I was recently contacted by an amazon US reviewer, using a pseudonym, to review her new book ‘How to Get Free Products to Review on Amazon: An Endless Stream of Free and Heavily-Discounted Household Items!’ on amazon UK. The book is basically a guide on how to get free or discounted items to review from sellers on amazon by simply writing reviews and raising you ranking enough to get lots of offers of free items to review.
I felt extremely uncomfortable, morally, with this book but wondered if I was the only one feeling like this. As an amazon UK reviewer who has become classed as a top 500 reviewer I do indeed get offered items from companies and individuals for free or discount and in return I do review the items. I keep some items I have received and give away others but I have never sold any and crucially I have never reviewed for the purpose of getting free stuff. I didn’t even realise I would receive offers of items to review when I started reviewing on amazon and if all the offers stopped tomorrow I would still review because it has been a part of my recovery from my depression and anxiety.
I do wonder however how others feel about this. Do amazon reviews matter to you and if they did would you care about the type of reviewer giving those reviews? Would it matter to you if they reviewed for the sake of getting more free items or does morality and ethics in reviewing matter? Am I too moral about my own reviewing? I would appreciate any comments abut this so please get involved.
My review of the book as it appeared on amazon UK today is below and can also be read here:
This book is all about how to get offers from companies to review their items for free or a heavy discount. The book itself is informative (although completely written for the American market) and does outline lots of basic information you would need in order to make your profile look good, raise your ranking and ultimately get offered items to review. Unfortunately it is the tone with which this book is written that I find uncomfortable. Perhaps to help you understand what I mean I’ll give an example of my reasons for reviewing…And I’m going to share something a bit personal which until recently I wasn’t so comfortable sharing…
I started reviewing things on amazon after going through a traumatic event that left me in a complete depression. I had lost a lot including some of my health and one day started writing reviews when just browsing amazon and seeing that some of the product descriptions on many things I owned weren’t accurate or were missing pieces of information. I found reviewing not only fun but I loved the feeling I was helping people and at no cost to my self other than my time, which kept my mind off of other things too.
I continued to review things and have done so for just over a year now, for no other reason than it makes me happy because I feel I am helping people, and for me that is reward enough. As my own ranking climbed I did start to receive offers to review things which I have taken as something to be thankful for but also I have taken everything I’ve been offered seriously and have reviewed as if I had bought the item and have always thought from the customer’s perspective.
Bottom line – I review because I enjoy helping others, anything else is a happy bonus.
This book however suggests reviewing on amazon should be done TO get things for free or at a discount. It sets a whole tone that I am uncomfortable with. Although the author does delve into how to write a good product review, what to include and does mention that negative reviews are sometimes necessary, this is glossed over very quickly.
The author suggests things like the disclaimer (the part where I say I got this for free or discount in return for a review) should be at the end of a review and I quote ‘It doesn’t need to be highlighted in any way’. I know that plenty of customers including myself find this alone an annoyance and suggests that getting the items for free or discount should almost be hidden.
In another chapter the author states that she likes to keep all her review items in one corner of her living room only ‘lightly’ using them until the day she has to review them. This means that she barely uses a product before reviewing it and then customers are supposed to trust a review when somebody has only used a product once. I again find this sort of reviewing uncomfortable as for me I want to trust that a reviewer has really tested a product over a longer period, checking out any bad flaws that can arise, before finally writing a review.
The book at the end has an extremely long list of reviewing clubs you can join. This list is geared again for the American market and is pretty useless for those living in the UK.
Although all the contents of this book is generally correct, and a person could start following the tips in this book and could raise their ranking and get items to review, I do feel that it invites a new breed of reviewer, one that doesn’t care about anything more than the gain of products. Even the way the book is marketed with that front cover all make the concept sound so simple. And while the idea of reviewing is easy and yes anybody can do it, I would like to read reviews from those people who started reviewing for the love not because they insisted on getting free stuff.
While I like to believe that most amazon reviewers are genuinely nice people who take the time to review something because they enjoy it and want to help others, I do know that there are some unpleasant individuals who do exploit this system and do write reviews for the sole purpose of getting more items, with little regard to the amazon customers who read their reviews. With this book I can see that rather than reducing it, it will increase the number of these ‘selfish’ reviewers and it is for this reason that I give this book a low rating.
I do know that my review will be disliked by many but I hope you will appreciate the moral perspective as an amazon customer 🙂.
In the last hour I have just noticed that this book listing has been pulled from amazon UK and US. Was I too moral? Or are my concerns correct? Please comment 🙂