By: Harrison Nelson
October 1, 2021
If you frequent Amazon, you will commonly run across brand names that make you scratch your head. Say you wish to buy a pair of headphones. You are very familiar with brands like Bose, Sony, Philips, Beats, etc., but these are not the only brands you will come across. You are more likely to see brand names such as DOQAUS, AILIHEN, and QHQO. If you find these names hard to pronounce, you are not alone. If you find yourself wondering how the prices are so low, you are also not alone. Like many of us, a good deal is always tempting; however, these deals may be too good to be true. Let’s uncover who makes these products, the dangers of buying them and how they get their names.
Consumers need to consider more than just the price of products. In today’s culture of online shopping, people are often unaware of the origin of our products. They do not see the factories where these products are manufactured. They do not even know who runs the companies they purchase from. While this is a commonality of the current market, a growing segment of sellers on Amazon is causing a greater concern.
The sellers in question are “third-party sellers,” who own warehouses of products and account for 60% of all sales on Amazon. There are a couple different options for third-party sellers: They can ship their products to an Amazon warehouse (often indicated on the item’s listing with the phrase “Fulfilled by Amazon” or “Sold by Amazon”), or they can sell directly to you. The safer of the two options for consumers is to choose items where the seller ships their items to an Amazon warehouse. Amazon has more control over the products this way and will protect customer purchases.
The same cannot be said for customers who buy a product on Amazon that ships directly from these third-party sellers. These products are listed by these third-parties and sold to consumers using Amazon as the marketplace. Many customers that purchase items directly from these third-parties have had issues receiving their purchases on time, as well as issues with returns. Amazon does not oversee the shipping, nor do they handle returns from third-party sellers that choose to ship directly to the customer. With the boom of online shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon has begun to rely more on third-parties to ship their products without being the mediator between the two parties.
Even with these problems, third-party sellers are thriving. However, many people are unaware of the implications of buying these products. Many times, third-parties sell stolen or counterfeit items. These illegal items are sold on Amazon and are viewed by unsuspecting buyers who believe they are getting a great deal. The Wall Street Journal reported on a case where a motorcyclist was killed in an accident due to a faulty helmet purchased on Amazon. In court, Amazon claimed that they only listed the product using their site and were not responsible.
The third-party brand that sold the helmet listed it as DOT compliant. This was false advertising, and once journalists asked Amazon about this case, they took down the listing.
Another example of products not suitable for consumers is the toy market on Amazon. Third-party sellers have been found to be selling children’s toys made with lead paint and incorrect labels. The FDA found these toys contained high levels of lead despite third-party sellers claiming otherwise. Amazon’s response in these cases is to take the products off their site if enough incriminating information is provided. Amazon could protect consumers if they vet the products they sell before delivering them to the customer, but they do not.
Additionally, third-party companies do not do any vetting themselves. In general, most of the listings by these third-party brands have grammatical errors, grainy product photos, and a large number of false positive reviews created by bots. One such grammatical error is on QHQO’s Amazon product page. While their slogan “Music Flow in Your Ear” may be comical, what is not funny are the faulty, poorly made products that litter Amazon.
Putting a name on a product meant something in the past. Reputable companies sold products they believed would help people. Now, a company can be created quickly with instant access to a huge customer base and sell products that perform poorly. These third-party sellers rely on cheap prices to sell their products rather than the products themselves, which isn’t a sustainable business model.
Another interesting business practice is the names that third-party sellers chose. To understand why these companies choose these names, you have to know a little bit about trademarking in the U.S. A substantial amount of research has to be done to create and trademark a name. Third-party companies register names that do not hint at anything and have never been used before, which is often a random combination of capital letters. It makes the trademark process easy, and the lack of a recognizable brand name allows for the sellers to be removed from their products.
For many, cheap products are what they can afford; however, there is an argument to be made that buying better quality products that will last longer will be less expensive in the long run. Buying headphones from a well-known brand can be expensive, but they are more likely to stand behind their products and offer warranties. They have business experience and the ability to provide customer service.
Consumers may feel safe buying from Amazon. Why wouldn’t they? Amazon has been around for a while and is one of the most successful businesses of all time. However, they will continue to offer dangerous products, and they will not have customers’ backs if they have complaints or even worse, are injured or killed.
Harrison Nelson is a fourth year undergraduate student with a major in professional and public writing and a minor in entrepreneurship and innovation. He has been playing guitar for twelve years and enjoys classic cars.