Some people actually believe the content of my blog can be negotiated for their own agenda.
They are wrong. And should leave me alone.
Some people actually believe the content of my blog can be negotiated for their own agenda.
They are wrong. And should leave me alone.
In response to Amazon’s announcement, some sellers and clubs changed to a policy that reviews would now be optional and, therefore, permitted under Amazon’s new rules. They also said that because reviews are optional, no disclosure of the freebie/discount would be required. That is NOT correct. The FTC Guidelines still require a disclosure that the item was received for free or at a discount and who provided it, even if the recipient can choose whether or not to write the review. What’s more, Amazon’s executive customer relations staff have stated that a review “tied to” a free or discounted product is not permitted and that making the review optional doesn’t change that.
The rest of this post was written when incentivized reviews were permitted, provided the sellers and reviewers complied with other rules, including those against manipulation.
Hello, Dear Readers, this post is for those who are dropping by to read about our favorite basement dweller, Kevin Weinberg.
He can’t say enough bad things to and about women but when challenged to produce the same level of vitriol about a man, he wimps out.
So there you have it, his mama must be sooooooo proud.
Hello to you all, Dear Readers, I have a very special treat for you. We’ll file this under If I Have To Suffer So Do You.
I’ve been reading a lot of totally forgettable ebooks lately and by forgettable I mean in 24 hrs I can’t remember a single thing about the book forgettable. The great thing about self publishing means that a lot of good, solid books that traditional publishers would pass by can get published and the bad thing is a lot of books that should languish in locked desk drawers also get published. This book is one for the locked desk drawer.
Here it is. This one falls into that “I’m going to write the kind of book that I want to read” category. I can understand that except once written do they have to foist them on the rest of us? And worse than the foisting is the number of readers who think someone’s personal fantasy is the bestest book evah.
Even more depressing is that this is not her first book and it won’t be her last. At least she seems able to spell.
Meet our heroine, Laura Prince, she’s spending the summer deep in the woods of my home state of Michigan (the reason I bought this). She’s working on her degree and studying an illness in whitetail deer.
She’s out late one evening chasing down a microchipped deer when she meets a big, black wolf. He walks towards her, she walks towards him.
“I moved toward him. I don’t know why I did it. Some rational part of my brain told me to scream, to run, to find the biggest stick I could and throw it at him. But, the wolf kept coming toward me. Something seemed familiar about him, absurd as I knew that was. He bared his teeth and let out a low, vibrating sound that seemed to penetrate my skin and warm my blood.
I put a hand out. …”
Ooooo-kay. You are in the woods. A big wolf appears. He walks towards you. He bares his teeth and makes a “low, vibrating sound”. Of course the most natural thing in the world is to walk towards him and stick out your hand. Not. But this is White’s
personal masturbatory fantasy book she wants a heroine that’s TSTL and insta-lurve.
Don’t get me wrong, insta-lurve does not always have my eyes rolling but it has to be done with a certain amount of, well, something that’s missing from White’s writing. But I guess since the wolf seems familiar and that low, vibrating sound makes her blood warm instead of freezing it in her veins it makes it totally fine to- wait for it- pet the wolf.
This tender first meeting of Our Hero and Our Heroine is rudely interrupted by gunfire. Awwww. Enter a villain, the professor running the study Laura is participating in. You know he’s a villain because White seems to lack much subtlety or nuance in her writing. I will give her credit for not equipping him with a cape and a mustache that he constantly twirls but that is the end of it. Professor Flood is a smirking, condescending, arrogant asshole who tries to tell Laura the wolf was really a coyote. Don’t worry, Dear Readers, he gets worse.
And we are at 6% read. More to follow.
Tez Miller pointed me over to Jenny Trout’s blog for this.
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:
Here is additional guidance from Amazon on customer reviews:
▶︎ 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.
Sigh. Dear Readers, not sure how this will be interpreted but I am sure that since I’m wading in I accept that I might get a face full of blowback and, unlike the author of the moment, I will not engage in rhetoric guaranteed to fan the flames of what is at the moment a very small fire.
On June 7 Eric Shaw Quinn released a new book, The Prince’s Psalm. It is a new, and for some, a highly controversial interpretation, of the Biblical story of David and Jonathan of Israel. “1 Samuel 18:1 & 3: “And it came to pass… that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.”
David not only slew Goliath, he won the heart of Prince Jonathan, heir to the throne of Israel. They were star-crossed warrior lovers whose passionate affair changed history and gave rise to the nation of Israel, a legacy that has endured for 3,000 years. Their epic love story stands at the center of a religious tradition that shaped the world.
But Jonathan and David were also two men torn between duty and tradition, driven by their undeniably passionate and physical love for one another. Who were they beyond the historical facts given in the Bible? What were they like—as men? This modern-day novel tells the story of Israel’s first king and the man who captured his heart.” -Amazon.
On June 10 there were two 5 star reviews, on June 13 two 1 star reviews appeared, one of which was by a very confused woman who ordered an ebook version by mistake. This one was subsequently removed for very valid reasons. The other was by a woman who seems to believe, amongst other things, that there were NO GAY characters in the Bible.
Now, to me, this person probably won’t ever be caught reading a M/M romance and probably thinks no one in her circle of family, friends, and acquaintance is gay but she is not actively saying anyone not hetero should die in the fire of hell she just wants to, well, probably she’d like to believe there are no gay characters in real life either but right now as long as they aren’t two guys from the Bible stories she has been raised with she’ll be okay.
Bless her heart.
Now sometime on the 16th a number of reviews appeared and I’m guessing this might’ve been the first or one of the first.
Is nothing sacred anymore? No, not a lot. I always saw that Bible verse as David dissing his wife for leaving and praising Jonathan for being his brother and staying with him but not maybe there is another way to look at it. But that is a discussion that I’m not having here and now.
This review seems to be, again, more about the challenge to a long held belief than about rabid anti-gay speech.
Also on the 16th we see nine 5 star reviews. Nine out seventeen, ten if you count the 1 star on the same day. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?. Wonder no more.
Wow. Religious intolerance. Gay bashing. ISIS. But wait- it gets better.
Religious terrorists. Where have I seen this kind of inflammatory rhetoric before?
Oh yes, Anne Rice, the woman who wants to know the name of every reviewer who doesn’t give her books a glowing review.
Let’s look at the third review which was posted on the 18th.
Okay, this reviewer has a definite bias but I can’t decide if he abhors homosexuality because of his religious beliefs or if he’s just a homophobe using religion as an excuse. I’m trying hard to see where terrorism rears its ugly head but honestly I don’t, while none of these three are going to embrace a different view soon or at all, I do believe Quinn would have this kind of review even if he made Jonathan into Johanna or if he made David into Davina. When you reinvent any part of the Bible- watch out. Someone isn’t going to like it and they may call you names. You are toying with their religion, you have taken a cattle prod to their sacred cow.
Also on the 16th Quinn’s friend and Dinner Party co-host, Christopher Rice, posted this on FB:
Sorry for the weird break but Christopher, like his mother, writes one long wall of text. In between the release of TPP and the 16th there was Orlando. Rice writes that this isn’t about “a handful of hateful book reviews from people who haven’t read the book” but this post is attached to discussion of those reviews. So we will leave Orlando, hate crimes, and assault weapons out of this. This is about book reviews.
On the 16th a 1 star review, nine 5 star reviews, and two FB posts, one by Quinn and one by Rice appeared. Both Quinn and Rice have a right to feel as much anger, fear, and betrayal as they want. But if it is not about a handful of reviews, what is this?
Note to Sarah MacDonald- Amazon frowns on you using other family member’s accounts to do this sort of thing. This sort of thing being a downvoting campaign. Because 3 reviews out of 17 tanks the book with a 4.3 out of 5 rating.
Yesterday Quinn posted this probably after the third 1 star went live:
If this is about hate speech and hate crimes then there is no need to upvote those 5 star reviews. Has Quinn and Rice succeeded in making a difference? Are their posts shining a big old spotlight on homophobia?
No. I did see a lot of “gonna downvote and report those haterz” and a lot of “gonna buy this book now” and “gonna give it 5 stars”. Let’s dwell on Laura’s insightful comment for a moment, yes, somewhere Quinn admits he is “trying to make a living” with this book as with his other work. And, hey, everyone has got to make a living. Let’s move on, sorry that my point is taking the long route.
There were a few comments from those who realize that you can’t expect universal acclaim when wielding that cattle prod.
Can’t argue with Stacy, she got it right.
He’s right, the target audience will see these reviews for what they are.
And right again.
Nope, because, Sabrina, you can deliberately or accidentally turn off the AVP symbol. And since you so conveniently brought that up, let’s look at these reviews.
Author M J Rose writes that most helpful of all reviews, the one that could be posted to almost any book on anything and, look, no AVP.
Four 5 star reviews without an AVP and one of them admits he hasn’t read the book. Are these not “fake” reviews? Or is that only reserved for 1 star reviews that might be written by conservative religious believers who might or might not have a problem with homosexuality? Where is the outrage for these reviews?
Oh, wait. I know the answer to this. Anne Rice has preached this gospel. Only 1 star reviews are fake. There is nothing wrong with a 5 star review if you haven’t read the book.
Look familiar? I couldn’t find the ss with Rice saying a fake 5 star is acceptable because it doesn’t hurt the author. It’s on another laptop and inaccessible for now.
Look, reporting and downvoting will accomplish what? Nothing, nothing at all. It won’t change anyone’s mind. It won’t promote any positive position. There were a number of negative comments posted on those reviews, but only one that advanced an argument in favor of Quinn’s interpretation.
I’m going to try to wrap this up now. I tried to see in those reviews what Quinn wanted me to see but I didn’t. I saw in Christopher Rice’s FB post the outrage, but not in Quinn’s numerous posts. Instead I found the echo of Anne Rice’s complaints about 1 and 2 star reviews. I found the same lack of understanding that Amazon does not require you to read the book before you review it. I saw the same thing we’ve all seen before, the rush to buy a book, down vote and report critical reviews, upvote the positive reviews and leave a review, any kind of review as long as it’s 5 stars because the author, the poor author, has found a new way to sell a few more copies of his book.
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