Category Archives: Algorithm

The Fresh Prince of Ecommerce

I wanted some eucalyptus oil. Because I like the smell and it repels spiders. My front door always had a spiderweb that came back no matter how many times I removed it. After using some eucalyptus spray, I haven’t seen any spiderweb there. Eucalyptus seems to work. As a bonus, people say eucalyptus prevents allergies and soothes your lungs.

My lemon-eucalyptus repellent is almost gone now and I’m shopping for a replacement online. The choices aren’t so great. Overstock and Amazon don’t publish the expiration dates. If I buy from them, maybe I’m buying something stale that sat for years in a hot warehouse. A quick Google search tells me eucalyptus oil expires in about 6 months. Why doesn’t Amazon or Overstock tell me any of this?

Do I have reason to be skeptical? You can research some of these products to see when they launched, and by looking at the packaging, from there you can guess how long the product was for sale. If a product has 3000+ reviews, that ordinarily might be great, unless the product has been sitting in a warehouse that whole time. The younger product with only 100 reviews could be much fresher! Add to that, many online reviews really do complain that such and such product arrived weaker than expected, confirming my skepticism.

Any product with a fragrance has a shelf life problem. But online retailers don’t really advertise expiration dates. This appears to be a widespread problem. We know for a fact these online shops source products from random sellers from all over the world. So I doubt Amazon has any way to know the freshness of its various products. We have no clue about the freshness of products sold online, just like we have no clue who is selling us these products. Lately I’m finding YouTube is full of little entrepreneurs bragging about all the money they made selling us garbage on Amazon.

Algorithmically, online retailers could more heavily weigh the most recent reviews of products that should be fresh. Did they think of that yet? I have no idea. In any case, I’d say there’s an opportunity for someone to start an online shop that prioritizes freshness. Stay fresh my friends!