Well, these kind of articles/posts are quite annoying to write, but we feel it is necessary as there is really nothing a small business such as ourselves can do except try to make people aware. Recently we discovered that one of the top selling Amazon bike lights (sold by VASTFIRE) blatantly stole a photo that we commissioned and paid a talented photographer (Natalie Starr) to take for us, to showcase our Trail Evo bike light in the snow. Great photo showing that riding at night even in inclement weather can be a ton of fun with the right light on your handlebars.
Unfortunately some others thought the same thing and decided to claim it as their own to use it to push an entirely different product, and simply just mirrored the image.
Amazon seller using our photos (left) versus our product listing (right)
So what can a small business do?
Unfortunately, pretty much nothing. We don't sell bike lights on Amazon because we prefer to maintain control of our products and to try and prevent it from being counterfeited since that has happened to friends of ours (see this article from LinkedIn here).
Because we don't sell on Amazon, we don't have a Seller Account, so there is no formal way to lodge a complaint against someone using our photos. Even if we did have an account, and filed a formal complaint, the most that would happen is that the offender would remove the image and replace it with another stolen image. There are no repercussions for the sellers, or listings removed, because why would Amazon want that? They get a cut of every sale no matter how big or small.
It is unfortunately just a common occurrence in today's eCommerce based world when it is dominated by a large seller whether it be Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, Aliexpress, etc.
Other practices that some Amazon Bike Light sellers do
While we are on the subject of some shady things that sellers might do, it may not be widely known, but it is very common to have reviews paid for or offering to refund the entire cost of the light if a positive review is left, or a negative review is written and subsequently deleted. Amazon has tried to clamp down on this more recently, there are still hundreds of thousands of reviews out there that may be 100% fake, or a poor performing product rated as extremely good because the customer was offered an extra $20.
When a seller does this, it can be reported as of more recently by the customer, however it wasn't that way in the past. Just something to keep in mind if the large amount of 5 star reviews on a certain product seems a little fishy.
Top 10 lists aren't always what they seem
Another thing that we have seen on a lot of Amazon Bike Light research, is the dominance of top ten lists or "best of" type lists for various products. As a consumer you should also be wary of this, but to be clear, this is NOT limited to bike lights, it is everywhere. Whether it's bike lights, mattresses, tables, speakers, literally anything, they are all affected by this type of advertising.
It is pretty simple, we'll get contacted by someone wanting to do a "review" on something like the Evo Downhill Package and either want a free product, or an affiliate link so that they can get a cut of the sale if the customer is tracked and purchased by following a link from that blog/review. Amazon bike lights are notorious for this because Amazon has an affiliate program. That means that someone can write up a blog post, claim they know everything about lights, and then recommend the "best light" for a particular situation with a link to that products amazon listing.
Example of the flag used in affiliate links on paid-for "best of" lists
If you, the customer, ends up buying after following that link, the author of the blog/review will get a small commission, typically 15-20% of the price of the product. As you can imagine, for an author it's a pretty enticing opportunity. Link people not to the best actual product, but to the product that will offer you the largest commission. If the author can get their top 10 list to rank on google rapidly, for a high volume keyword, that could potentially be a lot of passive income happening.
You can usually spot these type of reviews easily. If there is a "check price on Amazon" or a link directly to an Amazon listing, almost guaranteed that is an affiliate link. Sometimes if you look at the URL it will show the tag being used for the link. Bloggers/writers may be required to explicitly say they will get a commission based on the sales, though some don't put this in writing, or it is buried deep somewhere.
How can I find real reviews of really good products?
Here is the hard part. How can you trust what's real and what's not? The best way is often to check the manufacturer site directly. A legitimate manufacturer will allow for all kinds of reviews on their site, without filtering any out. For example as of this writing we have almost 1,500 reviews written by our customers. Rather than delete negative reviews, we respond to them publicly, then reach out to the customers, and we use that information to make better products, not to trick people into thinking we're perfect.
If you use social media, asking friend groups what they have personal experience with is great. There are lots of Facebook groups or Instagram tags to search for, and having more quality data points is always better for making informed decisions.
When searching google, I often find myself putting what I am searching for, and adding "+forums" or "+reddit" in the search field to get directed to what people are talking about on public forums or on Reddit to get real unfiltered reviews.
Hope this helps
It sucks as a small business to see unethical sellers blatantly steal our paid for and personal media to sell a subpar product, but as you can see, not much we can do except try to raise awareness. We don't plan to ever offer our products on Amazon for this reason, and we also hope that you can become a more savvy shopper by knowing what to look for on affiliate links or other types of paid marketing.