Amazon may have a ratings problem. Sellers of some items are breaking the rules on paying customers for ratings, and some ratings may not be real at all. Nicole Nguyen reports in the WSJ:
A charging brick recently caught my eye on Amazon. AMZN +0.13% It was a RAVPower-branded two-port fast charger, and it had five stars with over 9,800 ratings. The score seemed suspect but Amazon itself was the seller, so I added it to my cart anyway.
The device arrived a day later, along with a clue to all that customer satisfaction. A small orange insert offered a $35 gift card—roughly half of the product’s price—with instructions on how to redeem the gift: “Email us A. Your order ID (screenshot) B. Your review URL (or screenshot).”
Since the fast-charging tech is new to the market, “We want to see how people like it,” said Donny Dong, vice president of sales at Sunvalley, the parent of RAVPower. He said the company didn’t force customers to leave five stars in order to claim a gift card.
An Amazon spokesman said the insert violates the company’s policy, which bans sellers from offering a financial reward for reviews.
Gift-card rewards are a common approach employed by sellers—even, in the case of RAVPower, Amazon’s wholesale vendors—to entice customers to rate products. They are also a reminder of how difficult it is for Amazon to police the manipulation of reviews, even on products it sells directly. The purchases are genuine, and the compensation is coordinated through email, out of Amazon’s view.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Amazon says it has added 50 million Prime members and made profits of over $26 billion, more than the previous three years combined. As Amazon purchases increased, so did review manipulation. Sellers are taking advantage of the online shopping frenzy, using new methods to bolster ratings on products ranging from cordless vacuums to toilet-paper holders. For shoppers, this can mean diminished overall trust and frustration, as they try to pick a winner from a crowded field of low-quality, no-name “five star” items, mostly from China.
The Amazon spokesman said the company analyzes 10 million reviews a month, using a combination of human moderators and machine-learning tools to stop abuse. “We will continue to innovate to ensure customers can trust that every review on Amazon is authentic and relevant,” he said.
Read more here.