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Amazon Seller Caught Bribing for Good Reviews

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DailyFeed

Man, what does it take to get a five-star review on Amazon (AMZN) anymore? Well, if you’re selling a sub-five-star product, almost ten bucks. At least that’s what it cost online retailer VIP Deals who paid customers of a protective leather case designed for the Kindle Fire.  

The Vipertek brand premium slim black leather case folio cover was originally listed on Amazon by VIP Deals for $59.99. But a special offer on the merchant’s page had the item marked down by over 80% -- for $9.99 plus shipping. And if you think that’s a good deal, what would you say to a full 100% off?

That’s precisely what people who took advantage of the sale were offered from VIP Deals when the Kindle Fire case arrived. Inside the package was a letter stating that the entire order would be refunded in exchange for a review on Amazon. While a positive review wasn’t asked for explicitly, the letter offered a less than subtle nudge in that direction. “We strive to earn 100 percent perfect ‘FIVE-STAR’ scores from you!” the letter stated.

Of the 355 reviews written about the leather cover on Amazon last week, 310 were five-star and the remaining 45 were four-star. In a fit of honesty, one of the reviewers let slip out, “I would have done 4 stars instead of 5 without the deal.”

In the hyper-competitive world of online selling, companies paying for product endorsements isn’t a new phenomenon. We’ve seen suspiciously superlative-packed reviews on sites from Citysearch (IACI) to Yelp to TripAdvisor. In fact, the service of spreading false acclaim has become a business onto itself. Postings like the one the New York Times found on the help-for-hire site Fiverr: “For $5, I will submit two great reviews for your business,” have infested the online retail marketplace.

Even individuals who aren’t selling anything but their own popularity are getting into the game. Remember when Newt Gingrich bought 92% of his Twitter followers?

Still, the practice is frowned upon and, as far as Amazon is concerned, a breach of its policy. When The New York Times sent a copy of the VIP Deals letter to Amazon, the site not only deleted the Kindle Fire case listing, but all of those posted by the retailer.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.
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