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Tools continued: Be careful when you buy from Amazon

As a follow-up to our last post about tools we use, we’ll offer a cautionary note about buying equipment from Amazon. I’ve had several bad experiences with Amazon and we now only purchase generic items and books from Amazon. We try to buy from the manufacturer, because Amazon often ships fake or counterfeit items; the problem has been widely reported, but Amazon appears not to have done much about it. Slate has written about the plague of cheap knockoffs on Amazon. Buy from Amazon’s third-party sellers at your own peril.

If you do buy from Amazon, try to buy products fulfilled directly by Amazon, since that will at least facilitate the complaint/return process. Avoid third-party sellers, which are more likely to ship fake and/or used stuff with complex or nonexistent return policies. For example, I’m fond of fountain pens and tried to buy a Montegrappa NeroUno Linea Fountain Pen from two separate third-party sellers on Amazon.* The first turned to not actually have the pen; I waited a week for a pen that never arrived, then cancelled and bought from another Amazon third-party seller, but that seller sent an obviously used pen in a damaged box. Like Apple, Montegrappa has elaborate product packaging that is fun to open—and also makes used or damaged products obvious.

That pen went back and I eventually bought one from a reputable online pen seller. Recently, I ordered another item from an Amazon third-party seller; it was obviously counterfeit. I’m still trying to resolve the issue, so I’ll keep details on the down low for now. Significantly, however, Amazon’s front-line customer service people read from scripts when confronted with damaged/wrong/possibly fake items. They’re impenetrable and unhelpful.

Amazon also seems to forbid reviews that include words like “fake” or “counterfeit,” and I couldn’t find any system that Amazon uses to police this practice. But Amazon doesn’t control the whole world yet, and it doesn’t control this blog, so we’re issuing the warning here. We won’t buy any computers, computer parts, or computer accessories from Amazon because of these problems. Many Apple products, for example, that Amazon sells are fakes.

We’re adjusting behavior more generally and now prefer buying from the original manufacturer, if possible.

* Jake likes extra-fine Sailor 1911 pens (the link goes to one of the only American sellers), which are made in Japan, or Sakura Pigma Micron pens, which are also made in Japan (Japan seems to have strong pen game). He also covets a Pad & Quill messenger bag, but because he uses an iMac as a primary computer his bag isn’t that important.