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The Snoop

Have you ever been duped? 

It’s not a good feeling. 

The aftermath of a good duping generally gives rise to the thought to pay closer attention to details.  To be more thorough.

And what about the ‘duper’? Shouldn’t accountability rest solely upon their shoulders.  A Missouri mother certainly thinks so. 

Christy Stokes blames her son’s death on Amazon.  She feels her son was duped because he bought a product asserted as tested and safe –– it said so on the Amazon website.  The product description claimed the motorcycle helmet he purchased was certified for safety by the U.S. Transportation Department.  

It was not.

Now, Christy’s son, Albert, is dead.  

The motorcycle helmet her son bought on Amazon actually provided no protection whatsoever.  It was the helmet he wore on June 3, 2014.  

As her son was riding his motorcycle that day, a vehicle pulled in front of him and the two crashed.  Upon impact, the flawed helmet strap broke and the helmet came off.  Albert’s head was completely unprotected.  

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the helmet was never deemed safety compliant and had been recalled.  

But according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the helmet was still listed on Amazon for purchase, until last month.  It was also still listed as DOT compliant.   

The Wall Street Journal reports a vast number of items on Amazon are deemed unsafe.  Many items are currently banned by federal regulations, and yet, those items are still listed on the site for sale.  

And like the helmet, some are touted and promoted as safety approved and tested.  

The Wall Street Journal investigation found a host of unsafe products and items offered for sale –– product categories included kid’s toys exceeding federal limits on lead; magnetic toys deemed choking hazards; infant sleeping mats that cause suffocation; and make-up items, such as mascara, falsely listed as FDA approved.  The list continued with chemically-infused products linked to cancer, noting paint strippers that cause sudden death (from fumes), pesticides, and school supplies containing high levels of cadium or lead.   

The problem stems from the fact Amazon offers ‘third party’ vendors access to their website, and allow them the ability to list products for sale.  

A former employee of Amazon reports, “80% of third party products listed on the site do not meet standards.”

The helmet Albert Stokes bought from the Amazon website was sold by a third-party vendor, Ivolution.

Christy Stokes sued Amazon and Ivolution in Missouri federal court, and throughout proceedings, Amazon denied culpability. The company claims the helmet was not their product, but an item someone else listed for sale as a third-party vendor.  For their part, Amazon offered a $5,000 settlement to the family.

On the other hand, the court ordered Ivolution to pay $1.9 million to the family.  The company has yet to comply.

Because of the Wall Street Journal’s report, some of the unsafe products advertised on Amazon have now been removed.  Unfortunately, Amazon does not police products sold by third-party vendors, so final responsibility for safety falls on the buyer.  

As current online marketplaces continue to grow, there is no doubt other outlets will join the competition because the world trade arena is moving to follow the “Amazon” success structure.  So, it seems likely deceptive practices may increase and become more prevalent.   

The prospect of being duped has always been around.  Being tricked or swindled is nothing new, but the likelihood is more prevalent today. There are more venues available.  In years past, a dupe generally meant a double-cross,  a bad joke, a financial hoax or the embarrassment of deceit.  

Rarely, did it mean personal harm. 

Amazon is blatantly wrong to overlook these misleading product entries that advertise incorrect information.  They are duping consumers with little accountability. 

And when you take into consideration Amazon deemed $5,000 a fitting settlement for the family –– that tells a lot about their corporate priorities.   It’s all about the dollar.

With that in mind, it’s imperative for online consumers to be wise, well-informed, and less trusting –– please research before buying.  


For those interested in the Wall Street Journal’s investigation, the in-depth report was in the weekend issue dated August 24-25, 2019.