He Reported the Fake 5-Star Reviews to Amazon. Then, Hell

The Verge goes deep inside the cutthroat world of the Amazon Marketplace
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 19, 2018 3:01 PM CST
Forget the Police. 'Amazon Court' Is the One to Fear
An employee works the front reception at the the new Amazon office in downtown Toronto on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018.   (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

You obviously know Amazon, but the "Amazon Marketplace" might be a less familiar phrase. That's the company's third-party platform, which some 6 million sellers use to hawk their wares. And, for the successful, there's real money to be had: About 20,000 of those sellers make more than $1 million a year. But with success comes a big target on your back—and, for some, a nightmare. In a lengthy piece for the Verge, Josh Dzieza presents the case of Zac Plansky, who, along with six employees, sold millions of dollars' worth of weapons accessories on the site. One day last year he noticed some spammy-seeming 5-star reviews for a rifle scope he sold and reported them as fake. Two weeks later, he got an email accusing him of manipulating reviews in violation of the site's policies. His listings had been removed.

Plansky had been framed, and his sole recourse was to appeal. "Amazon court" is a bizarre place, as Plansky found. He hired Cynthia Stine, a Texas-based consultant who for $2,500 helps sellers—about 100 per month—handle their appeals. Rule one: Your only option is to confess. "Amazon doesn't like to see finger-pointing," she explains. So Plansky came up with what he could cop to: giving discounts in exchange for reviews prior to Amazon outlawing that. His appeal was rejected. In other cases, things are even more obscure: Dzieza recounts one seller of Nikes who, after being suspended, was told only that the shoes were "not as described." But they were real Nikes. What Stine and her 25 employees ultimately determined: There had been a few complaints the shoes ran small. The appeal was granted on the condition the listing be edited to recommend buyers wear thin socks. Read the fascinating story, which explains what ultimately happened to Plansky, here. (More Longform stories.)

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