The news today is that Amazon are banning ‘incentivised reviews’. What that means is that you can’t accept anything in return for reviewing a product, not even a free or discounted product. It has always been the case that you can’t accept payment in return for writing a review, and especially not for writing a positive review, but now they are classing a free product as payment, except in the case of books.This is a bit of a shame personally because I do get a lot of e-mails from companies offering me free stuff in return for writing a review, but I can see why they are doing it.
Within the Amazon reviewing community these companies are often referred to as ou Chinese friends because nearly all the emails come from China and a lot of them start with “Dear friend”, hence the title of this post. Amazon reviewers split into two main groups: there are those who get a bit po-faced about it all, who like to think they have a lot of integrity, who try to do diligent testing on such products and try to write an honest, considered and often long-winded review, and there are those who are quite obsessed with either their reviewer ranking or the accumulation of free stuff, or both, who will accept such offers indiscriminately and routinely give everything five stars – sometimes without even opening the box so they can seel the stuff on via eBay.
Of course I am generalising and there is a lot of grey area between those extremes. I am probably nearer the po-faced end of the scale. Any email that contains any sort of demand, like asking for a positive review or insisting on photo or video reviews goes straight into the bin for a start. If I do accept a product for review I will try to be honest about it, but frankly I only accept things that look like they will be good or fun so there is a bit of a bias built in.
At first it was all quite low-key, maybe a couple of emails a month and often for pretty decent-looking stuff, but it has escalated to the point where I routinely get a dozen or more a day. If some people are getting that many, accepting everything, and giving them all glowing reviews as a matter of course then I can see it will be dimishing the usefulness of the whole customer review ecosystem.
So, yes, I can see why Amazon would want to put a stop to it
Having said that, the BBC really ought to make it clear that they were linking to the Amazon.com terms and conditions page and that the Amazon.co.uk T&Cs do not have the same restriction. Yet. Amazon tends to roll changes out to the US first and then flow them down elsewhere later on, but at the moment this seems to be a US-specific initiative. Maybe the problem is even worse in the US?
None of this affects Amazon’s Vine programme where reviewers get free products in return for a review. In that programme it all goes through Amazon rather than direct from manufacturers. The official line is that the scheme is more neutral with no pressure to deliver good reviews, but since Viners will usually select things that are attractive to them there is still an in-built bias of sorts.
I expect no sympathy that I am going to get fewer freebies now.