Amazon’s third party merchants, and the problem with erosion of trust

Note: This post is over 4 years old. It was first published in June 2010

The problem with running an online marketplace is that it’s hard to police all your sellers. If too many of them provide low quality product descriptions, poorly curated metadata and pixelated photos, then your own brand will suffer.

eBay has always been very careful about presenting the eBay platform and its resellers as different entities. Amazon, on the other hand, really doesn’t seem to have nailed it. If I have a bad purchasing experience on eBay, I blame the seller. When it happens on Amazon, I can’t help but loose trust in Amazon itself.

The video below sums it up for me. When you hit play, you’ll see me mousing-over the different product options for a perfume. You’ll see jargony acronyms (EDT / EDP), inexplicable price differences, different measurements (fl oz vs ml), unclear photos, and missing product descriptions. Bleugh.

It is, of course, down to the seller, but the seller’s name is only mentioned only in two places as body text – effectively hidden away. It feels like Amazon itself as at fault.

Can’t make out the video? View the page on

So – what would you do if you were Amazon? Would you carefully design your UI to clearly differentiate your brand from the third party merchant brands? Would you simply bite the bullet and start policing them harder? Or would you try to crowd-source it, and give means for the community to report poor content?