Some Amazon Sellers Are Offering Incentives to Take Down Bad Reviews. What Could Go Wrong?

Amazon doesn't allow the practice, but it's happening anyway

Amazon logo on the side of a building. A new investigation from The Wall Street Journal found some Amazon retailers contacted buyers about bad reviews.
Amazon's Shannon Building on Burlington Road in Dublin.
Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

For countless people across the globe, it’s a simple routine: buy something on Amazon, use it once it’s arrived and then write an online review. This in turn fuels Amazon’s algorithm and — nominally, anyhow — that glowing review the buyer posted can direct more people to the same product. But when a review isn’t glowing, that’s when things get a little more complicated. And a new investigation from The Wall Street Journal suggests some sellers are now violating Amazon’s own guidelines in decidedly over-the-top ways.

The feature includes the story of one woman who bought a bottle on Amazon that was designed to spray cooking oil. It didn’t work terribly well for her, and she left a review to that effect. Then someone contacted her, said that they were from the maker of the bottle in question and offered to send her a refund. There was one condition: she’d have to delete the review. And when she pressed them on it, they doubled their offer.

As Wall Street Journal columnist Nicole Nguyen points out, the bottle maker’s inquiry violated a couple of Amazon’s policies; sellers aren’t supposed to contact customers directly, and they aren’t supposed to ask for reviews to be changed. And the incident with the oil bottle is only one of a number of similar interactions described in the article.

For plenty of companies and sellers, making Amazon’s algorithm work for them is no easy task. It doesn’t help that Amazon regularly updates their algorithm, offering a number of challenges throughout the retailer ecosystem it’s created, and pushing some to extremes.

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.