Amazon shopping has gotten worse and less reliable thanks to ads

AlphaX

Posts: 67   +16
Staff
The big picture: If it wasn't obvious, Amazon has somewhat confusing methods for promoting specific products to customers. People have begun to notice how seemingly broken shopping on Amazon has become in recent years due to "sponsored products" and items that Amazon touts as "highly rated."

As we get closer to the holiday season, millions of people are either beginning, continuing, or wrapping up their shopping sprees. Amazon is no stranger to the influx of orders and deliveries during this time, boasting a ridiculous 1.5 billion items delivered around the 2020 holidays. However, some buyers are starting to view the shopping experience on Amazon in a much different light.

Last week, Geoffrey Fowler of The Washington Post released a report regarding changes that Amazon (and other competitors who followed suit) have gone through over the past few years. Previously, Amazon's algorithms based product search results on reviews, popularity, and the overall quality of the items. However, things have changed. Companies may be able to buy their way to the top of the search page, Fowler contends.

The image above provides an example, showing search results for "4K TV." The left one, from 2015, only displays the most popular products within the search. On the right, sponsored items take up over half the screen, one of which isn't even a TV and shouldn't be appearing there.

Fowler describes these items as "shill results" rather than "sponsored products." He states that Amazon sold $31 billion worth of ads in 2021, the third most behind only Google and Facebook. Amazon spokesman Patrick Graham claims these ads are "useful, informative, and help make shopping a little bit easier," but it appears they could be doing the opposite.

Fowler provided another example comparing 2015 search results to current-day result pages, showing a search for a specific brand — KitchenAid mixers.

The 2015 screenshot (left) correctly shows five mixers by KitchenAid. The recent results (right) only display one KitchenAid product and five other products from different companies. If someone is looking for a KitchenAid product, it doesn't make sense to promote five items that aren't from that company immediately. Amazon ensures these changes present customers with "more choices" and "drives discovery."

Fowler urges customers to take control in two specific ways. First, educate yourself on how Amazon uses ads to promote products to you. Terms such as "sponsored" or "featured from our brands" or even logos from unrelated companies (as seen above) are all indicators of these so-called "shill results."

Secondly, research what you are considering purchasing before browsing through Amazon. If you know what you want, Amazon's attempts to lure you towards a different item may prove unsuccessful. Fowler hopes customers changing their approaches to shopping on Amazon could lead the company to change its methods for tailored recommendations.

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TheRealSCDC

Posts: 490   +839
We still purchase a LOT from Amazon, but they are not "Snap" purchases. We research the products we buy, sometimes for hours, before hitting checkout. Even for simple things, we do our research.

Another scam I'm seeing more of is products with 5 star ratings, but if you read the reviews, it's for another product. Bait and switch.
 

Mr Majestyk

Posts: 1,548   +1,450
I have never in my life gone on Amazon just to browse and try and find an excuse to buy something. Amazon Australia is usually the most expensive despite the hype BS we had when they said they were coming, so are the last place I check. Maybe 1-in-10 times they have a good price.
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 9,363   +8,581
Broken promises, shipping damaged goods hoping they won't be returned, and CSA's that blatenly show a "who gives a damn" attitude have all lead to my canceling my Prime membership and taken my shopping dollar elsewhere. Not so strange is the fact that I find nearly ALL my purchases cheaper by shopping the web. Amazon has lost their mojo and it's doubtful it will ever return under existing ownership / management ...... good riddance
 

Neatfeatguy

Posts: 1,083   +1,968
Amazon's search has ALWAYS been terrible. I have to use actual search engines (mostly Startpage.com) to find things on Amazon.

Agree. It's got to be one of the laziest laid out formats of any site when it comes to trying to find something and then on top of it, buy something. Searching for things on there, even if you try to minimize the search by category, you're still left shifting through crap you don't want or trying to decipher what it is that just showed up on the screen in front of you.

I try to buy very little off Amazon. It is my last resort site for buying things, not just because the website sucks, but because 9 out of 10 times the item I order (when packaged by Amazon) comes so poorly packaged that the item is damaged.... OR The item itself isn't packed into a box at all, they just slap a shipping label on the actual item and send it to me like that. Nothing better than a game or whatever it is I'm buying, shows up on the doorstep with a shipping label adhered to the actual package itself.....can't really wrap that item for a birthday or Christmas gift anymore with a giant F'ing shipping label stuck to the item.

I try to find an item I need at a local brick and mortar store (Target, Walmart, etc) before I begin the search online and then it's Amazon that's my last resort....and when I order from Amazon I just expect to be disappointed in how it's packaged (if by some miracle it shows up packaged properly, then I'm thrilled) because I fully expect I'll have to return it because it's broken due to poor packaging.
 

wiyosaya

Posts: 8,400   +7,820
Amazon search results have been crap for a long, long, long time. One has to be wary of what is clicked on in Amazon search results lest you end up buying some crap you did not want. Amazon really ought to change their name to "Bait and Switch". I have come to avoid Amazon for most things. Amazon is not always a bargain either. Sometimes, their prices are higher than other online stores. Using Amazon - Buyer beware - very ware.
 

toooooot

Posts: 1,824   +980
" He states that Amazon sold $31 billion worth of ads in 2021"
You can dislike Jeff all you want, but the man knows how to make good f***g money.
 

OortCloud

Posts: 859   +864
So glad to hear somebody else saying this!
Amazon is such a mess these days. If you order smaller things especially - like cables, electrical components etc - if you can actually find what you want amongst the myriad of items you didn't search for - then good luck getting something decent or legitimate.
 

alexnode

Posts: 108   +35
I switched to scan.co.uk for electronics, patchplants.com for my plants, clothes from clothes companies. If I spend an hour to find my results amazon is extremely expensive...they will stop it soon, if they realise how much they lose in the long run. ...
 

tellmewhy

Posts: 229   +125
Many decisions are determined by the volatile value of shares and how the public perceives the image of the company.

Despite a few "bugs" Amazon is still a very efficient way to buy things.
 

m4a4

Posts: 3,166   +4,242
TechSpot Elite
To be fair, it is easy to skip past the ads (as they are labelled as such).

It is a little annoying, but I get back at them by taking advantage of the "free" shipping :p I don't care if it's slow...
 

MarkHughes

Posts: 310   +282
Not bought anything from Amazon for a couple of years now.

I got sick of the constant nagging and tricks to get you to sign up to prime, It started to feel far too forced and it was a real effort to avoid it. They also got rid of free delivery on everything and you need prime to get that too. There are plenty of other places and in fact many of the items I need I can buy right from the manufacturer now.
 

TheRealSCDC

Posts: 490   +839
Not bought anything from Amazon for a couple of years now.

I got sick of the constant nagging and tricks to get you to sign up to prime, It started to feel far too forced and it was a real effort to avoid it. They also got rid of free delivery on everything and you need prime to get that too. There are plenty of other places and in fact many of the items I need I can buy right from the manufacturer now.
The shipping times (at least to me) have gotten atrocious. I would rather shop locally and just get what I need.
 

Avro Arrow

Posts: 3,312   +4,306
Anyone who would support a company like that by purchasing from them deserves to have problems with them. I've given them $0 of my money over the last three years. In fact, the last thing I bought from them was an XFX RX 5700 XT. Then I heard about workers getting fired for going to the washroom and I said "Jeff Bezos and his friends can suck it!" and will never buy from them again.

If Amazon were to close its doors tomorrow, I wouldn't shed a tear.
 

trgz

Posts: 423   +201
Amazon's search has ALWAYS been terrible. I have to use actual search engines (mostly Startpage.com) to find things on Amazon.
Not sure that I'd actually trust Startpage.com and/or their browser add-on, but this is only based on their own advert of a perfect 5star rating for a Firefox add-on as opposed to the 4.4 it actually gets in the Firefox add-ons page - maybe it's just me, but I don't trust a company that is easily proved to be fudging the figures.
 

UdyrL

Posts: 54   +88
The ads are easy to skip even for the most tech illiterates, because they can read it's not the item they were looking for. What's really tricky and deceiving is the add to cart or buy now option from a vendor (other than Amazon itself), that sells the product even for a $100 more than the lowest offer. Most people will add/buy now without ever noticing there are other vendors, mostly because this option is somewhat hidden in the right corner, right below the add/buy buttons, surrounded by other things to make it look cluttered and uninteresting.
 

hwertz

Posts: 210   +123
They lost a sale from me a day or two ago. I had a portable HDD croak, so I looked for portable HDDs on there. There were SO MANY fraudulent listings (the "1TB SSD" ones where it really has like 32GB storage maybe, but is formatted to falsely claim it has 1TB space) that I had trouble finding any actual listings for hard drives. I picked "4TB or larger", it STILL flooded the listings with fraudulent 1TB drives -- guess what, 1TB is not 4TB or larger! I selected "HDD only", it STILL flooded the listings with fraudulent SSDs -- again, an SSD is not an HDD so (fraudulent or not) those listings should not be there at all. After FINALLY finding a HDD (on page 10!), and finding the reviewer point out the "new" hard drive they got was USED, I said "the hell with it", sucked it up and went to Staples, I paid probably $30 over what the drive would have cost on Amazon but at least I knew what I was getting.
 

Hotlynx16

Posts: 71   +19
Amazon search sucks canal water, brings a bunch of stuff up that has nothing to do with what you are searching for! Even if you try to sort by lowest price, that doesn't work either!!🤬🤬
 

Hotlynx16

Posts: 71   +19
Agree. It's got to be one of the laziest laid out formats of any site when it comes to trying to find something and then on top of it, buy something. Searching for things on there, even if you try to minimize the search by category, you're still left shifting through crap you don't want or trying to decipher what it is that just showed up on the screen in front of you.

I try to buy very little off Amazon. It is my last resort site for buying things, not just because the website sucks, but because 9 out of 10 times the item I order (when packaged by Amazon) comes so poorly packaged that the item is damaged.... OR The item itself isn't packed into a box at all, they just slap a shipping label on the actual item and send it to me like that. Nothing better than a game or whatever it is I'm buying, shows up on the doorstep with a shipping label adhered to the actual package itself.....can't really wrap that item for a birthday or Christmas gift anymore with a giant F'ing shipping label stuck to the item.

I try to find an item I need at a local brick and mortar store (Target, Walmart, etc) before I begin the search online and then it's Amazon that's my last resort....and when I order from Amazon I just expect to be disappointed in how it's packaged (if by some miracle it shows up packaged properly, then I'm thrilled) because I fully expect I'll have to return it because it's broken due to poor packaging.
Talk about poor packaging! I bought a bottle of vitamins and it came USPS in a plastic bag, no packing whatsoever. The bottle was glass and was broken on each end with the pills all in the bottom of the bag. Contacted the vendor first and sent him pictures.He had Amazon refund my money and told me to throw it away!
 

Hotlynx16

Posts: 71   +19
They lost a sale from me a day or two ago. I had a portable HDD croak, so I looked for portable HDDs on there. There were SO MANY fraudulent listings (the "1TB SSD" ones where it really has like 32GB storage maybe, but is formatted to falsely claim it has 1TB space) that I had trouble finding any actual listings for hard drives. I picked "4TB or larger", it STILL flooded the listings with fraudulent 1TB drives -- guess what, 1TB is not 4TB or larger! I selected "HDD only", it STILL flooded the listings with fraudulent SSDs -- again, an SSD is not an HDD so (fraudulent or not) those listings should not be there at all. After FINALLY finding a HDD (on page 10!), and finding the reviewer point out the "new" hard drive they got was USED, I said "the hell with it", sucked it up and went to Staples, I paid probably $30 over what the drive would have cost on Amazon but at least I knew what I was getting.
I usually search on duck duck go for a reliable brand and find an Amazon or other to take me there directly!
Used to find some better prices on Walmart but now I think they check each other's prices!