The Mystery of the Disappearing Review

Amazon killed my product review as it revealed how easy it is to generate fake reviews

May 8 · 4 min read

(Click here to bypass the paywall and read this post)

A month ago, I ordered a mesh metal strap for my smart band. The original strap was poor quality and I thought it made sense to pay ₹500 on a fancy metal mesh strap with a magnetic buckle instead of spending ₹300 on a replacement of the same poor quality original strap.

I didn’t really expect much for ₹500 but the strap was quite well engineered. The two negatives I could spot were the magnetic buckle looked like it might rust (it did) and removing the watch for charging would be an issue (it was). But overall, I was quite impressed and wanted to give the strap a five-star review as that ₹500 made my ₹2000 smart band look like a ₹5000 one.

So why did I give it a one-star review?

That’s because the seller included an offer to give me a ₹50 cashback if I gave him a 5-star review (see title image).

Now I rely on Amazon reviews to help my decision-making. If a seller games the system, it’s bad for everyone. So I decided to call him out.

Accordingly, I wrote a review strongly recommending the strap and pointed out that the only reason I was giving a one-star review was that the seller had tried to game the system.

Here’s where things get odd. I got a reply from Amazon saying they would verify my review, and then publish it. That was a month ago. However, my review just disappeared as if I had never written it.

Usually what happens when you review a product on Amazon is you can’t post a second review. You can only edit your original review. But in my case, the review button had reactivated itself so this meant I could write a fresh review.

So I decided to do exactly that. However, this time, I gave the metal strap a 4- star review and mentioned I was reducing one star because the seller is fixing reviews. I also did not attach the seller’s offer (see title image).

Review submitted — Thank you! We are processing your review. This might take several days, so we appreciate your patience. We will email you when this is complete.

Amazon accepted the second review for processing. Let’s see if they publish it. Will update this post if that happens.

My question is why did Amazon cancel my original review? Were they trying to stop other sellers from copying this seller’s review fixing technique? Or worried people would lose faith in Amazon’s review system?

More to the point, how fair is it to take such an arbitrary action against a customer like me, without any explanation whatsoever? I spent time and effort evaluating the product, writing the review, shooting a couple of pix… I did this all for free simply because I appreciate the value of honest reviews.

Instead of censoring my post, what Amazon should be doing is plugging the loophole that allows sellers to conceal such direct offers to customers inside product packaging. Random checks of packages, banning such sellers permanently, asking for a deposit of ₹50,000 from all sellers, and making it forfeit if they indulge in fixing product reviews are some possibilities off the top of my head (Amazon’s highly paid brains should be able to generate much better ideas). Sure, it might lose Amazon a few sellers in the short run, delay deliveries, increase costs, etc. But Amazon can easily afford it as they are one of the few global companies to have flourished during the pandemic. Besides this will ensure the sanctity of the product review process, and reinforce customer trust in Amazon, and that trust is worth its weight in gold to Amazon.

All said and done, this act was very Big Brotherly of Amazon. If they keep suppressing customer reviews like this, it does not forbode well for an open marketplace, especially since Amazon is the market leader who sets the standards for customer interaction.

Indian Ink

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