Amazon merchant bribed buyers with refunds in exchange for reviewsBy Shawn Knight 15 comments
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.