He visited the product page on Amazon.com and suspected he was the victim of "sniping," when one merchant sabotages another by hiring people to leave critical reviews of their goods and then voting those reviews as being helpful, making them the most prominent feedback seen by shoppers. Freelancers in China and Bangladesh willing to do this for $10 an hour are easily found online. Even though the toy has a 4.8 star rating out of 5 based on more than 1,100 reviews, shoppers first see a string of critical one-star reviews and many may get scared away.
Maintaining order on Amazon — where 2 million merchants compete to win billions of dollars in business from 300 million shoppers — has become a running problem for the online giant and it only heats up during the busy holiday season. Some merchants engage in black-hat tactics with precise timing, trying to maximize their own sales when shoppers spend most before their tricks are detected. When Amazon clamps down on one exploit, they regroup and find a new one.
"This stuff has been going on nonstop since we started selling on Amazon," said Hart, president of VIAHART in New York City. "It’s still the Wild West. There are tons of scams and they constantly evolve to keep gaming the system."
Amazon said it “does not tolerate fraud or abuse of our policies.” In a statement, the company said it’s “constantly working to improve the ways we detect and prevent abuse from impacting customers.” Amazon said it suspends or blocks “bad actors” suspected of illegal behavior or infringing on others’ intellectual property rights.
Timely, incisive articles delivered directly to your inbox.