24 September 2016

Don't take money for reviews.

Since I ditched my domain as an actual site years ago, I don't think anyone is around here anymore.  It's pretty neglected since I just plopped it on Blogger.  So, why not make it my rant site for today.  Maybe I'll start using it again.  We're trying to adopt so there are things to talk about, or will be.  We're pretty early in the process.  But that's not why I am here today.  Today is about reviews.

I'm a member of Amazon's Vine program.  You've surely seen the bright green tag on reviews that announces it's a Vine member's review of a free product provided for review.  Many people feel that means we're bought and paid for.  I assure, it does not.  I do only request items that I want to review.  I'm not going to say "sure, I'll review that football", because I don't play football, have no interest in football, etc etc.  Also the item itself may be free but it's taxable.  So tax time, we do have to cough up the tax.  Anyway, the point is if the reviews lean positive it's probably because people are choosing items they want.  But if they get an item that sucks, they do tend to say that.  It's why they're in the program and kept there.

There are a lot of people nowadays though who buy reviews.  That's much different from giving you a free item.   Most reputable sites do not allow cash or gift cards for reviews.  A free item?  Yes, but in the United States this must be disclosed.  It's the law.  That way you all you can decide if you think that affected our review.    As it's gotten more and more obvious that people are paying, many have started ignoring reviews altogether.  Which is sad.  People do actually put time into those.  I do  understand the distrust though.  Oh hey this book with a preview that kind of sucks or worse, that has no preview at all, and a vague description and vague reviews has 5 stars or nearly 5.  That's totally not suspicious.  I've gotten okay at skimming different types of reviews for authenticity.  We're all not professional writers.  We're not all masters of English.  I will find typos in my reviews only after posting.  It can be tough.  Maybe we look like frauds too.  We tend to be less vague, but some items are,  however, just tough to review.

So yesterday I get an unsolicited e-mail on behalf of an author I've never heard of, one with few reviews.  Odd.  Wouldn't have bothered me.  It's happened a few times before.  What did bother me is that it went above and beyond the usual request which is "If we send you our book will you read it and review it" along with a description.   This one was offering me a gift card for my time.  Granted a modest one.  What could that hurt?

It could hurt a lot.  As I said, most of us, no matter how good or bad are reviews are do take them seriously.  When people are offering a few bucks here and a few bucks there to people who will then feel obligated to just write up any old vague nice review it hurts those of us who actually read and review items.

I know life can be expensive.  A few dollars here and there can add up.  Don't do it!  There's plenty of way to get that (I can recommend some survey sites, for example) without harming the work that others legitimately put into site.  We write reviews for a reason.  When we go to buy something we read them.  You surely won't be disclosing the money you're getting on sites like Amazon as that goes against their TOS.  It also goes against the law to not disclose.  You're screwing us all if you accept offers like the one I got.

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