Amazon sellers found offering bribes, hounding customers for leaving bad reviews

  • Several Amazon sellers have been pestering customers for negative reviews.
  • They have even offered refunds and bribes to get rid of bad reviews.
  • Sellers aren’t supposed to contact customers outside of Amazon’s platform.

Amazon is still notorious for fake reviews and inflated product ratings, and while the company has tried to clean up its system, it’s not really succeeded in its efforts. A new Wall Street Journal report now highlights how leaving genuine reviews on Amazon has resulted in harassment for many customers.

Citing examples of multiple Amazon buyers, WSJ‘s latest findings show that Amazon sellers have resorted to bribing customers and hounding them incessantly to take down negative reviews. Sellers who ship products through Amazon are not supposed to contact customers directly, but that’s exactly what’s happened with several people.

When New York-based Katherine Scott purchased an oil spray bottle from a third-party Amazon seller, she did so based on around a 1,000 good reviews and 4.5-star ratings. However, the $10 products didn’t work as advertised. A week after she left a negative review about it on Amazon, she received an email from the customer service team of the company that makes the oil spray offering a full refund and asking her to consider taking down her negative Amazon review.

“When we do not receive a response, we will assume that you did not see it, and will continue to send emails,” the message reportedly concluded.

The company didn’t stop there. When Scott asked for a refund but refused to take down the review, another representative reached out to her and declined her request.”A bad review is a fatal blow to us,” read the email. “Could you help me delete the review? If you can, I want to refund $20 to you to express my gratitude.”

Eventually, Scott received multiple other pleas from the company. She reached out to Amazon regarding the pesky emails, but after making several promises about looking into the matter, the company did not get back to her.

WSJ‘s report highlights several other incidents where customers were chased by Amazon sellers and offered more than double their money back to delete negative reviews.

What’s the real problem?

The biggest issue with this practice is that Amazon sellers are not supposed to contact customers outside the platform. Third-party sellers should also not have access to the customers’ email addresses as per Amazon’s policy. Sellers who ship orders themselves get access to customer mailing names and mailing addresses. But for orders fulfilled by Amazon, customer data is supposed to be hidden from sellers and brands.

“We do not share customer email addresses with third-party sellers,” an Amazon spokesman told WSJ. However, the publication points out that there are many ways sellers manage to extract customer data away from Amazon’s watchful gaze.

The report mentions a company that offers email extraction services for Amazon sellers and another that culls email addresses from Amazon reviews for up to $60 a piece.

In the case of Scott, the Amazon listing for the oil spray remained live with all the positive reviews for a long time after her complaints. In fact, Amazon only removed the brand and seller after WSJ reached out to the company about the problem.

How can you protect yourself?

While you might not have complete control over how sellers access your contact information on Amazon, you can try a few things to avoid similar issues after leaving negative reviews for products.

For one, WSJ recommends you don’t use your real name to leave a review on Amazon. You can head to Your Account > Ordering and shopping preferences > Your Amazon Profile to change your public name as it appears on Amazon reviews.

You should also save any communication you receive from Amazon sellers via email or messages so you can forward them to customer care.

If sellers don’t stop pestering you and filling your inbox with requests to remove negative reviews, you can block their email addresses. Most email services offer users the ability to block senders.

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