Amazon & "Vine Customer Review of Free Product"

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John Koch Senior Member • Posts: 1,283
Amazon & "Vine Customer Review of Free Product"

There is nothing new about manufacturers lending or gifting products to people who then post 5-star reviews. Typically, such "reviews" offer nothing more than a gushing superlative for "subject" and a semi-coherent string of words of praise. There are two or more websites (fakespot, reviewmeta) where one can score the reliability of a product's reviews. Conversely, there are some one-star reviews posted by people who may not have purchased or used a product, but merely express their disdain.

Lately, however, Amazon has instituted a "vine" network of "trusted reviewers " who, in exchange for a free product, agree to write an Amazon review. The reviewers are supposed to have a record of prior reviews that get favorable "helpful" scores. While I doubt any of the "vine" reviewers are deliberate fibbers, a bias factor surely enters the equation. No manufacturer is likely to send additional free products to a reviewer who rates a product at fewer than three stars. No recipient of a free product is likely to be ungrateful--or obtuse.

For instance, I was looking for customer reviews of a recently released Canon product, the Vixia HF G60 . For some reason, the only YT reviews I can find for that device seem to emanate from East Europe or Asia, using languages I do not understand.

Oddly, the only Amazon reviews posted for this product are all written by vine members who received free units. All are five-star. The review titles: beyond imagination, excellent, exceptional, professional, etc.

The single four-star review pertains to an earlier product (the HF G50).

Despite consisting of more content than typical "robo reviews," the vine reviews still earn a score of "F" from Fakespot.

It is not stated whether vine reviewers are precluded from selling what they receive, or whether they are obliged to return "loaners" after a given time span.

My four cents:

  1. The vine reviews are, at least, disclosed as such. But maybe they should not be the basis for a product score.
  2. A product whose reviews include lots of incentivized reviewers is probably not selling very well and may be over-priced.
  3. Amazon should devise its own algorithm to purge or discount dubious reviews. An obvious trademark is anyone who posts dozens of one-line reviews in a single day.
  4. It might also be good to make authentic buyers wait a few weeks before posting a review. Too many appear written to congratulate themselves for spending money on a product they have not yet really used much. Confirmation bias can be just as skewed as free gift bias.

I admit that I would find it hard to pan anything I got for free, from a company that might send me more nice stuff, nor would I be quick to pan myself for spending a lot on a device that vests all my dreams and later falls short.

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