I Was Asked to Post a Fake Amazon Review

Long Nose
I’m currently unemployed, so like most people without a job, I wake up each morning, grab my laptop, plop down on the toilet, and trawl through bookmarked job sites. Sometimes I’ll remember to pee.

Either way, my day begins with a lot of shit. The job postings, I mean.

There is so much that is so wrong with how most companies throw together employment ads. You can imagine some HR woman—of course it’s a woman!—writing an ad, struggling to find the right words for the 14th bullet point. After staring at her screen for an hour, it finally hits her! Her normally abnormally pursed lips broaden into a wide smile; her eyes dance in delight. “You go, girl!” she whispers to herself, flinging back her hair as if in a Pantene commercial, and feverishly taps those keys:

  • Must be proficient in Microsoft Word

I feel bad for her, and her employer, but mainly, I feel bad for myself. No one should have to start a day this way.

I recently stumbled upon this bullet-less Craigslist ad, which began:

Are you a writer with intermediate to advanced writing skills?

You know it! I have a blog!

Can you convey your thoughts about the positive aspects of a consumer product?

I’m a miserable person who feigns happiness daily. Sure!

If you answered yes, you are a perfect candidate for a task that can be repeated unlimited times as opportunities surface. Our marketing agency handles online reputation for many large brands offering consumer goods. If you feel comfortable writing about products on consumer shopping portals, please contact us for more information. Most work takes less than 15 minutes to complete and pay is up to $30. Must have a Paypal account to accept payment.

I already had my suspicions, but I figured, what the hell? I fired off an enthusiastic email highlighting my commitment to potentially earning $120/hour creating great copy.

Here was the reply: 

Hello Vadim, This task is fairly simple. We’re a marketing firm representing many brands in the health & wellness sector.  We have a growing client that has lab-tested anti aging products gaining recognition for their ability to treat many signs of aging.  They are really “catching up” to the big brands out there and really doing amazing things! This task requires you to have an Amazon.com account.  We’re looking for people to post reviews on Amazon.com at the moment. The pay is $30, paid via PayPal. Let me know if you are still interested and if you are able to complete this task today and I’ll send you the exact details.

Oh no they di-in’t! And I would do many things for love of money, but I won’t do that.

Still, I played along to see exactly what that would entail, replying, “Thanks for writing back. I do have an Amazon account. And sure, please send me the details.” Looking back, my last sentence seems to imply that I’d do the work. But believe me, I wasn’t about to compromise my morals for thirty bucks. For an unlimited MetroCard, maybe. Anyway, I got this back:

We are in need of a review that is at least 50-200 words describing the product (based on the description provided) and an example or two of how this product helped you to feel younger or gave you better skin, why you chose this product over others and how you feel it compares to others.  Ultimately, it will be a 5 Star rating once posted, but for now you can simply email me your rough draft for approval.  Upon approval I will provide you with final instruction. Please be sure that this review is written with “real” emotion.  We don’t want an over the top, over exaggerated review.  It’s ok to include pros and cons.  Please refrain from using words like miracle, amazing, etc.  Just write as if you were telling your friend about the product.

Here’s the product’s Amazon page: Bellapulse® Complete Facial Cleansing System – Advanced Pulsar Technology Microdermabrasion Wand – 4 Brushes -BONUS OFFER: Includes the 60-Day ExfoliatingCleanser Set ★LIMITED TIME SPECIAL PRICE★

BellapulseI’m uncomfortable posting a review for a product I haven’t tried, I replied and then asked, “If the product is so terrific, and I’m not implying it is not”—who are we kidding? I wouldn’t buy this crap even as a gag gift—“why not let positive reviews come naturally?” At $24.99, marked down from $229.95, this is some steal!

I added: “I see that this product has 40 5-star reviews already, eight of which were posted in one day. That’s quite a feat, especially given how excited the reviewers sound. Are these postings that you solicited?” I’d be surprised if any are legit.

Sadly, that’s where the conversation ended.

Shame on this self-proclaimed marketer for paying for deception. I wonder if SkinPro, the manufacturer, knows of, encouraged, or conceived such chicanery. As far as I can tell, the ad itself doesn’t violate Craigslist rules. I did, however, notify Amazon, given that the company’s guidelines prohibit reviews “written for any form of compensation other than a free copy of the product,” as well as solicitations for helpful votes.

Look, I get it. It’s tough being a writer. The only steady work I have is this blog, and you know how much that pays. I’m constantly hustling for assignments. When people ask if my lifestyle has changed now that I’m out of work, I reply, “Yes, I’m now working longer and harder than ever.”

The problem is that these days, every company wants content, but none want to pay enough for it. For someone fighting to earn a decent wage, especially freelance writing, $30 for 15 minutes is not a bad gig—except when it is. And while $30 may be the going rate to buy the souls of some writers—all of whom I completely condemn—I nonetheless empathize with their reasons for stooping this low.

PinocchioMy favorite review was by “Joel Siegel,” who wrote:

“My friends are constantly asking me to join them at the spa for facials but I always say no. I’ve always found facials to be expensive and abrasive. Plus, I hate waking up with blemishes and blotches for days after. I’ve always been now of a soap and water girl. However, I have to admit that this product caught my eye and made me want to try it. I took a chance and now I’m so glad I did. Bellapulse has changed my thinking about all of this! It’s such an enjoyable experience. My skin feels so soft, clearer and younger than it’s been in years!! Friends are asking me all the time what I’m doing. A few have even asked if I have had work done. And at this price, even better! I world’s recommend Bellapulse to anyone who wants to pamper themselves without spending a bundle!”

Really? Joel is a “soap and water girl”? Nevermind that his rave reads like a spoof of a late-night infomercial. In fact, I’m tempted to reply, “Joel, wow! This product sounds amazing! It seems too good to be true!”

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