We all read reviews and check star ratings on Amazon before we buy stuff. We've already seen that companies sometimes write reviews themselves, and they're easy to spot by the way they're written. But there's a new trend among some less trustworthy Amazon sellers: bribing customers to write favourable reviews.
Accorrding to a report by the New York Times a company called VIP Deals has been offering its customers a complete refund on their purchase — while still allowing them to keep the item — in return for a review.
The product in question is a Vipertek brand premium slim black leather case for the Kindle Fire — a fairly lucrative market given how many Kindles were sold over the holidays. VIP Deals have been selling the case for under $US10 plus shipping (the official list price was $US59.99). The New York Times explains what customers experienced:
When the package arrived it included a letter extending an invitation "to write a product review for the Amazon community."
"In return for writing the review, we will refund your order so you will have received the product for free," it said.
While the letter did not specifically demand a five-star review, it broadly hinted. "We strive to earn 100 per cent perfect 'FIVE-STAR' scores from you!" it said.
Apparently VIP deals has no website and uses a mailbox drop in suburban Los Angeles as a return address, and last week had received 4945 reviews on Amazon for a nearly perfect 4.9 rating out of five. Since, Amazon has removed the product page.
Speaking to the New York Times, Anne Marie Logan, a Georgia pharmacist, said: "I was like, 'Is this for real?' But they credited my account. You think it's unethical?" Just a bit, Anne. Just a bit. [New York Times]