Amazon Reviews: Talking to Bots
There are few things that are more frustrating in life than having a problem and not feeling like you’re being heard. It’s even worse when a company sends a robot or auto-generated message your way. While Amazon says it’s trying to fix this, it’s hard to believe most of the time that any messages are being read by actual human beings.
I ran into this issue when a review of mine was taken down without any explanation.
I messaged Amazon’s team asking why it was taken down:
Hi, I noticed that my review for a camera bag was removed. I thought I might have deleted it by mistake, but when I tried to re-review it I got a notice about review manipulation and a relationship to the seller.
I have no relationship to the seller except that the first item they shipped had a piece missing so they replaced that piece (which I greatly appreciated). It’s an item that doesn’t have many reviews and I happen to really love it – I searched for an appropriate bag for a long time – so I was wondering if there was a way to replace that review?
and received this response:
I wasn’t actually sure they’d even read my email at this point because they didn’t respond to anything except the phrase “review manipulation” – this was also almost identical to a message that I’d received before when I was asking about their policies (another email which was glaringly unhelpful).
After rating this as an “unhelpful” message and submitting feedback on the response, I tried again and got someone who actually read my first message (I suspect they’ll read my second message later on and I’ll get a response about how “It’s already up”). I suspect that all “contact” buttons are not equal, some being initial filters through to an actual person (akin to a phone tree or someone demanding to “talk to the manager” at a restaurant)
I understand that the use of bots is necessary when Amazon is running as large an operation as they are – but this also seems like an easy way to frustrate a lot of people at once: they don’t notify you of certain actions (ex: I wasn’t notified that the review was taken down), each response takes multiple hours, and there’s no “reply” button so there’s no continuity of conversation as you continually re-explain your question.
I felt like I had to go out of my way to fight for an underdog company and it would have been much easier to shrug, ignore it, and move on; I’m sure many people do just that.
Arbitrary content guidelines
This problem also occurs with the reviews themselves: there are some words which can get your review immediately rejected. Among these are things like, “advertised,” “junkie,” and a variety of seemingly random words that don’t always make sense.
This review was rejected:
While this one was accepted:
Was it because my original title included the phrase “Soft to touch”? Do they not like the phrase “Straight dresses” or was it the phrase “3 fingers worth” that they deemed inappropriate?
We may never know. But it’s clear that they haven’t quite perfected their algorithmic filtering, or how to handle it, just yet.