On “Free Stuff” for Amazon Reviewers

Amazon is facing a fair amount of outrage right now as a result of this NPR story exposing the fact that many Amazon “Top Reviewers” receive free products to be reviewed.

This is, of course, how most every product has been reviewed, always, since the dawn of reviews. Movie reviewers don’t pay to see movies, book reviewers get free copies, the folks at CNET and Wired are sent free computers and cell phones, the Penny Arcade guys get free video games, etc.

When you are a respected reviewer customers trust, manufacturers and retailers want you to review their products. Hence free stuff.

Now sure, the Amazon model is significantly different. I assume few, if any, Amazon consumers seek out reviews by particular authors. I can see a benefit for the sellers, however, if there are certain reviewers who can be relied upon to write thoughtful, comprehensive, and unbiased reviews—rather than the all-too-common “Box was dented. One star.” or “I didn’t buy this, but Apple is better than Microsoft” reviews that flood Amazon.

I guess if most people didn’t know this, I can see where the surprise comes from. But outrage? When the NFL is still a non-profit organization exempt from taxation, the level of outrage directed at Amazon for doing something that’s standard for the industry seems misplaced.

If it makes everyone feel better, those reviewers will have to declare all the free stuff to the IRS as income.


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