Why you shouldn’t buy sex toys on Amazon

Lightning-fast shipping, a staggering selection of products, and extremely competitive prices make Amazon one of the most popular online shopping websites in the world. It isn’t surprising, then, that consumers would consider Amazon an option for sex toy purchases. However, according to a recent article by Vanessa Marin on Lifehacker, buying a sex toy on Amazon is not a sound choice — for reasons that you may and may not expect.

The first reason is the proliferation of counterfeit products. Marin reports that high-end sex toy manufacturers such as LELO, We-Vibe, njoy, and Tenga have all fallen victim to this practice. It’s so common for companies to rip off the Magic Wand that the product’s website includes a section on how to spot fakes. Amazon doesn’t monitor for counterfeit sex toys (or other products, really), so all policing of inventory has to be done by the original companies themselves, which is time-consuming, costly, and often ineffective.

Counterfeit products are also very likely to be shoddy. They may not work, they may malfunction, and it’s likely they’re made of unsafe and even toxic sex toy materials. Marin explains:

Some people don’t mind counterfeits. After all, the worst that can happen with your counterfeited purse is that it wears down faster than the real thing, or your snobby coworker points out that it’s a fake. You only spent a fraction of the retail price, so who cares?

Sex toys, however, are more complicated. The original toys that pirates copy are usually made of high-quality materials like stainless steel, medical grade silicone, and glass. The counterfeits, on the other hand, are made with much cheaper, lower-grade materials that can cause serious harm to your bod . . . You may think you’re being smart by purchasing a body-safe, phthalate-free LELO, only to get a toy that winds up making you sick.

She’s right. Truly body-safe sex toy materials, like glass, medical-grade silicone, and stainless steel, are more expensive, while porous and toxic materials are cheap but contain chemicals such as phthalates that can cause irritation, infection, and even serious harm. Feminist sex toy boutiques like us are fiercely dedicated to stocking only body-safe toys, but Amazon does absolutely no vetting of products for safety, making their sex toy selection risky for any consumer.

A suspiciously-low price is a sure sign that something is amiss. If it looks too good to be true, unfortunately, it probably is.

What happens if you buy a sex toy on Amazon and it breaks? That’s when things really go awry. Sex blogger Dangerous Lilly has written about this issue and encountered it with her readers:

In the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve had more people report problems ordering from Amazon than any other sex toy problems combined. I’ve had readers tell me, even as far back as 4 years ago, that they bought a “luxury” vibrator and something went wrong after a month or two. They took their problem to the manufacturer because it has a warranty, and they found out it wasn’t the brand they thought they were buying and the company wouldn’t honor a warranty claim.

Warranties are a safety net for consumers buying expensive sex toys, but they are useless if the company in question didn’t actually make the toy — or didn’t consent to it being sold on Amazon.

According to folks Marin interviewed, that’s the thing: even if you find a legit sex toy on Amazon, odds are the manufacturer of that toy would rather you purchase it elsewhere. While indie brick and mortar shops like us adhere to sex toy manufacturers’ MAP (minimum advertised price), third-party sellers on Amazon break the rules and try to lure customers in with low prices. It’s a slap in the face to the people who make the wonderful toys we love so much.

There’s one final reason to eschew Amazon for your sex toy purchases, and it’s a big one: customer service. By visiting a sex-positive shop, you have the opportunity to feel all the toys in person, to ask questions, to gather advice from sales associates with years of experience with sex toys. You won’t be scammed with a fake. You won’t end up with a toxic product. You’ll leave confident in your purchase, with a functional body-safe toy, and the knowledge that nobody was undercut along the way.

Read Vanessa Marin’s whole piece at Lifehacker.