Anne Marie Logan was shocked when she received the new leather case she'd ordered for her Kindle Fire. Packaged with it was a letter urging her to write a review for the product—and promising her a refund if she did. "I was like, 'Is this for real?'" she tells the New York Times. "But they credited my account. You think it's unethical?" It was certainly effective: The case, sold by VIP Deals, soon rocketed above the competition on a raft of five-star reviews.
The letter doesn't explicitly say customers must give a perfect rating, but does imply it. "Please also rate your ***** experience, we strive to earn 100% perfect 'FIVE-STAR' scores," it says. One reviewer wrote on Amazon that he "would have done 4 stars instead of 5 without the deal." When the Times told Amazon about the deal, the site said its guidelines forbid such arrangements, and VIP's products disappeared from the site soon after. But experts doubt this is an isolated incident. "The incentives for faking are getting bigger," says a computer scientist working on a way to spot bogus reviews. "It's a very cheap way of marketing."