If you are a frequent Amazon customer, you have surely noticed an abundance of reviews that end with a disclaimer. Usually something along the lines of “I received this product at a discount for my unbiased review.” Many of the disclaimers even go on to specifically mention that the customers were not obligated to give a positive review as a part of this exchange. Yet the vast majority of such reviews have one thing in common – they are very, very favorable to the product at hand.
Maybe it’s just a coincidence. Maybe not. Either way, Amazon is no longer taking a chance. The company announced yesterday that they “updated the community guidelines to prohibit incentivized reviews unless they are facilitated through the Amazon Vine program.” The Amazon Vine program, unrelated to the social media network with the same name, “identifies and invites trusted and helpful reviewers on Amazon to post opinions about new and pre-release products.” In: “trusted and helpful reviewers.” Out: toadies, sycophants and sell-outs.
This has both positive and negative repercussions. On the good side, there is now a significantly higher chance that any particular review on Amazon is on the level. On the flip side, there will certainly be fewer reviews, and while the “incentivized reviews” tended to be way too positive, they also often provided helpful information about what using the product was actually like. In this sense, Amazon is limiting the amount of information its customers can research before purchase. As Jason Bateman’s Pepper once said in the classic film “Dodgeball,” it’s “a bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for them.”
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