After buying an anti-snoring mouthpiece from a third-party seller on Amazon, reader Bob received an email from the company offering him a free mouthpiece in exchange for a five-star review. He noted this attempted bribe in his Amazon review, and Amazon deleted it. Twice.
After his review was deleted the second time, he got in touch with Amazon customer service to find out what the problem was. The rep told Bob that his review “didn’t follow [Amazon’s] posting guidelines,” and suggested an edited version that was only one sentence and didn’t mention the bribe.
Bob wrote back and asked for more clarification, explaining his problems with a company offering gifts in exchange for positive reviews, and asking Amazon whether they supported sellers giving free stuff to customers who write five-star reviews generally, and in this particular case, whether Amazon was ethically and legally okay with letting fake five-star reviews of a medical product (that other reviews had complained caused pain and discomfort) influence a customer’s decision.
Amazon wrote back, ignoring the ethical question and writing only that “we do not post comments regarding time specific material, for example about the sellers, price, sourcing, experience with the website other than review of this item and experience with the product in our Customer Reviews.” Amazon also suggested another edited version of the review, which again left out any mention of bribed reviews.
We don’t like this at all. Amazon’s review system is already such a mess that it’s hard to know who to trust. We’ve also seen that it’s not just small third-party sellers that do fake, bribed, or paid reviews; computer accessory maker Belkin was caught paying for reviews earlier this year. If Amazon is now going to delete or edit reviews that mention the shenanigans, consumers will be even less confident that the product they’re looking at is rated honestly and fairly.