Posting problems

expect delaysIf you begin to seriously put time and effort into your reviews (I am speaking now about Amazon reviews), and you have started tracking your reviews you will notice that every so often reviews may fail to post in a timely manner.   Amazon reviews are supposed to post within 24-48 hours of submission, and generally they post much quicker than that.   But sometimes it happens that they fail to show up.  What then?   If it has been longer than 48 hours, then at that point you should contact customer service and have them look into the matter.  Be sure to include a link to the product page, and if you have one, your order number.   At that point, then customer service has another 24 hours to get back to you via email.  Most of the time the review posts after that.   There has only been a small number of instances where I have had to contact customer service more than one time for the same review not posting.

Since I have been reviewing for awhile I don’t get overly concerned about a delayed review.  For whatever reason it happens periodically, and it happens to everyone at some point.

 

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Strange requests

Sometimes I get strange requests.   I decided I should start saving these and chronicle them here.   This one arrived this morning and I opted not to reply at all:strange requests

It reads:

Would you willing to help us to avoid fake prodcuts??‏

Hello, my dear friend,

We’re Amazon sellers and would like to establish a business relationship with you if you’re interested.

Currenly we’re suffering lots of sellers using our Brand selling their fake products.

We created the listings in Amazon and our customer usually are very fond of our products.

However, Some other sellers also selling under the same listing using a lower price to attract our customers to buy a different product, which might be  bad quality or a fake one.

To avoid such problem, we need evidence to report them in Amazon, but we cannot buy one from other sellers coz we’re overseas and have no local Amazon account to buy one from them and tes and submit evidence to Amazon.

Would you willing to buy one from other sellers and take some clear pictures and send to us?

We will tranfer the amount thought Paypal so that you could buy it for free.You could just just keep it but take some pictures for us.

How do you think about that??

We really hope you could help us if you’re willing to.
Looking forward to your reply.
Best regards,
Kate

You should have nothing to do with requests like these.   Something is clearly fishy here and although you may be thinking “Hey, this is free stuff and I don’t even have to review it”, it’s best not to involve yourself in something like this.    If and when sellers have real issues on Amazon, they take it up with Amazon directly.  They would not email a random stranger.  This is just common sense.

I am not sure what their end goal is, whether it is to rise in the search rankings at Amazon with lots of verified purchases that don’t show up as discount or review items, or if they are out and out scammers.   It doesn’t matter.  Stay away!

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Less than a 5 star

Star_rating_1_of_5Sometimes, products just don’t measure up.   Then you have to leave a one or two star review.   How to approach them is sometimes a dilemma.   How do you be fair and not inflammatory, but present a reasoned explanation for why the product didn’t measure up? Here are some recent instances where I left a negative review:

2 Star Dino Pets

There is a lot of set up and care that goes into this, and the reward is not immediate by any stretch. My kids were excited, and then grew bored quickly when results were not spectacular. We are on day 4 and while the Dino Pet lights up more than it did, it still is very underwhelming (although cool). I understand that in a couple weeks the effect will be even more dramatic and if it is and I need to up my star rating I will at that point. I wish these things just lit up randomly on their own like lightning bugs, where we could sit with a magnifying glass and marvel. But we can’t do that because you have to shake them to get any light.

I like the idea of this, but in practice it just doesn’t have the appeal I thought it would. It only lights up at night, and the effect is short lived and “wears out” if you shake it too much. I also feel responsible for this thing, to make sure it gets light and food… it is a living colony after all. So now I feel that it’s more work for not a lot of fun. When I run out of food I almost feel like I have an ethical dilemma on my hands! Do I buy more or kill the entire colony?! I know they are not sentient, but it seems deliberately mean, like kicking over ant hills.*

1 Star Dehumidifier

I was hoping this little unit would perform better. After having it running for a day, there was maybe one tiny drip in the reservoir. So, thinking part of the problem was that I have a large dehumidifier downstairs, I decided to put a humidifier right next to the dehumidifier to test it. (see my video) My humidifier is small, it has a reservoir of only a half cup. I let it run until it was dry… then checked the dehumidifier next morning. Barely a teaspoon of water, despite the humidifier being right next to it. I would have expected at least a 1/4 cup since they were sitting side by side.

I know the unit was running, I could hear the motor and feel air passing from the top out through the front. It just was not as efficient as I had hoped, although it does work, I just was hoping for it to work better.

I got this dehumidifier at no charge for the purpose of review. If you have any questions I didn’t cover, please ask in the comments section – but I probably won’t be hanging on to this dehumidifier.

You can leave a negative review that isn’t hostile, but points out the reasons why someone might not like an item.   Sometimes I find negative reviews can actually be more helpful than positive reviews, and I tend to click the “helpful” button on those reviews more than others.   Don’t fear giving negative reviews!  Remember, your primary concern is helping others make an informed decision.   If you don’t like it, tell people why and let them make up their own mind.  There are too many reviewers out there who only give positive reviews, and they do a great disservice.

 

*This review was for Vine which is sanctioned by Amazon and labeled as such.  Therefore I don’t leave a disclaimer on those reviews.   All other reviews where I get an item for free or a discount must have disclaimers.

 

More posting problems on Amazon

A problem that seems to be reoccurring with Amazon reviews are that a review may not post, or if it does post –  it is missing photo or video elements that had been added with the original review.

This has been happening sporadically for the better part of a year.   I can’t see a pattern to it, other than it happens in spurts where in the span of a week I get two or three reviews that don’t post or are missing some element to them when they do post.   Could it be due to a lax employee?  Perhaps some sort of glitch in the computer?  I can’t say.   When these things happen I just contact customer service and they resolve it within a day or two if it is the case that the review didn’t post, and if it is the case that it did post and photos were left out, I go back and edit my review to add them back in myself.

My advice to you because of this issue is to save all your review photos and videos for at least a month, and be sure to check all your reviews after posting to assure all elements of the review are present.   If you haven’t already… get a tracking system in place for your reviews and review items so you will know what has and has not posted.    Previously I was deleting all my photos and videos as soon as I posted the review, but I learned the hard way that it ends up being more work when you have to recreate them.  I am saving mine with the idea that I will keep them for 6 months then delete.   Probably a bit of overkill, but I like to err on the side of caution.

Disclaimers revisited

In a previous blog post “Don’t be a used car salesman” I talked about my personal opinion on what makes a good disclaimer.    Now I’m going to show you some actual examples I pulled from Amazon to compare and contrast.  Some are better than others.   Seeing them side by side may help you develop your own disclaimer statement.

Disclaimer/Disclosure Examples:

  • I received these [product name] at a discounted price in exchange for an honest review. 🙂 I hope that my review is helpful and know that I was in no way swayed by the discounted price. I try to truthfully describe and critique the item to the best of my ability, and usually with a personal touch. Feel free to ask any questions you might have. Thank you for taking the time to read my review. Hopefully it helped!
  • I received this product in exchange for my honest feedback.
  • I received this product during a promotion free for my honest review and they are 100% my own opinions. I received no compensation for this review and I am not required to give a good review. I am also not associated with the seller in any way.
  • I received this product for free as part of a promotion.
  • Disclaimer: I received this product free or at a reduced price in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. All opinions are 100% my own and not influenced by anyone. If my review was helpful to you, would you please vote, yes. I am always honest with my reviews and try to point out facts that a potential customer might find useful and I am not paid for my reviews. Thank you.
  • I got this product at a discount, but I’m not told what to say.   I test all products I get really well and I’m very honest.  I know that some people think that because I got this at a discount my review is fake, but its not true.  I put a lot of time into reviews and it is actually work.   Please click the helpful button if you liked my review.
  • Thank you [Seller Name] for this awesome product. I was fortunate to receive this at no costs for my honest and unbiased testing and review. My opinion is based solely on my personal experienced with the product and was in no way influenced by outside sources.
  • This was furnished to me for the purposes of review. Thanks for reading!
  • I received this product at a discount in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. The opinions expressed here are my own and were not influenced by the discount.

A few of these statements you will observe, include a solicitation for clicking the “helpful” button.  This is not a direct violation of Amazon’s terms of service, but it treads pretty close.   I would avoid it, because by soliciting others for up votes you are in fact applying a light form of review manipulation, which is a prohibited activity in its more blatant forms.  Don’t risk it, just play it safe and keep your disclaimers short and to the point.

 

Common Reviewing Questions, part 2

questionQ and A about Reviews (part 2):

What happens if I get offered a review item that I accept, but the seller does not respond back with a coupon code?   It is pretty common that sellers will contact you about a review item, and you enthusiastically accept, only to have the seller never contact you again.   It happens to me all the time, so much so I don’t even give it a second thought.  In the last year that I have tracked such things, I have had almost 250 items that I was promised, but never received.  That’s several items that don’t materialize each week, a few of those even were actually ordered with coupon codes on Amazon and the seller just never shipped.  So don’t sweat it when it happens to you.    It could be that the seller only had so many items to give out for reviews, and had more interest than items.  It could be any number of reasons!   There is no harm in contacting the seller to inquire, although I would not expect any answer.   My personal philosophy is just to let it go, I don’t have time to try to manage all the sellers that bailed out on me.

What happens if the seller requires me to give a 5 star review AFTER I already accepted the item?   You should never comply with such a request.   It is somewhat deceptive on the part of the seller to “throw that in” after the fact, and in these cases (it has happened to me) you should email back informing the seller it is impossible to know before you receive an item whether or not it is 5 stars.   Be sure you let the seller know where you stand, even if they didn’t give you the same courtesy.

What happens if I get an item, but I lost the product link to review and I can’t remember who sent me the item?   This is where good record keeping can really save you.  Sometimes though you may forget to save information.   I admit, it has happened to me recently.   What I did first was to go through my records, not finding anything there, I then went through my saved emails- and luckily the seller had an email that matched the brand name of the product.   From the found email, I was able to get the product link.  Had I not found it there, I would have gone back through my purchase records online (hoping it was not a direct ship item) to see if I could find it.  But if you aren’t so lucky, in most cases after a few weeks the seller will send an inquiry as to why a review has not been posted.  Be watching and waiting for it.

 

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Disclaimer

used car salesmanEveryone who reviews on Amazon needs to include a disclaimer.  There is a lot of debate on what makes a good disclaimer.  Everyone has their own opinions on what should be written in a disclaimer, but there are two things that Amazon requires:

  • You must include a disclaimer that is prominent.
  • You must disclose that you got the item for free or for a discount.

How you word it is up to you.   Because I just type my disclosure at the end of each review (as opposed to copy/paste) it tends to change a bit in wording each time.  But the gist of it is “I received my (insert item here) at no charge for the purpose of review.”

Some people get a bit wordy with their disclaimers and feel it necessary to point out that the review is an honest assessment, or something similar.  I don’t prefer those kinds of disclaimers.   The dishonest can claim to be honest too, so proclaiming honesty is a moot point at best, and at worst, puts the idea in the reader’s mind that not all reviews (even the claimants) are honest.   To put it bluntly, saying how honest you are smacks of used car salesman.

I would urge a ‘to the point’, blunt disclaimer.

 

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How to get into reviewing

computerThere is an update to this entry since things have changed in the review world.  You can view that here.

ORIGINAL POST:

I have been asked many times how to get into reviewing.  Some people are merely curious, some want to know how to start trying to review professionally themselves.

It’s not a cut and dry answer.   I fell into it quite by accident, because I reviewed every item I ever bought online, not thinking anything would or even could come of it – I just wanted to share my experience with others because I rely on reviews when I buy things.   My reviews got noticed, I got some invitations and here I am.   But it took over a decade to get here.   Thousands of reviews, I’m not joking – thousands, literally.  Most people are looking for a quicker route, so I will try to lay out what I think is a quicker path, but it’s still going to take a good deal of time and effort.

First and foremost, review everything you ever bought (especially on Amazon).   No, there is no compensation for it, but it will start laying the foundation of having a good reviewing track record.  If people want to be able to see a sample of what you do, you will have something to show.

The next step if you want to get review items for a discount or sometimes free; is get signed up with coupon clubs.   I winced a little bit saying that.  Actually – I winced a lot.  They have a negative stereotype in the reviewing world among established reviewers (and sometimes with good reason), but this is truly the quickest way someone can get into it.   Read my blog on coupon clubs to learn what to avoid.  Doing a quick search for coupon clubs will find you any number of places to join.

But, please also follow good review etiquette.  Read up on Amazon’s terms of service (TOS) and do not sign up with any company that wants you to violate any part of it.   This could result in you being banned from Amazon.  If you review for coupon clubs and are able to remain honest with your reviews and not violate Amazon’s TOS, this will put you on your way to being a professional reviewer.

As you are progressing, read everything you can about reviewing.   Forums, blog pieces… whatever you can find.  Get all the perspectives, because there are a lot of them out there.  Also, review everything you ever bought.   Get a track record of reviews under your belt.   Hone your skills.  Add photos, consider adding videos.   It takes a lot longer, but you are adding value with all these little improvements.

Eventually with a little luck and perseverance, you might begin to have people approach you for reviews (usually once your reviewer rank on Amazon rises to a high level) instead of seeking out coupon clubs, and you may be fortunate enough to review items that are a little more high end than an oven mitt.

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Common Reviewing Questions

questionQ and A about Reviews:

What if I get a product for review but it arrives broken?   It does happen from time to time that an item will arrive broken, especially if it had a long transit time from China or was not packaged properly, and you never know what can happen during transit.   In this case my standard practice is to contact the seller to see if they want me to return the item, if they would like send another replacement item or if they would like me not review that item (since I can’t because it’s broken).

In most cases, the company will send me a replacement product and then I do the review after I have gotten the replacement.  Some companies do not respond to my inquiry.  In that case I just toss the item and do not review it.  I have never yet had a company ask me to return an item, and this is likely because it would cost them more money for me to do this.

What if I get an item, but I really hate it – should I give it a bad review?  Of course!   Reviewing means you are trying to help people decide if they would like it.   I always read negative reviews of a product first, because sometimes those are the most instructive.   You don’t have to be mean with your review using inflammatory words, but you can give a thoughtful (and honest) review that highlights why you didn’t like it.   Be as specific as possible to help people understand your rating.  Maybe you didn’t like a piece of clothing because it was sized too big, but perhaps someone else will see that and think they would like a little extra room.   A bad review doesn’t always dissuade a purchase, it informs the consumer which is the point of doing reviews.

The hidden fear behind this question is likely “won’t the seller get mad at me and not offer future products for review?”  Sometimes that may be true.  Not always though, if it is a reputable seller.    But how can you grow your reviewing hobby if you don’t give honest reviews people will appreciate?

What if I get offered the same item twice, can I still review it?  If you want to, sure – as long as it isn’t the exact same listing that you reviewed before (and you would be prevented from leaving a second review).  I have reviewed several “identical” items from various sellers… but I always leave a different review each time.  NO COPY PASTING!  That is bad etiquette, and if others pick up on this you will be looked down upon – perhaps even ridiculed publicly.   Each product gets their own unique review.

Can I sell or give away the item when I am done with the review?  If the company or entity you are getting the review item from says that’s ok – then it’s ok.  Some entities require that you retain ownership and never resell.  It is vital you find that information out first so you don’t violate anyone’s terms of service.

What if a seller contacts me after the fact and asks me to change my review, or some other request like adding the item to my wish list?  Changing a review at the sellers’ request is usually a no-no in my book.   If they point out something I forgot to mention that I think would add to the review, then I might consider it (this has never happened though).  If the request does not violate any terms of service, you may feel free to comply, or not comply based on your own conscience.  I do not add items to my wishlist that the seller asks me to, just because my wishlist is used by family to buy gifts.  I consider it a personal list, therefore not for “business” use.

 

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Social Media and the Reviewer

If you are reviewing exclusively with Amazon, Fat Wallet, NewEgg or any other entity (there are many out there now, and many more I don’t even know about) you may want to increase your visibility by posting reviews across a wider social network.

The benefits are two-fold.  Having a wider audience can help give you more visibility and respectability, but also it makes you more likely to be sought after for more reviews.  Of course this is not mandatory for getting more reviews to come your way, but it certainly can move things along.

I personally have found that the sellers I work with are very pleased when they find out that I not only posted a review on the site they approached me about, but I also took the extra step to post the review via YouTube, Twitter, Google+ or Instagram (without them even asking).  Some sellers are now even requiring that reviews be posted on other social media outlets as a condition of being able to review.   That seems to be becoming more prevalent I notice.

I have profiles set up specifically for reviewing so as not to co-mingle my public and private life, but doing this has the disadvantage that you have no followers when you start and have to build them from scratch, which is not the easiest of feats.  Facebook tends to be harder to build than YouTube because it is built on existing relationships or brand recognition, but each network will present some challenges if you are starting at zero.  My philosophy is that you have to start somewhere, and it doesn’t hurt to try.  I would recommend YouTube and/or Twitter as the two easiest platforms with which to gain followers.

If your friends will not be annoyed by your review posts, and you don’t mind meshing your personal life with your review life, then using the social media outlets you already subscribe to may be the better route to go.

For the truly dedicated reviewer, you might even consider a social media marketing tool such as Hootsuite (free for a basic account) to schedule posts across platforms.   I use Hootsuite Pro in my job as a marking specialist and have just recently started using the free basic Hootsuite for reviewing.  It is invaluable for organizing and tracking posts and feedback when you are sending out a lot of messages on social media.  Hootsuite isn’t the only marketing tool of its kind out there, there are quite a few others- but Hootsuite is by far the most popular and widely used.

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