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Mon Sep 16, 2019, 05:00 PM

Amazon Changed Search Algorithm in Ways That Boost Its Own Products

Source: The Wall Street Journal.

WSJ NEWS EXCLUSIVE
Amazon Changed Search Algorithm in Ways That Boost Its Own Products
The e-commerce giant overcame internal dissent from engineers and lawyers, people familiar with the move say

By Dana Mattioli
Sept. 16, 2019 10:49 am ET

Amazon.com Inc. AMZN -1.71% has adjusted its product-search system to more prominently feature listings that are more profitable for the company, said people who worked on the project--a move, contested internally, that could favor Amazon's own brands.

Late last year, these people said, Amazon optimized the secret algorithm that ranks listings so that instead of showing customers mainly the most-relevant and best-selling listings when they search--as it had for more than a decade--the site also gives a boost to items that are more profitable for the company.

The adjustment, which the world's biggest online retailer hasn't publicized, followed a yearslong battle between executives who run Amazon's retail businesses in Seattle and the company's search team, dubbed A9, in Palo Alto, Calif., which opposed the move, the people said.

Any tweak to Amazon's search system has broad implications because the giant's rankings can make or break a product. The site's search bar is the most common way for U.S. shoppers to find items online, and most purchases stem from the first page of search results, according to marketing analytics firm Jumpshot.
....

Write to Dana Mattioli at dana.mattioli@wsj.com

DANA.MATTIOLI@WSJ.COM

https://twitter.com/DanaMattioli

Read more: https://www.wsj.com/articles/amazon-changed-search-algorithm-in-ways-that-boost-its-own-products-11568645345



ErikWemple Retweeted

https://twitter.com/ErikWemple

Big deal scoop here: Amazon changed its powerful search system in a way that boosts the company's own products, a move opposed by its own lawyers on antitrust grounds


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Reply Amazon Changed Search Algorithm in Ways That Boost Its Own Products (Original post)
mahatmakanejeeves Sep 16 OP
dixiegrrrrl Sep 16 #1
bucolic_frolic Sep 16 #3
yaesu Sep 16 #2
PoliticAverse Sep 16 #6
unblock Sep 16 #8
RobinA Sep 16 #27
dalton99a Sep 16 #4
tanyev Sep 16 #5
Luciferous Sep 17 #40
tanyev Sep 17 #47
Luciferous Sep 17 #50
PoliticAverse Sep 16 #7
Mosby Sep 16 #9
unblock Sep 16 #11
Mosby Sep 16 #14
AtheistCrusader Sep 16 #19
Sherman A1 Sep 17 #37
unblock Sep 16 #10
PoliticAverse Sep 16 #13
Mosby Sep 16 #15
unblock Sep 16 #22
metalbot Sep 17 #52
unblock Sep 17 #55
RobinA Sep 16 #29
PoliticAverse Sep 16 #33
onenote Sep 17 #45
blugbox Sep 16 #12
bucolic_frolic Sep 16 #16
blugbox Sep 16 #17
onenote Sep 16 #18
Midnight Writer Sep 16 #21
unblock Sep 16 #23
Rainbow Droid Sep 16 #20
unblock Sep 16 #24
RobinA Sep 16 #30
RobinA Sep 16 #25
njhoneybadger Sep 16 #26
RobinA Sep 16 #31
njhoneybadger Sep 16 #34
Kurt V. Sep 16 #28
oldsoftie Sep 16 #32
athena Sep 17 #43
oldsoftie Sep 17 #48
PhoenixDem Sep 16 #35
JI7 Sep 17 #36
dalton99a Sep 17 #42
melm00se Sep 17 #38
Luciferous Sep 17 #39
jcmaine72 Sep 17 #41
oldsoftie Sep 17 #49
Brainfodder Sep 17 #44
onenote Sep 17 #46
matt819 Sep 17 #51
X_Digger Sep 17 #53
JDC Sep 17 #54

Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 05:15 PM

1. Happily, Amazon is one of several very large web biz being investigated now


By House Committee.

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Response to dixiegrrrrl (Reply #1)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 05:35 PM

3. What are the others?

I can no longer catch a bid on anything.

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 05:31 PM

2. is this connected to no longer having net neutrality which I understand lets corporation do what

ever they want on their infrastructure, searches, ect...?

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Response to yaesu (Reply #2)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 05:38 PM

6. No. n/t

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Response to yaesu (Reply #2)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 05:44 PM

8. techically no, although it's a similar problem in some ways.

net neutrality has to do with preventing internet service providers from charging different prices to different content or blocking certain content entirely, thereby presenting a biased view of the internet.

this case is more of an old-fashioned monopolistic, anti-competitive behavior problem. amazon is both a marketplace where you can find goods from many vendors, and also a big vendor itself. amazon is leveraging its role in controlling the marketplace to unfairly benefit its role as a vendor at the expense of other vendors.

you pay more because they made it harder to find better deals from competitors.


oh, and to make matters worse, naturally, they didn't tell you they were doing this....

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Response to unblock (Reply #8)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 08:03 PM

27. They Didn't

have to tell me, it’s obvious. You hack through tons of funky Asian crap to get what you want. IF you get what you want.

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 05:36 PM

4. Anything and everything to make Bezos richer.

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 05:37 PM

5. Amazon's own brands don't annoy me nearly as much as the seemingly infinite results

for ultra cheap crap, usually from China, that pollutes every search I do for any type of women's clothing.

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Response to tanyev (Reply #5)

Tue Sep 17, 2019, 08:24 AM

40. Yep I've pretty much stopped ordering stuff on Amazon for that reason.

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Response to Luciferous (Reply #40)

Tue Sep 17, 2019, 06:04 PM

47. It's sad.

I've read that Amazon is brutal to their third party vendors, basing their continued presence on some profitability calculus that is hard to maintain. Maybe if they were more brutal to the substandard vendors who sell all that crap, the legit vendors would have more success.

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Response to tanyev (Reply #47)

Tue Sep 17, 2019, 08:33 PM

50. They also treat their warehouse employees like crap. I have a couple of family members who

worked there and told me about the bad working conditions.

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 05:40 PM

7. Someone is shocked that a company is promoting its own products? Or that a business pushes

the product it makes the most money on - really?

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Response to PoliticAverse (Reply #7)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 05:46 PM

9. It's their website.

Who should write their search algorithm, the government?

Please.

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Response to Mosby (Reply #9)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 05:56 PM

11. if they're not an effective monopoly, and they're upfront that their searches are biased, then ok.

but there is the monopoly question, and certainly there was some deception involved.

both buyers and sellers have been under the impression, encouraged by amazon, to think they were getting a fair search.

i don't recall ever being notified of this change.

if they're not a monopoly, then they're entitled to make this change if they want, but really, they should notify people so that both buyers and sellers can re-evaluate their use of amazon in light of the truth.

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Response to unblock (Reply #11)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 06:09 PM

14. Monopolies are legal.

Taking advantage of a monopolistic position is illegal.

Good luck finding the line, just ask MS.

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Response to unblock (Reply #11)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 06:54 PM

19. Wait, who was ever under any impression the searches were 'fair'?

It clearly states in the results that some search results are 'sponsored' which means the e-tailer gave Amazon money for rank priority.

To say nothing of 'Amazon Choice' products.

Why would Amazon notify you of a change like that? Amazon is massive, but can only be ranked a monopoly if you somehow factor in their shipping speed.

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Response to AtheistCrusader (Reply #19)

Tue Sep 17, 2019, 05:41 AM

37. Precisely

Why anyone would assume that they were not prioritizing their own products or whatever is highly profitable?

Retailers do this at great planning and expense within the confines of their own stores by arranging floor plans, shelf arrangements and displays in order to maximize sales and profit.

I see no difference.

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Response to PoliticAverse (Reply #7)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 05:52 PM

10. no one should really be "shocked" that companies engage in anti-competitive behavior

but that doesn't excuse it or make it legal.

one of the problems in dealing with anti-competitive behavior is that much of corporate business involves, well, competition. trying to beat the other guy to market, trying to outsell them, trying to get better pricing, maybe even trying to trash their image a bit (our product is better than theirs!) that's all fine and dandy.

but certain behavior is not, even if the exact same competitive instincts would lead you to do it. in particular, it becomes a problem when you have an effective monopoly, which, arguably, amazon marketplace is (i'm not convinced of this, and this would be a key question in any case against them).

*if* amazon marketplace is deemed to be an effective monopoly, then amazon would be gaining an unfair (anti-competitive) advantage by leveraging its monopolistic power in its business as a marketplace to promote its business as a seller.


this is similar to the ways microsoft leveraged its effective monopoly in its operating systems business to promote its applications business, although that legal case didn't play out the way it should have.

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Response to unblock (Reply #10)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 05:58 PM

13. I don't think you can make a monopoly case here considering how many other alternatives there are

for businesses have to sell their products. There might be a class action case based on what Amazon led companies
using its marketplace to believe in enticing them to join the platform.

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Response to unblock (Reply #10)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 06:15 PM

15. Put in more simple terms

Microsoft ran afoul of the US and EU regulators because they gave away a free browser.

They were fined billions of dollars/euros.

Funny how things change.

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Response to Mosby (Reply #15)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 07:17 PM

22. microsoft destroyed a competitive market and absorbed it into a market it dominated.

the browser wasn't free, it was folded into the cost of the operating system you paid for either directly or with the computer you bought.

there was no *separate* cost for internet explorer, and given that people had to buy an operating system, that effectively destroyed the browser market.

that's obviously illegal anti-competitive behavior. ultimately consumers suffer when innovative companies are put out of business by greedy monopolies like microsoft.

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Response to unblock (Reply #22)

Tue Sep 17, 2019, 09:40 PM

52. Did you pay for your browser?

It's sort of strange to argue that "ultimately consumers suffer when innovative companies are put out of business" when the vast majority of people reading your post are using browsers that are "free" in the same sense that the MS browser was a "free" part of the OS.

"there was no *separate* cost for internet explorer, and given that people had to buy an operating system, that effectively destroyed the browser market. "

You are arguing that consumers would be better off if we still had to pay for browsers?

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Response to metalbot (Reply #52)

Tue Sep 17, 2019, 10:11 PM

55. Not that I can prove, but at least in theory,

The price of the window os or of a new computer loaded with windows should have been lower by about the price of a browser.

Then there should have been strong competition in the browser space, leading to lower prices for the browsers themselves. Quite possibly with more innovation earlier as they competed.

Moreover, when Microsoft leverages its windows effective monopoly to effectively crush (it buy out at a reduced price) it reduces the incentive of others to innovate because Microsoft appropriates much of the upside for itself rather than the actual innovator.

As I said, I can't prove it, but we'll never know what great ideas never even got off the ground because people decided not to bother if they'd only be crushed by Microsoft.



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Response to PoliticAverse (Reply #7)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 08:05 PM

29. No, But I Think

most people (or maybe just me) think a search s a search. Listed in order of relevance.

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Response to RobinA (Reply #29)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 08:21 PM

33. Relevance is always dermined by the company that's doing the search for you, whether it's Amazon...

or Google, or Microsoft (Bing).

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Response to RobinA (Reply #29)


Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 05:57 PM

12. It's their own website...

I don't see the problem here. Grocery stores sell their own generic right next to the brand label products...

Amazon Basics have been pretty damn good too. I am not a fan of many of their practices... but this is just business.

IF it turns out that the algorithm was hiding competitor results or something, then they have a story.

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Response to blugbox (Reply #12)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 06:24 PM

16. If it's boosting it's own products how could that NOT be at the expense of competing products?

It's either an even playing field, or it isn't.

If every time A tries to sell an $8 gizmo and the screen floods with Amazon's own $7 gizmo, or a $10 one with better features, A is being squeezed out. It's all about how many eyeballs see an item.

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Response to bucolic_frolic (Reply #16)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 06:32 PM

17. I would just assume that it is inherently not an even playing field.

I also realize I am not the typical shopper the article mentions. It states most shoppers look no further than the first page. I enjoy poring through pages of items to compare stats and reviews haha. I'm sure doing that bypasses most of their product flooding.

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Response to bucolic_frolic (Reply #16)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 06:49 PM

18. When grocery stores run ads and sales featuring their house brands, is that unfair too?

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Response to onenote (Reply #18)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 07:17 PM

21. Or endcap displays?

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Response to onenote (Reply #18)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 07:19 PM

23. there's little deception involved and not even whole foods has a monopoly. yet.

so, not really a problem, at least, no more than the usual self-serving corporate behavior.

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Response to bucolic_frolic (Reply #16)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 07:06 PM

20. And who believes Amazon.com is a level playing field for Amazon's competitors?

Because that's so incredibly dumb I don't even have words with which to reply.

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Response to Rainbow Droid (Reply #20)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 07:23 PM

24. oh that could be because amazon itself said this quite a lot in the early days.

they told vendors and customers alike that it was a level playing field.

do you really think vendors would have flocked to it if they knew they'd be relegated to second-class status?

do concepts like false advertising, bait-and-switch, and anti-competitive behavior mean nothing to you?

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Response to blugbox (Reply #12)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 08:12 PM

30. I Agree

they can do what they want on their own website. I’m not sure it was a wise decision, but time will tell. They’ve lost maybe a third of my business recently. That certainly won’t break them, but for me their user friendliness has taken a dive and I now go elsewhere. If enough people do that... One of their huge advantages was how easy they were to use.

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 08:00 PM

25. Tell Me About It!!!!!

When I search for Hue Opaque Tights I should get Hue Opaque Tights!! Not all kinds of crap. They’ve already lost money from me. It’s such a pain to find what I want I just go elsewhere. Amazon doesn’t have a price advantage anymore, so they better watch what they are doing. Those tights? Macy’s. Free shipping, fast.

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 08:02 PM

26. Is every fucking thing in this world rigged now

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Response to njhoneybadger (Reply #26)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 08:13 PM

31. Yes.

I think that’s one reason the rage level is so high out there.

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Response to RobinA (Reply #31)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 08:34 PM

34. This

“The illusion of freedom [in America] will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.”

Frank Zappa

~

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 08:05 PM

28. she has a plan for that. i saw this months ago thanks to warren.

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 08:15 PM

32. I NEVER use Amazon. Bad for the economy.

And if i need something i just cannot find locally, most items on Amazon are sold by other retailers. I'll find the itme, note the company selling and go to tTHEIR website.

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Response to oldsoftie (Reply #32)

Tue Sep 17, 2019, 01:06 PM

43. I also stopped using Amazon a few years ago.

I was one of Amazon's earliest customers, back when it was just an online bookstore. But after the news stories about how it treats its workers (at every level), I couldn't continue to support it any more. I now buy books from Powell's and Biblio, and I am always able to find other items on other online stores.

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Response to athena (Reply #43)

Tue Sep 17, 2019, 07:16 PM

48. +1!

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Mon Sep 16, 2019, 11:04 PM

35. To be fair

Amazon does disclose on every selected item "This product maybe available from other merchants at a lower price" and then lists those merchants when clicked.

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Tue Sep 17, 2019, 05:30 AM

36. i have searched other sites for same products and found there are often better deals

 

in other places.

amazon is more convenient because they have a lot of things in one place. but if you search other places you can often get things for less .

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Response to JI7 (Reply #36)

Tue Sep 17, 2019, 10:45 AM

42. +1. And Amazon commingles genuine brand-name products with Chinese counterfeits

in their fulfillment centers unless there is a specific Merchant ID associated with them. If you order directly from the manufacturer's website, there is no such risk and the price is almost always the same.

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Tue Sep 17, 2019, 07:37 AM

38. Why is this a surprise?

Every brick and mortar store does the exact same thing.

How they arrange products on the shelves, where a particular product is in the store, how much shelf space is allocated to a product are all techniques (and very refined ones) that stores use (and have used for decades) to position products that maximize profitability.

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Tue Sep 17, 2019, 08:22 AM

39. I used to love my Amazon prime but I use it less and less because of crap like this.

Not only do they push their own products but there are so many knockoff products it's not worth it to me to have to search through all the crap.

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Tue Sep 17, 2019, 09:10 AM

41. Amazon, Twitter. Facebook...they're all evil.

Last edited Tue Sep 17, 2019, 10:28 AM - Edit history (1)

When I was a kid back when dinosaurs walked the earth, people used to fret over the possibility of our government someday imposing an Orwellian dystopia on us. Every federal encroachment into our daily lives, even if it was beneficial, was viewed by some with suspicion.

Fast forward four decades or so and not only are we seemingly trapped inside an Orwellian nightmare, but it's one that we gleefully and voluntarily participate in. It didn't take the form people thought it would back in the 1970s-80s. It's not our government that literally possesses detailed information of our every financial transaction, political/social/everything commentary, and list of friends, it's a handful of hyper-greedy, hyper-unscrupulous tech corporations.

The sad part is that we voluntarily gave these scumbag corporate overlords of ours the literal keys to the kingdom. Why? So we can play Candy Crush for free, get a 75% discount on crap we don't need, or have the profound privilege of exchanging hostile, misspelled tweets with one another.

We deserve what these tech giants have and will do to us. And I'm not excluding myself from this either. I'm as guilty as anyone of diving headlong into nightmare. It's like something out of a bad, early-1980s scifi flick.

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Response to jcmaine72 (Reply #41)

Tue Sep 17, 2019, 07:17 PM

49. And governments the world over are trying to stop us from using cash too.

The ONE thing that stops them from knowing our every move.

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Tue Sep 17, 2019, 01:10 PM

44. Surprising who?



Who?

I got bridges to sell, I'm in need of cashola infusion just like everyone else stuck in Trumpland!?!

At least that is how people act and I have noticed some inflation!


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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Tue Sep 17, 2019, 03:08 PM

46. I use Amazon all the time.


For example, I have found on Amazon, and purchased, screws I needed for my underwater camera housing that I couldn't find at any hardware store and that would have cost, literally, 100X as much if I bought them from the housing manufacturer (and taken longer to get). I have used them to purchase OTC medications -- brand names -- at prices far better than the big chain drug stores offer, with next day delivery. Amazon frequently "recommends" products such as that -- brand names that presumably they can sell at a better price than third party retailers offering the same product because Amazon deals with volume, a practice that has been going on forever. And while they don't recommend the generic versions of those OTC medications, they are there on the page if I want to consider them, which I never do because I don't trust what I'd be getting. I routinely check Amazon for certain things before I go buy them from a chain retailer like CVS or Target. I don't use gas running all over the place looking for the best prices -- I find them at one location, while sitting on my couch. Heck, I've used my phone to buy a present for a relative while attending a party for her where she mentioned how much she wanted a particular item. She got it the next day.

If people don't want to use Amazon, they shouldn't use it. Just like they shouldn't use Facebook or Google or Netflix or a zillion other Internet-based retailers of goods and services. I'm having trouble seeing how a website that sells Mucinex has a monopoly when every drug store and grocery store sells it too (and in many cases those outlets, as well as Mucinex itself sell the same product online and will deliver it to one's door).

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Tue Sep 17, 2019, 08:40 PM

51. I have a merchant account

And sales have bee down a lot this year. I think s class action suit and anti trust action would be nice. There’s no way that small merchants can. Impede with amazon prices.

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Tue Sep 17, 2019, 09:45 PM

53. Amazon isn't a public utility, why the fuck do people expect it to act like one?

They have no legal or moral obligation to be fair to other vendors' products.

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Tue Sep 17, 2019, 09:59 PM

54. Amazon is nonsense sometimes. The search is completely skewed

And don't even get me started on product reviews: The are a COMPLETE joke.

And prices are really high on simple stuff to try to hide in shipping costs.

Since they dropped FedEx, I have had product go missing mid-shipment, delayed repeatedly, etc etc.

I used to use it all the time, now barely.

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