Amazon Removes More Reviews: Targeting Individual Reviewers and Sites Causing Authors to Become Victims

Guest Post by Irene Watson

Amazon did it again!  They removed Reader Views’ reviews saying “We found your reviews to be in violation of our guidelines and have removed them.  Because of these violations, we’ve removed your reviewing privileges from your account.”  (See previous post for backstory.)

Wow!  That was a shocker considering Sarah Hobbs, the person that reinstated us the last time, assured me this wouldn’t happen again. She also approved the way the info on our website was worded. Nothing had changed since then.  I emailed her immediately and attempted to phone her on many occasions but she wouldn’t answer. It’s obvious she has caller-id and wasn’t about to be confronted on this.  After a week of attempts to contact her and leaving voice messages, I sent an email to Amazon.  I explained I worked with Sarah Hobbs and tweaked our site according to her standards and approval. I got an email back saying “… we won’t be able to comment further on this matter.”   Huh?  So, I sent an email directly to Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, explaining that one of his staff reinstated/approved our reviews and this is what I got back:

I’m Elizabeth King of Amazon.com’s Executive Customer Relations team. Jeff Bezos received your e-mail and asked me to respond on his behalf.

I’ve thoroughly read through your concern and previous correspondence with us. While I know you’re disappointed with this decision, I’d like to confirm the information you received from our Communities team is correct.

As mentioned, we found your reviews to be in violation of our guidelines and have removed them from our site.

Again, no accountability as to what guidelines we violated. And, it’s highly unlikely that Jeff Bezos actually received the email from me.  This same email, only using different team members’ names, has been sent to others that have attempted to contact him. I emailed back, again explaining that Sarah Hobbs had approved us. No response.

I know that in the past two weeks at least six review sites that have been removed with no explanation or further communication.   One was Rebecca’s Reads, but they did get one response back saying:

As mentioned in our last message, we took this action because your reviews were found to be in violation of our guidelines and participation agreement.

The customer account you used is related to an account that was previously banned.

Wow!  Now they are removing “related” reviewers.  When asked for clarity as to whom they are “related,” Amazon never did respond to Rebecca’s Reads.   There is nothing in the guidelines or terms of service to indicate related people can’t post reviews.

But there is more.  An author told me:

TEN of my reviews have now disappeared!!! The latest two were posted [on two different books] by my second cousin in OH who read my books. She has no connection whatsoever to any review sites!

Wow!  Maybe Amazon is now has a team that checks to see if the reviewers are “related.”

I’ve heard from other authors over the past few weeks telling me reviews have disappeared off their book listing, not only those posted by review sites but by individuals.  I found the same on my own personal books; some (not all) individual readers’ (many I don’t know and some don’t review for a site except their own blogs) reviews have been removed. I didn’t get a response from Amazon when I questioned as to why they were removed.

What to do now?  I really don’t know.  It seems like Amazon/Bezos has his own agenda.  It seems like the guidelines only apply to specific reviewers and certainly not to those on their top reviewers list.   The number one reviewer violates the guidelines but is able to stay in number one place. Also, the #7 reviewer says:

7. In addition, I will almost always make time to read and review books for those who are willing to generously contribute to Habitat for Humanity. Please contact me for details. (Several authors told me that the generous donation has to be of at least $600.)

When I asked Sarah Hobbs if it’s possible to do the same she said “Charitable donations would not be allowed. [As form of compensation.]”  I referenced the guideline the reviewer had on his profile page and she responded “I appreciate you bringing this to our attention. We have reached out to this reviewer and will take action as necessary.”  The action Amazon took is having him remove the blurb from his guidelines but they didn’t ban him from posting reviews.  According to authors that have asked him for reviews received an email saying they have to make the contribution before being considered.

Fair?  No, of course not.  Victimized by a huge corporation with bullies running it?  Yes, of course.

If you’ve been a victim of having your review/s removed (whether you are an author, publisher, or publicist) I encourage you to write to Amazon.com and protest. I also encourage you to ask them to reinstate Reader Views’ or any other removed site’s account and upload the posted reviews.  If you feel your sales went down because the reviews were removed, then tell Mr. Bezos that. If you feel victimized, tell him that.   Maybe, just maybe, if enough of us inundate their email boxes someone at Amazon will take this to heart and not just send back a form email signed by a person with no-last-name.  Maybe, just maybe, your voice will be heard.

Here is a list of email addresses that you could write to:

1.  jeff@amazon.com (Jeff Bezos)
He is the CEO of Amazon.

2.   community-help@amazon.com
This is the collection email address.

3.  community-help@amazon.com
 subject line – Please direct to the Legal Department

4. 

community-help@amazon.com
Aric R.
His name appears most on form emails saying the reviewers are banned.

Thanks for your support! 

PS – If you feel so inclined, contact the media. I’m sure there are some out there that would love to dig deeper into the unjust action against authors by a huge corporation.

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Posted on October 16, 2011, in Announcement, Publicity & Writing, Writing & Publishing. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I think the only reasonable conclusion to draw is Amazon is preparing to launch their own paid review service and they any type of organized review as a threat to that.

  2. They already have a "paid" review service – Amazon Vine. According to FTC 16 CFR Part 255 anyone receiving any product to review, whether it be a book or post-its, are considered getting paid for the review with the product. Amazon seems to take it upon themselves to overrule the FTC.

  3. I'm very sorry to hear of this, Irene, especially since your service worked with Amz's own rep to ensure acceptable compliance. I seem to remember that you had to repost thousands of reviews … are they ALL gone AGAIN? I hope that's not the case. There is trouble brewing all around this outsized company. Now with their entry into publishing via their own direct sign-ups of authors … plus the fake Out of Stock/delayed availability now routinely claimed on AMZ pages for books instantly available through Print on Demand … well, if you have the activist gene and a little patience (I know you have the outreach ability) forming a watchdog group of disaffected publishers et all might start to grow legs and bark.

  4. Hi Irene,Thank you so much for keeping your readers posted and for the valiant fight you are heading. So far, mine are still there but I printed out your information in case (dread, dread) I have to use it.

  5. Irene,I've sent emails to the suggested people. I am working too hard to get my books noticed to let a stunt like this pass. Especially when the company pulling the stunt is only a few miles down the road from me. I've actually done some contract work for them in the past.Let's hope the decision makers get some commonsense and reinstate the reviews, and reviewer privileges.

  6. This just happened to me and to my husband. Our reviews were removed from a book because Amazon said we vilated their "guidelines" as related accounts cannot review the same item. So this means my husband and I cannot have different views? What is happening here and how can this be dealt with? I am not an author…I am a reader….very concerned with the response I got from "Big Brother" Amazon.

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