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Amazon Deleting Accounts of People Receiving Free (or Discounted) Items for Review

Amazon has a program called Vine.  Through this program, top reviewers receive free products in exchange for posting reviews.  This program is run through Amazon.com itself.

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From a description on the website:

How are Vine Voices selected?

We want the Voice program to reflect the best of our growing body of customer reviewers. We invite reviewers to participate in the Vine program based on feedback from other customers. A reviewer’s rank is determined by the overall helpfulness of all their reviews, factoring in the number of reviews they have written. More weight is given to recent reviews. For more information on how reviewer rankings are determined, please visit How Ranking Works. Ultimately, Vine Voices become eligible based on the value and trust other Amazon.com customers place in the Voices’ ability to provide helpful and insightful reviews. In addition to the reviewer rank, we also weigh customers’ demonstrated interest in products similar to those enrolled in the Vine program. This facilitates product reviews by people who are familiar with the category they belong to. For example if a Vine Voice mostly purchases and/or reviews home and garden products, it is more likely they will be offered similar products.

Where does Amazon get the products?

Products are provided by publishers, labels, studios, manufacturers or any vendor participating in the program.

Are Vine Voices expected to write only positive reviews?

No. We welcome honest opinion about the product – positive or negative. Of course Vine reviews must conform to all our posting guidelines. Customers can vote on the helpfulness of Vine reviews just like they can for any other review

Other companies have been copying Vine’s model–giving customers products for free or heavily discounted in exchange for a review.

I highlighted one company that does this.

Amazon prohibits people being paid to review products.  Lately, Amazon has been cracking down based on a strict definition of “paid”.

From a thread on the Amazon forums about this:

For example, some sellers are giving out codes that the recipient thinks are discount codes, but they are actually gift codes. It’s against Amazon’s rules for somebody to review a product in exchange for money, gift cards/codes or anything else other than the actual product. This also means that it’s against Amazon’s rules for a seller to ask a reviewer to buy the product and then be reimbursed. We have heard of some sellers who reimburse reviewers through PayPal. This would be considered a paid review and could have severe consequences. Amazon is currently suing many paid reviewers.

So for example, a discount code could be a discount code for a specific product.  That would be okay under the Amazon rules (as far as I can tell).  But if the company is giving you a gift card for the discount–even if it has the same result as giving a discount code for the product–that is in violation of Amazon’s rules.  This is because you could technically use it towards a different product, even if using it towards a different product would be a violation of the specific company’s rules.

Another violation is something like a book tour.  Even if you aren’t paid to review the books and even if you purchase the books yourself, the fact that you are receiving something for your expected participation is enough to get you deleted.  (And to clarify, your whole account can deleted, Prime Subscriptions and all, from what I’ve read).

Also, if a book company sends you another book in response to a review you leave, that would be considered compensation.

From an article on the subject:

A review copy must be given before the review is written or the book will be seen as payment for the review.

The review club I’ve promoted uses discount codes.  But I’ve read horror stories through my research on this subject.  There were accounts deleted over reviews done through legitimate means (but were close to the line).  I’ve read that you don’t get notice/warnings/anything and you don’t get an explanation afterwards.  People who were top reviewers (and in the Vine program!) have gotten deleted.  There is a general worry that Amazon is erring on the side of deleting vs. giving the benefit of the doubt.

So I think I’m going to stop participating in anything like this (as short as my tenure was), just to make sure I’m on the safe side.

So a huge hat tip and thank you to the Twitter user who tipped me off to what was happening.

About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

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6 comments

  1. That’s good it’s becoming quite rediclous the numbers of reviews on products were the reviewers receive the product for free or at a discount. I was looking at $5 headphones (after a code) and the first few pages were paid reviews.

  2. I am SO over the fake reviews on Amazon. I have started not buying anything from a particular vendor if they have freebie reviews just on principal. Amazon is being overrun with Made in China junk with phony 5* reviews.

  3. So snagshout is “legal” or not?? I’ve done a few reviews with them for small items but won’t continue if my acct is at risk.

    • Jeanne Marie Hoffman

      It is legal, but from what I’ve read, Amazon has been shutting some people down who have been doing legal reviews because they are erring on over-policing and have made mistakes.

  4. I’m so glad there is a crack down (but still not pleased over vine itself). The paid review really destroys the usefulness and integrity of amazons review system.

  5. Amazon doesn’t delete the account, they only remove the reviews and revoke review privileges.

    However Amazon has been lying to their Sellers. People don’t search for products using Amazon, they search for products using Google and Bing.

    Customer reviews on Amazon get the Sellers very little, but Paid Blog Reviews are indexed and show up in Search Engine results.

    Sellers need Blogger Reviews so their products show up in Search Engine Results more often. The more Bloggers link to their products the more their products show up in the results.

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