How To Avoid Dangerous Counterfeits On Amazon This Holiday Season
If you asked me last year how to safeguard yourself against
However, I can no longer give the same advice this Christmas season.
Fulfilled by Amazon can be a smokescreen for counterfeiters
Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) is a program that Amazon offers third-party merchants where Amazon handles all aspects of the sale, warehousing, and shipment once a seller sends their products into their warehouses. This is a program that is built for maximum speed, and all products with the same SKUs get mixed in together, regardless of who the individual sellers who shipped them in are. This means that
In terms of negative reviews for counterfeits bought FBA, these often go directly onto the original product listing rather than on the profile of the actual sellers who planted them in Amazon's warehouses, which can do irreparable damage to the reputations of the authentic brands whose items are being knocked off.
An Amazon Fulfilment center in Peterborough, England. Amazon's warehouses are where many of the company's counterfeit problems begin. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Prime is not a safe haven from fakes
Even Amazon Prime is no defense against counterfeit and other illicit items, as we’ve seen numerous times throughout the past year:
“Just because a Prime logo is present doesn't mean it's sold by Amazon. In actuality, any of Amazon's 3 million marketplace sellers can use the Amazon warehouse to house and ship their items and get the so-called "coveted" mark on its products,” Fred Dimyan, the co-founder of Potoo Marketing,
Chris Hoffman from howtogeek.com
“Products that are “fulfilled by Amazon” may have the “Prime” logo that makes them look like they’re sold by Amazon–but they aren’t. You’re still buying a product from a third-party seller. The third-party seller ships that product to Amazon’s warehouses and Amazon ships it to you. However, Amazon doesn’t necessarily confirm that the product is legitimate before shipping it to you.”
“Ships from and sold by Amazon.com” is not even immune to counterfeits
When giving advice on how to safely shop on Amazon, many sites recommend exclusively buying from the so-called "
Shipped and sold by Amazon.com means that the product is shipped and sold by Amazon Retail (via Vendor Central or Vendor Express) directly. Basically, the manufacturer sends product to Amazon.com at a set price through a traditional PO process.
However, even “ships from and sold by Amazon.com” products are not immune to counterfeits, as these items to are often
All those products often get pooled together by bar code, regardless of whether they come from the brands themselves or other distributors. That way, Amazon can grab whichever product that’s ordered at the nearest warehouse to the customer.
That means even if you buy something that is technically sold by Amazon under the brand’s name, you might end up with a product supplied by a third-party merchant, which may or may not be the real thing.
A report from the Wall Street Journal provided an
Sometimes, fakes can get mixed in. Justin Dunham, a mathematics professor in Kansas City, Mo., said his wife bought him what was supposed to be a Tovolo King Cube Ice Tray from Amazon. A receipt for the $8.50 purchase shows it was sold by Amazon, not a third-party seller.
The tray was flimsy, water spilled easily and it broke after a few uses, Mr. Dunham said. He later picked up an authentic Tovolo ice tray at a kitchenware store and saw the difference.
At least three recent lawsuits put exclamation points on the fact that counterfeits are not reserved to Amazon's third party marketplace.
Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz,
Jon Fawcett, the founder of the Kickstarter startup
Allstar Marketing / Intel / Ideavillage also filed a similar
Counterfeits are an important issue for consumers
According to a recent report by
Of the parents surveyed, 83% also claimed that they shop for toys on Amazon and a full 90% felt confident that the e-commerce platform is a safe place to make such purchases. However, after being shown images of real vs. fake products, 61% realized they couldn't distinguish between the two.
So what are shoppers to do?
At root, Amazon is an incredibly innovative, fundamentally disruptive company that provides consumers around the world with a new way to shop and obtain the things they want and need. At this point, it has become extremely difficult to avoid the e-commerce platform in countries like the USA -- where Amazon has a
Are convenience and savings worth the risk of getting a potentially hazardous counterfeit product?
Julie Zerbo from the
Fred Dimyan, the CEO of
While Linnea Catalan of the
My personal recommendation when shopping on Amazon is to always buy directly from the manufacturer -- preferably those who handle their own fulfillment. However, this is not as straight forward as it probably should be. Often, even when you click to buy a product from the authentic brand you need to be careful that the seller doesn’t unexpectedly change during the purchasing process — such as when changing the size, color, etc.
When the photos and descriptions of counterfeit and authentic items on Amazon are exactly the same, when knock-offs are sold on the exact same listings as the products they masquerade as, it is often difficult for shoppers to safeguard themselves from illicit products short of avoiding the e-commerce platform altogether and buying directly from the manufacturer’s website or going to brick and mortar establishments — who actually still vet their supply chains to ensure that customers are not receiving dangerous counterfeits ... like in the good old days.
*Update 12/19/17: Headline changed.
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