What seeds? Those seeds. The seeds everyone is talking about.
In recent weeks, people in dozens of U.S. states and in some countries abroad have received packages of seeds they did not order. What we know about the seeds:
- The USDA has identified 14 different kinds, including flowering plants (morning glory), veggies (cabbage), and herbs (lavender).
- They appear to be coming from China.
- Get a package? DON’T PLANT THE SEEDS (you might be introducing an invasive species). The government says you should contact your state plant regulatory official instead.
What’s going on? The USDA thinks the unsolicited seed deliveries are part of what’s known as a “brushing” scam in e-commerce. A seller on a platform like Amazon or Etsy will send out packages with items of little value, which allows them to forge positive reviews and boost sales. So…maybe a topic for an HBS case study rather than a Stephen King novel.
Bottom line: This bizarre episode highlights the importance of positive reviews to online sellers. In fact, a whole cottage industry has sprung up in China to help merchants get better reviews.