Free Shipping From Amazon Merchants

I read a post today about a guy who bought a camera from an Amazon Merchant and left negative feedback after it was shipped poorly (via BoingBoing). They offered to refund the shipping cost ($75) if he’d take down his negative feedback. This caught my attention, because it’s happened to me.

A few months ago I bought from Amazon Merchants for the first time, getting three things from three different merchants. Everything arrived fine and within the same two days, so I went to leave feedback for all of them. They were all small, easily shipped, reasonably-priced, and they arrived fine, so I just gave them all three stars and got on with my day.

Within the next few days, all three vendors contacted me and asked me to remove my “negative” feedback. Well, not so much negative as “average” when I could have chosen “superb”. One looked like a form letter. All of them offered to refund my shipping if I’d delete my rating to stop pulling down their average rating.

It sounds like Amazon Merchants believe that even the smallest amount of feedback that’s not a 5-star rating hurts them significantly. I don’t know if that’s correct, if they’ll be explicitly punished by Amazon or just don’t want to risk having a lower total rating than their competitors, but they would all pay to remove my imperfect ratings. (I didn’t mean to harm them, so I just pulled the reviews without getting refunds.)

Perhaps it’s just chance that all four vendors offered to refund shipping to remove less-than-glowing reviews, but I have to wonder if Amazon’s feedback system is too strict. Buyers won’t see real negative feedback because Merchants are paying to have it removed. If Merchants can’t shrug off a few reviews now and then, unscrupulous buyers could leave negative feedback to bully Merchants into giving discounts after the sale.