Slider
Slider

|

Slider

Mystery seeds raise questions about online sales tactics in China

Regional News
Typography
  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

(The Wall Street Journal) — Questionable online sales tactics used by some foreign merchants have been brought into focus after the federal government said that the mysterious seed packages postmarked from China may be an e-commerce scam.

The U.S. Agriculture Department said that “suspicious, unsolicited packages of seed that appear to be coming from China” are potentially part of a brushing scheme. In such a scheme, sellers or their accomplices ship out packages containing lightweight goods of trivial value, which can then be used to log fake sales and generate fake positive reviews that can draw in more customers and boost sales.

 

Over the last decade, online marketplaces like Amazon.com Inc. and others have signed-up Chinese manufacturers and merchants that sell products directly to Americans. Some e-commerce sellers and experts have linked these sellers to dubious sales tactics, like brushing schemes, on the platforms.

 

E-commerce sellers and merchants based in China said that while seeds aren’t known to be used to fill packages in brushing schemes, they are lightweight and cheap and can be easily mailed to hundreds of people.

 

The seed packages have attracted the attention of government officials world-wide. Some, including state and federal officials in the U.S., have asked those who receive unsolicited packages not to plant the seeds out of fear they could introduce invasive species or spread plant disease.

 

Howard Thai, the Shenzhen, China-based head of Signalytics, an e-commerce consulting firm, said that while he didn’t know who sent the seeds, it was possible the organizer of any scheme had miscalculated and was unaware that seeds would cause alarm. “If you put sand in there it’s different,” he said. “The people doing it are not that smart.”

 

Mr. Thai said that those doing brushing schemes will often send items they hope the recipient will enjoy, to prevent those receiving the packages from complaining about receiving a random package.

 

E-commerce experts and sellers in China say that an entire ecosystem has sprung up to assist Chinese sellers who are seeking positive reviews for their products as a way to boost sales. On Weibo, China’s Twitter -like service, e-commerce merchants connect with those willing to provide reviews through the hashtag “Amazon Review,” seeking out people with American addresses who can provide “real person” reviews.

 

On another website, amz123.com, Chinese posters provide evaluations of brokers and individuals they have paid to give positive reviews for their Amazon products, sometimes complaining that their product didn’t receive the reviews they were promised. Weibo and Amz123.com didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

 

Shadow
Slider
previous arrow
next arrow
Shadow
Slider

Read more articles

Visit our Facebook Page

previous arrow
next arrow
Shadow
Slider