Opinion: The new internet nuisance

Turns out I’m not the only one in town receiving unwanted sex toys in the mail. Or more specifically, buying them from Amazon. I’m not one to judge, but if this is a true trend, it certainly has the potential to be pretty awkward. – Grandma, open that box and tell me I bought a new set of screwdrivers from Amazon. Yes!

So where are we going with this? Well, just when you thought the world couldn’t get any weirder, and just in time for the holidays, along comes a brand new internet-based concern thanks to a peculiar symptom of the 21st century economy. the very young business of online shopping.

Young? Haven’t we been shopping online forever? OK Boomer, no. According to Money magazine, the first online consumer purchases were made in 1994, in case you were wondering, exactly one year before Amazon sold its first book. Before 1994, if you wanted to buy something from your couch, it usually involved a phone call, an 800 number, and a long conversation with a customer service representative who actually worked somewhere in this hemisphere. It was not clear, direct and complex.

But online shopping today is hardly simple. According to recent data, more than 75 percent of Americans will shop online at least once a month, with half of these people shopping at least 2-3 times. More than 50 percent will shop on Amazon. That’s a lot of shopping. But how do you know what to buy? More than 63 percent of all Americans begin their online shopping research by agonizing over their decision using online tools such as likes, reviews, and customer reviews, whether they intend to make a purchase online or in-store. Given that the e-commerce business is valued at $5.3 trillion, it’s no surprise that companies are turning to less discreet ways to craft these tools to claim larger pieces of that pie.

One of these new shadow tweaks is called “brushing”. Brushing, which is initially harmless to the consumer, is a scam marketers use to manipulate the information you want to trust when looking for the “best” of whatever you want to buy. Information in the form of fake likes and reviews is what most people refer to when considering their purchase. Which brings us back to unwanted sex toys. By the way, brushing is not only about sex toys. It’s just this example that keeps you reading this far.

For the past few years, curious homeowners around town have been picking up Amazon packages left at their doorsteps without realizing they’ve been scrubbed. – Honey, have you ordered anything? It was a familiar question as the box was opened to find keychains, exercise bands, knockoff Tupperware, scrunched up towels, iPhone cases, massage rollers, a clock, board games, chamois dresses, power cords, minis. tool kits, picture frames, novelty gag gifts … sex toys … you get the idea (and yes, every single one of these was an item delivered to someone locally). These seemingly innocuous and usually very cheap and cheaply made gadgets, gizmos and gizmos are shipped to customers who never order, pay for, and generally wonder, “What the…?”

So why do companies unknowingly brush them off? Well, it starts with third-party online sellers wanting to create fake positive reviews for genuine goods, so fake Amazon accounts are created to “buy” those goods and ship them to some random address they find online. But instead of sending the original expensive items, they send cheaper, smaller items. Amazon has now been tricked into believing a real transaction has taken place and a verified review can be written. To see? There is no harm to you and you may even get something moderately useful.

Remember how we said brushing was “harmless at first”. Last week, millions of shoppers made millions of online purchases based on what they believed to be thousands of 5-star reviews. Unless the reviews are fake, the goods are probably unnecessary and many people will feel like they bought a lump of coal this holiday season. What is the moral of this tale? Shop smart, shop local.

David Rafferty is a resident of Greenwich.

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