Dirty Little Secrets of Review Clubs: #1 is that they’re not connected with Amazon

It looks like Amazon is again cleaning house of coupon club reviewers who have no idea that they are doing something wrong. I should have posted this at the same time as Reviews Deleted by Amazon but better late than never. Once again this comes from Amazon poster Maine Colonial. If any of this information helps you then stop by the Top Reviewers Forum and say thanks.

▶︎ Review clubs are not affiliated with Amazon, even if they have some form of Amazon’s name in their name.

▶︎ The fact that a review club may advertise on Amazon’s website doesn’t mean that Amazon approves of the club’s practices.

▶︎ Reviewers’ personal information is not necessarily secure with a review club. Clubs have had their security compromised and member information leaked.

▶︎ Their rules are not the same as Amazon’s, and some of their rules are directly contrary to Amazon’s. Amazon’s rules for creating reviews are here:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201602680

Here is additional guidance from Amazon on customer reviews:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201077870

▶︎ Amazon has been wiping out reviews and revoking the reviewing privileges of hundreds of review club members, especially AMZ Review Trader members. As of April, 2016, giveawayservice.com reviewers seem to have become a key target of Amazon purges.

▶︎ Nobody knows exactly how Amazon identifies who to purge. Reviewing through review clubs is a common denominator for the vast majority of those purged, but that doesn’t mean that the purges are limited to people who review only through the review clubs. The purges have included people who have been regular Amazon reviewers for years (including Amazon Vine members) and people who review a mix of items they bought for full price on Amazon and items they received through review clubs. People who value the reviews they’ve written over time and who enjoy writing Amazon reviews should consider whether starting up with review clubs is worth jeopardizing their entire review portfolio and privileges.

▶︎ Review clubs want reviewers to subscribe to Amazon Prime so that they can take advantage of Amazon’s free two-day shipping. A reviewer who is purged will *not* get a refund from Amazon for Prime.

▶︎ Review club members who are purged receive no warning, and when they try to get an explanation from Amazon, the most they receive is a form email saying they have engaged in review manipulation or bias. The clubs and sellers who get in trouble for breaking Amazon’s rules get a formal appeal, but reviewers don’t. Reviewers are expendable; the clubs don’t care what happens to them.

▶︎ Reviewers who are purged often feel bad about the products they’ve received and not posted reviews for yet. Not to worry, though. The clubs and club sellers know that huge numbers of reviewers are being purged and they don’t concern themselves about the products they’ve sent out that will never have a review posted for them.

▶︎ Sellers pay review clubs a fee to list their products. The way the sellers see it, they are buying a promotion tool: reviewers. Anyone who becomes a review club member should recognize that the club and sellers see review members as promoters, but that’s inconsistent with Amazon’s rules for reviewers. Amazon wants reviewers to post reviews *as* customers and *for* customers, product promotion is not allowed to be posted as a review.

▶︎ The clubs claim that the people purged were breaking club rules and that’s why Amazon purged them. Travis, the founder of AMZ Review Trader, claims that people purged are only [expletive] reviewers, people who fail to disclose and people who resold club products, but that’s not true. Not only that, but it’s not against any Amazon rules to resell club products. The real problem is that the way the clubs want its members to review breaks Amazon’s rules. The bottom line is that membership in a review club alone hugely increases the chances of a reviewer’s purge.

▶︎ Starting in late 2015, Amazon began removing the Amazon Verified Purchase tag from reviews posted by people who received the product at a deep discount. Review club sellers hate this new Amazon policy, because they want reviews to appear to be from people who bought the product at full price. So they are coming up with all kinds of ways around the new rule. But reviewers who fall for these tricks may find themselves purged.

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.

▶︎ Asking reviewers to do keyword-based searches on Amazon is considered manipulation by Amazon and is against its rules. To be safe, reviewers should not use any seller links to Amazon other than the actual product ID number, called the ASIN. Other common tactics of review club sellers that are against Amazon rules include asking reviewers to put items on wishlists and asking them to upvote positive reviews and downvote negative reviews. Some sellers also plant questions in the Q&A section of the product page by asking reviewers to post the questions they give to them.

▶︎ Clubs want their reviewers to post photos. This is not required or even particularly encouraged by Amazon. Posting photos is completely irrelevant to Amazon’s decision whether to purge a reviewer.

▶︎ Review club sellers are not small businesses just looking for a fair break so that they can support their families. It is not the job of a reviewer to help sellers. Amazon specifically says that reviews are solely to help customers and that reviews are not to be posted by sellers or as product promotion.

▶︎ In many cases, review club members are not actually getting a deal on items they get at a supposed deep discount from the review clubs. Travis from AMZ Review Trader himself says that sellers there too often just buy a bunch of ultra-cheap stuff from Alibaba, slap on their label, jack up the price tenfold or more and then sell it to club members at a supposed deep discount that is more than they bought it for. Before picking any review club product, check the price elsewhere, especially on aliexpress.com.

▶︎ Speaking of deceptive pricing, once club sellers get a good base of positive reviews, they commonly jack up the price to regular Amazon shoppers. Reviewers were basing their reviews on what they thought would be sold for $10, say, and now it’s suddenly $20 or even more.

▶︎ Some club sellers will do something even more deceptive than these pricing games. They will get a big base of positive reviews for a cheap product, let’s say something like a USB charger, and then they’ll change their product listing so that it’s a much more expensive and entirely different product. All of a sudden, club members’ positive reviews are being used to scam Amazon shoppers into buying a completely different product for a lot more money.

▶︎ Another bit of deception is that a club seller might ask a reviewer to copy and paste his or her review to another listing the seller has on Amazon. This puts the reviewer at risk of being purged.

▶︎ Many review club sellers give out hundreds or even thousands of codes for a single product. This is directly contrary to Amazon’s rules. How useful is any individual review for a product with hundreds or thousands of reviews? The truth is, the seller doesn’t care about anyone’s individual review. The seller wants those hundreds or thousands of reviews not for their content, but because the sheer volume artificially inflates the product’s ranking in Amazon’s product search algorithm.

Sellers who issue excessive coupons aren’t just harming shoppers on Amazon. They are also taking business away from honest competitors who follow Amazon’s rules and limit the number of discount codes they give out.

▶︎ Amazon suspends sellers if they don’t have good seller feedback statistics. Sellers in danger of being suspended will quickly offer a lot of cheap products for free to review club reviewers to get them to post positive seller feedback on Amazon. They don’t even care about having product reviews in that scenario, because these are just bribes to get their seller feedback pumped back up.

▶︎ If a seller gets a couple of negative reviews, it will also use coupon clubs to offer a lot of free product so that positive freebie reviews will flow in and bury the negative reviews. Asking club members to downvote negative reviews is also a little trick they use to try to bury those negative reviews so that shoppers won’t see them without looking beyond the first page.

▶︎ Not all sellers who use review clubs are shady, but many are and review club operators have shown little or no interest in keeping the shady sellers off the club site, which just puts more reviewers in danger of being purged.

▶︎ Some shady sellers frequently offer discount codes that don’t work and then ask reviewers to email them directly when that happens. Club members have reported that this is a trick to harvest the reviewers’ email addresses.

▶︎ Nobody knows what’s really in those beauty products and supplements the clubs offer. But considering price and volume, it’s not likely to be anything of high quality and may actually be dangerous.

▶︎ If a review club or seller asks reviewers to contact them before posting a negative review so that they can “make it right,” this is really just a tactic to prevent that negative review from going live. They keep right on sending out that same bad product and doing whatever it takes to get positive reviews and avoid negative reviews.

▶︎ Facebook-based club operators have been known to go to their reviewers’ personal Facebook pages to harass and insult them if the FB club operator doesn’t like something the reviewer has done or doesn’t think the reviewer has reviewed fast enough. Reviewers who don’t want their friends and family to read this kind of abuse should not join a Facebook-based club. Facebook-based club operators will also organize posses of people to upvote/downvote reviews they target.

▶︎ Some clubs market themselves by telling people that membership is a ticket to becoming a reviewer on Amazon. Not true. All it takes to review a product on Amazon is to register on Amazon and buy one product. Once that’s done, the person can then review any product offered on Amazon, including products they already own or that they acquire elsewhere. Amazon wants people to post reviews to help customers make good buying decisions, and the best source is to have reviews from people who own and use the product.

▶︎ The review clubs say they are just like Amazon Vine, but that’s not true either. Amazon Vine is the only review club operated and sanctioned by Amazon. In Vine, sellers have no contact with reviewers. All Vine transactions are handled by Amazon. They give out the products, the recipients post reviews and that’s it.

A Vine member may only have a handful of products at a time, other than books, where it’s possible to get quite a few more. Only a few of any Vine product are given out to the Vine membership and the recipients have 37 days from the ship date to post a review, though 10-day extensions may be requested. If the Vine review is late, all that happens is that the Vine member can’t select more items until the late review is posted. There is absolutely no penalty for posting negative reviews and no BS about contacting anybody before doing so.

Unlike other review clubs, Vine has rules against publishing a review too soon after ordering. Vine products are also deemed to be taxable income, subject to normal 1099 reporting rules and each individual’s tax situation.

▶︎ Membership in a review club is not a stepping stone to Vine. As far as anybody knows, no Vine invitations have been issued since 2011. Even if Amazon does someday invite new reviewers to Vine, nobody knows what the criteria for selection are. There are many people who have been writing excellent reviews on Amazon for years and who are very highly ranked but who have never been invited to Vine.

▶︎ Club operators and their sellers like the club-based model because it’s so easy to make people feel they are part of something positive and that if they follow the club rules it’s a win-win-win. They like to recruit people who aren’t all that familiar with the world of Amazon reviewing because they know that anyone who is knows that a real customer review looks very different from a review club review. With rare exception, review club reviews stand out a mile–not in a good way–and savvy Amazon customers often report that when they spot a product with review club reviews, they move on to another product.

▶︎ Most coupon clubs have no mechanism for de-registering. However, a reviewer can simply quit choosing products and, if s/he wants, can delete reviews already posted and not post reviews for products received.

*********

Here are some sources of additional information:

Amazon’s Prohibited Seller Activities and Actions: https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200414320

We also have a lot of other information on this forum. Keep in mind that we are all customers on this forum; we don’t work for Amazon. The longtime regulars of the forum have learned a lot about the review clubs, though.

This thread is about what gets reviewers purged: http://www.amazon.com/forum/top%20reviewers/ref=cm_cd_tfp_ef_tft_tp?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=Fx2Z5LRXMSUDQH2&cdThread=Tx1U0Q0A61KKP1Z

Some readers might wonder what a “review club” is. It’s an operation where the operator brings together product sellers and reviewers.

The club operator enables sellers list the products they have available for review and for how much and reviewers identify the ones they’re interested in. Usually, sellers pick and choose among the interested reviewers (typically preferring those who review very quickly and give out the highest rankings), but some clubs operate by emailing notices of available products and awarding product access on a first-come first-served basis.

Typically, the product is listed as being available for free or at a discount. The reviewer agrees that in exchange for the product, s/he will post a review on a particular website; in this forum, we’re only interested in review clubs looking for Amazon reviews.

Sellers who use review clubs to get reviews on Amazon generally pay the site operator a fee for making their products available through the club. They list their products on Amazon, with the listing usually stating that the product is sold by the seller and fulfilled by Amazon.

Some of the more recognized review club names are AMZ Review Trader, giveawayservice.com, Tomoson, Honest Few and Snagshout. There are also many, many Facebook-based review clubs. Review clubs and the sellers they have as clients vary in their rules and practices. Anyone thinking of doing business with a review club, whether as a seller or reviewer, is well advised to first become thoroughly familiar with the club and whether its rules and practices are in compliance with Amazon’s rules for sellers and reviewers.

 

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