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The Death of the Smart Shopper

The Atlantic: “Internet retail was supposed to supercharge the informed consumer. What happened? Amazon is getting worse, but you probably already knew that, because you probably shop at Amazon. The online retail behemoth’s search results are full of ads and sponsored results that can push actually relevant, well-reviewed options far down the page. The proportion of its inventory that comes from brands with names like Fkprorjv and BIDLOTCUE seems to be constantly expanding. Many simple queries yield results that appear to be the exact same product over and over again—sometimes with the exact same photos—but all with different names, sellers, prices, ratings, and customer reviews. If you squint, you can distinguish between some of the products, which feels like playing a decidedly less whimsical version of “spot the difference” picture games. Last week, the journalist John Herrman published a theory on why, exactly, Amazon seems so uninterested in the faltering quality of its shopping experience: The company would rather leave the complicated, labor-intensive business of selling things to people to someone else. To do that, it has opened its doors to roughly 2 million third-party sellers, whether they are foreign manufacturers looking for more direct access to customers or the disciples of “grindset” influencers who want to use SEO hacks to fund the purchase of rental properties. In the process, Amazon has cultivated a decentralized, disorienting mess with little in the way of discernible quality control or organization…”

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