Hey Online Shoppers, Please Don't Agree To Withdraw Negative Reviews

Jessica Palmer at the blog Bioephemera recently had a bad run-in with a bookseller on Amazon, which she talks about at great length in a post. The mistake she made, she says, was that she didn’t exercise due diligence in researching the seller for complaints, and she didn’t read through all the many reviews on Amazon to see if the negative ones demonstrated a pattern. But her bigger issue is that there’s still no way to shame a bad retailer the way local news stations do with local brick and mortar stores, which is why it’s so important to stick by your complaints once you make them.

She writes that the bookseller, which had ignored her emails during the month she waited for her book to arrive, contacted her immediately once she’d left a negative review on Amazon and asked her to change it in exchange for a refund on shipping fees. Palmer notes that for many customers, it might be appealing to make a little extra money back in exchange for retracting a bad review, but it hurts the whole system:

What’s so wrong with buying off disgruntled customers? Isn’t it the nice thing to do – to give them a token of apology for their trouble? Sure. But the net effect of this practice is detrimental to the buyer community as a whole, since the bad seller’s feedback rating is no longer an accurate reflection of its performance. The buyers who have been bought off with the token of apology are still unhappy, after all! They’re just less unhappy. Competitor sellers who actually engage in good business practices, accurately describe their merchandise, and have decent customer service still didn’t get that valuable sale. And most importantly, the feedback information used by future buyers to pick the sellers they want to buy from is not accurate, so in future transactions, both good actor competitors and buyers will continue to lose out.

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Even if you have no ideas for changing the system, I urge you to think about the feedback you do leave as a public service. Truthful feedback really can help other buyers avoid getting ripped off, and direct business to sellers who act in good faith. And while it may feel futile or pointless, it’s one of those benefits that can only accrue if a lot of us chip in for no immediate reward.

“Shaming in the Marketplace: who polices online sellers scammers?” [Bioephemera]