Some Amazon reviews have a huge new flaw that makes them useless

  • Some Amazon product listings have thousands of reviews describing a different product than the one that’s for sale.
  • According to BuzzFeed, some sellers are changing listings to advertise different products from the ones the listings were originally created for, taking advantage of the good reviews a particular item has built up.
  • This practice is prohibited by Amazon‘s terms of service for sellers.

The reviews are in, and they’re incredible: more than 6,200 reviews, averaging 4.2 stars.

“Yet another triumph for the great Jane Austen!” one review says.

“I really believe that Ms. Austen’s talent truly shines in this book,” another says.

The only problem: The product page these reviews are appearing on is not a compilation of 19th-century novels of English literature, but a music-theory textbook called “The Musician’s Guide to Theory and Analysis (Second Edition).” The author is not Jane Austen but Jane Piper Clendinning. The item being sold and the reviews describing it do not match.

How the page got to be like that is a bit of a mystery.

A report this week from BuzzFeed suggests this may not be a random glitch but instead part of an effort by sellers to take advantage of Amazon’s reviews system to reach more customers. Essentially, these sellers will hijack an existing listing that has gone dormant and update the photo and description to be something new, BuzzFeed reported, and all of a sudden this new product looks as if it’s been on the site for years with thousands of trusted reviews.

While the reviews themselves would describe a different product, a prospective buyer may not look past the star rating, which appears at the top of the page. Highly rated items also appear higher in search results, as the equity the listing has built up from selling for so long makes it a trusted result in Amazon’s system.

Some of the examples of mixed-up product pages even have an Amazon’s Choice tag.

To be clear, doing this violates Amazon’s reviews policy, and sellers who change the appearance of product pages in such a way risk being barred from the service.

“This is against our policy. All Marketplace sellers must follow our code of conduct and selling policies. Sellers who do not follow these guidelines will be subject to the removal of their selling privileges and/or listings.,” an Amazon representative told Business Insider.

It’s not the only way sellers try to trick unwitting shoppers, violating Amazon’s terms of service in the process. Some sellers have tacked on thousands of dollars of unwarranted shipping charges, which is also against Amazon’s terms.