Imagine Amazon regularly sending you free laptops, kitchen gadgets, or books that you can keep. The only requirement: You have to write a review for the devices on the online platform, regardless of whether it is positive or negative. Sounds good? This is exactly what members of Amazon’s exclusive Vine Club do. But how do you get accepted, and is there a catch? TECHNOLOGY BUTTON spoke to members and got an insight into the mysterious club.
The purchase decision of many Amazon customers depends on the evaluation of the individual products. According to the consumer advice center in North Rhine-Westphalia, studies show that 80 percent of visitors consider reviews to be “important”. Anyone who buys a product on Amazon can write a review afterwards and rate the goods with one to five stars. All star ratings result in an average value (including half stars), which then appears next to the product and should make it easier for interested parties to make a purchase decision. Thousands of users of the trading platform are now doing the review on a larger scale, many have already given hundreds of ratings. For particularly hard-working authors, Amazon launched the Vine Club.
- You can only be invited to the Amazon Vine Club
- Why does the Vine Club even exist?
- Members can choose products every day
- Can members keep the products?
- Negative reviews are rare - but not a problem
- Consumer protection criticized Vine Club
- How to become a product tester without the Amazon Vine Club
You can only be invited to the Amazon Vine Club
Never heard of the Amazon Vine Club? Then you feel like many other users. Because: There are no membership applications. Amazon chooses its members itself, the club is not advertised on a large scale. It is officially an internal service. Participation in the program is not compulsory after an invitation.
According to Amazon, the decisive factor in being invited is largely the reviewer rank. This is made up of the feedback on product tests, taking into account the number. This results in a ranking of all members who have ever written a review. This is visible to everyone. The more other users mark a review as helpful, the higher the rank of the author. However, not only the rank should play a role for the admission to the club, but also the type of the reviewed products. It is therefore conceivable that Amazon compares their category with the product categories of the manufacturer partners in the program. So if there is an increased need for electronics testing, the chances of electronics reviewers being accepted may be better. At TECHNOLOGY BUTTON’s request, Amazon itself only refers to the FAQs , which do not explain the exact selection process.
Anyone who concludes from this that the best-ranked testers would automatically receive an invitation to the Vine Club is wrong. TECHNOLOGY BUTTON already researched the data of seven top 100 reviewers in 2018 and contacted them. Not only were none of them in the Vine Club, but three reported that at the time they had been waiting for an invitation for two years. One replied that the selection seemed very arbitrary to him. This statement is currently supported by another look at the ranking list. There are Vine reviewers beyond the 3000 ranks here.
Why does the Vine Club even exist?
According to Amazon, the goal is to gain trustworthy testers as participants so that they can rate products. Club members often get access to selected new products in advance. In this way, the first evaluations are already available for orientation on the date of publication. Prospective buyers should receive additional information about products and, according to Amazon, receive “honest and uninfluenced feedback” from other buyers in addition to the manufacturers’ advertising texts. The products are sent to the Vine reviewers by the online mail order company itself. Amazon in turn receives them from publishers, studios, manufacturers or providers who participate in the program. The reviews of the club members can be recognized by the green label ” Vine customer review of a free product”.
However, only the members know the exact processes within the Amazon Vine Club. Finding them is difficult. There is no real name requirement on the trading platform, almost every Vine member only appears under a pseudonym and without contact details. Contact via Amazon is not possible.
Members can choose products every day
TECHNOLOGY BUTTON managed to find three members at the end of 2018 and to ask them about the Amazon Vine Club. One of them is Claudia C. *, She was among the top 500 Amazon reviewers and has been on the Vine Club for several years. The teacher had already tested and rated hundreds of products, many of which came to her home via the Vine Club. Thousands of customers marked their reviews – mostly on housewares and books – as helpful. She never had to pay for the products, as TECHNOLOGY BUTTON revealed. Claudia receives a selection from Amazon from her specified areas of interest. While she was already buying books directly from publishers, she ordered products such as tights, pans and vacuum cleaners from the Vine Club. She took two to three hours a week to review the goods in detail.
Also Winfried B. * was Vine-product tester and has reviewed in recent years been some 1,500 products: “You have a list from which you can choose something, but not necessarily. I can have a maximum of five unreviewed items at the same time before I can order new ones. ”That wasn’t always the case. Until a few years ago there was one day a week when all Vine products ended up in a pool at a fixed time. Then it went according to the principle: first come, first served. The best articles were usually sold out within seconds.
Klaus S. * has been with the Vine Club since 2008. At that time, a few reviews were enough to get an invitation. Like the others, Klaus was allowed to choose products. A lot has changed over time, as he revealed to TECHNOLOGY BUTTON: “In the beginning there were higher-priced products, but I can’t get anywhere near them now. Sometimes I see what other products are getting, I’m just amazed. ”His stated interests are no longer always taken into account. He reported that he was offered baby food even though he was childless. After Klaus didn’t put as much effort into the reviews as he used to, he slipped into the lower 20,000 ranks.
Can members keep the products?
Anyone who regularly requests and reviews products from Amazon will quickly get to know the parcel carrier well. Over time, dozens of products, some of them bulky items, accumulate among members. This naturally raises the question of what happens to the goods after the review. Winfried said: “You are obliged to keep the products for six months, so you cannot sell them off. In theory, Amazon can demand it back during this period. This never actually happens in practice. After the deadline, I can keep the product. ”The guidelines of the Amazon Vine Club do not allow additional income from reselling. Claudia even stated an even longer period of time: “I have to keep them for two years and possibly answer questions about them.” She therefore continued to use the products in everyday life.
Even without reselling, it is worth reviewing. Finally, the members save expensive new purchases. But not only electrical appliances such as laptops, razors and TVs are in the portfolio. Depending on their area of interest, the viners can also choose from consumer goods such as creams, make-up removal pads, sachet soups or barbecue sauces.
Negative reviews are rare – but not a problem
Would the members also rate the products negatively? “Of course!” Replied Claudia. However, a look at her profile also showed that this happens very rarely. Of the last 40 Vine products that she reviewed over the course of around ten months, just four received less than four stars, two of which were identical pans in different sizes. Further samples from other members gave a similar result.
Amazon works within the Vine Club with companies that provide goods. Of course, there is no influence on the Vine reviewers. Honest reviews are important to the company. Claudia also confirmed this: she never received any feedback from Amazon on her tests. And Winfried explained: “Only if products arrive broken does the review obligation not apply. Otherwise I have never had any attempt at influence from Amazon. ”
Consumer protection criticized Vine Club
The consumer advice center criticized the Amazon Vine Club by suspecting that Vine reviewers were revising ratings of individual products. Research had shown that the review columns for certain products were literally flooded by Vine members. These mostly rate at least four stars and in some cases improve the overall rating of a product so much that the ratings of non-viners would almost be negated. “The club’s system of making free products available for reviews is questionable,” said Georg Tryba at the consumer advice center in North Rhine-Westphalia to TECHNOLOGY BUTTON. This applies above all to products that are evaluated exclusively by Vine members on Amazon before their market launch. As soon as the normal consumer has the opportunity to review these at all, he will encounter a number of – mostly positive – Vine tests. According to Tryba, a “psychological trick” because it increases the inhibition threshold to review against the crowd. Amazon did not want to comment on the allegations of the consumer association.
How to become a product tester without the Amazon Vine Club
Even top reviewers often never get an invitation to the Amazon Vine Club. So are there alternatives to the Vine Club? TECHNOLOGY BUTTON asked Tobias about this. He just wanted to give his first name, was among the top 100 reviewers for two years and has not received an invitation to this day. However, he had not bought all of the products for his nearly 200 reviews himself. His alternative: “I only write directly to companies where I know that they offer good product quality and I also need the corresponding product.” He used to be more active in the so-called “Club of Product Testers”.
“Club of Product Testers” as an alternative
The “Club of Product Testers” is home to everyone who wants to rate free products outside of the Vine Club. Interested parties first register there and enter their Amazon profile link. The “Club of Product Testers” then checks the profile for reviews and their quality. “After you have been accepted into the product testers club, you see an interface of possible product tests,” explains Tobias. “If you are interested in a product, you apply for it. Two clicks are enough for this, an application text can be entered, but does not have to be. If you are then assigned a product test, you have to publish it within 30 days of receiving the product. You can run a maximum of three tests in parallel. ”So the system sounds like the Amazon Vine Club. In spite of this, Tobias has recently distanced himself from the “Club of Product Testers” because, in his opinion, only a few high-quality test products are offered there, especially in the electronics sector. Here Amazon delivers better devices.