Test of AmazonBasics gear finds many dangerous items

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/09/11/test-of-amazonbasics-gear-find.html

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I’m guessing that the equation needs an extra term or two for modelling how many distinct ODM rebadges are floating around under the same product label; including on gear small or cheap enough that it isn’t even serialized.

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It does feel like a squandering of the Amazon Basics brand, which at first felt like “better than the Chinese junk and not as pricey as the big name stuff”. Now it feels like they aren’t saving on branding as much as they are on QA. Which might be acceptable for something like trash bags, but not so good with chargers.

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I’m now worried about what the failure mode of my Amazon Basics 30 pound kettlebell is going to be. Fragmentation grenade? ACME Portable Hole generator?

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I was wondering the same about the amazon basics dvdr media I’ve been using.

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But this seed corn is delicious and those Q3 numbers aren’t going to make themselves!

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I get confused so easily, what with Every Day Carry and AmazonBasic and Stay At Home Essentials, which load of crap is the dangerous one, the stupidly expensive one, and the completely pointless one? What does the Venn diagram look like?

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It’s purposely designed to make it difficult, if not impossible for the average person to figure out. That way you can’t use a simple heuristic to simplify your shopping and spend the minimum amount of time doing it. Now you have to shop MORE - spend more time at the site - in order to figure this out. By doing that you will likely buy something you didn’t plan to. EVERYTHING is designed to make you see more stuff and give you more offerings, and more opportunities to buy something.

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A circle…

(I kid. Amazon Basics are normally inexpensive and not pointless, although they are apparently dangerous. Which would make them too expensive and pointless.)

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Our household did experience one of those failures with the Amazon Basics 12-sheet paper shredder. It would no longer stop running on its own, even with no paper being fed into it. One time it ran too long and must have sparked or heated up enough to ignite the paper dust in the bin. There was a small flare and pop, but nothing large. The motor quit then and could no longer be used. I recycled the head and kept the base as a nice rectangular trash can.

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I used to work for a consumer tv antenna company that sold a line under Amazon Basics. It was a good sideline and we sold a ton in bulk to Amazon. It was the same antenna, but a fraction of the price of the premium branded one.

Other than the vetting at the beginning there wasn’t a lot of interaction with it. Because Amazon was in charge of dealing with their own negative reviews, there was way less pressure on us than dealing with our own brand. If our own brand got too many negative reviews or returns they would yank our listing and we had to send reams of testing data PDFs to prove user error. They also would bug us to include more educational info on the listing.

This almost never happened to our Basics line - which makes me think that there is not a lot of oversight (clearly) in that part of the business.

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Well the weight comes from the quantum mechanical black hole contained in the “bell”. If the containment fails, the earth will gradually be destroyed as the tiny little black hole consumes its way to the earth’s core and then bounces around in there.

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If a USB cord started a fire it had help. Why? USB sources are current-limited. No matter how you abuse the cord, the power supply has to be faulty as well or nothing is going to get hot.

Either the reporting is horribly incomplete or the fire inspector is an idiot. Pick one.

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USB sources ought to be current-limited. A properly implemented USB port will certainly shut you down if you attempt to overdraw, complete with a software-visible notification of the overcurrent condition and the port not being destroyed so you can retry after the offending device has been removed; but you absolutely can’t and shouldn’t assume that the basic minimum-viable-USB-as-power-source wall warts are doing much regulation beyond the bare minimum required to keep the voltage approximately where it ought to be.

The enthusiasm for fast charging of devices with fairly chunky batteries has also substantially increased the amount of power potentially being rammed through the quite-possibly-underspecced and/or damaged USB cables. USB-PD should at least be confined to type-C cables; but some of the Qualcomm “quick charge” and derivatives will try for almost 40 watts if they think it will work.

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You are quite correct, I should have written that “compliant USB sources” etc. Too many years spent taking the specifications as absolute requirements. Even the high-power sources have to negotiate the extra current, it’s not supposed to be unconditional.

However we slice it, though, the cord couldn’t do it alone: there had to be a dangerous source there as well.

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I would guess that is part and parcel of the Amazon model. First build up a dominant position as the place people go to buy and sell stuff. Then make it easy and convenient for people to sell their stuff as Amazon stuff. Then make it harder and harder for them to sell their stuff as their stuff thus making them even more dependent on Amazon until eventually they are just third party manufacturers for Amazon.

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Which is why stronger - and enforced - regulations are needed. This is abusive and predatory business behaviour.

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Luckily we can get an AmazonBasics one of those; with Prime Shipping, so that shouldn’t be a problem…

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