Those "Amazon's Choice" badges do look nice—but don't take them all at face value, the Wall Street Journal warns. The paper's investigation of about 54,000 Amazon listings found various head-scratchers, like badges on seemingly unsafe items or products in violation of Amazon policies, like the energy supplement Redline Microburst. The badge also appeared on controlled substances like marijuana products and steroids, and a sexual-enhancement drink that seems to includes Viagra, which is prescription-only. Amazon also appears to favor its own products for badges. Meanwhile, an army of consultants and other experts has cropped up to help companies fool Amazon's algorithm into applying the badge.
On that front, some sellers post social-media messages urging people to buy a product, and occasionally reimburse them if they do. Sellers also urge buyers to post glowing ratings, another factor in getting a badge. And it's all worth it, according to an Amazon seller of toys and other products who says badges can spark a 25% boost in sales. The Journal's investigation has prompted Amazon to remove some badges, but as CNBC points out, the problem is nothing new. BuzzFeed raised a red flag in June, and two US senators have written Amazon asking what the badges really mean. In its defense, Amazon says it considers "factors ... to protect consumers" when applying badges, and removes them when a product "may not meet our high bar." (Read more Amazon.com stories.)