Banned Bounty

Quiz: Can You Spot the Banned Amazon Item?

July 9, 2020 08:00 ET

Amazon is the largest retailer in the world, but a majority of the sales on the site come from third-party sellers. Along with toasters and mops, the site’s a target for people trying to sell dangerous and illicit products.

There are rules: The company bans nearly 2,000 items for sale in the United States that fall into 31 broader categories, ranging from skin care products to assault weapons to human organs.

But Amazon’s filters don’t catch everything. An investigation by The Markup found nearly 100 banned products that slipped past Amazon.com’s safeguards. When we sent our findings to Amazon, most of the listings were removed.

“If products that are against our policies are found on our site, we immediately remove the listing, take action on the bad actor, and further improve our systems,” Amazon spokesperson Patrick Graham said.

The Markup’s Annie Gilbertson found that Amazon workers who monitor listings have only a few minutes to investigate each one. We’ve put together a list of six items we found for sale on Amazon. Can you tell which ones shouldn’t have been allowed, according to Amazon’s rules?

  • 1 of 6

    Should this item be allowed for sale on Amazon?

    Tools & Home Improvement Pocket Knives & Folding Knives

    Shomer-Tec SHNK Covert Nickel Knife

    $35.08

    Ships from and sold by Amazon.com

    Description Hardened stainless steel blade concealed inside a US nickel

    Item allowed You allowed this item
    Allow Allow for sale
    Item banned You banned this item
    Ban Ban for sale

    Wrong. According to Amazon's rules, this item is banned.

    Correct. According to Amazon's rules, this item is banned.

    Amazon allows the sale of a wide variety of knives, blades, and swords. However, there is a specific restriction against knives disguised as harmless items.

    After we sent Amazon this listing, it was removed.

    View original listing
  • 2 of 6

    Should this item be allowed for sale on Amazon?

    Office Products Paperweights

    Lead & Steel Modern Paperweight Desk Organizer

    $16.99

    Sold by Lead & Steel and Fulfilled by Amazon

    Amazon's Choice This item is recommended by Amazon

    Item allowed You allowed this item
    Allow Allow for sale
    Item banned You banned this item
    Ban Ban for sale

    Wrong. According to Amazon's rules, this item is banned.

    Correct. According to Amazon's rules, this item is banned.

    We found this AR-15 vise block disguised as a paperweight, even though it was highlighted as “Amazon’s Choice for ‘ar vise block kit.’ ” Amazon bans the sale of assault-weapon and AR-specific tools, and specifically mentions vise blocks. Even though the seller appears to have intentionally miscategorized the listing under “Paperweights,” Amazon’s “Frequently bought together” feature recommended other gunsmithing tools.

    After we showed this to Amazon, this listing and the seller storefront were removed.

    View original listing
  • 3 of 6

    Should this item be allowed for sale on Amazon?

    Sports & Outdoors Stun Guns

    Taser Pulse Compact Laser LED 2 Live-Cartridges Soft Pocket and Target

    $444.99

    Ships from and sold by Prime Craft

    Description Immobilize attackers at a safe distance

    Item allowed You allowed this item
    Allow Allow for sale
    Item banned You banned this item
    Ban Ban for sale

    Correct. According to Amazon's rules, this item is allowed.

    Wrong. According to Amazon's rules, this item is allowed.

    Amazon allows the sale of “Stun guns or electroshock weapons,” though this category is subject to regional sales restrictions.

    View original listing
  • 4 of 6

    Should this item be allowed for sale on Amazon?

    Sports & Outdoors Air Rifles

    Black Ops Sniper Rifle S - Power Piston .177 Caliber Break Barrel

    $179.99

    Ships from and sold by Amazon.com

    Description SILENCED SHOOTING, EXTREMELY QUIET WITH ATTACHED SUPPRESSOR to avoid spooking game and keep the noise to a minimum

    Item allowed You allowed this item
    Allow Allow for sale
    Item banned You banned this item
    Ban Ban for sale

    Correct. According to Amazon's rules, this item is allowed.

    Wrong. According to Amazon's rules, this item is allowed.

    While Amazon bans firearms, it does allow these realistic looking airsoft guns, which fire plastic pellets propelled by compressed gas or spring-loaded mechanisms. These guns are popular for combat play and military simulations.

    View original listing
  • 5 of 6

    Should this item be allowed for sale on Amazon?

    Home & Kitchen Cotton Candy Makers

    15KN Manual Single punch tablet press/Candy Sugar press machine / (lightest type) TDP-0 / hand-operated / mini-type 20KG

    $672.00

    Shipped by Dalin Yang

    Product Description It can make candy, tablet, milk slices, etc.

    Item allowed You allowed this item
    Allow Allow for sale
    Item banned You banned this item
    Ban Ban for sale

    Wrong. According to Amazon's rules, this item is banned.

    Correct. According to Amazon's rules, this item is banned.

    Amazon bans the sale of “Tablet presses or molds used to press or imprint a pharmaceutical drug name or identification number onto a tablet or pill.” Our investigation tells the story of how similar pill presses purchased on Amazon.com were used to make counterfeit drugs that killed at least two people and sickened more than 20 others, in 2016 in Tennessee.

    After we sent Amazon this listing, it was removed.

    View original listing
  • 6 of 6

    Should this item be allowed for sale on Amazon?

    Health & Household Omega 3-6-9

    Hemp Gummies 60000mg - 100% Natural Hemp Oil Infused Gummies for Pain, Anxiety, Stress & Inflammation Relief, Promotes Sleep

    $23.99

    Sold by Owe Uself and Fulfilled by Amazon

    Description Ditch your bitter hemp tablets and pills for these yummy edibles

    Item allowed You allowed this item
    Allow Allow for sale
    Item banned You banned this item
    Ban Ban for sale

    Correct. According to Amazon's rules, this item is allowed.

    Wrong. According to Amazon's rules, this item is allowed.

    Amazon prohibits all products containing cannabidiol (CBD) but allows hemp-based products.

    View original listing