Amazon, here’s your chance to safeguard customers from third-party scams
How Amazon could use the coronavirus outbreak to finally get a handle on unsafe products
Capitalism is a strange system. It’s successful in making sure a certain segment of the population gets paid in filthy large amounts and leaves the peons to scramble around for crumbs. It’s the kind of system that rationalizes a stimulus package that would give $600 checks to low-income communities but $1,200 to middle-income workers. And while the goal is largely designed to make sure the poor stay poor while the rich get richer, there is one middle-ground area that I expect all tax brackets to be on board with: safety.
Recommended Read: “When Amazon Ignores Responsibility”
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who has a $130 billion net worth, is somehow OK with his site selling faulty products from third-party vendors. How much money does one (wo)man need? For several years, I refused to buy anything from Amazon at all (long story due to an extremely racist reviewer whose comments the moderators refused to take down), but I finally caved last year and purchased an Amazon Prime account. Still though, I could never work out in my head why third-party sellers could just sell services and products without anyone ever questioning its validity.
Oddly enough, it took a worldwide outbreak with 15,219 cases in the United States and 201 deaths in the past couple of months for Amazon to try to get ahead of third-party sellers boosting their product rates to insanely high volumes and promoting products that are either unsafe or don’t work. I guess later is better than never. In the past couple of weeks, purchasing antibacterial ointment and alcohol at reasonable rates are about as easy to come by as a winning lottery ticket. Toilet tissue, paper towels and facial tissue are about like trying to profit from Blackjack — sometimes you’re a winner, most times your bet was just bad timing.
Recently, Amazon has temporarily come to the assistance of consumers who were worried about scammers selling counterfeit coronavirus tests and other homemade products that have absolutely no scientific backing under their belts. Pre-coronavirus outbreak, Amazon moderators would eventually get around to questionably high product rates. Their website states: “Amazon regularly monitors the prices of items on our marketplaces, including shipping costs, and compares them with other prices available to our customers. If we see pricing practices on a marketplace offer that harms customer trust, Amazon can remove the Buy Box, remove the offer, suspend the ship option, or, in serious or repeated cases, suspending or terminating selling privileges.”
And, as mentioned on OneZero, the company has stopped accepting third-party sellers who were trying to post face masks and hand sanitizers. Of course that leaves legitimate sellers out in the cold, but one has to wonder about the conscience of third-party hoarders who choose to buy entirely too many of these items just to charge booster rates online.
If you’re not even confident enough to stand in a post office line to ship the products yourself, or send them to the Amazon Fulfillment Center (where workers could potentially be exposed), now you have a load of hand sanitizer just taking up space in your home. Good job, greedy! (And the only reason one seller stopped selling bottles for $7-$80 was because Amazon banned him, so he finally had enough common decency to donate the rest.)
While Amazon continues to crack down on price gouging, this is as good of a time as any to get more serious about other online hustles, specifically those that are dangerous to users. The online retailer can honestly say that users must agree to the initial startup contract stating the company is not liable for third-party selling practices or lack of safety regulations. However, if Amazon is decent enough to stop allowing users to sell $80 bottles of hand sanitizer, then it doesn’t take much more effort to add product safety warnings in there, too.
If anything, take a tip from Medium. Any post on this site right now that uses a “coronavirus” tag has this big warning at the top: “Anyone can publish on Medium per our Policies, but we don’t fact-check every story. For more info about the coronavirus, see cdc.gov).” Subscribers and new readers will also find similar recommendations in the footer to confirm that every post on the site can’t always be trusted. In turn, people interact at their own risk. With Amazon, once someone creates an account and doesn’t read all the tiny words in fineprint, they’re no longer reminded of the product risks from that point forward. They purchase at their own financial and safety risks, and Bezos gets paid either way.
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