Why Amazon's 'Best Seller' badges aren't always what they seem

If you're like us, shopping on Amazon is just a part of your daily routine. But if we're being honest, sometimes the amount of products on there just feels overwhelming.

Fortunately, one easy way to track down the best stuff is to look out for helpful badges like "Amazon's Choice." These badges help certain products stand out from the crowd—especially in search results. The problem? They are frequently employed by merchants in shady ways, boosting products that may not be worth your time.

That's the category that the Dot is dominating. And it's a big, legitimate category. There is a lot of competition there. But there are lots of other, smaller categories where products can quickly jump to the top in sales and earn a "Best Seller" badge. In some cases, the best-selling products have nothing to do with the category.

What else is in Powersports Speaker System? A litany of speakers and wiring primarily used on motorcycles, boats, and jet skis—and no other headphones. This is just the kind of vague, low-volume category a merchant can become a "Best Seller" in without too much effort.

By placing these cheap headphones in a completely unrelated category, they've earned a very valuable badge. If you are shopping in a hurry—who isn't?—you may hardly even notice. They're a best-seller, they're cheap, and the reviews aren't bad, right?

There's only so much that Amazon can do to stamp this stuff out. The "Best Seller" system seems largely programmatic, and Amazon has thousands of categories that would be nearly impossible to police by hand. But when every "Best Seller" in every category is given the same treatment, it's up to the buyer to figure out the difference.

Is it shady? Not necessarily, but these headphones were obviously put in the wrong category and benefited by getting a "Best Seller" badge. Even if this were an innocent mistake, we've seen dozens of other merchants doing the same thing across the site—clearly there's a pattern. As always, buyer beware.


November 20, 2017

Sources:` USA Today

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