I’ve been buying from Amazon for over 10 years. As a long-time customer, and huge fan of Amazon, I sometimes I order several times a week! As a busy Mom, having Prime with free 2-day shipping on anything makes ordering easy, and is a huge convenience for my family. I rely on the site for many of the items we want/need and the video streaming and other services can’t be beat!
However, within the past 3 years, I’ve been introduced to another world, the world of Amazon reviews. When I started reviewing items on my blog, the opportunity to do Amazon-only Reviews soon opened up too. Since then, I’ve been introduced to groups of Amazon Reviewers and online services. While some are honest, and create the best and most helpful reviews on the website, others aren’t so trustworthy. As an Amazon affiliate, I use Amazon links to help readers find great products while gaining a small percentage of the sale. Why? It’s one of my favorite places to shop and I frequently recommend shopping there to others…just proceed with caution.
Like many online shoppers, I often search for items and immediately scroll down to see the review ratings. I used to base my purchase decisions by selecting the item with the most positive reviews and highest star rating. It wasn’t until I was introduced to this world of Amazon Reviews that I began to see these ratings differently. While I stick to Amazon’s guidelines, and disclose if I received a free or discounted product in exchange for my review, it hasn’t stopped companies from requesting that this information be withheld. One company said “Do not say that you got this item for free.” In addition to requesting that this information be withheld, some companies have asked “If you are going to give us anything less then 4 stars, we ask that you do not leave your review and contact us instead so we may resolve the issue.” In other words, if we send you something shitty, don’t leave that information. Not cool, right?!
How does this work? Say a company wants to sell an item on Amazon, but knows that no one wants to be the first to purchase. In addition, they know that customers more likely to buy an item with many purchases and great reviews. They place items on Amazon Reviewer website like Amazon Review Trader, and in facebook groups where Amazon reviewers get free or discount codes and send out e-mails requesting reviews for codes. Why a code? Offering free or cheap items with an Amazon code allows someone to purchase through Amazon and leave a review with a ‘verified purchase’ label. This appears more credible to shoppers who are looking to weed out fake reviews.
How does a company behave dishonestly? First, they locate reviewers who will buy their item with the free or discount codes. Maybe they offer 100 or maybe even 2,000 codes in exchange for Amazon reviews. After requesting that negative reviews be withheld, that reviews be completed in just a few days (before someone can really test out an item), or that disclosure about getting a free item be excluded…positive reviews about a product are piling up and they start selling fast to paying customers too. Maybe they have an awesome item worthy of great reviews, maybe they have a crappy item and have manipulated reviewers. How are consumers to tell?
So, what are Amazon shoppers to do? Should you stop shopping on Amazon? Absolutely not. I heavily rely on the website, love our Prime membership and can get items at amazing prices. However, I now look at the website from a completely different perspective. I no longer rely on reviews. While some reviewers are honest and truthful: They include a free-product disclosure and aren’t afraid to say if a product’s quality doesn’t stand up, others aren’t as honest. When I’m shopping for an item I may read a review or two, but most of my information comes from outside sources. Blog posts with honest information are a favorite of mine, as well as friend/family recommendations. I would recommend this method to others as well, with heavy reliance on reputable bloggers.
It’s unfortunate that Amazon reviews have become a way to manipulate purchases, a system to game and that some companies and reviewers aren’t honest. Does this mean you should completely ignore reviews? Absolutely not, but think of them one tool in your belt.
How to spot a fake review? Notice a review has 6 paragraphs, a video and photos? This could be a paid review, an Amazon reviewer or simply someone with too much time on their hands. Consider the item: Who would leave a video of a cell phone cord just for fun?! Probably a reviewer. Use other sources and read several reviews with different star levels when making purchases. Realize that every review may not be honest. While Amazon is cracking down on fake reviewers, they would need a small army to catch them all. My hope for the future is that Amazon will accompany the price you paid and method of payment for an item next to the review, not just a “verified purchase.” While this may prompt companies to provide gift cards to purchase items, or refund purchases via paypal (that happens too), it will help show who may and who may not be leaving a review from an unbiased standpoint.
If you search my reviews, you’ll see that they’re honest. If I received crappy items I say so. Providing me something for free or a discount doesn’t mean I’m willing to lie about it. It’s a waste of my time and any consumer’s who would purchase such an item. You can find other honest reviewers on the site, but be wary, and make sure that user reviews aren’t the only source you rely on when making purchases from the amazing site! Shop Happy on Amazon, just read reviews with caution and don’t use them as your only method of determining which item to purchase.
Disclosure; This is not a sponsored post, it’s based on my personal experiences and opinions.