazon.com, who reviewed thousands of books, turned out to have been a fraud, so you never know.

Source: How merchants use Facebook to flood Amazon with fake reviews – The Washington Post

Amazon Finally Announces Numbers: 100 Million Prime Members

In a rare event, Amazon announced, in its latest letter to shareholders, that there are more than 100 million members of Amazon Prime around the world.

13 years post-launch, we have exceeded 100 million paid Prime members globally.

Amazon has always been shy about released numbers, such as sales figures; no one outside the company knows how many Kindles they have sold, for example. Some numbers are available, of course, in its financial statements, but these are aggregates; it’s rare that Amazon gives figures for specific products or services.

To be honest, I’d have thought they had more than that. That suggests – with some quick, back-of-the-envelope calculations – that there are, say, 60 million members in the US, 10 million in the UK, 10 million in France, 10 million in Germany, and a few million in each of the other countries where Prime exists. The service is available in the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Canada, Austria, India, Mexico, Singapore, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, which isn’t a lot of countries. Which means the company still has a lot of growth possible around that service. I can’t find a list of all the countries where Amazon has its full Prime service; they offer some Prime features, such as video, in nearly every country in the world (the only countries that cannot access Prime Video are Mainland China, Iran, North Korea, and Syria).

Amazon finally made its e-commerce service usable for international customers – TechCrunch

Amazon is making a push to globalize its e-commerce service after it added a new international shipping feature to reach more than 100 countries.

The core Amazon service itself is still limited to a handful of countries — primarily the U.S., Western Europe, the Middle East, Australia and Singapore — but the new feature at least makes its mobile apps usable for those who live in other countries and want to buy items.

Now, by switching to this new international shipping mode, customers in markets where Amazon doesn’t have a local presence, can see products that can be shipped to their location. The app will also calculate additions such as shipping and handling costs and import fees.

This isn’t entirely new. I’ve been buying from Amazon.com since the company launched, first when I lived in France, then, in the past five years, from the UK. I often buy books, which can be a lot cheaper, even with shipping charges, and CDs (though generally only big box sets).

What is new is the ability to pay customs duties in advance; the company has been doing this for a few years, though you can’t ship everything overseas. It can be cheaper to buy from Amazon.com, and pay duties, than to buy certain products in countries where competition isn’t very strong.

Source: Amazon finally made its e-commerce service usable for international customers | TechCrunch

Amazon Discounts the iMac Pro: Save $500

We don’t usually see sales on new Macs. Sometimes, after a while, certain chains will discount Macs, but not by a lot. In recent times, however, this has become a bit more common, though it’s rare to see such a new model discounted.

The new iMac Pro – the 8 core, 1 TB model – is currently $500 off at Amazon. While that’s only a 10% discount, it’s not negligible. There have been a few other retailers discounting this Mac, as much as $1,000, but this is the first major reseller that I’ve seen offering a discount.

It’s worth noting that the iMac Pro currently has no user reviews on Amazon.