Home » Reviews » Do Consumer Reviews Have A Future? Why Amazon’s Sock Puppet Scandal Is Bigger Than It Appears

Do Consumer Reviews Have A Future? Why Amazon’s Sock Puppet Scandal Is Bigger Than It Appears

12 September 2012

A survey of the wide range of discussions about sock puppet reviews on Amazon from David Vinjamuri on Forbes:

A huge controversy has erupted over the use of “Sock Puppets” – fake personas created by authors – to write phony positive reviews of their own work and attack their rivals.

. . . .

As with any debate between writers, contrary views have sprung up.  On his blog, bestselling author JA Konrath used a seductive variant of moral relativism to pen his own version of “The Writer’s Code of Ethics.” Konrath makes the case that ethics is a slippery slope and that punishing Ellory, Leather & Locke was patently unfair because every author is complicit in his own way.

On the face of it, the slippery slope argument is compelling. All authors areguilty in some way of stirring the pot to get good reviews.  Even something as innocent as posting news of the publication of your new novel on your personal Facebook page can be construed as an attempt to get people who already like you to write less than perfectly honest reviews.

But that’s where moral relativism runs out of steam.  There’s a big difference between friends being overly enthusiastic and authors creating or purchasing outright fraudulent reviews.  Amazon’s review creation guidelines explicitly state that the following two types of reviews are not allowed on the site:

  1. Sentiments by or on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product (including reviews by publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product)
  2. Reviews written for any form of compensation other than a free copy of the product. This includes reviews that are a part of a paid publicity package

. . . .

Consider this from Conor Pope, writing for The Irish Times:

Internal communication seen by The Irish Times indicates that the Carlton Hotel Group encouraged dozens of employees and other nominees to post positive reviews of the chain’s 10 hotels to TripAdvisor.

According to the email, sent to at least 29 employees in the summer of 2010 and copied to the hotel group’s directors, the group wanted “a more pro-active management of the reviews on Trip Advisor” and it said a plan had been agreed which would see managers nominate five people from each hotel to post fake reviews.

That’s right, a prominent hotel chain conspired to subvert the review system on TripAdvisor.

. . . .


Writing for The Seattle Times, Ray Fisman points out that

when Amazon’s Canadian site accidentally revealed the identities of anonymous book reviewers in 2004, it became apparent that many reviews came from publishers and from the authors themselves

In the same article, Fisman details work done by a trio of academics from Yale, Dartmouth and USC who were able to show that TripAdvisor (where reviews can be posted anonymously or under a fictional name) was much more susceptible to fraudulent reviews than Expedia – where only travelers who have made a hotel booking through the site can review.

. . . .

It’s become clear to me in the past few weeks how difficult finding that line can be in practice.  Three weeks ago, I self-published my first novel.  A writer subsequently contacted me suggesting that we read and review each other’s books.  As it happened, this writer was someone I was already aware of.   I read the online sample of his book before I agreed to review his book, as he did with mine. Finally, we both agreed to purchase each other’s books and to write honest reviews using our real names.

Here’s where it gets complicated: I found myself wanting to please this guy.  Fortunately, I really liked his novel, but it could easily have gone the other way.  I was certainly a friendlier audience for his novel than the average reader.  So I’ve decided that I’m not going to do this again.  That’s my personal line in the sand. But Granny can still review my book as long as she buys it and uses her real name.

Link to the rest at Forbes


43 Comments to “Do Consumer Reviews Have A Future? Why Amazon’s Sock Puppet Scandal Is Bigger Than It Appears”

  1. I read Joe Konrath’s post and felt his real point was lost in the wider argument about the review system. He was criticizing authors who joined a group (mob, he said) to single out, by name, other authors.

    The enthusiasm to join a community that made a show of punishing or embarrassing other authors–again, individuals by name–was worse than whatever those authors did (and here he digressed to shrug his shoulders about the review scandal, which outraged his critics yet again.)

    He pointed out that for all his loud-mouthed obnoxiousness, the only author he has ever singled out is the head of the Author’s Guild, and that was because of he was hurting other writers.

    As for the review scandal… Many authors are doing things I would never do… and sometimes… I think I have the sales to show for it. 😛

    • If those authors are proven to have gamed the review system, why shouldn’t they be ‘singled out’? I haven’t gamed the review system, why should I be tarred with the same brush?

      • Edward, I’m not sure that singling out the guilty for further censure will benefit your writing career. Well, at least I’m pretty sure it has no potential to benefit mine.

        And I do see a difference between paying for reviews (Kirkus and PW sell reviews and don’t bother to conceal the fact), creating a sockpuppet to comment favorably on your reviews, and creating one to trash other authors. In no case do I think much harm was done, and in only one case do I think harm was intended.

        All three authors (among how many who have done similar things? Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands?) have been publicly tarred with the same “gaming the system” brush as though there were no difference between those three acts.

        So that happened. I can’t find any harm to me that they did what they did, nor any benefit to me from their public shaming.

      • My personal opinion is that the punishment has been out of proportion to the offense.

        I’m speaking as a rather private, shy person who has trouble reaching out on social media as it is. Being strung up and isolated online as a bad example to others would devastate me. I paid for BookRooster (where they distribute your book to readers in exchange for a review) and some consider this unethical. In reality, it netted me my worst reviews to date, but some call this gaming the system. At the time, I was just a new author desperate to get my work read. Which brush should I be tarred with? The Good Brush or the Bad Brush? And just how many brushes are there?

        Okay. Back to my WIP.

        • Gretchen

          As a BookRooster (and NetGalley) reviewer, I’ve no problem with services like these. I feel they give me enough arms-length distance from the author that I can give honest reviews. The down side of this for the author, as you found out, is that honest does not always equal glowing.

          Even soliciting reviews from bloggers is fine, as long as the author understands that they are requesting an honest review, not a five-star review.

          These practices aren’t the problem: as the OP points out, it’s the reivew-swapping and outright purchasing of reviews that distort and introduce distrust into the system.

          • Yes. I still think a service like BookRooster is fine, precisely because of that distance between reader and author. And the not-glowing 3-star reviews I received were fine, actually–but did have the tone of people who didn’t usually enjoy the genre (romance) but were choking one down for the team 🙂

  2. So, before addressing this issue, I have to note that:

    Hey! This guy quotes Seely from this blog in this article!!!!


    Yay, Seely!! 🙂 Yay, PG’s Blog!! 🙂

    And not to take away from my happiness for Seely or PG…..but…..I couldn’t help noticing that I wasn’t quoted. Why wasn’t I quoted? I want to be quoted too. What do I need to do to be quoted?

    I probably should comment more. I’m probably not commenting enough.

    So, in terms of this article, I think I may not be quoted – again – because I don’t agree with it exactly. Yes, dishonest reviews are not a good thing, and he makes a good argument,with good supporting data and a good exploration. However, I continue to think the damage is minimal.

    And I really don’t agree with how the author handles the moral relatism issue. He basically says that moral relativism runs out of steam because of Amazon’s guidelines? I’m sorry, I adore Amazon, but they are not the arbitrator of morality in modern culture. So, I didn’t find that argument compelling.

    But it was cool to see Seely quoted! 🙂

  3. “All authors areguilty in some way of stirring the pot to get good reviews.”

    …and that sentiment is where I have the largest problem. We all get painted with that brush. True, soliciting reviews from bloggers, and even putting links to review sites in the ebooks, can be construed as seeking “positive” reviews. Those things are nowhere NEAR paying cash for reviews. Neither is offering bloggers and reviewers free copies of ebooks.

    Yet, it looks like “gaming the system” is common practice among indie and self pubbed authors. Honestly, it may be common, but there are plenty of us who draw the line wayyyy before paying for reviews, using fake accounts, and bombarding competitors with bad reviews.

    Is giving away a free copy “gaming the system?” If it is, then point a finger at traditional publishers who have been sending review copies to “professional” reviewers for ages.

    With that being said, I am not participating in the “witch hunt” either. I agree that these things take on a life of their own and, almost without fail, end up causing harm. I agree that the mob mentality of such things makes it predictable. So, I won’t be part of it on that scale.

    I do, however, reserve the right to be ticked off at those mentioned for their antics. Those antics are not cute, not without consequence for others, and not above reproach.


  4. For what it’s worth, the main point I took from J.A. Konrath’s post was that the sanctimoniousness over authors getting caught “behaving badly” has gotten ridiculous in recent months.

    It does make me wonder how much fighting a writer will have to engage in to try to protect himself against accusations of doing something underhanded. I see a site like this —


    — and it seems like a perfectly reasonable site for a newly published author to take advantage of, yet I half expect to hear somebody call it a place where an author “buys reviews” and condemn authors who take advantage of services like this. You never really know what’s going to set some people off.

  5. Agree with Gretchen.

    This post seriously mischaracterizes Konrath’s post. And he’s actually making, in some cases, the exact same points that Konrath did.

    IMHO: Amazon gets to choose what it allows and what it doesn’t and what it enforces. And how it enforces. If Amazon creates and maintains a game-able system, then people will game it. But in the end, that’s Amazon’s business.

    What I get from Konrath is my own feeling about a lot of knee-jerk reactions from the writing community: there’s a lot of immaturity out there. It causes people to do stupid things. Those stupid things include fake reviews and backstabbing…. and a poisonous excess of righteous indignation.

    Righteous indignation never did anyone any good. It doesn’t help fix anything that’s wrong, and it makes people lose focus and do things they would never ever do otherwise.

    To remind people that vigilante behavior is every bit as immoral and irrational as any breech of ethics (if not more so) is NOT moral relativism. It’s actually taking a strong stand for a more absolute moral code.

    • While I can’t agree that “Righteous indignation never did anyone any good”, I do agree that a mob mentality is at work here, and that is never a good thing.

      These writers so fervent in their crusade should study a little history. In 1819, Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” was rejected by every publisher she sent it to, even publishers who had published her previous work. So her husband Percy Shelley took fifty pounds and the manuscript to a printer and had copies printed up (self-publishing). He then paid/cajoled various writers of his acquaintance to write favorable reviews of it (buying reviews) and even wrote one or two himself under other names (sockpuppetry).

      So what? I mean, really, SO WHAT?? “Frankenstein” is a great novel, and has never been out of print. Those reviews got it noticed, but in the long run it was the story that earned the novel lasting fame. And in the long run, this tempest in a cracked teapot will amount to nothing more than a footnote on a literary thesis.

      “…there’s a lot of immaturity out there.” Too right. And one of its worst manifestations is the impetus to lynch-mob behavior.

  6. Mira, thanks for pointing out the quote. I would have otherwise skipped reading the article in full. It appears to be more of the same “sock-puppets are bad”. To put my response in as eloquently as possible, yeah. Duh.

    We need a solution, not more recognition of the problem. Since the big mags aren’t putting one forward. I’ll get to work on that.

    Peace, Seeley

  7. Why is this even an issue? People with a product to hawk (companies and individuals) have been doing this FOREVER. Publishers, for example, have paid for reviews, had other big-name writers craft glowing blurbs without ever having read the book, and otherwise “gamed the system” in every way possible. Now it’s a scandal?

    • I also tend to regard cover blurbs solicited by trad publishers as falling into the same category as Amazon reviews from people who haven’t read the book, Dan.

  8. As a reader and not an author there is part of me that cringes when I hear anyone say that they think the damage is minimal.

    The authors in question are specifically trying to dupe readers into buying their book. Is that really the way to build a loyal readership? Is that the way to get your readers to trust you?
    You may as well make an infomercial for the book and pay some actors to come on and talk about how life changing the book is for them.

    Ask the folks who bought Locke’s book on how he sold 1 million e-books how they feel that he never mentioned the whole buying reviews portion of his strategy? If Locke did not think the practice was questionable then why omit it from the book? Do these readers still trust him?

    I am not for witch hunts in the slightest but nobody has yet shown me that the No Sock Puppets campaign is a witch hunt. They mention 3 names that had already been revealed elsewhere and made no pledge that I saw to hunt down any other offenders.

    • “As a reader and not an author there is part of me that cringes when I hear anyone say that they think the damage is minimal.”

      But damaging to whom? The authors, maybe, if they get caught (which you point out).

      Readers have everything they need to avoid getting duped by reviews, and it’s called the sample. If they buy based on nothing but reviews, it’s their mistake.

      • So in other words we throw user reviews out completely. Just treat them like paid advertising?

        Also, I have read a number of times people state that they have read samples that were good but the part after the sample is rubbish. Maybe the author has a good premise they set up in the first chapter that they can just never deliver on.

        • No, we shouldn’t disregard reviews completely. But, most of the time, it’s pretty easy to tell between the books with honest reviews and those with a legion of sock puppets.

          Also, every person who’s ever purchased a book has run the risk of the story falling off of a cliff at some point. That’s not a new problem.

      • Readers have everything they need to avoid getting duped by reviews, and it’s called the sample. If they buy based on nothing but reviews, it’s their mistake.

        Before Amazon added the ‘look inside’ feature I bought many trade-published books from Amazon based solely on reviews, because I knew that it would at least be competently written.

        If you let people game the review system, you might as well eliminate it. Then indie writers are screwed, because readers will have to look for a publisher name to show them that the book is at least competently written.

        Am I the only one who hates the ‘blame the victim’ message here? ‘Readers are dumb if they believe anything anyone says about a book’?

        • “Am I the only one who hates the ‘blame the victim’ message here? ‘Readers are dumb if they believe anything anyone says about a book’?”

          You hate that mentality probably about as much as I hate the “Readers bear no responsibiltiy whatsoever for their purchases” one. 😀

  9. Not a lawyer, but isn’t some of this actually illegal?

    From an FTC press release about the FTC Endorsement Guides:

    “The revised Guides also add new examples to illustrate the long standing principle that “material connections” (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers – connections that consumers would not expect – must be disclosed. These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other “word-of-mouth” marketers.”


  10. The authors in question are specifically trying to dupe readers into buying their book.

    Um, that’s called marketing. Lots of products do it every day.

    Frankly, this whole kerfluffle baffles me. Reading is far more subjective than, say, one brand of deodorant making wild claims and using celebrity endorsements. Does anyone really think Greg Jennings of the Green Bay Packers thinks Old Spice really makes you feel like you’re in a movie about your own life? (They have seriously weird commecials these days…)

    So maybe all those people really do think that book is awesome. Maybe they don’t. But that doesn’t mean the person reading the review will agree with one party or the other. The reader will decide that. And they will decide it after reading the book. The review is basically an advertisement for the book. A reader review is just advertisement you don’t pay for–unless you do. And then it’s different from any other sort of “man-on-the-street” endorsement how? No different, that’s how.

    I think readers are smart enough to not be fooled. Or at least, not more than once. Besides, again, the enjoyment of the product in question is completely subjective. If they don’t like the product, they won’t buy it (or related products) again. I find this no different from trying any new line of products.

    Myself, I look at the 1, 2, and 3 star reviews of products I am interested in. (Regardless of whether I’m buying a new book or a new phone.) It’s usually pretty easy to weed out the people who just flat out bought the wrong product, and those with an axe to grind, which leaves people who are probably listing things they actually thought about the product. And if the phone I’m looking at has a number of reviews complaining about calls being dropped, I’m going to look at that phone differently than one that has even more reviews complaining about the voicemail not being very good. I don’t care about the voicemail. I do care about my calls not being dropped.

    Similarly, if I look at a book and I see reviews complaining about giant plot holes, I will look at that book differently than reviews complaining about the characters being unlikeable. I don’t mind unlikeable characters. Other people do. C’est la vie.

    Honestly, after an hour or so of reading reviews, any reviews, it becomes fairly easy to figure out which reviews are genuine. Or which at least have information that pertains to what I’m looking for in a product.

    (And before anyone asks, the significant lack of reviews on my products should make it clear I don’t pay for reviews myself. I’m cheap that way.)

    • Thanks for saying all this; I feel the same way. It’s like reading restaurant reviews on Yelp. You know a bunch are astroturfed, but scanning the complaints rounds out the picture.

      Books are a tiny piece of the reviewed pie. Other industries have had the same growing pains. The only solution is more reader reviews, not fewer. Perhaps the end result of this is the opposite of what the Forbes writer in the post fears–not an end of the consumer review system, but a call to arms for more (genuine) ones.

      • Exactly.

        As an example, I have exactly two reviews of my novel Scent and Shadow at Barnes & Noble. No idea who left either of them. One is a two-star review and one is a four-star review. I could not have paid for a better pair of reviews, IMHO, because they are perfect for narrowing down who should and should not buy my book:

        4: A unique read. This unique book was hard to put down. Moves somthing deep down inside.

        2: Not what I expected. This book was hard for me to get into because the main characters are not likable. The girl in the story becomes a killer and seems to relish her lost humanity by the end. Not bad writing, just unlikable characters and an uninteresting plot.

        I love both those reviews (not that I agree with the “uninteresting plot” part, but hey, subjective) because it doesn’t matter how many 5-star reviews someone piles on that: read those two, and you will have a good idea of whether or not that book is for you.

        As long as real consumers keep leaving reviews, and review readers are a little savvy and skeptical, the system will work.

    • Somehow I just can’t bring myself to categorize an author posting a review of his own work under a fake name as “Marketing”.

      • I think you have a much more, um, charitable let’s say, view of marketing than I do. 😉

        I once had a character (in a deleted scene, drat it all) describe marketing as “manipulating other people’s desires for a living.”

        • You are probably correct. I am not naive. I know how these things work and nothing in this situation surprises me or even angers me that much. That does not stop me from wishing the system worked more how it was intended to work.

          I have stated more than once, including on Barry’s blog, that I think the whole situation has been blown out of proportion.

  11. Found out in a comment on my own blog that, by coincidence, your comment about blurbs came out on the same day as my post announcing that I have chosen never to write them again. Even though I always wrote them honestly. But the whole system is feeling so broken now that I don’t want to have any part in it. My thoughts: http://www.catherineryanhyde.com/blog/2012/9/12/the-blurb-and-me.html

  12. I think this piece is helpful when it points out hotel chains and other services purchase reviews too. I saw a statistic from a data mining expert who said almost half of all online reviews are fake. This isn’t to condone the practice, but as writers, we need to realize this tempest isn’t confined to our own particular tea pot.

    Recently I needed a plumber and the three I’d used before didn’t answer their phones. So I went online and looked at plumbers in my area with good reviews. One had several. One review said “He answers his own phone.” You bet I called him. He answered, came right over, fixed my sink, and charged a reasonable price–all within two hours. I said I’d called him because of his great reviews. He grinned. “Wow. It works. My wife talked me into it. You pay them to write you some reviews. We got to tell them what to say.”

    My conclusion–yes, the review worked. Was it cheating? Sort of. But for him, it was well-targeted, inexpensive advertising. Since he performed as advertised, we both benefited. So was he really unethical? That, as Konrath would say, is a slippery slope…

  13. If I am trying to sell you something, and I engage in a campaign to make material misrepresentations about the quality of the product, I am engaging in consumer fraud. A deceptive trade practice.

    A fake review that purports to praise the quality of writing, for instance, when the product is so fraught with errors that it ruins the reading experience, is a material misrepresentation – especially if the reviewer has not read the book.

    Saying (in effect) “all advertising is some form of consumer fraud” might be more correct than false (as cynical as it is), but that doesn’t make it right.

    Three card monty is a harmless table game, right?

    • “Three card monty is a harmless table game, right?”

      Actually…yes. Feel free to entertain yourself to your heart’s delight with it, if you want to spend your money that way.

      Meanwhile, fake, or paid-for, reviews are just stupid because reviews rank WAY down the list of things that prompt consumers to buy books, as shown by study after study. These guys gamed the system? Whatever. If they did, they wasted their time and money, not someone else’s. So who cares?

      The three guys who have gotten pilloried (by a bunch of other writers…and who the hell cares what a bunch of writers think?) did NOT sell a ton of books because of reviews: real, paid-for, fake, or otherwise. They sold a bunch of books because they wrote damn good books.

      If a dude writes an awful book and gets a fake review saying it’s awesome, he’s still not going to sell many copies at all, because his book sucks. So the only person he’s hurt is himself, by wasting the time and/or money on the fake reviews.

      And no, it’s not consumer fraud because…consumers aren’t harmed in any way if they get a book they don’t like, or don’t think is up to their literary standards (whatever the hell that means). Especially in this day and age when they can…just return it to the ebook retailer they bought it from and get a refund, no questions asked.

      So, given that….where is the harm exactly? No where. Ok then why the outrage? If the perps derived no benefit and no one was harmed…

      This smells more of sour grapes than anything else. Perhaps some people are pissed they didn’t think of it first?

      At best, it’s much ado about nothing. It is CERTAINLY not worth the energy and time that’s been wasted over it.

      Seriously people, don’t worry yourself over how the jackass next to you runs his business. Worry about how YOU run yours.

    • That’s pretty hard to make stick to something that is completely subjective. Have you ever looked at “Fifty Shades of Grey?” How anyone can praise a book written that poorly is beyond my comprehension, and yet there are millions of people who do.

      At any rate, saying a product cures acne when it doesn’t is fraud. Consumers rely on other entities (studies, government regs, doctor’s advice, etc.) to give them the necessary info, because there’s no reasonable way they can judge for themselves.

      Saying something as subjective as “X is great! I loved the story and characters!” even though you may disagree hardly constitutes fraud, even if they haven’t read it. Readers are entirely capable of making that choice for themselves.

  14. It’s hard to overlook the fact that amidst all of these apologies (by those who got caught) no one has offered to go remove the slanderous reviews they posted in an effort to destroy the writers they considered “competition.”

    Is it just me, or is that just about as low as a person can get? We can argue semantics and slippery slopes all day long, but is there anyone who can defend the act of posting negative sock-puppet reviews to destroy competition?

    • Magdalena Kaliszewska

      My thought exactly! Posting glowing reviews is one thing, but smearing the “competition” is a cheap trick, sorry.

      • Agreed. I have no problem with people giving an honest poor review. But deliberatly sabotaging someone else is dirty pool. Although those are, like the glowing reviews, usually fairly easy to spot by the savvy review reader.

  15. “And no, it’s not consumer fraud because…consumers aren’t harmed in any way if they get a book they don’t like, or don’t think is up to their literary standards (whatever the hell that means). Especially in this day and age when they can…just return it to the ebook retailer they bought it from and get a refund, no questions asked.

    So, given that….where is the harm exactly? No where. Ok then why the outrage? If the perps derived no benefit and no one was harmed…”

    But the reader has been robbed, and of their most valuable commodity, their time. The time spent reading the phony reviews led to more time (and cash)spent buying the book, and then more time reading the book until it was determined to be misrepresented, and then more time spent returning it. If they bought a hardcover do they get their shipping cost back? I don’t think so. This is time they will never get back. Time they could have put toward writing or reading another book.

  16. I still say this is fraud with a capital F. Dont waste my time.People are being sued because they chose to do these things, so obviously someone feels they were damaged. I think that the practise needs to be highlighted whenever it is discovered. If people arent called out when they do something wrong, legal or not, then the practice will continue.

    And I think that’s bad for all of us.

    I disagree with Barry and Joe on this and that’s a rare thing for me, but I just can’t get my head around their train-of-thought. Instead of beating a dead horse on the blogs I chose to just add a page to my website that spells out my thoughts on Blurbs, Reviews, and FanFiction. That way everyone knows where I stand and I am bound by what I wrote. Easy solution, and it allows me to get back to writing.

    And that’s all I got to say about that.

    16 CFR Part 255§ 255.5 Disclosure of material connections.
    When there exists a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product that
    might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement (i.e., the connection is not
    reasonably expected by the audience), such connection must be fully disclosed.

    1) Legacy Learning Systems, Inc., a company that sells guitar-lesson DVDs, agreed to pay $250,000 to settle FTC charges that it deceptively advertised its products through online affiliate marketers who falsely posed as ordinary consumers or independent reviewers.

    2) Reverb Communications in 2010 agreed to pay $250,000 to settle FTC charges that it engaged in deceptive advertising by having employees pose as ordinary consumers posting game reviews at the iTunes store, and not disclosing that the reviews came from paid employees working on behalf of the developers.

    These are to the two big actions by the FTC of which I am aware. It does not mean the FTC will investigate every author who sockpuppets reviews– they usually respond to complaints by consumers, but it clearly shows this is not an accepted practice and people who engage in it, as far as I am concerned, can take their lumps publicly.

    • This is a good point, probably the only really tight arguement I’ve seen so far. But then, I’m lawful-neutral. 😉

      Author/reviewers apparently need to figure out a way to do the tiny print that commercial advertisers have at the bottom of the screen to cover their rears. Although, “I received compensation for this review” would make things interesting, no? Because if everyone did it, would it become so ubiquitous that no one would notice it anymore? Certainly no one would bat an eye at Kirkus being paid for reviews, for example.

  18. So, I get an email from Kiehl’s today (Kiehl’s makes personal care products, which I love, BTW), which announces a giveaway of a year’s worth of their products to the person who is the ‘top contender’ in leaving reviews on their products. This shows that reviews are a valuable commodity for all products, not just books, whether they’re genuine or not. I was turned off enough not to consider leaving a review of any sort, but not turned off enough to no longer buy their products.

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