Category: Amazon

Manipulated Amazon Reviews

Amazon would have you believe that their reviews are authentic and reliable. But I want to impress upon you that they are far from perfect. Besides Brushing Scams, some Amazon sellers game the system by paying for positive reviews. And it works. Here’s how Amazon reviews can be manipulated, with offers of Amazon Gift Cards.

When a buyer receives their item, a business card similar to the above examples is included. The card instructs the recipient that, if they follow the steps, and leave a review, and email proof to the seller, then they will receive an Amazon gift card.

Note that, while the cards sport the Amazon logo, the verbiage specifically says not to mention this card or return it to Amazon. That should be a tip-off that they are doing something illicit.

My Experience

I’ve received many of these over the years, and became intrigued. I was curious if there was a scam or a danger, or what Amazon might do about this scheme, if anything. So when I received a fresh “offer” card with my order, I went through with it. I followed the steps, left a review on the Amazon product page, sent proof to the seller’s stated email address. And they quickly sent me the promised Amazon Gift Card.

I was still dubious, but I clicked through on the gift card link and redeemed the code. It was real. I had the promised amount added to my Amazon account, for future spending. Case closed, right?

But my intent was not to grab some money for a dishonest review. I just wanted to prove the process, and I had done so. Next, I got Amazon support on chat and came clean about everything. I provided every last detail about what I’d done, and asked them to take back the gift card amount, as I hadn’t come by it honestly. With everything documented and saved in PDFs and JPGs, my finger was poised over an email send button, and all I needed to know was the correct address at Amazon to send it to.

Amazon didn’t care. Their support told me that wasn’t necessary, and that I could keep the gift card money. I spluttered (if you can do such in a chat window) that surely they wanted some kind of details, so that they could stop or discourage this sort of thing. And I also asked: “What should I do about the review I left? Should I remove it, or leave there for Amazon to track?”

Again, they were noncommittal. They thanked me for my honesty and said they would log the details and asked if there was anything else they could do for me. I insisted that they give me an email address to send my message to. They grudgingly provided one.

I let them go from the chat, and sent my message. And I later got a bounce message in response. My email did not get through, as they’d given me a non-working address. Sigh.

So What’s Your Point?

Good point. After all those words, there seems to be no personal risk or harm to all of this. I haven’t even seen any extra spam, from sharing my email with seller-strangers. Amazon did not punish me. It’s all just a wrinkle in the huge canvas of Amazon commerce, right?

The point to all of this is to emphasize that Amazon Reviews are not reliable. I still think you should shop with Amazon, if that seems best for you. But take some skepticism with you. If product reviews are important to your buying decisions, check reviews from multiple sources. Research your product at Walmart, Target, Costco, wherever else you might buy that item. Consider Consumer Reports or other big-name review authorities.

Because the methods being used to earn great Amazon reviews can defeat even the best detection tools.

Alexa Celebrity Voices: Discontinued

In 2019, Amazon offered the ability to change Alexa’s voice to that of a few popular celebrities. For a small fee, you could switch Alexa’s voice to that of Melissa McCarthy. Instead of saying, “Hey, Alexa”, you could say, “Hey, Shaq, tell me the weather.” Or you might have asked, “Hey, Samuel, how did all these snakes get on this plane?” If you enjoyed these, I am sorry to say that Alexa Celebrity Voices will soon be discontinued.

Alexa Celebrity Voices: Discontinued

Samuel L. Jackson’s voice disappears from all Alexa devices on June 7, 2023. The others will depart on September 30, 2023. I see no explanation so far, but we might guess that Amazon decided to stop paying the licensing fees for these voices. Or perhaps they’re planning something AI-related for Alexa’s voice, and it isn’t compatible with these celebrity voice files or contracts.

In any case, the good news is that you can get a refund for any Alexa celebrity personalities that you paid for. But you have to ask for it! Amazon will only grant you your money back if you speak up and request it. And I imagine the sooner the better. Try this Amazon support link, scroll to the bottom of the page and get started with the Start a Chat Now section.

Amazon Sidewalk

Amazon is rolling out a new feature in their Alexa-enabled devices on June 8. It’s named Amazon Sidewalk, and it’s getting a lot of attention. More and more people are writing to me to ask about it, and the concern in their questions is quite apparent. Why?

Well, in short, because Amazon is adding Sidewalk to all of your Alexa, Echo and other Amazon devices. Everyone’s Amazon hardware is getting a Sidewalk upgrade, as well as many devices on June 8. It will create a really big network that shares info over a large area, using your internet bandwidth. And Amazon is doing this without asking you, the end-user, the consumer, the owner of the hardware in question.

What is Sidewalk?

But let me back up a little bit and try to describe the technology a little better: Sidewalk will be a fascinating way of connecting devices at up to half a mile’s distance. Using a mixture of Bluetooth and wireless spectrum transmissions, Amazon wants to mesh all of their devices together. If you have an internet outage, Amazon claims your devices may continue working or be more easily reconnected using Sidewalk technology.

Amazon also wants to alleviate your concerns about privacy and data usage: They state that they’ll be triple-encrypting any data passed through Sidewalk. And the amount of data used each month will be kept low and slow, so you should not notice any speed difference, nor hit any data cap with your ISP.

Why Would(n’t) I Want Sidewalk?

Presuming that Amazon is being truthful about the broad-strokes details, here’s some more possibilities on what Sidewalk could do:

  • While your internet is down, Ring devices may be able to still send you motion alerts and other notifications.
  • If you lose your keys/dog/toddler, and they have a Tile tracker attached, the mesh network may be better able to help you locate them, even if they are away from your home WiFi and property.
  • Amazon Support states that they can help you fix your devices’ connections more easily with Sidewalk enabled.
  • Sidewalk can help stretch to your far-flung Amazon devices and keep them connected, if you have to place them further away than your regular Wi-Fi can reach.

But many tech experts and pundits have cautionary opinions about Sidewalk:

  • Amazon & Ring don’t have the greatest track record with data security, and they’re not disclosing exactly what of my data they plan to share over Sidewalk.
  • If this mesh network spans over entire neighborhoods and cities, does this amount to mass surveillance? Will Amazon be watching me as I travel and connecting me with other people?
  • I paid money for my Amazon tech and I own it. It seems a bit presumptuous for Amazon to commandeer my property and use it for their benefit, without compensating me.

I wish I could see the future and tell you how this all turns out, so I could give definitive advice on what to do. But I just don’t know much for certain here. The best I can do is give you decent reading material, urge you to learn more about Sidewalk, and then step back for you to make an informed decision. Please consider these fine publication for more info on this topic:

Wired Magazine: How Amazon Sidewalk Works

Forbes: Why You Should Change This New Sidewalk Setting on Your Amazon Account

Amazon: Welcome to Amazon Sidewalk

CNET on Amazon Sidewalk

Tom’s Guide: What is Amazon Sidewalk

Amazon Device Makers Blog

Enabling/Disabling Amazon Sidewalk

If you’ve read up on Sidewalk and are comfortable with this new technology, then you don’t have to do anything! This feature will be turned on automatically and start working on or after June 8, 2021.

If you have any reason to abstain from Sidewalk, though, most of the articles above detail how you may turn it off. In short, you would open the Alexa app on your smart device, and go to More-> Settings -> Account Settings – Amazon Sidewalk, and then push the slider to Disabled. This setting in Alexa will affect ALL devices connected to that Amazon account at one time!

If you only have Ring devices and no Amazon/Alexa devices, you can follow these steps to disable Sidewalk in your Ring app.

Fill Your ℞ through Amazon

fill your rx through Amazon

Amazon Pharmacy is now open for business, and they will fill your prescriptions!

You don’t have to be an Amazon Prime member to use this, but it looks like a Prime membership could save you even more money. As you calculate your prescription pricing on this site, Amazon will tell you what you pay 1) when you use your insurance and 2) when you pay out of pocket, not using insurance. In some cases, Amazon may save you a lot by selling your ℞s directly to you.

Check out their site for more details about their transparent pricing and delivery practices. And their support page answers even more questions and allows for you to call them and even talk to a pharmacist.

Amazon Prime Membership Fees

Amazon offers its Prime membership program to anyone for $12.99/mo or $119/yr. Besides offering free shipping on most purchases, it also includes video streaming, free music and more — you can explore all the benefits at this page.

But you should also know that Amazon offers a couple of exceptions to that price-point. If you’re a student, consider Amazon Prime Student for half the cost. The benefits are pared down, but still considerable.

The regular Amazon Prime is also available at half-price if you have an EBT card or Medicaid card. Check out this page to see if you qualify.

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