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Amazon bans incentivized reviews to stop biased opinions of products

By midian182 · 19 replies
Oct 4, 2016
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  1. Amazon has had a problem with unreliable user reviews for a long time. The retail giant started legal action against more than 1100 people for allegedly posting fake, paid-for positive reviews last year, but it has continued allowed incentivized reviews – until now.

    In its updated community guidelines, Amazon announced that it would no longer allow reviews of products where the customer receives the goods for free or at a reduced cost in exchange for an “honest” review.

    Reviewers were required to disclose the fact that they received the items for free or at a discount. And while they could give a positive or negative opinion of a product, the overwhelming majority of incentivized reviews praised the items in question, improving the overall rating of goods that were often very average.

    Research carried out by ReviewMeta showed that incentivized reviews are extremely biased in favor of the products and that many people post positive comments in the hope of receiving more free or discounted goods in the future.

    The ban doesn’t extend to Amazon’s Vine program – its own incentivized review system. With Vine, Amazon chooses trusted reviewers and provides them with free, new or unreleased products that have been provided by participating vendors. Amazon does not incentivize positive feedback and limits the number of Vine reviews for each item. Books are also exempt from the rule change.

    An Amazon spokesperson told TechCrunch that it wouldn't be retroactively removing incentivized reviews unless they are excessive and don’t comply with prior policy.

    Permalink to story.

    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 24, 2016
  2. General Sam

    General Sam TS Enthusiast Posts: 62   +13

    This is unfortunate. I recently got a product myself in return for the review. I really enjoyed getting their new product since now I'm buying it myself.

    I can see why they got rid of them though, accounting for 50% of new reviews the past year or two is pretty insane. I wasn't aware it was this much of a problem!

    I hope Amazon take a stance on unrelated reviews. Ones that are completly non-product based or done for satire purposes. I see a lot of satire on very high priced products.
  3. p51d007

    p51d007 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,255   +614

    I usually START by reading the 1,2,3 star reviews FIRST.
    Sometimes, the bad reviews, are the most honest.
  4. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,269

    Heck, pay me enough and I'll also give some crap product a fawning review.
  5. fl21289

    fl21289 TS Booster Posts: 60   +40

    Finally. Every item I try searching for and read the reviews all of them say this item was received free for my honest review...

    Amazon review system has gone down to where it's not as reliable anymore. Hopefully they can turn it around since all I buy is from amazon.
  6. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Grand Inquisitor Posts: 4,731   +3,749

    I always start with the bad reviews. Not so much because they are more reliable, but to see whether or not key points are valid for consideration.

    For example: I recently purchased some chairs. Some of the 1-2 star reviews mention the backing can deteriorate prematurely. A valid concern, one that warrants checking out how long 4-5 star reviewers had their product. A 5-star review after a year > 5-star review after a month.

    Alternatively, I know of authors who get spammed with 1-star reviews because of politics. In these instances, I don't even bother with good reviews and skip straight to the 1-star rampages. If there are a lot of angry reviewers who didn't actually buy or read the book, it's on my Kindle faster than outrage on a college campus.
    p51d007, BlueDrake and Capaill like this.
  7. Wendy Oltman

    Wendy Oltman TS Booster Posts: 129   +16

    It's becoming almost impossible to trust the reviews, so maybe this will help a little bit.
    rpjkw11 likes this.
  8. Kenrick

    Kenrick TS Evangelist Posts: 521   +333

    I love Amazon. Shopping is a breeze with them. Like others said, I read the 4 and 3 stars first. Amazon also should not allow people who did not bought it in the first place to post a review. Allowing only verified purchase would help.
    SirChocula and p51d007 like this.
  9. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 1,734   +643

    I am glad to see this go. If you ask me, getting a product for free automatically biases the reviewer towards the product unless the product is junk to begin with.

    I also start with one star reviews, and often those one star reviews are because of something stupid the reviewer did or because of something the seller did and thus have no bearing on the product itself. I would have to say that it seems to me that the majority of one star reviews I have read are because of something unrelated to the product; sometimes, though, there will actually be a one star review that for good reason is relevant to the product.
  10. mbrowne5061

    mbrowne5061 TS Evangelist Posts: 714   +334

    Wonder if Newegg will follow suit?

    Doubt it though - they hand pick their 'eggXperts' from their top reviewers (rated most helpful), so at least it isn't a bunch of random resellers greasing the palms of their customers.
  11. Capaill

    Capaill TS Evangelist Posts: 422   +160

    It's a good move that will improve the trustworthiness of the site.
    Next they need to get rid of reviews for different versions of the item. Often you will find a few hundred reviews for a product but they are for different versions with no way of knowing which is which unless someone explicitly mentions it in the review. For example, when buying a keyboard, there could be versions that are TKL, full-size, no backlight, 1 backlight, multiple backlights - yet all reviews are lumped together. It's very frustrating.
    RevD14 likes this.
  12. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,259   +879

    The 1 star reviews are probably the worst. Like I was reading one from a guy that bought a brand X bluetooth speaker, and he put in a 1 star because if you didn't use it for 3 weeks straight and then tried to power it, it wouldn't without plugging it in the charger (This done for shipping hibernation) so it made no sense for him to have a bluetooth speaker and it gave a 1 star.

    I understand the frustration most of those 1 stars have but that's no where near enough to give a 1 star to anything.
    BlueDrake likes this.
  13. BSim500

    BSim500 TS Evangelist Posts: 356   +573

    This is good news. Now all Amazon need to do is stop combining reviews for different products...
    SirChocula, BlueDrake and Raoul Duke like this.
  14. There is always this tension. For example a hardware review website needs product to review. The company gives it to them for review. How is the company going to feel if the site's review says the product is junk. There won't be any more product from that company for the website to review. So they go broke.....or resort to intrusive ads
  15. BlueDrake

    BlueDrake TS Evangelist Posts: 370   +108

    Newegg does the same as well, for products of a similar thing. It lead me to a bit of confusion at first, but then I understood what I was reading. They should have the exact product in brackets or such, so you don't mistake one for another in a range of maybe 10+ items grouped together.

    I took a look at Newegg for a monitor, and they lumped together about 5 different monitors. Most of them about the same, but a couple oddities. One was curved while the rest were flat panels, and one was G-Sync while the rest were either FreeSync or just a plain TN panel. Yet all the reviews get lumped together because of how things get handled, so I'm trying to figure out "Are you meaning this item, or are you referring to another?" kind of deal.

    I found they didn't do it as bad before, but it became somewhat a trend and leads me to doing more research. Also looking at both the highs and lows of reviews to get an idea, but also the in-between to see what the problem might be. Also if they got any sort of response from manufacturers, so I can gauge how well things are handled.
  16. Techstar

    Techstar TS Member Posts: 94   +18

    Of course even an average quality thing is better if it's free. :)
    I always use the Amazon reviews in conjunction with reviews for the same product on different sites and then add in what I find by doing web research on "XXProductXX reliability", "XXProductXX failure rates", etc. and see what I can find out before I buy.
  17. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,259   +879

    They should add the question: If you had the money and need for a product of this kind, would you buy this particular one?
  18. Phr3d

    Phr3d TS Guru Posts: 399   +81

    1 stars are at least as bad as 5 star, partially because 'competitors' post 1 stars to slam the product that they compete with.
    I -have- given a 5 star or 1 star review, but tried to explain why it deserved it, I tend to read only 2-4 star reviews with description to narrow among the choices. Limiting reviews to the version you have currently displayed (drop-down) helps a great deal as well, though not foolproof.
  19. DAOWAce

    DAOWAce TS Booster Posts: 268   +39

    After seeing tons of these "Honest" reivews, I signed up for it.

    Pretty much any product I was interested in was completely claimed before I even read my e-mail.

    I never once got an item before they now shutdown after this policy change.

    Oh well, I guess. Better for everyone.
  20. Snoopy2010

    Snoopy2010 TS Rookie

    It will allow customers to trust Amazon reviews much more now so I agree they have done the right thing. I sell products on Amazon and it came as a bit of a shock as there was no advance warning and the time limit for stopping receiving any discounted reviews was 6 pm the same day as the warning email was sent! Voucher codes had already been sent out and couldn't be taken back! I spent a nailbiting few days worrying that just one review from one of my codes would result in my account being shut down, and me being put out of business overnight and ending up in debt for a very long time. I set up this business in the last 12 months. It's just me, on my own, depending on Amazon sales to pay back the money I borrowed to start it up, pay the bills and eat. So being shut down would be a massively big deal for me.

    The problem is Amazon rewards sellers who get at least one review a day. They put the product up the Amazon ranking and show it to more customers, resulting in more sales. It was only a matter of time that some entrepreneurs started up review clubs in response to this, and sellers of course took the easy way out. Who wouldn't want to get more sales just by giving away or discounting two or three products a day? The trouble is it eventually damaged the customer experience and trust, so those incentivized reviews became meaningless. Amazon is all about customer experience and trust so it just couldn't continue.

    By the way, that "Amazon spokesperson" who told TechCrunch that it "wouldn't be retroactively removing incentivized reviews unless they are excessive and don’t comply with prior policy." was WRONG. Not only have the majority of incentivised reviews have been retroactively removed, also many verified purchase full priced sale reviews have been removed too. Amazon are ignoring complaints and won't put any of them back. Once they're gone they're gone.

    What this has done is drive the sensible sellers off Amazon because they can't trust Amazon to support their businesses. Many are now setting up off-Amazon online stores in case Amazon shut them down for some other infraction of their ever changing rules. If you don't know where the goal posts are going to end up, you have to move games.

    All this does is create less choice for the customer. Most customers won't notice this immediately, but if the rules continue to change - forcing sellers elsewhere, the customers will eventually see that the only sellers left on Amazon are the ones with the deepest pockets. Monopolies and big companies that is. Which would be a shame, because a lot of us smaller sellers are innovators and creators and offer things that are a little bit different from the norm.

    I think it is interesting that Amazon have removed all negative reviews of its game Spore, and there are no positive reviews for the game. Double standard there? Just a bit.

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