You can get everything from Amazon and Amazon offers (almost) everything, even expired food.
In a recent CNBC report, it was revealed that loads of expired and inedible foods were being sold by third-party vendors on Amazon. These products included baby formula, beef jerky, and granola bars and were either sold well past their sell-by date or just downright fake.
Better Check That Date
While a good chunk of Amazon’s products come from Amazon itself, a large amount of the online retailer’s business comes from third-party retailers. Food sellers account for 58 percent of the merchandise sold on Amazon and those third-party sellers typically sell food from clearance aisles or other official distributors.
While third-party sellers are godsends for distributing a bunch of wacky foods you might not be able to source otherwise, the reality is that buying food from faceless randos comes with a host of problems and lack of oversight. In its findings, the report scanned Amazon’s Grocery & Gourmet category and discovered complaints for expired hot sauce, six-month old Goldfish crackers, and baby food.
Numerous people reviewed Hot & Spicy Doritos, complaining of stale chips while multiple reviews rained in on Fiji Water listings claiming the bottles contained tap water. One of the more egregious examples comes in the form of Teavana products. Back in 2017, Starbucks announced that it was closing all Teavana locations. As a result, left over Teavana product made its way to the Amazon marketplace via third-party sellers. Up to this day, buyers can still purchase Teavana products on Amazon despite being discontinued two years ago.
Overall, after analyzing the site’s 100 best-selling food products, the report found that 40% of the sellers had more than five customer complaints of expired food.
Getting by with a Little Help From AI
For its part, Amazon says it tries its best to regulate the food third-party sellers offer on the marketplace. Using a combination of AI and human employees, Amazon keeps tabs on the massive amount of customer reviews and feedback products receive. This includes noting reviews that mention product quality and safety issues. If Amazon finds a product or seller who violates their policies, they remove the product and suspend the account. In order to prevent recurring issues, Amazon feeds data from the suspended accounts into their AI systems to help the technology get better at detecting poor sellers.
“We work hard to make sure customers receive high-quality products when they order from our store,” the spokesperson told CNBC. “We have robust processes in place to ensure customers receive products with sufficient shelf life.
But other problems remain. When a consumer goes to buy a product, they do not know if they are purchasing from Amazon, a smaller independent seller, or a bigger seller. Amazon lists all of the sellers in the one page. If a customer receives a bad product from a third-party seller, customers will leave bad reviews for the product manufacturer who did not initiate the sale in the first place.
This isn’t the First Time
Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported that it had found thousands of products that were “declared unsafe by federal agencies, are deceptively labeled, or are banned by federal regulators.”
The problem runs deep. And given that third-party sellers dominate the Amazon marketplace, reigning back to a manageable size would prove costly and not to mention difficult. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, unless you’re a third-party Amazon seller. In that case, it’s business as usual.