kmod's blog


Amazon disallows pointing out paid reviews

I recently bought a webcam from Amazon (late to the party, I know), and when it came it was fine but not amazing.

When I went through the packaging I saw a little card saying "send us a screenshot of your 5-star review and we'll give you a $10 Amazon gift card":

$10 for 5-star reviews

I thought that other Amazon shoppers would want to know that this was happening and that the reviews were less trustworthy, so I wrote up a review and submitted it to Amazon.

Yesterday I got a notification that my review was rejected. I heard of Amazon being ham-fisted about this stuff but it was still shocking that it would happen to me:

Amazon review rejection

I assume they rejected this due to the first rule, "Feedback on the seller ... should be provided [elsewhere]". I could understand this being a good policy in some cases, but here they're using it to justify silencing talk about reviews. I suppose we don't know whether they disallow positive comments about other reviews, but I would guess that that never happens.

I remember that I used to use Amazon ratings as the main driver behind my purchases, so it's sad to see the review system become less helpful over time. It's extra sad that Amazon would rather try to hide the issue and not improve it.

My premise was that the reviews section should be helpful for making purchasing decisions. Some people (including Amazon) are saying that the reviews should be about the product, which is coherent but I would argue makes them less useful. For example I feel quite helped when a review for chocolate mentions that the chocolate arrived melted -- this is not a review about the product intrinsically, but is still very helpful for deciding whether or not to buy the item. Similarly, as a purchaser I would want to see a warning that there may be paid reviews for the product, and I was very surprised to learn that Amazon disallows such warnings.

Update 2:
I submitted feedback through the link they requested, and here's the result:

I don't think this serves either goal of educating future purchasers or changing the sellers behavior.

Update 3:
I've chatted with an Amazon rep on the issue, and to their credit they seemed to take it seriously and "noted the report violation against the seller". They said to expect an update in 2-3 business days, though it's not clear what sort of update it will be.

Update 4: it's been several weeks and I have not received an update from Amazon. I noticed that this particular seller is no longer selling this webcam and I'm not sure what that means.

Filed under: Uncategorized 11 Comments