Tuesday, September 18, 2012

While I was away... Amazon clarifies its review policy

While I was away...

Amazon removed some of my reviews and explained in an email that this was "because you received compensation for writing the review." Feeling somewhat disturbed since I have never received any compensation for reviewing books, I pressed the "help" and "contact us" buttons on Amazon and asked what they meant. Amazon were very quick and helpful, and very patient with my repeated requests for clarification. So here, for anyone else puzzling over the mystery of the vanishing reviews, is their answer.

"The only form of compensation that Amazon allows is a free copy of the product (provided up front) in exchange for an unbiased review. Refunding of a product or providing funds to purchase the product are considered compensation and not allowed.  Anyone who has received a gift card to purchase a book for an unbiased review will have their reviews removed since providing funds to purchase a product is considered a form of compensation by Amazon."

A nice clear answer, it explained why some of my reviews had gone but left me wondering what happens if I win an Amazon gift card from an author's blog tour. Will all my past and future reviews for that author become suspect? Amazon's initial reply wasn't very clear, simply saying "we do not encourage authors to use gift cards as prizes for writing reviews as this still falls under our compensation guideline." When I pointed out I was asking about Amazon gift cards given by authors as birthday presents or as raffle prizes they repeated "the only form of compensation that Amazon allows is a free copy of the product (provided up front) in exchange for an unbiased review. Refunding of a product or providing funds to purchase the product are considered compensation and not allowed." I am left to conclude that Amazon gift cards will be treated as compensation, even when they have no connection with the recipient's reviews.

My verdict:

If authors want to avoid losing reviews, they should avoid giving Amazon gift cards to potential or past reviewers.

If reviewers want to avoid losing reviews, they should avoid accepting Amazon gift cards from authors, or else avoid buying books for review from Amazon.

As I pointed out in my question to Amazon, I'm sure these are unintended consequences, and the fact that they might benefit Barnes and Noble is purely accidental. As a reviewer, I genuinely appreciate Amazon's effort to reduce the number of spurious "friends and family" reviews. But as a former QA engineer, I'm disappointed to find such a glaring error in their algorithm. And as an impoverished writer, I resent being falsely accused of receiving compensation for writing reviews. But that's life.

Amazon's final comment on the subject: "We won't be able to provide further insight or assistance for your request." But they have "passed your message along to the team involved with future development of our Communities features. I know they will want to hear your thoughts and suggestions."  If you press "help" and "contact us" on Amazon's website you'll be able to give them your own thoughts and suggestions too, and they really will respond. Many thanks to Amazon for listening and replying in such a timely manner.

3 comments:

Bearman said...

Interesting. Didn't know they were keeping that close of tabs on things

A. F. Stewart said...

I guess I don't have to worry about my reviews then. Amazon does need a better review system, but I don't understand how being the gift card police is going to help stop fake reviews.

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing..