Amazon reviews are bullshit

OK, not really. But their system for moderating them certainly is, and that does raise a few issues relating to their accuracy and usefulness. But to get into this properly I'll need to go back to an email I got a few months ago. As happens from time to time, someone asked me to review a shitty book.

I am contacting you because you have reviewed a humorous memoir book on Amazon.  I thought you may be interested in this title, 'A Minger's Tale' as well.

I am currently putting together a virtual tour for 'Minger's Tale' in March and April and am wondering if you would be interested in reading and posting a review of the book.  If you have a blog, you like to post on, that would be great however, if you don't have a blog, we would just ask that you post a review on Goodreads and if possible, Amazon in in March or April the publisher would be glad to send you a print or ebook copy of the book for your honest review. 
I hope you can join us for this thrilling tour!
Premier Virtual Author Book Tours
I have no idea what a "virtual author book tour" is, but I agreed to review the book since that seemed to be what they were asking me to do. They later clarified that, because it was for a tour, they would like me to post my review by a certain date (three months after the first email was sent). Whatever. Teddy also sent me a file in a format I'm not familiar with, which he claimed was his business card, and the wrong book. But after I emailed him back he got back to me with the correct book and I read it and posted my review on Goodreads and Amazon.

The review was accepted and published by both sites and can still be found on Goodreads. In it, I accuse the author, "RBN Bookmark", of bad writing, lies and plagiarism and support all three claims with evidence. But about a week later I received an email from the "Amazon.com Community Team".
Your recent review was found to be spiteful and outside our guidelines. In order to help our customers make informed choices, we encourage them to review the product and information related to it. However, Customer Reviews that violate our guidelines or Conditions of Use will be removed.
Before submitting your next review, please refer to our Customer Review Guidelines ( http://www.amazon.com/review-guidelines/ ) and Conditions of Use ( http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/?nodeId=508088).
Failure to comply with our policies may result in the removal of your reviewing privileges.
Thanks for your understanding in this matter. We hope to see you again soon.
Now, I checked those guidelines, and I don't believe my review breached any of them. So I wrote back to Amazon (via their website since you can't just respond to the email address they end stuff to you with) and asked them to explain exactly which rule I'd broken and if there were any review process I could appeal to. I also disputed their accusation of spitefulness, as it was blatantly inaccurate. Their terms state that "Visitors may post reviews ... so long as the content is not illegal, obscene, threatening, defamatory, invasive of privacy, infringing of intellectual property rights ... or otherwise injurious to third parties or objectionable". I suppose the author would find a negative review objectionable, but that doesn't seem like it should be valid grounds for having it removed. What's the point of reviews if the author can just take down any they don't like? Amazon emailed me again.
I hope this email finds you well. My name is Mervin from the Communities team.
We encourage reviews on the Amazon.com website, both positive and negative.
As mentioned in the previous correspondence to you, your recent review titled "Bad writing, lies and plagiarism" for "A Minger`s Tale: Beginnings" doesn't comply with our customer reviews guidelines. Specifically, your comments were spiteful towards the author of the book.
I understand you're upset and I regret that we haven't been able to address your concerns to your satisfaction. We won't be able to provide further insight or assistance about this matter.
Please take a look at our Review Guidelines for information about acceptable review content:
I hope this helps!
Best regards,
Mervin V.
Now I checked, spitefulness is not against the rules they helpfully linked for me, and in any case my review was not spiteful. I don't think Mervin knows what "spiteful" even means. And contrary to what he says here, the original email did not state which review it was that had apparently failed to comply with their guidelines, so he's wrong on at least two counts.

I contacted them again, but true to their word they did not respond to provide further insight or assistance. As has been my experience with Amazon's customer service on the whole, if it's something they can fix easily (like a refund for an accidentally purchased ebook) then they're quick, pleasant and efficient, but if it's something unusual then they're slow and obtuse. And frequently contradict each other and their own documents and policies. It's like they share staff with Centrelink.

I decided not to write this post back then (in February) because I wanted to see if "Mr Bookmark" or his publisher would go after my Goodreads review as well, but if they did then nothing came of it. And then the other day I was sent another book to review by a different publisher. I posted my review of it to both Goodreads and Amazon, and while I was at it I copied a few of my other Goodreads reviews to Amazon, as I sometimes do. And this once again brought me into conflict with Amazon's review guidelines.

This time the review was rejected immediately (and I assume) automatically. It turns out that although Amazon has no problem listing products with words like "fuck" or "faggot" in the title, you can't use those words in review. Even if you're directly quoting the product and you obfuscate it with asterisks - the book I agreed to review contains the phrase "capitulating to faggotry" and I couldn't let that pass without comment. I initially wrote it in full, but then tried resubmitting with some of the letters starred out and both were summarily rejected.

So let's get this straight. You can write a book called "Sissy Slut Slavery: forced feminine faggot" and Amazon will happily list and sell it, but if I write a review objecting to an author's derogatory use of the word, that's over the line? In fact, even the word "bullshit" is considered out of line, as I discovered with one of my other reviews. And as far as I can tell, if an author doesn't like your review they just need to complain about it and Amazon will delete it for breaking some imaginary rule.

The weird thing is, Goodreads is owned by Amazon, and yet none of my reviews have been taken down there. I don't know why their policies differ, but I'll be keeping an eye on it to see if they start cracking down. Their rating system already skews high, so an author can get a few people/sockpuppets to post positive reviews/ratings and make themself look good, but they do at least let the negative reviews stand (and even rise to the top if people "like" them).

So I guess all that to say that Amazon has annoyed me and I would recommend neither reading nor writing reviews there. Honestly I'd recommend not shopping there either, but I'm still going to because, despite their shittiness, it takes a lot to trump convenience for me. So do what you want, I guess.

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