kmod's blog

17Dec/2012

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.

Update:
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:

https://www.amazon.com/sp?_encoding=UTF8&asin=B087NN41JH&isAmazonFulfilled=1&ref_=olp_merch_name_1&seller=AD5F1I5PAE5XB

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.

Comments (12) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I can understand your review being rejected simply because it doesn’t review the product.

    You might consider trying to post an actual review (you said it was “fine but not amazing”) and also points out that other reviewers are being paid.

  2. It irks me when someone leaves a one star review for a book and says “it arrived bent”.
    Your star review of 1 means that you think the camera is no good. Or at least, many people will think so. It is difficult to find fault with amazon wanting reviews of the product instead of the purchasing experience. But, if they don’t offer a way to complain about the seller or shipper, then it leaves people little choice but to do the review like you did.

  3. I got rejected for the same reason, I pointed out the seller offered a reward for leaving a review. However I had still left an honest review of the product and a 5-star rating because I was happy with the product.

  4. Amazon sellers really aren’t supposed to include inserts like this in their products. I’m not sure if you want people posting links in your comments here, but you can easily find this policy by googling “sellercentral promotional inserts”.

    I get what you were trying to do, and I agree your review would help many people make a purchase decision. For whatever reason, Amazon wants that sort of thing reported a different way.

    I own a 3PL that solves various supply chain issues for online companies, including Amazon sellers. Customers frequently ask my company to:

    a) Insert these kind of inserts for them (we tell them no, and explain why)

    b) Receive their rejected goods from Amazon to _remove_ these kinds of inserts.

    I’m really not sure what the solution is here. It’s mostly inexperienced sellers who put this sort of thing inside their products, and it’s not helping anyone.

  5. Try emailing jeff@amazon.com. He farms out emails to heads of teams that are in charge of this stuff. I’ve had success getting issues resolved when I ran into dead ends with normal CS. Would be interesting to see what kind of a response you get.

  6. This happens across many many products in Amazon. I was shocked when I got to know this loophole in the supply chain. It is a whole business in itself. People make money off of this business model. Just FYI. I am surprised Amazon would no know about this, because it helps them sell. Trust 4 stars reviews more than 5.

  7. There are also tons of bait and switch reviews. A prime example is say a “vacuum sealer”, first few of the 15000 reviews are for the sealer, then the reviews are for dishwashing tablets. Sellers can completely change the item and keep the reviews from the previous item. This is VERY common.

  8. Same for me. I supposedly won a “$20 Gift Card” if I left a comment — and so I did, skeptically, and then forwarded a screenshot to the attached email address (giftredeem@outlook.com) and of course heard nothing back. Def shady.

    Might be worth taking a look at fakespot.com for a way to fight back against counterfeit comments!

  9. For this reason, I ignore the 5-star reviews and read the 4-star ones.

  10. Maybe post a review that actually reviews the product itself?

  11. This is a common practice in China e-commerce like alibaba, jd, etc. I hate it and now the chinese sellers are ruining amazon as well. (They even form groups to buy from each other without actually delivery just to Be able to leave best comments on websites for each other, with fake delivery services). It’s a country of exporting faking products, dishonesty, corruption and all these evil practices to gain self advantages unfairly.

  12. The reality is businesses HAVE to incentivise buyers to leave positive reviews. Human nature is to review more quickly when something goes wrong rather than when a product just does what it’s supposed to do. A minority of people – and it seems you may be one – do understand the importance of leaving negative AND positive feedback but this is a very small minority. When the world changes so that people behave differently and are more likely to leave unsolicited good reviews, then this issue may change. I can’t see that happening any time soon but I believe sellers should not be penalised for doing what they have to do to keep their businesses going.


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