This week, Amazon removed products from RavPower, an online manufacturer of electronic chargers and backup batteries, citing violations of its review policy. RavPower was accused of offering customers gift cards for those leaving positive reviews of its products. Enclosed with the product was a card with instructions to submit their review once it appeared on Amazon in exchange for an Amazon gift card of $35.
Amazon’s action was the result of an investigation by the Wall Street Journal, in which it found the practice of rewarding reviewers to be widespread among many of Amazon resellers and cited RavPower as one of the better-known examples. While prohibiting gifts for reviews has been a long-standing policy of Amazon, most anyone that’s made a purchase over the years has likely gotten similar incentives. Amazon has clearly been aware of this going on for years, but never chose to enforce it.
(As an aside, RavPower products are generally excellent. I’ve bought a number of them including this 252.7Wh/70200mAh Power Station (cover photo) that’s capable of charging a MacBook two times. Their products are still available from their own site here)
One of the similarities of many of today’s large tech companies is their inability to anticipate the consequences of what they build. Facebook is notorious for building a product that was originally designed to connect advertisers will potential buyers, that was then used to connect voters with fake news stories. Years later they are still resisting common sense solutions to weed out the bad stuff, such as still using low-wage contractors rather than their own employees to manage the content. You can understand that some companies may miss all the ways their product can be abused by unscrupulous actors, but there’s little excuse when it occurs for years with little action taken.
Similarly, Amazon has built an amazing storefront to sell merchandise from tens of thousands of suppliers, but has failed to address some of the most predictable of consequences. Provide ratings for products? Then do a better job of vetting them. Selling merchandise without authorization of the brand owner? Ban the sellers. Surely, they could have anticipated fake reviews, knockoff merchandise, and unscrupulous sellers. Yet years after these problems first arose they still have not been adequately addressed.
These companies have some of the smartest people in industry that could easily predict what would happen, yet time after time have failed to prevent the abuses. You have to believe that either they don’t care or are incredibly naive.