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Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
So, I went on Amazon the other day looking for a new cell phone charger. I saw a 5 pack for about $11 that had a 4.3-star rating with 1,916 customer reviews. This seemed like a pretty good deal. However, I do like to check reviews before purchasing, so I started sorting through them. The first few reviews were standard about it the chargers working well and the benefits of it being a 5-pack. Because there were so many reviews, I looked at the key phrases I could search the reviews by. One option was “Barbie Nutcracker”, and I was definitely curious about how a cell phone charger review would incorporate “Barbie Nutcracker” into it. I selected that phrase and was presented with a collection of reviews for a movie. I then did the same thing with the phrase “backup camera” and received a group of reviews for a backup camera. The problem with this is that I was still supposedly looking at reviews for a package of cell phone chargers. I thought maybe this was a glitch with Amazon. However, when I started looking into that possibility, I found that these mismatched reviews are really just a small part of a much bigger problem.
The Chicken and the Egg Cycle
To understand the scope of this problem and why it’s so difficult to correct, we first have to understand what caused it.
When we purchase products online it’s difficult to gain all the information we need from a description and pictures from the seller. Therefore, we rely on reviews from others to make sure that the product will meet our needs and is good quality. If we are short on time, we might even just glance at the star rating and make sure that it’s 4 or 5 stars.
However, when a product is first introduced to Amazon it won’t have any reviews. Would you as a buyer decide to purchase a product that had no reviews? Maybe if it was cheap, but probably not if you were looking for something higher end. We all know too well that there are internet trolls out their trying to cheat us out of our money.
Conversely, how many of us regularly go back on to Amazon and write reviews for everything we purchase? I know that I’m tempted to only go to the effort of writing a review if I love or hate a product. If it is sufficiently average, then I don’t review it. I’m guessing there are a lot of others out there in the same boat. That leaves a product with reviews on the two extremes when a large number of people may believe it’s perfectly average.
The end result is a chicken and egg type of situation where a product needs reviews to sell, but it needs to sell a lot to get one review. So, how can a company get a new product on Amazon to sell? They hack the review system, and there are a variety of ways they do this.
- Editing a current product that has a lot of reviews to a new image and description so reviews from the old product get tied to a new one. This is what seems to have occurred with my cell phone charger situation.
- Contracting with a company that sells fake reviews. There are a variety of these out there (many have shut down, but the problem hasn’t gone away). These charge a fee for a certain number of reviews and then they will leave that many fake 5-star reviews.
- Reaching out to people and telling them they will cover the product cost and then pay you a small amount ($5 or $10) to give a 5-star rating and post a pre-written review they provide.
All of the above methods result in a large number of 5-star reviews that can boost the product to the top of the Amazon search results. Then when we get online to make a purchase, the 5 stars pulls us towards purchasing a product that may not be 5-star worthy.
Amazon is working to crack down on companies that are utilizing these fake review methods. However, that isn’t solving the problem that is causing the fake reviews in the first place. Therefore, we need an additional solution – something that will help companies get these first honest reviews without deceiving potential customers.
That’s the goal of the Early Review Service (ERS) Team – to help companies get new products off the ground on Amazon by providing fair reviews while providing customers with accurate information about these new products. This is all done in compliance with the Amazon Pro Reviewer Program.
The ERS Team is really a simple concept:
- A company purchases a review package from them consisting of 5, 10, 20 or 30 reviews. By purchasing a package of reviews, they are being promised that many reviews over an extended period. However, there is no guarantee of rating or content of those reviews.
- The products are posted in the ERS Team Facebook Group where members that are interested in the product can comment that they want to do a review.
- Those that will be reviewing the product are sent a Google spreadsheet showing when to order and when to review the product.
- Reviewers order the product, try it out for a few days, then write a review. After the review is written they are reimbursed for the actual cost of purchasing the product.
The end result is that companies get honest reviews from people really using the products. Reviewers get to try out products such as kitchen utensils, privacy screens and skin care items that are new to the market and then keep them or gift them in exchange for telling others what they thought of the product.
Do you want to be a reviewer? If you meet the following criteria, then it may be your lucky day.
- Residing in the US
- Have an active Facebook account because the group is run through Facebook
- Have access to an Amazon prime account
- Have a personal PayPal account (for reimbursement)
- Have an active Gmail address (to facilitate sharing of the Google doc)
If you are willing to become a member of the review group, request to join the ERS Team Facebook group, and answer the required questions. When you answer the question about who referred you, use the code R8 which indicates that you came from a reputable source.
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Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Mom, wife, veterinary pharmacist, equestrian, ice cream lover and occasional hot mess