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.
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.