The customer reviews on Amazon, they say, can have a huge sway on sales at the online books-and-more behemoth.
So it’s little surprise that a black market has emerged in which exuberant endorsements can be purchased by authors or publishers, as exposed in a New York Times report this week.
Reviews by ordinary people have become an essential mechanism for selling almost anything online …
“The wheels of online commerce run on positive reviews,” said Bing Liu, a data-mining expert at the University of Illinois, Chicago, whose 2008 research showed that 60 percent of the millions of product reviews on Amazon are five stars and an additional 20 percent are four stars. “But almost no one wants to write five-star reviews, so many of them have to be created.”
Consumer reviews are powerful because, unlike old-style advertising and marketing, they offer the illusion of truth. They purport to be testimonials of real people, even though some are bought and sold just like everything else on the commercial Internet.
But the review threads on Amazon can sometimes serve a higher purpose, as witnessed in the trove of sarcasm to be found beneath the UK product page for “Bic for Her” – that’s ballpoint pens, in jolly colours, especially for the ladies.
“I quickly found a piece of notepaper with pictures of kittens round the edges and had a go at writing my name. It was amazing! The pen just stayed in place between my fingers, just like it always had for the boys in my class at school.”
“The days of confusion over unisex pens are finally over. I was sick and tired of my naïve and, quite frankly, deluded girlfriend believing that she had the right to use my male products. This problem has pervaded all aspects of our lives. I set about buying him and her products for the household but could never find a suitable non unisex pen for her small, delicate, female hands. Now the BIC For Her Amber Medium Ballpoint Pen has come along the days of sharing household products are over!”
“Pray, what is a ‘pen’? I do like it so, because it is so pink, but I remain ignorant as to its practical use. Father says not to ask questions because it might give me wrinkles, and to carry on practising my charming giggle so I can one day ensnare a Duke – but I cannot help but be intrigued by the delicate pinkness of this curio. I can only assume that because it is pink, it is intended for a woman’s useage. I am a woman, therefore perhaps I should have this pink so-called pen?”
But not everyone was happy.
“They dot every ‘i’ with a little heart. They also won’t make periods at the ends of sentences; it’s a question mark or exclamation point every time, also dotted with hearts – SUPER annoying.”
And from Davey:
“I bought this pen (in error, evidently) to write my reports of each day’s tree felling activities in my job as a lumberjack. It is no good. It slips from between my calloused, gnarly fingers like a gossamer thread gently descending to earth between two giant redwood trunks.”
There are more than 200 more in that vein, and counting. A matter of time before they’re collected in a book and sold online.
Via various on Twitter