Thursday, November 14, 2013

Can you trust reader reviews?

ABC News points out that some reviewers receive goods for free, as part of the Amazon Vine Program.

"Secret revealed about reviews 
Many read product reviews from, but some of those reviewers may be getting products for free. 
The reviews that appear first are from top reviewers, who likely did not purchase that toaster or television. 
Instead, those people are part of Amazon's vine community. Amazon sent them the item free of charge to try out and keep. The only requirement is that they must not sell it. 
Amazon chooses this method because it says it's the best way to get unbiased reviews, reviews that are written well and avoid complaints. 
So take those reviews with a grain of salt, so you don't waste your money."

ABC isn't revealing quite the "secret" that they seem to think they are: All Vine reviews are labeled as such, so there is already full disclosure.

Moreover, I've noticed that there isn't much of a connection between the free receipt of an item and a positive or negative review. No, I can't claim to have done a scientific study. But as someone who spends a lot of time on Amazon, I notice a great many 1- and 2-star reviews from Vine Community members. 

It's interesting to note sometimes the Vine reviews are actually lower than the average reviews from paying customers. So go figure.

Right now it seems very trendy to portray Amazon as a big evil company bent on monopolizing book retailing and publishing, with the ultimate aim of putting publishers and independent booksellers out of business (bwah-hah-hah!). 

This essentially trivial piece from ABC, with its nonexistent "secret", seems to be part of that trend.