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The Modern Horror of Shopping for Phone Chargers on Amazon

March 19th, 2019

I’ve been spending some time on Twitter, monitoring complaints about fake Amazon reviews, and noticed an interesting trend.  I’m seeing a lot of customers complaining about cheap electronics with thousands of unverified 5-star reviews that are all written on (or close to) the same day.

I figured that these Twitter users were just discovering some hidden products on Amazon that somehow slipped through the cracks.  However after one quick search on Amazon, I realized that wasn’t the case.

Here’s what happened when I searched “iPhone Charger” on Amazon:

I simply typed in “iPhone Charger” to Amazon.  Out of the 22 results on the first page, here’s the breakdown:

  • 10 products with hundreds or thousands of fake reviews.
  • 6 sponsored listings
  • 3 products with low or no rating and possibly thousands of deleted reviews
  • 2 Amazon-brand products
  • 1 possible genuine product (but also reportedly a counterfeit)

Let’s go through the results, one-by-one.  Keep in mind that search results and product listings change all the time, so you might see something different if you search for the exact same term.

 

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 9.37.08 AM

#1, #2 = Sponsored Results

Just like Google, Amazon is selling premium placement in their search results to the highest bidder.  Can these products be trusted? Who knows, but it’s clear that they paid their way to the top.

 

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 9.39.50 AM

#3, #4 = AmazonBasics Brand (Amazon’s In-House Brand)

This is Amazon’s own in-house brand.  Personally, I’ve been satisfied with buying their house brand, but I also feel it’s unfair that their own products magically rank in the first two unpaid spots on their own marketplace.

 

Screen Shot 2019-03-18 at 7.46.10 AM

#5, #6, #7, #8, #9 = Products with literally 1,000’s of FAKE reviews

If you have spent any time on ReviewMeta, you’ll notice that we tend to shy away from using the word “fake”.  However, in this case, it seems very appropriate.  These products are the ones I mentioned being reported on Twitter – 1,000’s of unverified reviews, all posted on or around the same day.  For each of these products, our algorithm adjusts the 5-star rating down to nothing. We’re literally tossing out thousands of reviews here.

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 9.47.52 AM

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 9.48.22 AM

Our reports for the #5-9 products:

#5: https://reviewmeta.com/amazon/B07PT4R69G

#6: https://reviewmeta.com/amazon/B07M7K7G49

#7: https://reviewmeta.com/amazon/B07N68XR27

#8: https://reviewmeta.com/amazon/B07PJNPWS8

#9: https://reviewmeta.com/amazon/B07NDDHQQZ

 

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 9.55.42 AM

#10 = A product using stolen reviews from different listings.

We call this practice Review Hijacking – it happens when sellers abuse the product variation system by consolidating old listings of different products or changing the name and info on a listing to their own, while keeping the old reviews for a different product.

Here our report on this product in the #10 spot: https://reviewmeta.com/amazon/B07P8LWZX4

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 9.53.32 AM

As you can see, not only are they stealing reviews from an HDMI cable, digital camera, glass tincture bottle – the actual listing also was previously used to sell screen protectors.  The “Top Positive Review” is clearly for a screen protector (and still sounds fake).

 

#11, #12 = More Sponsored Results

Just like the #1 and #2 spots, we see more sponsored listings half-way through the page.  

 

#13 = A product that previously had 2,000+ reviews but now has 8

The #13 spot is currently occupied by a product with a 2.5-star rating and only 8 reviews.  However this product previously had a 5-star rating with over 2,000 reviews.

Our report isn’t showing any deleted reviews because they were for a different product variation that has now disappeared from Amazon: https://reviewmeta.com/amazon/B07NS4P2M8

 

#14 = 400+ reviews, 100% unverified…

Another product that seems to be working it’s way up through the rankings by piling on the obviously fake reviews.  This one only has 424 at the time of writing, all of which were written on March 12th: https://reviewmeta.com/amazon/B07PFWPK9J

 

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 10.08.23 AM

#15 = A “Genuine” Apple product?

This one says sold and shipped by Amazon, and lists “Apple” as the brand  However some of the reviews are claiming that it’s not a genuine product, and our report shows some interesting details – a few 5-star reviews deleted and average rating of 1.8 stars from the Unverified purchases.  Not sure if it’s being brigaded by the competition or if there’s truly some counterfeits being sold.

 

#16 = Another 1,000+ fake reviews

This one fails almost every single one of our tests: https://reviewmeta.com/amazon/B07NDGYWNX – honestly I have no idea how these are being promoted by Amazon.

 

#17  = No reviews

This product likely had a bunch of fake reviews that were recently deleted.  We don’t have any record of them, probably because they were for a different variation: https://reviewmeta.com/amazon/B07MTYSQVJ

 

#18, #19 = More 1,000+ fake review products

Another two products with literally thousands of fake reviews:

https://reviewmeta.com/amazon/B07PKF3Y3W and https://reviewmeta.com/amazon/B07PGF8XKT

 

#20 = 2.5 star product after 5 reviews

Here’s another product that we suspect recently had a bunch of reviews deleted, but still doesn’t look too appealing with such a low rating: https://reviewmeta.com/amazon/B07NP61V49

 

#21, #22 = More Sponsored Results

The last two spots are taken up by sponsored results, bringing the total number of sponsored results on the page to over 25%

What is Amazon thinking?

Honestly, I have no idea.  I would understand it if a seller had some sophisticated way of slowly generating realistic-looking, verified reviews over time and Amazon wasn’t able to catch them.  But getting 1,000’s of unverified reviews in a day on a new product, or blatantly stealing reviews from a different product should be pretty obvious and easy to catch.  After all, ReviewMeta is able to pick up on this sort of stuff pretty easily, and we don’t exactly have a massive team of highly-talented engineers at our disposal.

This type of shopping experience is going to drive customers away from Amazon.  It really shouldn’t be this challenging to buy a charger for the most popular phone in the world from the biggest online retailer in the world.


  • Lars Watts

    Definitely a case where I’d go to a brick and mortar store’s online site. Might be twice as much, but for something that cheap, that’s not much.

  • Mike in Oceanside California

    Well I see HOW they do it since below is just one of over 10-20 emails I get EVERY single NIGHT from Chinese SCAMMERS begging me to write reviews. MOST offer me large KICKBACK for the trouble as well. Report them to Amazon but they could care less. They even BANNED me from any reviews due to me constantly telling people what was going on in MY reviews…Then they literally removed 15 years of ALL my reviews to boot so I am done with THEM as well. They don’t care at all it seems but man do they ever want those sales revenues no matter HOW they get them. It sickens me but at least I have to my amazement EASILY transitioned to buying everything from Target, Walmart & Best Buy etc and found it often cheaper anyway and I get reviews I can trust! Man, you want a shock? Check reviews for items at Best Buy VS Amazon on TV sets etc and see the difference! A real eye opener. Amazon has simply proven itself 100% irrelevant to me.

    free product for testing
    Trash
    x
    [email protected]
    x
    子非鱼
    Wed, Mar 20, 12:48 AM (1 day ago)
    to jxxxxxx

    You have blocked [email protected] New messages from this sender will be sent to Spam.
    Unblock senderMove to spam
    Dear USMC Combat Vet :
    My name is Sally .
    We are a sanitaryware manufacture as well as the Amazon seller.
    In here, I am have some good news for you .
    If you are Amazon member and meet the below requirement,you can get this free new handheld bidet sprayer for testing in the Amazon website .(see the below photo)
    The buyer can not leave more than 2 reviews for 7 consecutive days in their profile and no more than 8 reviews within 30 consecutive days.Meanwhile the review rate can not be too high whih controls below 15-25% is the best.
    The buyer searchs the product by keyword bidet sprayer and the product is at the first page.Shop around and browse each product for at least 30 seconds.Add the product into a wish shopping cart .Placing an purchase order in the next day ,buy our product only.
    After giving the product review ,send the proof to the seller and the full refund will be processed through PayPal (the exchange rate of the day and includes PayPal 4% handling fee).
    Limited quotas, first come first served.Let us know what you thing ,so that we can move on.
    Looking forward to your early reply.
    Best regard,
    Sally

  • Mike

    Where did the earlier comments go?

  • Mike

    Another product that is 99% fake reviews is swim goggles. All of the highly rated no-name brands have 70+ obviously fake reviews. (The name brands like Body Glove, OP, et al., have real reviews with much lower ratings and lower page rank.) Shopping for swim goggles was the first time I was turned onto ReviewMeta.

  • Big Dave

    We cancelled our Prime account about five months ago, and haven’t missed it nearly as much as expected. We still shop at Amazon for items that can’t be had locally, but for the most part, the major retailers around here price match them anyway, and occasional returns are significantly simpler.

    Also, many thanks to ReviewMeta for the regular stream of informative posts, and the empowering tool!

  • Lisa Sullivan Gentile

    I doubt Amazon itself is selling fake apple products, especially since they have a partnership with Apple. You must realize that there are many sellers listing on the same page. Amazon reviews are about the product and not about any specific seller. If buyers who receive fake products from 3rd party sellers leave reviews because they received a fake, it can tarnish the entire listing.

    Bottom line is, to be safe, only buy where it says “shipped AND sold by Amazon.”

  • Alicia Taylor

    I am seriously thinking of cancelling my Amazon account. And, yes, I fell victim to the phone charger debacle recently – and it’s just as bad when looking for audio cables, by the way. I finally gave up and just bought one that ReviewMeta said had fake reviews, but I couldn’t find anything from an honest seller.
    Will ReviewMeta consider anything like this for other websites? Such as Walmarts reviews?

    • We’re focusing primarily on Amazon reviews at the moment. Last time we looked at Walmart, it seems they hide a lot of information which would make our analysis impossible. For example, try to click on the profile of a reviewer on Walmart – spoiler alert, you can’t!