This is a guest post by a great friend of this blog, Pete Johnson–aka Beetley Pete. Pete shares here his experiences as an Amazon reviewer.
Being An Amazon Reviewer: A Personal Experience
I have been buying things online from Amazon ever since it started to get its well-deserved reputation for reliability and value. I began by buying Region 1 DVD films from the US site. Hard to find films, only available by importing them in that way. I was soon buying lots of stuff from the UK site too. As well as DVD films, I bought perfume gifts, household items, and even clothing.
At first, I ignored the emails that asked me to review these items. I was still living in London, busy working, and mostly using a smartphone app to purchase the goods. However, once I was retired in 2012, I had a PC, and time on my hands. I set about writing fair reviews of everything I had bought, anything from a Hungarian film on DVD to a garden rake. I wrote up the reviews, pressed publish, and forgot about them. In a short time, I had published a lot of reviews and actually managed to enjoy the process too.
The Amazon Vine Programme
Then one day, I received an email from Amazon. They were starting up a new project, to be called ‘The Amazon Vine Programme‘. Those who were on the list of top 5,000 reviewers would be offered the chance to receive goods free of charge, in return for a fair and unbiased review. They used a combination of my order history together with asking for my preferences and came up with a list, published every day. I could pick five items at once, for delivery by the Prime service the following day. Once I had reviewed those items within thirty days, I could pick more, and so on. The things I ordered would be my possessions, but could not be sold, as many were trial products or rough drafts of books. That seemed fair enough to me, so I gladly accepted the invitation. I was also excited to know that I was in that top 5,000, as it had never occurred to me.
Almost five years later, and the amount of free stuff I have received is enormous. Dog food for Ollie, toys for our grandson, watches, kettles, lawn mowers, and tools. Even a carpet cleaner, and a selection of personal grooming products like electric razors too. I have also ordered the occasional book and DVD film when offered. Everything has been fairly and properly reviewed. If something is good, it gets five stars from me. If it breaks later, I can alter the review down to two stars, and explain why. It’s a great system, and I will regret the day Amazon decide to stop it if they ever do.
Staying Among The Top 5,000
But I suspect it will rely on me keeping my place in that top 5,000, which isn’t guaranteed. I have noted that I move up and down the rankings, influenced by ‘Helpful’ votes from prospective purchasers, or ‘No’ votes from some others. Many products attract no votes at all, and few ever get a comment. But every now and then, one review seems to capture the public imagination and receives large numbers of helpful votes, then my position creeps back up a notch. I also discovered that some companies employ people to give you negative votes if they didn’t like what you said about their product. And unbelievably, other reviewers jealous of their ‘top slots’, may well give you negative votes and comments to knock you back down that list.
One thing to think about is how you present your profile on Amazon. I decided to include an email address, hoping for some engagement with other reviewers perhaps, or contact from Amazon customers. Instead, I was bombarded with requests to review products, mostly from companies in China. At first, they offered to send me codes, which would have eliminated any initial outlay on my part. Ant review would have to state that it was a fair review of a free product of course, but some emails suggested that I could ‘pretend’ to be an ordinary purchaser. Amazon soon caught on to this and stopped allowing the free codes. This prompted the suppliers to ask me to pay for the goods up front, and then receive a full refund later, via Paypal.
I never went down that path though. I am not about to send any Paypal information to a complete stranger in a foreign country, just to avail myself of some LED lamps, or a garden hose, I assure you. I recently removed my email address from the profile, and you may want to consider doing that too if you ever find yourself on the top reviewers list.
So, the next time you get an email from Amazon, asking you to review something, go ahead and do it. You never know, you may well end up on the Vine Programme, being able to choose your own free stuff!