Amazon merchant bribed buyers with refunds in exchange for reviews

By on January 27, 2012, 6:00 PM

An Amazon merchant by the name of VIP Deals was recently singled out for allegedly bribing customers with free products in exchange for reviews.

Some customers who purchased a $10 (plus shipping) tablet case from VIP Deals additionally received a letter from the company offering to refund their purchase price in exchange for a product review. The letter strongly urged the customer to provide a five star rating as well, although it wasn't specifically required in order to get the refund.

As of writing, VIP Deals’ storefront shows a 4.9 star overall rating over the past 12 months based on 5,638 ratings. The Feedback History shows 96 percent positive feedbacks in the past 30 days and 97 percent positive feedbacks over the lifetime of the store.

A representative by the name of Monica told the NY Times that they were “totally off base” in an emailed statement regarding the issue and denied offering the deal. The Times was able to obtain a copy of one such letter (viewable here) that outlines the entire procedure.

Three customers who were interviewed said the deal had been offered to them, however. One buyer, Anne Marie Logan from Georgia, took the company up on their offer and as promised, her account was credited for the purchase price of the Vipertek brand leather case folio for Kindle Fire.

In 2009, the FTC updated guidelines that advertisers must adhere to in order to avoid deceptive marketing strategies. One of the new rules states that people who receive compensation from a company must disclose affiliation with said company before posting reviews on the Internet.

As it stands, it appears that the VIP Deals offer violates the FTC guidelines as well as Amazon’s own terms of service. As a result of the underhanded offer, Amazon has since deleted all of VIP Deals’ offerings on the site.




User Comments: 15

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Tygerstrike said:

No big surprise really. They give away a cheap cover/case get a favorable review and have customers comeback into the store. Customer gets their money back which they can then spend on some other accessories. Since its not mandatory to give a five star rating its not really bribery.

---agissi--- ---agissi---, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Wow that back fired on them!

Guest said:

something of the sort happened to me when i ordered a cell phone case from "the OEM shop"

on amazon.

the case didn't fit, so they offered to send me another one AND a free blu tooth head piece (which after many tries couldn't get it to work) it was super super cheap lol

anyways, they offered me the above in exchange for a 5 star review, giving them what they deserved, i gave them a 2 star review and explained in the review what they tried to do.

for weeks I got emails requesting i take the comment down.

LOL

Guest said:

My attorney, Larry Handley of Ankeny, IA of the Handley Law Firm did the same type of thing. I gave him some negative reviews for the terrible job he did as my attorney, and then he would post and give himself 5 stars for his rating. Also, several questionable positive reviews by "clients" started springing up, which was strange because he had never had a review of any kind before me.

treetops treetops said:

If they gave me something for free id give em a good review too.

Relic Relic, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Pro John Hancock on that letter.

penn919 said:

I'll admit it. I actually considered doing the same, I'll rethink that, but hey...it's a rough economy and it's hard keeping up with the big guys. Sometimes you gotta go out on the edge you know?

enocheed said:

I don't see anything wrong with it. If you get a free bee. Least bit of curtesy is to give a good review. How could you even give a bad review on a free product. People are suck shit to not to be able to be pleased. And to think that a hundred years ago you did not even have electricity. But now you loose it for a few seconds and you cry that your light is flickering. Boo too. Grow up people and appreciate the giving hand. Don't bite it like a stupid dog? Be human be smarter than a stupid dog.

Guest said:

People had electricity a hundred years ago.

ghasmanjr ghasmanjr said:

Guest said:

anyways, they offered me the above in exchange for a 5 star review, giving them what they deserved, i gave them a 2 star review and explained in the review what they tried to do.

for weeks I got emails requesting i take the comment down.

LOL

Amazing. People like you are why society is going downhill.

Captain828 Captain828 said:

ghasmanjr said:

Guest said:

anyways, they offered me the above in exchange for a 5 star review, giving them what they deserved, i gave them a 2 star review and explained in the review what they tried to do.

for weeks I got emails requesting i take the comment down.

LOL

Amazing. People like you are why society is going downhill.

So he did the morally right thing to do (since the headset wasn't working) and you bash him?!

Sense. This makes none.

Guest said:

i posted this and let me explain.

the reason I posted a review of what i REALLY thought of the product and its seller.

I believe that simply offering a free gift, because a product didn't fit, in exchange for a 5 star review is HORRIBLE business.

the review should be honest, and give other potential buyers a good perspective of the product and it's seller.

what the seller was trying to do was cover up their fault by throwing a free blu tooth my way.

the way I see it is, good business/products will get you HONEST good reviews, instead of having to bribe people to give them to you

Camikazi said:

captain828 said:

ghasmanjr said:

Guest said:

anyways, they offered me the above in exchange for a 5 star review, giving them what they deserved, i gave them a 2 star review and explained in the review what they tried to do.

for weeks I got emails requesting i take the comment down.

LOL

Amazing. People like you are why society is going downhill.

So he did the morally right thing to do (since the headset wasn't working) and you bash him?!

Sense. This makes none.

I think the part they are talking about is the fact that the person took the "brie" the merchant offered and still gave them a low star rating. So basically he agreed to the bribe took the money and then turned them in. If they were gonna give them a low rating then they should have just given the low rating without taking the bribe first.

ghasmanjr ghasmanjr said:

Yes, that is what I was going for. Thank you Camikazi.

Rasta211 said:

I'm pretty confident this isn't the only company doing this.

People handing out money to get favorable reviews? I hope no one is really surprised by this.

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