And Today, This Happened on Amazon...

Longtime Amazon customers are probably aware of the recent plague of coupon club reviews that have been infesting the site over the past year or so. Basically, the word is out that certain reviewers/bloggers, etc, are enjoying the privileges of getting all kinds of free & cheap crap (in every sense) from various companies and they want in. no matter what. No one seemed all that interested in free books, though...


Naturally, shady stuff commenced. Companies like Amazon Review Trader (AMZRT) popped up, offering all kinds of bullshit on the cheap, so long as you provided them with an "honest & unbiased review". Which would lead to more cheapies, and so on.


Well, not anymore. Or at least, not so much until they figure out a way around things.


Update on Customer Reviews

October 3, 2016


Customer reviews are one of the most valuable tools we offer customers for making informed purchase decisions, and we work hard to make sure they are doing their job. In just the past year, we’ve improved review ratings by introducing a machine learned algorithm that gives more weight to newer, more helpful reviews; applying stricter criteria to qualify for the Amazon verified purchase badge; and suspending, banning or suing thousands of individuals for attempting to manipulate reviews. Our community guidelines have always prohibited compensation for reviews, with an exception – reviewers could post a review in exchange for a free or discounted product as long as they disclosed that fact. These so-called ‘incentivized reviews’ make up only a tiny fraction of the tens of millions of reviews on Amazon, and when done carefully, they can be helpful to customers by providing a foundation of reviews for new or less well-known products.


Today, we updated the community guidelines to prohibit incentivized reviews unless they are facilitated through the Amazon Vine program. We launched Vine several years ago to carefully facilitate these kinds of reviews and have been happy with feedback from customers and vendors.


Here’s how Vine works: Amazon – not the vendor or seller – identifies and invites trusted and helpful reviewers on Amazon to post opinions about new and pre-release products; we do not incentivize positive star ratings, attempt to influence the content of reviews, or even require a review to be written; and we limit the total number of Vine reviews that we display for each product. Vine has important controls in place and has proven to be especially valuable for getting early reviews on new products that have not yet been able to generate enough sales to have significant numbers of organic reviews. We also have ideas for how to continue to make Vine an even more useful program going forward. Details on that as we have them. The above changes will apply to product categories other than books. We will continue to allow the age-old practice of providing advance review copies of books. Thank you. – Chee Chew, VP, Customer Experience


Sounded great to me! Until I read this:


Promotional Content in Customer Reviews

Our goal is to capture all the energy, enthusiasm, and feedback (both favorable and critical) that customers have about a product while avoiding use of reviews to advertise, promote, or mislead.


To help illustrate, here are a few examples of reviews that we don't allow: • *A product brand posts a review of their own product

• *A customer posts a review in exchange for cash, a free or discounted product, a gift certificate, or a discount off a future purchase provided by a third party

• *A customer posts a review in exchange for entry into a contest or sweepstakes or membership in a program

• *A customer posts a review of a game in exchange for bonus in-game content or credits • *A relative, close friend, business associate, or employee of the product creator posts a review to help boost sales

• *A customer posts a review of the product after being promised a refund in exchange for the review

• *A seller posts negative reviews about a competitor's product

• *An author posts a positive review about a peer's book in exchange for receiving a positive review from the peer


(It's that second entry that's giving me pause.)


And furthermore:


Promotions and Commercial Solicitations

In order to preserve the integrity of Community content, content and activities consisting of advertising, promotion, or solicitation (whether direct or indirect) is not allowed, including:

• Creating, modifying, or posting content regarding your (or your relative's, close friend's, business associate's, or employer's) products or services.

• Creating, modifying, or posting content regarding your competitors' products or services.

• Creating, modifying, or posting content in exchange for compensation of any kind (including free or discounted products) or on behalf of anyone else.

• Offering compensation or requesting compensation (including free or discounted products) in exchange for creating, modifying, or posting content.

• Posting advertisements or solicitations, including URLs with referrer tags or affiliate codes.


(That third line is what's bugging me.)


And last, but not least: "Book authors and publishers may continue to provide free or discounted copies of their books to readers, as long as the author or publisher does not require a review in exchange or attempt to influence the review."




I often review books from book tour companies and whatnot, so while it says ARCs directly provided by publishers are ok it's also saying no third-party providers allowed. 


I'll admit I'm a little confused here. I'm not mad about the changes; I'm glad this finally happened and think they should've gone even further with cleaning things up. I just wish they'd be clearer about what's what to help avoid mistakes.