I Caught Amazon Stealing My Reader and Reviewer Reviews–The Last Straw

October 14, 2016

Attention All #Reviewers and #Readers: Amazon Deletes Legit Reviews from Paying Customers and Trusted Review Sites

What Amazon really thinks about the feedback of its paying customers and trusted reviewers and their time. Photo credit: Mashable.com

In today’s noisy publishing world honest feedback from readers and reviewers are more important than ever for everyone. It’s almost a breakneck frenzy to get them. It’s even becoming more and more difficult to get these reviews as the marketplace gets more crowded and author shenanigans pisses off reviewers. The racket is so bad I can’t even hear myself think. Reviews, reviews, reviews—get as many as you can and everyone looks at Amazon reviews before anything else before you can do much of anything—review overkill syndrome at its finest. Then people get obsessed with getting reviews instead of writing or reaching their readership and wounded egos erupt on all sides and everyone gets mad. It’s not just authors trying to get those reviews, anyone who sells anything online needs that all important consumer feedback. Everybody is begging.

What I am going to write about today will come as a shock, and I am going to be writing about it from the standpoint of readers and reviewers, not really from the author’s standpoint. But in summary it is everyone’s problem.

I am an author, but I am also a part time reviewer. I review products and services on my other blog Newbie Author’s Guide, but I don’t post them on Amazon. I test things for free and give my honest feedback. I sometimes review books because I am also a reader and those reviews are also honest, and I sometimes post on Amazon and/or Goodreads. I have an idea of the time that is spent in doing these things on both sides as both as a reviewer and as a seller/author.

Who are reviews really for?

They are mostly there for other readers (or users for other products) or for the parents of some readers if the book is for younger readers. They help people with the questions as to why they should/shouldn’t buy this book/product. They also give insight to what it’s about and if it is a fit for their own tastes or if it’s kid-friendly or what have you.

Even though it is mostly for other readers and their buying decisions, authors mutually benefit in finding out from their readers what they like, don’t like, and what should change, or if they want more of something from the author (like a spin off series). It also helps them find more readers which is the whole point of it all. It shouldn’t really be about the sales. It should be about building those relationships with readers and finding them.

In this competitive publishing marketplace it’s a mad dash to Amazon. Reviews. Reviews. Reviews. Amazon even solicits a review by asking “How many stars would you give Product X?” after some time has passed if you bought it. Everyone is basically begging for reviews all the time. Reviewers are never under any obligation to leave a review, and no one is entitled to a review.

Until when Amazon deletes the review that they or the seller begged for. If authors weren’t pissing off reviewers enough, then Amazon is adding insult to injury. Then that feedback is gone. POOF! Amazon’s actions basically say the time that reader/reviewer took to leave the review and use/read the product doesn’t mean anything. Just kidding! We don’t really need your feedback after all. At the end of the day, reviewers are disposable and their time and opinions are worthless, even if they buy the product, use or read it, and leave a review. Isn’t that what they’re “supposed” to do? They can obey all Amazon TOS and follow FTC guidelines and their reviews can still be removed. It also doesn’t matter how reputable they are or anything; it also doesn’t matter how or where they got the book for their review to disappear. Amazon thinks it can do what it goshdarn wants to and nobody can do anything about it or say anything to them (oppressive corporate tyranny). That is why I won’t even bother talking to them about this. It is my job as a blogger to report this kind of behavior on my blog. Contacting Amazon is a huge waste of time if they do something unethical. Basically the only means to an end is for people to stop leaving reviews and find other ways to promote and share reviews—there has to be a way. Is it time to see past Amazon? What was the world like without Amazon (pre Amazon era)? What if Amazon was gone tomorrow? If Amazon isn’t going to treat its reviewers and customers and their feedback seriously, then why should they bother leaving reviews? Why should authors and sellers work so hard to get those reviews put on Amazon if they’re just going to go away? All that work for nothing for everyone else and Amazon laughs all the way to the bank.

And it seems that the problem is in the US Amazon store. The UK and other stores seem to be okay—for now, but that could change in a heartbeat. I found this out from some trusted, reliable sources who are reviewers. I know quite a few people who are reviewers from all backgrounds and circles of influence and have watched/heard about many a disaster on the reviewers’ side of the table. They are basically unappreciated, but yet they are so important.

Umm, WTF?

How do I know about Amazon removing legitimate reviews from paying customers and trusted review sources? Because I caught Amazon doing it in real time.

Yesterday, I caught them removing a legitimate honest review from a paying customer that bought a copy of Escape from Ancient Egypt, read it, and left an honest review. It even had the little “Verified Purchase” badge on it. It was there the day before and POOF! it was gone overnight. They did it to me again a couple months ago, and it was also a review from a paying customer. Last month they removed a review off of Neiko’s Five Land Adventure that was from the Kindle Book Review by reviewer Tom Clementson, which is a reputable and trusted review site that was also legitimate that also obeyed Amazon TOS and FTC guidelines; I had that one for 4 years and they just “decided” to steal it (removing genuine reviews is stealing from readers and customers).  Yesterday’s incident was what broke the camel’s back. This crap has to stop. That’s three LEGIT reviews gone THIS YEAR when I have NEVER a problem in the past. All of my reviews are legit from real readers who took the time to read my books and leave a review. Isn’t that what readers and reviewers encouraged to do by EVERYBODY (not just authors)? I am not the authors that hundreds or thousands of reviews, and I appreciate the ones that I do have, and having so few made it possible for me to catch Amazon in the act. I’ll never have hundreds of reviews if Amazon keeps taking away my readers’ and reviewers’ reviews that were left for other readers. My readers will never find me that way. It’s not really about me, but how am I supposed to do my job if they keep stealing my tools?

Since I have a small clutch of reviews for both books (I worked hard to get, and they are ALL legitimate and genuine), I was able to find out the specific reviews that disappeared and when, and the reviewer had also took the time to post on another platform (thank goodness) as well in two cases; one is just gone forever unless they put it back, so I had to put a blurb in my editorial reviews. So instead of checking my Amazon rank, I am checking to see if they steal any more reviews from readers/reviewers. Even if I had 10K or 100 reviews or just 10 it will would be just as wrong for those genuine reviews to vanish. The number of LEGIT (again, all of mine are legit) reviews is irrelevant and it doesn’t matter who the author is or who publishes the book if it’s vetted quality or the number of stars it has if it is a legitimate review. Those are the thoughts and opinions of a real human being who wanted to share their thoughts with other readers (it’s not about authors). To me, it’s a slap in the face to those people who left the reviews and took the time to do it. Authors beg, plead, ask, and have a dance to the review spirits for readers and reviewers to honestly (doesn’t always mean 5 stars, people) review their books, and this is the thanks the REVEWERS get from Amazon? To me it’s like Amazon waving a big middle finger to readers and reviewers and saying, “F*** you! We don’t need you anyway.” Well, everyone else does need reader and reviewers even if Amazon doesn’t. Without them everyone else loses. Readers don’t find their next read or buy a bad (unedited, poorly written/formatted) book. Reviewers aren’t taken seriously by the other big guys. Authors can’t build their readership/find their readers. Quality control goes out the window.

These people spend hours working on these thoughtful reviews and putting themselves out there to be under scrutiny as well, but they don’t receive a royalty for their work like authors do. Reviewers don’t make a living at what they do because people insist that they shouldn’t get paid for their time (reviewing could be a full time job if they got paid) and only receive the thing they are reading/testing in exchange for their time and review. Many times they go unthanked.

I know about the time it takes in reviewing and maintaining a blog (several for that matter). Reading a book takes longer than testing an app or a program; I know because I have done them all. Some of these incredible people read hundreds of books a month and still find time to review them and put them on sites like Amazon and others and live life. How they do it I’ll never know. Some of them have to read like Spencer Reed on Criminal Minds or something.

How am I or anyone else supposed to find more readers when their others’ legitimate opinions are gone in the cover of night? What does this say to the buying customers and full time reviewers?

It says that Amazon doesn’t give a rat’s tuchus about readers and reviewers (or anyone) in actual reality. It’s bad enough they don’t get paid for their time and those hours they spend reading and reviewing is basically worth nothing in the seconds it takes for Amazon to remove the review. What a slap in the face! Oh, Amazon doesn’t even want them to have affiliate programs links on their sites to drive traffic to Amazon in addition to leaving a review. God forbid they make a few pennies in the process.

I spoken to both readers and reviewers on social media and found out I am not the only author this has happened to and that other reviewers have been seeing their reviews disappearing for a while now and have ranted about it, but I haven’t seen anyone report anything about reviews disappearing from a person who bought (Verified Purchase) the book before. Well, here I am! I will be the first (maybe). Most of the time when reviews went away is when the reviewer got it from a giveaway or from the author on their blog, but that still isn’t right either–they still read it. Another author who was a book reviewer first has had 75 (she quit counting after that number) legit reviews removed from her personal books, and some of her reader reviews were also removed before she ever became an author. When she contacted Amazon, they banned her from leaving book reviews—which is her first love, but at least she still has a blog. GR Top Reviewers have seen their reviews disappear. Other reviewers leave their reviews on multiple platforms, but others do not, and some don’t have a blog. A lot of others have quit blogging or no longer post their reviews on Amazon for this reason or from badly behaving authors and that nonsense, but that’s another blog post. Some reviewers have seen their reviews disappearing and can’t really do anything about it. Some authors have been fortunate enough that their reviews haven’t disappeared—yet. I don’t know if this is the case with some reviewers.

Amazon also has slants against some readers and reviewers based on profession where they can’t leave reviews and no one else seems to. If anyone complains about them getting too delete-happy about reviews, they may be banned from leaving reviews at all. It has already happened to one reviewer, and I daresay she isn’t the only one. They seem to want to purge reviews that have the FTC disclaimer “Received copy/ARC for an honest review”. There is also a possibility that Amazon is requiring an edit to the clause to say, “I am voluntarily reviewing this free copy/ARC”. That almost sounds like that authors are kidnapping reviewers and holding them at gunpoint to read the ARC and leave honest reviews or else. Really, Amazon? Insert Bill Engvall saying, “Here’s your sign.” Such PC BS and what is good enough for the FTC isn’t any good for Amazon anymore, and they could change it again because they’re mean and they can look for any excuse to abuse reviewers.

I know a lot of this come in the wake of all the fake (not all fakes are 5 stars) and sock puppet/revenge/bully reviews (not all one stars are bully/revenge reviews either) in recent years that messes up the whole system. I can understand wanting to get rid of those phony reviews. The whole system is broken.

But they use a bot to “vet” the reviews, but there is no human reasoning in making a final decision. So a robot chooses whether or not a reviewer’s review will stay or if it is legit and no human ever makes a final call. Can someone say Judgement Day or Skynet? If you think a bot is failsafe, think again. They may be efficient, but they ain’t too bright and is no substitute for a human in something as subjective as a review. Does not compute. Read my post about Picscout to find out how “well” it does in discovering copyright “infringements” that birthed into existence the “Getty Copyright Extortion” scheme. Oh, it can find and detect things to the finest detail, but it takes a human eye to ascertain whether or not an infringement is actually occurring as opposed to fair use, and many times they get it wrong. No human reasoning is inserted here either that has caused a crap storm of epic proportions, and I almost foresee one here, too. I know erroneously accusing someone of copyright infringement is more serious than mistakenly calling a review “fake” or removing a legit review out of error just because of a bot “decides” to, but it is still a huge problem. So, sadly, many, many legitimate reviews are gone down the drain and somehow many fake reviews still remain. Bots are a great first step to detection, not the final solution. No human decision making or investigation is just pure laziness and unethical. If anyone calls them out on it, they just don’t give a crap. Readers and reviewers, Amazon is shooting you a bird, and their robot is the judge of your reviews that are for other readers. It’s not about authors, and it’s not about Amazon either. Amazon has worked so hard to become indespensable and a part of our lives that it’s scary. It wasn’t to be our “big brother” but instead it is a bully stealing all our lunch money and abusing everyone.

Readers and reviewers complain as they must, but their complaints will simply fall on deaf ears, and they may even get banned from the site. They don’t really care about reviews or readers and reviewers. It doesn’t matter if their stupid robot screwed up or no one is doing their job even though readers and reviewers have done theirs flawlessly.

Then that begs the question, is everyone just wasting their time? Are authors wasting their time asking for reviews from their readers or reviewers? Are readers and reviewers wasting their time reviewing books or at least putting them on Amazon? Human versus bot war, and the bot is the judge of what a reviewer’s review/time is worth? If they aren’t, then what do reviewers do in case their invaluable feedback is taken off of Amazon and treated as worthless? Or should they bother at all? Or should anyone?

Then it brings into focus things like Netgalley and many of the review sites out there. Their reviews have disappeared, and see my personal experience above. So then what becomes of them if reviews from their reviewers are removed at the blink of an eye by some daft robot? It doesn’t matter how many reviews a reviewer leaves or how many an author has received, every legit review that is removed is just plain wrong. Period.

Reader feedback is always important. Don’t get me wrong, but with the way Amazon is acting, everyone should wonder, why bother? Or should readers and reviewers do everything OFF of Amazon and just treat Amazon as “just another place to buy” or just another place to put a review if the reviewer wants to risk it? Hopefully they have a blog or something where it won’t just go away for good. Or maybe contact the author? Authors love to hear from their readers and a lot of times authors leave their links and contact into so they can talk to those readers.

So I do believe Amazon needs to change or everyone needs to seriously reevaluate how to approach this debacle so that the reading community doesn’t go into the crapper.

AK Taylor

About the Author

AK Taylor

AK Taylor is an award winning YA author who has been writing novels since age 16. Beekeeper, outdoor sportsman, avid adventurer, and animal lover. Taylor lives in the backwoods of Middle GA where she continues to write stories.

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