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The false economy of the Amazon magazine, which once flourished in private groups on Facebook, Reddit and Discord, now has a new home: Facebook ads.
Amazon sellers looking to increase their sales have turned to buying ads on Facebook, touting 'FREE' samples of different products – keto snacks, phone chargers, Halloween toys – in the lead wires. News from users. But the products are not really free. Vendors offer a full refund of products, but only after buyers have left 5-star reviews on Amazon listings. More positive reviews are attracting more sales, making products more legitimate for customers, and also helping sellers acquire eye-catching special distinctions, such as Amazon's Choice in Amazon's hyper-competitive market.
Facebook ads help Amazon sellers adapt and, in some cases, automate their fake review process.
Here's how it works: The ads encourage interested parties to send a private message to businesses. A "Send a message" button at the bottom of the advertisement opens a Facebook Messenger window. There, the seller initiates the transaction.
In recent months, Shawn Smith, a New Jersey-based Amazon customer, has been bombarded with Facebook ads for free products. Smith recently clicked on this one to get a free set of tool bags designed for mechanics. An automatic message appears in a Messenger window: "Would you like to know more about our Canvas Tool zipper bags? Please enter "Yes". "
A few hours later, Anleolife, the page, asked Smith he would write a review with photos or a video in exchange for the free article. But first, the seller needed a screenshot of his Amazon profile, to verify that he was a customer who had already written reviews.
The page assured Smith that the refund would come after the publication of the review, but that taxes and PayPal fees would not be covered. Smith accepted the offer and said that the bags matched his expectations. But, he warned, "I usually take all the criticism with a grain of salt if they are too enthusiastic about something as simple as a memory card or canvas bag. "
Some Amazon sellers use a chatbot to automate the entire interaction. "Hi, thanks for your interest!", Responds to a Facebook page, named VPOW GE. "Do you want to test our FREE laptop breathalyzer?sic) The actual cost is $ 33.99, but it is now free for testing in a limited time! (If yes, simply click the "yes" button under the image to continue.) "
Each of the questions on the page was followed by clickable "yes" and "no" buttons. Do you have Amazon and PayPal accounts? Yes. Can you leave a comment a week after receiving the package? Yes. Confirm that your first review was published before June 1, 2019. Yes, confirmed.
The page then offers a set of detailed instructions. Search for a particular keyword, search for the WEIO brand name, add the product to your Amazon wish list, and order the product. Make sure you do not use a gift card. Half of the refund will be issued within 24 hours of receipt. The other half will arrive after sending a screenshot of your comment. But be sure to wait a week before reviewing.
"Do not push it for the security of your account," the chatbot warned, referring to how Amazon can flag a hasty comment as inauthentic.
The product list has an average rating of 4.5 stars and 303 reviews, of which 256 are 5 stars. A recent opinion, the breathalyzer is "a complete junk", while another said, "It's great!". It is unclear how many of these reviews were directed to the site by the Facebook chatbot.
Inauthentic positive reviews not only benefit third-party sellers, who order them for higher sales, and Amazon, which generates revenue. Facebook also benefits from the false economy of criticism: according to WordStream, advisor online advertising, the average cost per click on Facebook for the retail sector is 70 cents.
On Facebook, sellers can escape the detection of Amazon. Paying or offering a free product to customers to leave notices violates the company's rules. But since genuine Amazon customers are welcome to buy the products and wait for some time before evaluating the product, the review seems authentic.
After BuzzFeed News reported the breathalyzer ad to Facebook, the company removed it without specifying the policy violated by the advertisement. "We would still need to review any particular advertising in relation to our policies," said a spokesman for the company.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for Amazon said: "Any attempt to manipulate customer comments is strictly prohibited." In 2018, Amazon spent more than $ 400 million to combat reprehensible conduct, such as notices and frauds, and asked social media sites like Facebook to remove hundreds of incentives. review groups, according to the spokesperson. "We suspend, ban and prosecute those who violate our policies," they added.
While the ad is no longer online, the WEIO breathalyzer is still sold on Amazon and, as of the date of publication, it is recommended as "Amazon's Choice" ".
Did an Amazon seller prompt you to leave a 5-star rating? Contact this reporter with information or tips by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another customer of Amazon, Peter, who is not his real name, has ordered a handful of items via Facebook ads, mostly USB cables and chargers. More recently, he subscribed to a free solar charger in exchange for his positive comment. The product's Facebook advertising campaign has been running since September 30th.
The seller of Amazon, who runs the Fun Corner Facebook page, urged Peter to trust the PayPal refund. "There is no reason or good for us to mislead our testers because our products are all made by Amazon," the seller wrote in Messenger.
The product is listed on Amazon under the brand name "Panergy" and sold by a vendor named "Tenderwave". The disparate names – for advertising, the brand, the seller – make it difficult to determine who sells the advertisement and the product.
At the time of this story's release, the charger had seven 5-star ratings, all written in the last two weeks, when the Facebook ad was posted.
An Amazon spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that, last month, 99% of reviews read by customers were genuine and that the company was using a machine learning software to analyze reviews. and delete what they detected as unauthentic opinions. "Last year, we prevented more than 13 million attempts to abandon an inauthentic analysis and we acted against more than 5 million repugnant gambling accounts trying to manipulate the ratings," he said. she added.
Although Amazon may be more and more likely to intercept inauthentic opinions on its own platform, it is not equipped to catch scammers outside of it. In response to last week's story, readers have submitted six different Facebook ads to BuzzFeed News which, they say, are being published by Amazon sellers looking to give gifts for 5-star reviews. Facebook and Amazon did not immediately comment on these specific cases.