Over the past several weeks I’ve been receiving packages from Amazon for things I haven’t ordered. First a bunch of rolls of tape in bright colors, next a bunch of rolls of twine in bright colors, then a set of five clear plastic sleeves that you might slide a piece of paper into, each one bound on the edges in a different…bright color.
I looked inside each package for paperwork — nothing. I looked for sender information on the label on the outside of the package — nothing. There are no clues as to who might have sent any of these items.
Seeing as Christmas was barreling down the tracks, I asked family members if they had sent the items. They had not.
Then I remembered a podcast I’d heard not too long ago (can’t remember the name of it) that talked about this phenomenon and why someone would bother to do this.
This activity is called “brushing” and here’s how it works:
- An Amazon seller purchases their own product.
- Amazon seller ships said product to an unsuspecting individual.
- Amazon seller writes themselves a raving review on Amazon.
It boils down to this: They’re gaming the Amazon system to move their items further up the list in search results. Meanwhile, we’re all standing around scratching our heads and wondering where these packages are coming from and how to make it stop.
These businesses are using the demographics of online shoppers for illicit purposes. The fact that they can get a name and address is disconcerting enough. What else can they get to? Where/how do they get this information?
I’ve read and heard from various sources that this sort of thing typically begins after someone purchases something from China. Guilty as charged. Fortunately/unfortunately [perspective], almost everything I’ve ordered from China (and it’s only been a couple things) I have sent back — or initiated a return and been told to go ahead and keep the items — so I’ve kind of stopped trying to buy from China. But…they’ve got my info now. And the packages keep coming.
CBS News ran a story in February of 2018 explaining how it works. This story states that Amazon researches every reported instance, and that they shut down vendors once they’re caught in this practice. I, personally, have found it very difficult to get the Amazon employee on the other end of the chat or phone line to do anything more than thank me for being a loyal customer. I’m not proud to say, I recently found myself screaming at an Amazon representative on the phone. I know it’s not that individual’s fault, but Amazon’s system for managing these complaints really sucks. And it’s frustrating.
Below are photos of some of the items I’ve received.
Has this happened to you? Were you able to make it stop?