AMAZON SLOWLY SHUNNING OUTSIDE REVIEWERS?
As many of you know, Amazon, the “king of all media,” ahem, “retailers of all media,” I should say (thank you Howard Stern), sells just about everything. They started out with just media, but branched out to many other products, too vast a variety to go into here.
I found their selection of books, CDs & Vinyl, computer games and such the most definitive source to place reviews. If I had something, no matter how obscure, and wanted to review it, I could almost guarantee Amazon would have a place for it.
There were many of said items out there, listed on their site where I was the only reviewer. Period.
Some of my reviews actually prompted people to contact me, including former band members, fans, adversaries, you name it.
In one case, a not so obscure telescope eyepiece I reviewed cause the formation of a thread about me on an astronomy forum. I wasn’t even aware of the ruckus until someone else commented to me through Amazon and told me what was going on. Once I joined the forum and put in my two cents, that was when the fun began. Nasty comments and hate mail ensued.
I found my reviews, at least in my mind, helpful, honest and from the heart.
Nowadays, I cringe at some of them because I started so long ago, my writing chops weren’t as clean as they are now. Plus, my opinions have changed on a few of those early items. Some a bit, some a lot. In one case, one of my bad movie reviews was deliberately taken out of context and used in a positive quote!
THE GOOD OLD DAYS
Whether people bought (or force bought through no other choice) their items from Amazon, it was simple and easy to see all the reviews on an item with one basic click. If there were many, you could just scroll through them from page to page, or sort them by the star rating. You could even sort by the latest posted. On the more obscure items, there were usually not that many reviews, so it was pretty easy to find them.
I, for one, did honest reviews and never ever discouraged anyone from buying the item from Amazon. Sometimes, I actually encouraged it because it was the only place it was available.
I was easily able to tell how many reviews I’d done. I could click on my name and tell right away if I’d done 60, 600 or 1,000 reviews.
It was a bit tedious to search them all for a specific one, especially if it was buried in a popular item with several hundred to several thousand reviews, even considering the number ratings of say, if all the three or five star ratings had four hundred to six hundred reviews each. If I went to my personal page and looked for it (used to be, just click on my name), my only choice was to scroll through them, or go to my computer hard drive and find it there. Then again, sometimes, what was on my hard drive didn’t always match the final version on Amazon. Not only did I sometimes tweak it before I saved on line, in the old days, I sometimes reviewed right on line and never saved it to the computer. Or, I lost some reviews due to computer crashes and incomplete backups, etc.
AMAZON AND GRADUAL TO ABRUPT CHANGES
Slowly, it became harder and harder to find my reviews on the personal page. The first thing I noticed was that I could not find my review count. Why would I care? No big reason, juss cuz. However, I wanted to make sure I had everything matching what was on my hard drive. I did not want to miss anything. Since I’d gone through several computers since I first started reviewing several decades ago (as explained above), I wanted to make sure everything was up-to-date. In that process, I was trying to find the easiest way to get from A to B. That led to this discovery.
I just checked this morning, as I edited this. My reviews are still there and the count is at the top, where it should be in the personal reviews tab. As of that moment, I had 1147, though that number will change by the time you read this. However, there are only two search parameters. Most recent reviews and Most recent comments. There are no other search parameters so scrolling through page after page, looking for a particular review, I’d better have them on the hard drive!
Next, Amazon made the more recent and more radical change.
AMAZON PURCHASERS GET TOP BILLING
Yup, that’s right. Amazon, in all their wisdom and greed, even though they’re the obvious top dogs in on-line retail, took it upon themselves to take all verified purchase reviews and put them up front on all items. Okay, I can sort of understand that. However, a review is a review. They help sell products, whether good or bad. They help people make decisions.
They have their reasons for doing so. There was a lot of abuse, which I totally understand. I could go on and on about that. Also, maybe the other retailers do the same, but my suspicion is that most people, whether they buy from Amazon or not, go there first to check the reviews before they go anywhere else. I know I do. With all the tools at their disposal to cut down on bogus reviews and abuse, this extra step seems a little over the top.
Now what about those other reviews? Like most of mine?
Okay, I do buy from Amazon, occasionally. However, I prefer to buy retail if I can. I like to touch and feel and sometimes smell the item before I buy, and you just can’t do that online. Most retailers I buy from don’t have web sites, or at least ones where I can do reviews. If they do, I don’t want to have logins to hundreds of different web sites with different quirks and standards. I’m used to Amazon and it always used to work!
In a way, I consider Amazon sort of like the Wikipedia of reviews. Is that bad?
Also, what about items I already have? There’s older stuff I’ve had that I revisit and want to review. Stuff that maybe I want to put out there that’s still worthy (or not) for people to seek out. Surprisingly, a lot of it is still available on Amazon.
So, what happened to all of us “others” reviews? Oh, they’re still there. However, you have to jump through hoops to find them.
You go to a book, for instance. There are 25 reviews. However, when you look at the list, you only see 10. Why? It automatically defaults to Amazon purchasers only. All the other reviews are hidden.
If you want to see the rest of them, you have to click on the little in blue “…customer reviews” The ellipses being a number like 25 or 76 or 1,000.
Then you once again have to go just above the first review and click on “See all verified purchase reviews” in blue which is just below the star rating bars.
Then it takes you to the search parameter selection blocks.
Now, a nasty little bug I’ve found when I sometimes click on “All reviews.”
I click “All reviews” and the list populates. However, I want to see them in order of most recent. So, I click to sort them again. Guess what? It goes back to the default of Amazon Purchasers only! Or, at least it did sometimes. Lately, it seems to work properly. In my most recent example, not long ago, I did a review of Steppenwolf’s first album. When I hit All Reviews, then hit Most Recent, my review was at the top and below that was nothing but Verified Amazon Purchases. Go figure.
Those geniuses at Amazon trick out the system so it becomes very convoluted to see all reviews. I’ve found the same thing happened when I wanted to see all three star reviews, or one star reviews. It ALWAYS goes to Amazon Purchasers first. Then you have to say “All reviews” and it goes to the whole list. If you click on one star, it may or may not give you all or just Amazon Verified, or it used to.
I’ve found it hit or miss until recently where the filtering seems to be a bit better.
The other thing is limiting non Amazon Verified to five per week. I don’t have so much a problem with that. It’s the other issue that has pissed me off until recently.
So, what next? Banning non-verified Amazon reviewers altogether?
I DO like Amazon, mostly. I’ll continue to buy from them and use them. They are the best out there for on line. However, with them being the big boys on the block, it seems to me they’re getting to be more of a bully about things. I know a business is a business. I can’t knock that they have the most comprehensive stock I’ve ever seen. However, I think sometimes they go over the line.
There’s also the possibility of Amazon brick and mortar stores in the future. If so, will they have the same comprehensive stock available in stores that they have on line? Only time will tell.
What do you think? Am I over the line? I mean, it’s not like I can do a thing about it. I’m still going to review and still use Amazon. There are many things about them I DO like.