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I’ve been Amazon’d


I debated how to open this post.  I think there are two options:

1.  I have had 61 reviews of One Night in Bridgeport on Amazon.  Now I have 58.

2.  I have 61 58 reviews of One Night in Bridgeport on Amazon.

 

Yes, add me to the list of frustrated authors who have had some of their reviews magically disappear from Amazon, thanks to the company’s never-ending weeding out of what they deem to be “bad” reviews.  I want to get one thing out of the way — people have suggested that Amazon has a policy that prohibits reviews by people who are clearly friends or family of the author.  I can find that nowhere in their review guidelines discussed below.

Anyway …

For a few weeks now, my review total for Bridgeport has been stuck at 61.  Yes, it is something I check every day.  I haven’t been able to eliminate that particular addiction.  Wednesday night I took a peek and it was … wha? … down to 58.  I have heard of this phenomenon from a number of other writers and bloggers.  It had yet to happen to me.

I dashed off an email to Amazon customer service and was told this by Amy J.:

Thanks for contacting us about the missing Customer Reviews for your titles. For privacy reasons, I can only discuss specific Customer Review removals with the person who originally posted the review. However, I can tell you that reviews are removed from the Amazon.com website for one of three reasons:

1. The review conflicted with our guidelines (http://www.amazon.com/reviews-guidelines). This includes reviews which were posted as promotional material.
2. The review was removed by the customer who submitted the review.
3. We discovered that multiple items were linked together on our website incorrectly. Reviews that were posted on those pages were removed when the items were separated on the site.

If you are the reviewer, please contact us from the account you used to write the Customer Review. We will then be able to provide you with additional information about why your specific Customer Review was removed.

I responded with what is my usual grace and patience.  Job has nothing on me.

You realize how ridiculous that is … the reviews are public.  They’ve been up on a publicly accessible website for months.  They relate to a book that I’ve published and you can’t tell me which ones you deleted.

I realize that Amazon is the dominant player in this space and we authors have no choice but to go along but your service sucks.  You can do anything you want, so you basically do.

I certainly believe that there are rules that should be followed by reviewers and failure to follow those rules should result in the reviews being deleted or the reviewer being denied the right to post reviews.  For instance, a review that gives a book one star because it was delivered later than anticipated.  What was that you said?  Oh, you mean there are reviews like that on books on Amazon and they’ve been there for months and never deleted?  Hmmm

I also think books written by political figures shouldn’t be subject to reviews written by people who just call the author names because they disagree with their policies.  What was that you said?  Oh, you mean there are reviews like that on books on Amazon and they’ve been there for months and never deleted?  Hmmm.

I think we should take a look at Amazon’s review guidelines and see what they say.  One prohibited type of review is:  “Details about availability or alternative ordering and shipping information.”  Doesn’t that seem to cover the first example.  Two other types of prohibited reviews are: (1) Obscene or distasteful content; (2) Profanity or spiteful remarks.  Trust me, if you haven’t spent time reading the reviews of political books, there are thousands of these all over Amazon.

So, there should be rules, but shouldn’t those rules make sense and be applied rationally?  After my response, I got another email, this time from Zac J.  Is it me, or do you also find it weird that Zac has the same last name initial as Amy does and they both have names that are three letters?  I’m thinking that these emails are templates and that one of Amazon’s infamous algorithms is to “sign” them with names that follow a particular formula.  What do you think?  It makes about as much sense as what some of their other algorithms do.

Here’s “Zac’s” response:

Again, for privacy reasons, I can only discuss specific Customer Review removals with the person who originally posted the review.

In general, Customer Reviews are removed from the Amazon.com website for one of three reasons:

1. The review conflicted with our guidelines ( http://www.amazon.com/reviews-guidelines ). This includes reviews which were posted as promotional material.
2. The review was removed by the customer who submitted the review.
3. We discovered that multiple items were linked together on our website incorrectly. Reviews that were posted on those pages were removed when the items were separated on the site.

If you have additional questions, please review our Customer Review Guidelines (http://www.amazon.com/reviews-guidelines) and FAQs in our Help pages (http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/?nodeId=201077870).

I’m sorry for any frustrations this may cause. We won’t be able to provide further insight or assistance with your request.

So, let’s dispense with these “reasons.”  #2 is easy — I’m pretty sure that three people didn’t simultaneously wake up one day and decide to delete their reviews of Bridgeport.  #1 is a little more difficult.  You can click on the link and look at all of the different guidelines they have for good reviewing etiquette.  What I can tell you is this — after reading all of my reviews, sometimes more than once — I can guarantee that none of them violated any of Amazon’s guidelines as provided to me.  As for #3 — I’m not sure what that means but it doesn’t seem like it could fit here, with all of my reviews they are clearly solely dedicated to the book.  I’m not sure why they would be linked together on Amazon’s website incorrectly.  And, if they are, isn’t that Amazon’s problem, not mine?  I know this — every single review was of Bridgeport and there were no duplicates.

I don’t know who “owns” a review.  And Amazon certainly has the right to police its website.  I support that.  But, as I said, there has to be some rationality to it.  I would love to know which of the three reasons they used to delete the comments and then know which comments they are.  If three people deleted their reviews on the same day, I’m fine with that and I don’t want to know who they are.  But, if it’s because of a violation of their guidelines I sure would love to know which reviews they were because there was nothing in any of the reviews of Bridgeport that violated their guidelines.  And now I’m down three reviews that I believe were four or five stars and Amazon doesn’t have to explain itself to an author who depends on good reviews to hopefully garner more attention for the book.

Thank you, Amazon, for demonstrating once again that the bigger you are the more of an asshole you can be.

34 responses to “I’ve been Amazon’d

  1. Charles Yallowitz February 22, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    There’s a 4th reason that I didn’t see mentioned here. Someone can report a review as fraudulent, which is where the friends and family come into play. This rule only seems to work on 5 and 4 star reviews because reporting a 1 star review is seen as petty. So, a reported review gets removed without much of an investigation. I don’t know if it’s as bad as it once was, but I remember hearing about some authors using it to hurt those they saw as competition. Of course, it only happens to Indie Authors for some reason.

    When I lost two reviews on my first book, I believe I learned that one was reported and the other was from someone who lived in the same area.

    • kingmidget February 22, 2014 at 5:33 pm

      How did you figure out which reviews were deleted?

      • Charles Yallowitz February 22, 2014 at 5:35 pm

        I only had a little over 20 at the time and it was during the time I was checking every hour or two. It was also one of the BIG reviews that was deleted and the other was the newest one.

      • kingmidget February 22, 2014 at 5:44 pm

        It is what seems to be so random that bothers me the most about it. There was nothing in any of those reviews that was objectionable or which violated their guidelines.

      • Charles Yallowitz February 22, 2014 at 5:48 pm

        Then it could have been somebody reporting them for some bizarre reason. Some people despise a book and assume all positive reviews are by friends/family, so they report the book. A scan is done for ‘key terms’ that are ‘signs’ of such a thing and the reviews are pulled. At least that’s what someone explained to me a while back. I’ve never figured out how reviews can be up there for months then suddenly vanish.

      • kingmidget February 22, 2014 at 7:16 pm

        Here’s another thing that bothers me … I work for a government agency. My salary is public information. My pension when I retire will be public information. Everything about working for the government is about transparency and public access to information. But, when you are a private company, you can hide and distort and dissemble all you want, because you know it’s only people’s money we’re talking about. Okay, rant over.

      • Charles Yallowitz February 23, 2014 at 4:01 am

        It’s definitely a strange system. Though, I think one issue Amazon has is they depend a lot on algorithms and programs. So, a program will delete a review without a human taking a look. Either that or the human that checks trusts the program so much that they don’t question it.

      • kingmidget February 23, 2014 at 7:24 am

        And as the authors of the book affected, we have no ability to challenge the mindless of the algorithm.

      • Charles Yallowitz February 23, 2014 at 7:27 am

        Nope. Complaining can be met with threat of deletion of the book. I think too many authors complained about minor things in the past, so Amazon has very little patience for it these days.

      • kingmidget February 23, 2014 at 7:35 am

        Yes, well, it’s another reason I want to find a different way to distribute my future books. I’m not sure that replacing the horrors of an agent and a publisher with Amazon’s horrors is such a good thing. I really, really, really dislike their power and what they do with it. They have become the WalMart of on-line marketplaces — and that isn’t a good thing.

      • kingmidget February 23, 2014 at 8:10 am

        Tried it with Bridgeport and got nothing. But it’s probably because I wasn’t doing much in the way of marketing while it was on there. I will continue to consider it for future works.

      • Charles Yallowitz February 23, 2014 at 8:13 am

        I had no luck with Smashword even when I advertised. People seem to wait for a free period because it’s easier to do that there. The real challenge is that the majority of eBook readers use Kindle. Cutting Amazon out pulls you off the radar of a lot of people.

      • kingmidget February 23, 2014 at 8:15 am

        Exactly how I feel. You can’t avoid them because of how big Amazon is. In me “If I were king for a day” dream world, I’d create a way for me to sell directly to my readers.

      • Charles Yallowitz February 23, 2014 at 9:05 am

        Yeah. Only possible way is running it through your own site, but you’d need a lot of money for that.

      • kingmidget February 23, 2014 at 9:47 am

        Plus, I’d need quite a few more followers. 😉

      • Charles Yallowitz February 23, 2014 at 9:50 am

        If they were minions, you’d need less of them. 😀

      • kingmidget February 23, 2014 at 9:53 am

        So I should initiate negotiations with Ionia?

      • Charles Yallowitz February 23, 2014 at 9:54 am

        You could, but that would probably end with you as a minion. Still, decent benefits package with all the cupcakes you can eat.

      • kingmidget February 23, 2014 at 9:56 am

        I think I’m ready for minion status.

      • Charles Yallowitz February 23, 2014 at 9:56 am

        The cupcakes always win people over.

      • kingmidget February 23, 2014 at 10:05 am

        For me it’s about the lack if responsibility. Just do as told. The cupcakes are an added bonus. And of course being in the glamorous presence of the Queen.

      • Charles Yallowitz February 23, 2014 at 10:20 am

        Don’t let the glamor fool you. She can be a vicious taskmaster.

  2. TamrahJo February 22, 2014 at 6:19 pm

    Might not cheer you much, but in my limited experience of those who write algorithms – they are trying to do everything to keep the boss happy and have no clue about what all real world scenarios they need to address –
    You (and other Indie authors) may simply be the victim of a confused, underpaid, overworked, algorithm designer –
    🙂

    • kingmidget February 22, 2014 at 7:19 pm

      The problem with algorithms is this … they aren’t capable of distinguishing. So, if you write an algorithm that is set to identify key words and delete based on those key words, there is no discernment. No evaluation of whether those key words actually mean what the algorithm has been “taught” to believe. There is a randomness and lack of transparency here that absolutely drives me crazy. It’s the dark side of the benefits technology brings us.

  3. sknicholls February 23, 2014 at 9:45 am

    I have not lost any YET, but almost every author I know who has more than twenty reviews has. It is like you get to a certain number and they feel they have to trim it down. Which really makes no sense. It seems they would want your good reviews on there to stimulate sales.

  4. Patrick W. O'Bryon February 23, 2014 at 10:35 am

    Welcome to the club, Mark. Amazon stripped me of nine five-star reviews for Corridor a couple of weeks ago. Just as I topped 40 they dropped me down without explanation. I just accepted it as a matter of course, much like getting a speeding ticket. It doesn’t matter if everyone else was moving at the same pace as you, you just got (un)lucky. Police power…Amazon power…much the same, and no amount of reason or logic will make a difference. I love how they say the reviewer must complain to them about a dropped review. Unless we personally know and recognize each anonymous review writer…and keep a record of each review…how does the author figure out whom to contact to request that reviewer look into it?

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