Category Archives: shopping secrets

Amazon Shopping Secrets From An Official Reviewer

A while back, Amazon contacted me and asked me to become an official reviewer. I like comparing things, so I agreed.  Amazon selects items that may interest me. I can select or reject these items to review.  Sometimes their selections are spot on; at other times, they are so far off that I wonder if their computer is melting down. For instance, I have been offered breast pumps and African American hair extensions.  

Third-party sellers use this review program to get high-quality reviews of their products, as a single review can mean hundreds of sales. Based on this, most officially reviewed products should be expected to be good.  Why would someone want a bad review?  Despite this, I still will get an occasional clinker. 

Getting involved with the review process has educated me about some potential review scams from third-party sellers.  Below, I’ll list some of those impressions and my personal verdict on product categories that I have had the chance to examine.

It is estimated that at least 40% of reviews on Amazon are fake.  There are many ways to get fake reviews.  One common way to pay for a fake reviewer is to write a product review.  Some folks write reviews on products as a side hustle. For a few dollars, a product can get a 5-star review on a product the reviewer has never used.

Some fake reviewers will purchase a product and write a positive review.  They use their funds to buy the item, which the seller then refunds in exchange for cash and a free product.  The seller can get a “Verified Purchase” badge on their review.

There are large overseas organizations where a seller can buy a block of reviews or even have bad reviews removed.

In the past, it was easy to spot a fake review based on a lack of details or poor grammar.  This is getting harder as scammers now use AI-generated reviews, which can seem real.

There are other ways a seller can buy a “Verified Purchase” review, but those methods are beyond the scope of this post.

Another way to scam the customer is by updating the item’s product description.  They may sell a good product at a reasonable price.  When they have gained enough positive reviews, they will use the product update function on Amazon to change the product completely.  You can tell if this is the case by reading the original reviews.  Watch out if you bought a computer, but the original reviews were for a crockpot.

Sellers will pair items under the same listing. They may sell an inexpensive but high-quality charging cable and have an additional expensive but unrelated item in the same listing. Buyers may review the charging cable at 5 stars, and the overly expensive item will also seem highly rated.

Some sellers hire groups to trash another seller’s product to gain market share.

Naturally, Amazon is trying to eliminate these problems, but it is harder than you think.  As a consumer, your best option is to read a random sampling of the reviews to see if they are legit. 

Are there a bunch of reviews that use very similar language?  Caution advised.

Are there many reviews that all highlight the exact same points? Caution advised.

Are there reviews that consistently use very bad grammar?  Cautioned advised.

Are there reviews so generic that they could describe any item? Caution advised.

Does the product page list two unrelated products?  Caution advised.

Are the reviews clumped, many written during a short time period?  Cautioned advised.

Do the reviews talk about a completely different product?  Caution advised.

I like to look at the poor reviews on a product I’m considering purchasing and compare those poor reviews with the 5-star reviews.  Sometimes it is clear that the poor review was because the customer didn’t know what they were doing. Other times there are clear indications that the 5 -Star review is fake.  

At this time, I have reviewed hundreds of Amazon products and have come up with a few conclusions.  

Clothing items:  This category has been the most variable of all product categories.  At times I have discovered bargains.  I have reviewed many products that were as advertised. However, I have found many sub-par articles of clothing.  Common problems were that they were missized or poorly constructed.  I have also reviewed clothing where the material was of very poor quality. A greater concern has been products that initially seemed to be of good value but failed after moderate use.  I reviewed a winter coat that I liked.  However, the zipper became increasingly difficult to latch within a month or two. If the manufacturer had used a quality zipper, it would have been a great coat and a good value.  However, the crappy zipper significantly downgraded the product.

Linens, etc.:  Here, you get what you pay for, and sometimes a little more.  Cheap towels are cheap. More expensive ones are decent. Bedding is often constructed OK, but check out the dimensions. I have gotten quilts and blankets advertised for a king mattress that would be more suitable for a queen.

Electronics/Computers: I have been happy with many of these items.  However, if you buy an inexpensive item, don’t expect it to be premium.  You can get a mini-computer for a couple of hundred dollars which will work for simple computing. However, it won’t do high-demand tasks like video editing or gaming.

Kitchenware: I have been satisfied with many items I have reviewed.  I have tested many small appliances and other items, from plates to cookware.  If you read the description carefully, you will likely get what you have ordered. If you buy a set of pots and pans for $20, expect to get junk.  However, I have reviewed many off-brand items that were less expensive than the brand name that were as good. Many kitchen items are made in the same factories as the more expensive branded items. Your mileage may vary.  

Tools/Outdoor stuff: Many of these items are as described.  Cheap tools won’t be as good as branded ones, but they will do the job for a DIYer like me.  I would say the same for outdoor implements. 

Camping/Fun items: Most of the things I have reviewed were good.  

Items to consider avoiding:  These are not items that I have reviewed in my official capacity. Instead, they are items that I purchased over the years. Personally, I won’t buy cologne/perfume as I have gotten counterfeit items in the past. I would say the same about other popular branded/designer items.  

Final tips: 

An identical product may be sold under several different names at vastly different price points.  

Check the color choices of a product, as some colors will be significantly less expensive than others. 

Make sure you calculate the cost per ounce when buying consumable products.  You may find that the larger container is more expensive than the smaller container (which is counterintuitive).  

Caution, when a seller uses unfamiliar measurements to describe a product.  For instance, centimeters instead of inches. At times this is an honest mistake, but at other times it is used to confuse the customer.  

Sometimes a discontinued product will be ridiculously expensive, even when the updated product is cheaper.  

Sometimes a seller will sell an item at a cost many times its MSRP.  I’m unsure why; I’m guessing they hope someone will mindlessly click and buy.

Happy shopping!