For many years, Amazon customers have been able to create profiles that are attached to the reviews they leave on Amazon.com. They are simple, containing a name (or anonymous handle), and other optional elements such as descriptions, locations, profile photos, and all of the items (electronics, books, tools, gadgets, etc.) the person has reviewed. Until recently, a small number of Amazon reviewers also left their personal email addresses in their profiles, but at some point in the past few weeks Amazon removed the emails. I’ve included a sample at the bottom of this post.
I heard about this from a service provider who connected publishers with potential reviewers. The company had to shut down the service, leaving the following message on the home page:
Amazon’s change to remove contact email addresses from Amazon reviewer profiles is a big deal for small companies (including media publishers) who used the contact addresses to reach out to potential reviewers. Amazon allows publishers to send ARCs (advance reader copies, or advanced review copies) in order to have honest reviews available when the book officially launches. There are, however, restrictions around what can and cannot be posted, as described on this page. Here’s a sample:
We don’t allow any form of compensation for a Customer Review other than a free copy of the book provided upfront. If you offer a free advanced copy, it must be clear that you welcome all feedback, both positive and negative. If we detect that a customer was paid to write a review, we’ll remove it.
For other items sold on Amazon, there are a different set of rules, but it’s apparently still possible to ask people to submit unverified reviews:
- Reviews may only include URLs or links to other products sold on Amazon.
- Customers in the same household may not post multiple reviews of the same product.
- Customers can submit five non-Amazon Verified Purchase reviews each week.
- When we find unusually high numbers of reviews for a product posted in a short period of time, we may restrict the number of non-Amazon Verified Purchase reviews on that product.
- You may not manipulate the Amazon Verified Purchase badge, such as by offering special pricing to reviewers or reimbursing reviewers.
The wording indicates some of the problems Amazon has with both verified and unverified reviews: Publishers, manufacturers, and other brands were gaming the system, asking friends and family members to leave positive reviews, reimbursing strangers for positive reviews, or giving free copies in exchange for “five-star” reviews. These tactics are against Amazon’s policies, but are extremely difficult to enforce, which has led to an explosion of bogus five-star reviews on Amazon — and a cottage industry of scammy service providers and “review clubs” promising five-star reviews for newly launched products.
A related problem: an increase in unwanted pitches to those customers who left email addresses on their profiles. Lots of people began to remove their email addresses from their profiles. Here’s an example:
I’m another Amazon reviewer who removed her e-mail address because of sketchy e-mails I received from companies wanting me to purchase a product and write a review for it.
I also received e-mails from authors occasionally, which is great and something I do welcome, but many were for books outside of my interests.
Other Amazon customers complained of getting signed up to review clubs or newsletters they never asked for, and pulled their email addresses as a result. Of course, as more people proactively removed their contact emails, the people who were left got an increase in pitches, both legitimate and otherwise.
It doesn’t surprise me that Amazon pulled all of the remaining addresses, as it was leading to unwanted outcomes (questionable reviews and irritated customers). But there may be another reason as well: Amazon wants publishers, manufacturers, and other brands to participate in paid Amazon marketing, whether it’s AMS self-service ads or the expensive Vine Voices program, which quoted me $1,500 to get Lean Media into the Vine newsletter with no guarantee of that anyone would want to review the book!
Ironically, while Amazon prohibits reviewers from asking for 5-star reviews, it has no qualms about asking its own customers for 5-star reviews of its apps in the iOS app store:
This is a violation of Apple’s terms and conditions … but the big platforms don’t think the same rules apply to them.
Lastly, here is what the Amazon customer profiles now look like, without the email address: