I Bought These Things From Amazon Prime. Can You Tell Which Ones Are Real?
You can probably tell at a glance that a “Chanel” handbag going for $20 at a flea market is fake. But you might not give a second thought to items that arrive on your doorstep via Amazon Prime. With the rise of third-party sellers on Amazon, maybe you should.
Although Amazon has taken many measures to prevent counterfeits and unsafe products from showing up on its site, plenty of fakes still slip through. Over the past several months, we’ve purchased counterfeits and knockoffs making fraudulent safety claims and encountered a few instances in which a seller switched in an authentic product but from a discontinued or lesser-quality line—all delivered through Amazon Prime. We also obtained authentic items, either directly from the manufacturer or with confirmation from the brand. While the fakes and knockoffs may look like the real products at first glance, they’re often lower in quality, sometimes hiding potential health or safety issues.
Many people think that counterfeits and knockoffs are so obviously inferior—visually and otherwise—that it’s easy to spot the difference between a fake and the real thing. But increasingly, that’s not the case with counterfeits purchased online. Test yourself: Can you spot the real thing in the photos below?
1. The ‘Ove’ Glove
The innovative design of The ‘Ove’ Glove pairs five-finger mobility with heat-proof materials, which helps cooks get a better grip on hot pans. It was an early recommendation on Wirecutter and is made by Joseph Enterprises, a small company based in San Francisco that also produces the as-seen-on-TV Clapper and Chia Pet.
The counterfeit glove, which we purchased from this Amazon page from a third-party seller, looked almost identical to the real thing, with near-perfect packaging. The major differences:
The real glove’s blue lines were cleaner, and there was a tag inside with material information as well as a loop for hanging. The fake glove arrived with a snag in the weave.
The heat protection was slightly better on the real glove, which was thicker and had a longer wrist. The fake glove’s painted-on lines gave off a melted-plastic smell when we used it to hold a heated cast-iron pan for 10 seconds.
The real glove cost us $5 more than the fake glove, a 50 percent difference.
Although knockoffs are also present on separate Amazon listings, counterfeit ‘Ove’ Gloves often pop up on the product page for the real ‘Ove’ Glove, according to Michael Hirsch, vice president of Joseph Enterprises. To combat them, the company buys the fakes and then informs Amazon of the copyright infringement. Getting the fake gloves removed from Amazon can be a long process, Hirsch said, taking weeks or even months of playing whack-a-mole with counterfeit sellers: “Once they’re off, they come back under a different brand and name.”
It’s easy to see why the fakes persist. We found counterfeit ‘Ove’ Gloves for sale for about $2 a piece in bulk on Alibaba, the photograph clearly showing a knockoff version with black stitching instead of white around the wrist.
The authentic ‘Ove’ Glove is available for purchase through a page indicating that it is sold and shipped by Amazon.com or sold by Joseph Ent, the Amazon storefront for Joseph Enterprises.
The seller was blocked not long after I purchased the glove, and their storefront no longer exists.
2. Kylie Cosmetics matte lipstick
Wildly popular Kylie Cosmetics celebrated Kylie Jenner’s 19th birthday in 2016 with Birthday Edition kits in gold packaging that allegedly sold out in less than 30 minutes. Buying a three-year-old lipstick kit in 2019 is gross enough; the idea of putting something totally untraceable that might contain dangerous ingredients or bacteria on my mouth is frightening.
Of course, the 2016 kit is no longer for sale on the Kylie Cosmetics site. We were not able to get confirmation with the brand on the authenticity of the Amazon kit, but the differences between the real Kylie lipsticks and the Amazon version we bought were pretty obvious:
The counterfeit lip kit had multiple spelling errors on the list of ingredients, including “Distearoimonium” instead of “Disteardimonium” and “Blsmuth” instead of “Bismuth.”
The products smelled and looked different. The Amazon-sold Candy K lipstick was a brighter pink than the authentic Kylie Candy K lipstick, while the Amazon-sold Dolce K was more rosy than the authentic version. The formula was equally matte and immovable.
The original mini matte kit went for $36, whereas we paid nearly $30 for the version on Amazon.
On Netflix’s documentary series Broken, a woman named Khue Nong claims to have purchased a fake Kylie lip kit on eBay that glued her lips together. She resorted to using acetone nail polish remover to unseal her lips.
The Amazon kit we bought was sold by a third-party seller.
3. Child travel booster seat
Anyone who has had to move a child’s car seat from one vehicle to another, or who has attempted to take a kid in a taxi, can immediately understand the appeal of the minimalist Mifold travel booster seat, a patented, Indiegogo-born booster that folds up smaller than an iPad for easy transport from one car to another.
The differences between a knockoff called the YXTDZ portable and foldable child safety seat and the authentic Mifold were easy for us to eyeball:
Whereas the Mifold used aluminum to reinforce the seat belt guides, the knockoff had a metallic-colored sticker that mimicked the look of metal. The materials on the YXTDZ felt flimsier.
The Mifold’s lap-belt guide locked into place in three positions, while the YXTDZ’s did not lock in place at all.
The Mifold had a label with instructions and safety and manufacture information stitched onto the seat (as required by federal regulation), while the YXTDZ did not.
We purchased the YXTDZ seat via a third-party seller with fulfillment by Amazon Prime for nearly $24. The Mifold was about $33, sold and shipped by Amazon.
Although the YXTDZ booster is not trying to pass itself off as a Mifold by name, it’s clearly a knockoff of the Mifold’s unique design. And it’s not the only one: Mifold CEO Jon Sumroy told us that he began to see copycats almost as soon as the company launched. “They don’t copy exactly the design, but what they have done is copy the concept of the product.” (Sumroy compares his invention against cheap knockoffs in this video.) The physical differences are clear, but it’s those invisible differences—including the fact that whereas the Mifold is compliant with federal safety requirements for child-restraint systems, the knockoff does not appear to be—that are far more worrisome.
The listing no longer exists.
4. Child travel harness
The Kids Fly Safe CARES (Child Aviation Restraint System) airplane safety harness is meant to allow you to secure smaller children, between 22 and 44 pounds, on a plane without needing to lug a heavy car seat along. The patented and trademarked harness is made by AmSafe, an aviation-products manufacturer that makes restraint systems for 600 airlines, according to the company’s website. The AmSafe harness has been certified (PDF) as having an ELOS (Equivalent Level of Safety) to a car seat, a Federal Aviation Administration representative told us: “It is the only harness-type child safety restraint that the FAA has certified.”
As for the differences in comparison with the knockoff:
Despite the fact that the authentic Kids Fly Safe CARES harness is the only restraint system of its type certified by the FAA, the Toddler Airplane Travel Safety Harness we purchased via Amazon Prime fraudulently claimed to have FAA approval.
The authentic CARES harness felt much more substantial, with thicker belt material, strongly reinforced stitching, and shoulder straps that locked into place with metal-reinforced buckles. The Amazon-purchased harness had thin, plastic buckles—including, inexplicably, latches to release the shoulder straps. The cheaper harness’s adjustable shoulder straps did not lock in place.
Whereas the CARES device had safety installation and manufacture information printed directly on the belt, the bought-on-Amazon harness arrived with a paper printout only.
Charley Fussner, a business unit manager at AmSafe, told us that the company has suffered “significant losses – hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales” due to knockoff harnesses that look like the Kids Fly Safe harness but lack the FAA stamp of approval. Amazon removed the listing we purchased the mislabeled harness from, but others remain.
5. Philips Sonicare Sensitive toothbrush heads
We’ve recommended the Sonicare toothbrush for over four years in the Wirecutter guide to electric toothbrushes. The cost to own one can add up over time because the heads can be expensive—around $8 each, which amounts to $32 a year if you replace them at the recommended three-month interval. Still, we recommend using the brand-name heads over cheap generics for better feel and the confidence of using American Dental Association–approved accessories.
It took me some digging to reach the conclusion that a malfunctioning head I bought for my own use in 2019 wasn’t actually a fake but was likely discontinued stock with a slightly different design and harder bristles than the newer design had. I found minor but noticeable differences between Sonicare Sensitive toothbrush heads purchased from a third-party seller through Amazon Prime and those purchased through the Philips website:
I purchased Sonicare Sensitive toothbrush heads from Philips.com for almost $27 for a pack of three. The outdated Sonicare Sensitive toothbrush heads that I purchased from a third-party seller on Amazon cost $30 for three, so they were more expensive.
On the Philips-purchased head, the bristles were softer and the head was a bit wider. One of the heads I received from Amazon did not fit well on the toothbrush handle, falling off with a little shaking.
The logo on the neck of the Philips-purchased head was raised and textured, and the metal ring on the bottom of the head appeared to be slightly wider and more matte. The logo on the Amazon-purchased head looked more narrow and was not raised or textured.
The packaging on the Philips-purchased toothbrushes matched current fonts and logos used on Sonicare packaging, with a copyright date on the box of 2017. The label on the Amazon-bought brushes had a copyright date of 2012, and the printing was grainier.
The Amazon seller returned my money after I asked whether the toothbrush heads were authentic. A representative from Philips Sonicare’s customer support looked at pictures of my Amazon-bought toothbrush head and said that the head was an older version, and that Sonicare has since made improvements to the brush head. The Amazon-purchased toothbrush heads seem to have been old or discontinued stock.
6. Tweezerman Slant Tweezers
Tweezerman tweezers have been Wirecutter picks for many years for their filed-down sharpness and superior grip. However, for much of that time we’ve been warning readers to avoid buying counterfeit tweezers from third-party sellers on Amazon and recommending buying from other retailers, such as Bed Bath & Beyond and Sephora.
We compared a recently purchased set of Tweezerman tweezers delivered via Amazon Prime with a pair we bought directly from Tweezerman. Although we concluded that the Amazon pair was not actually fake, as many customer reviews claim, we did find that the seller had swapped in a model that was different from what was listed on the page (the 1230-BP from the Tweezerman Professional line instead of the 1230-BR from the standard line; the 1230-BP is a model that seems inferior to the tweezers we have long recommended in our guide).
Here are the differences we found:
While the angles and length of the tweezers were identical, the Tweezerman-purchased tweezers had thinner tips with more surface area than on the tweezers we purchased from Amazon. That made the Tweezerman-purchased pair feel sharper against the skin, with a better grip on the smallest hairs.
The packaging was completely different, with the Amazon-bought tweezers labeled “Tweezerman Professional,” despite both packages having copyright dates of 2017 with identical Allure 2018 Best of Beauty stickers. The Amazon-purchased tweezers were labeled 1230-BP, even though the listing was for the 1230-BR.
The Tweezerman-purchased tweezers sold for $23, whereas the Amazon-purchased tweezers were $13—nearly half the price.
We were not able to reach anyone at Tweezerman for confirmation of authenticity. A call to Tweezerman’s customer service confirmed that there is a Tweezerman Professional line sold at retailers such as Sally Beauty Supply.
Have something you want us to look at and investigate for authenticity? Send a photo and details to email@example.com, and we’ll compare what you have with what we tested.