First round of Spark went well

UntitledI was a little hesitant having heard some negative things regarding the Spark review program, but as it turned out my experience was smooth, other than they had said they would send a group of products out for selection in May and the email didn’t arrive until June.

The two items I selected arrived in decent time, but definitely not super speedy.   They did not come packaged in Walmart boxes as they had in the past, almost as if they were being shipped directly from the manufacturer.     If that is the case, that may be a move on the part of Walmart to save a bit of shipping costs, but this is just speculation.

I was able to leave my review, in the same way that I had in the past with one small addition, they had an area to upload one to two images, but no place to leave a YouTube link for a video review (which I did).

Walmart suggests a 200 word review, but I note many people left far less than that and I feel it must not be a hard requirement.

Now I’m wondering when the next email will be sent out, will it be early next month?  I don’t find that emailing the Walmart Spark program will do much good, I don’t think they have dedicated staff for answering questions as Amazon does with their Vine program.



How to get into reviewing, part 2.

coupon clubMy original post about how to get into reviewing was (and remains) quite popular but it occurs to me that I should write an update, as the reviewing world has changed drastically since that post with Amazon’s TOS changing.

If you have not done so already, familiarize yourself with Amazon’s new reviewing policies if you are going to review primarily on Amazon.

There are still other sites you can review on besides Amazon.   Xberts, Fat Wallet and Slick Deals come to mind.   And probably the best way to review is on other social media or your own blog.  Admittedly, getting into reviewing now is hard if you don’t already have a large audience or a solid reviewing reputation.   Everyone has to start somewhere though.

Here is my advice then for starting out:

  1. Review all items you bought where you bought it (if you bought it on Amazon, review it on Amazon).   Amazon now limits the number of reviews per week you can do for items not purchased through your site.   You can review 5 items per week, but it might be worth it to do that.   I focus a lot on Amazon, because it takes so much of the retail spotlight these days, who DOESN’T shop at Amazon?
  2. Review your items on other social media, as well as the place you bought them.   The point of this is to begin to build an audience.   If your reviews are good, and enough people like them you will succeed.
  3. Start your own review blog in addition to your social media channels.
  4. Seek out the myriad of groups on Facebook and elsewhere that are geared towards reviewers with free giveaways or super low cost items.  If you were going to buy items anyway why not get them at a discount?
  5. Contact retailers directly and ask for samples to review.   Mention your website or number of followers if it is relevant.   You will get a lot of rejection, but every once in awhile you will get someone interested.
  6. There are also review groups out there that you can join and get free samples, although since Amazon’s TOS has changed the numbers have reduced.   But doing an online search you can find others out there.   Green mom’s review is one that would appeal to a niche audience, for example.  Some of these review outlets have stricter requirements than others so do your research.   Amazon continues their own reviewer’s club, but it is strictly invitation only.
  7. Work as hard at building your audience as you do at leaving reviews.  Consider being a niche reviewer of one type of product and become an expert in that arena.


To follow or not to follow

If you are trying to build your social media network on Twitter, you may wonder whether you should follow back people who follow you, not follow back, or only follow back a handful of people who follow you who you are truly interested in following.

The answer is that there is no answer.    It all boils down to what your social media goals are and your own personality.

It breaks down this way:

  • If you follow back everyone who follows to you, you will gain followers fast.    Some people (especially on Twitter) only follow to gain followers in return.   These followers are not typically engaged at all, they are just padding your overall numbers. That being said, ‘number padding’ does have some benefits, but not in terms of true reach and engagement.   There is also a school of thought that says it’s always polite to follow back those who take the time to follow you, but on Twitter I don’t necessarily believe this is so.   When a complete stranger follows you, there is no expectation of a follow back from anyone.  Twitter is fairly impersonal.
  • If you only follow back a few choice people, this will lead to moderate increases in followers. Many people who follow you will quickly unfollow you when you don’t reciprocate.  Others may be following you because they are truly interested in what you are posting.  This is the middle road approach, and has the benefits of growing your numbers and having a more engaged audience.
  • If you never follow back, it will be difficult to gain a large base of followers, but your engagement levels and influence will likely be higher.

There is no one right philosophy to employ, and no set etiquette in regards to following and following back on Twitter.



I’m picky.

pickyIt’s true I’m picky about a lot of things, and I’ve become especially picky about reviews I choose to accept, and now that Amazon has changed it’s reviewing policy on non-Vine reviews the whole landscape of reviewing has changed – shifting to sites other than Amazon.  Let me share with you my previous criteria for accepting reviews.   It used to be, if I felt I could use it or if it was a product I had a great deal of knowledge about already – I reviewed it.   No other criteria mattered.  That was it.

Now however, things are a bit different.   Considering I do have another job that actually pays the bills, I thought it best to limit the reviews I was taking on so that I do only 1 or 2 each day.  My second criteria is to look at the item and determine how many other people are reviewing it and where.   If it’s an item under $20 and they already have a lot of positive reviews on it, chances are they are sending them out to hundreds of people.    I’m not necessarily interested in having my review lost in the mix.

My third criteria is that I don’t accept items where there are a lot of strings attached.   It’s one thing for the seller to request a video or photo review, which I happily comply with because I would have probably done that anyway…. but when they give me a word count that I have to meet on their site, or that I have to like them on Facebook or any number of things- I get a bit put off.   These aren’t big deals necessarily, but they are just hoops I don’t care to jump through.  Easy come easy go is the philosophy I have developed, and it really helps.

Being picky is a good thing for a reviewer.   It enables you to do things on your terms, and ultimately I would argue, makes for better reviews.


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Reviewing after the policy change

castle_romeoIt’s been several weeks since the big policy announcement regarding discounted and free product reviews on Amazon.  It has had a dramatic effect on the number of emails that I get, I’d say emails are down 50% as most sellers have given up their review programs outright to presumably focus elsewhere.   Many sellers are still offering discount codes and free product, but not requiring an Amazon review – and some even expressly forbid an Amazon review, instead they ask the review be put on other social media outlets.    The review clubs seem to also be adapting to this new style.   I rarely used review clubs in the past, and I haven’t at all since the change but I do get email solicitations and on the surface it seems that they have all made significant changes.   Either they require reviews on other social media but not Amazon, or they are offering their products at a discount instead of free.  Is that sustainable for them?  I guess we’ll see.

The situation is still evolving and I suspect if you ask me in a few more weeks how things are going, there will probably be more developments.


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Babysit your reviews

baby-sitter-1073413_1920When I read a review, I always note the date of the review.    Was it left a month ago or 5 years ago?   Sometimes I wonder if the person still likes and uses the item they reviewed, did it stand the test of time?   One of the ways I keep my reviews “fresh” is to update them periodically.   I don’t do it for every single review but I try to do it as much as possible.  I appreciate the rare occasions I see other people have updated their reviews with relevant information, and  because of this I like to care for my reviews in this way as well.  Think of reviews like they were your children, they need to be cared for and nurtured.

These metal buckets have stood the test of time, even being kept outside.

Here are some earrings I bought, and I chronicled their lifespan.

These packing cubes have seen a lot of cities.

Here is an example of a light up timer that I bought, initially liked and gave 4 stars to, but then didn’t love!

These are some amazing shoes I purchased for my son.  He will outgrow them before they deteriorate.  This is information that needs to be imparted!

A cat scratch post that has gone through a lot.

An inexpensive manual pencil sharpener that is still sharp as day one.

This is a review from a different reviewer.  I appreciated his updates for this electric mower.

You get a more informative review when you update over time.   People want to know, how does this hold up?  They want to know if you still like an item a few months later, a year later… whatever the case may be.   You are making your reviews the most helpful they can possibly be, and ultimately this will get you more helpful votes in the long run.



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Sellers, watch out!


I write on this blog for both sellers and reviewers.   Although my perspective is that of a reviewer, I do like to offer helpful hints to sellers as well.  Today though, I want to issue a warning to anyone who has ears to hear it.

I am still getting solicitations for free and discounted products in exchange for a review.   Sellers, you need to be careful about this.    At this point I figure everyone is now well aware of the policy, and they have made the conscious decision to continue on as usual.   That is their business, but I strongly advise you to re-word your requests either omitting the word “review” or expressly stating that a “review is not required” on Amazon.

Why?   Other than the obvious violations of Amazon’s TOS, you will eventually get in hot water with Amazon.   Today I got a “reply all” from a person who got one such review request email, and she was irate.   I would not be surprised if this person reported the seller to Amazon.    If you get a lot of attention like this, you will get your selling privileges removed.  If you are sending out dozens of these requests, a few are bound to fall to someone who is going to report you.

Conversely, reviewers you too need to be careful about your dealings on Amazon.   Reviewers are a dime a dozen, and Amazon does not think twice about revoking review privileges if they think their TOS have been broken. My advice is to try to shift focus to other reviewing avenues.   In the coming weeks, I’ll try to highlight some legitimate places one can go to review.


While you wait for that, check out my blog archives!

Sellers are adapting, slowly

10/7/16 – Today I got a whole host of new emails from sellers.   Some again, seemly oblivious to the changes and operating as normal.    Some just alter their wording to not talk about reviewing.  Some are offering discounted product as a sale….  Many of the things that I’ve highlighted before.

One emailed me this which I found interesting:


So, that is food for thought.   I tried to locate the page the screen grab was from, but was unable to find it, probably because I do not have a seller’s account.


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Ridiculous disclaimers

Is this a jokeSometimes people get ridiculous with their disclaimers, to the point of being obnoxious.    I stumbled upon some that were over the top and had to share.   Partly for entertainment, and partly as a warning about what not to do.

This disclaimer was longer than the actual review:

“I did receive this product at a discounted price for product testing and review. With this said please know I do not give everyone a 5 star rating and that in no way giving me the product at a discount or for free changes how I feel about the product. I am under no obligation to provide a positive review and receive no incentives or rewards for doing so. My goal is to highlight features and drawbacks that I would want to know about as a buyer, not praise the product for the manufacturer unnecessarily. My feedback is sincere. I work very hard trying to write meaningful and thoughtful reviews for each item. I hope that these reviews will be helpful to others. Would you please let me know how I am doing […] If it was not, please comment with how I can improve. This will help me to be able to write more helpful reviews in the future. While it is true that many items are received at discounted rates or complimentary rates, I strive to give a completely honest review and my personal experiences with the product. Again, it is just my opinion, your own thoughts or opinions may vary. I received no monetary compensation and am not required to give positive reviews for any product and would not endorse any product I would not personally use. In terms of analyzing value, I always consider whether I would consider the item a good value at the current listed selling rate, and do not consider any discount I may have received. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission Guidelines on Testimony and Advertising.”

Here’s another review disclaimer that’s less wordy but more hilarious:

Note: I purchased this product at a discount in exchange for an honest review, and this IS my honest and unbiased thoughts on this product. Now you may be thinking to yourself “Suuure it is…there is no way that this jerk is not at least a little bit full of BS. Anyone else would have at least a slight amount of bias in his particular situation.” And you would usually be correct about the latter, but I can tell you that I am not just anyone. I am a man who has way too much time on their hands and who cares far too much about what random people on the internet think about his opinions. Some say that the ability to leave honest reviews is a blessing, but I know for a fact that it is a curse.

And here’s another gem:

Like you, My final decision to purchase on amazon is heavily influenced by another’s product review. Only after my initial intent to already buy this item, did I received this product at a discount or offered a chance to sample the item free of charge.. It in no way has influenced or altered my opinion when reviewing ANY product and When reviewing THIS product and only after trying and testing the product, this review is 100% my honest, unbiased and genuine opinion.. It is important to me that I leave a real and informative review for you to make your own decision. My reviews are completely honest and are my personal experiences with the product. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission Guidelines on Testimony and Advertising.

SooO, if you are curious and are someone wondering (or making comments about reviews that state *discounted or free”) that they tend to be “5-star” reviews or think they are a paid review. Those reviews that are exchanged for a discount or even free of charge mainly because the individuals reviewing those products were already interested in the item BEFORE accepting any offer for a discount in any amount. At least in my experience, it has been this way. You wouldn’t offer Girl Scout cookies to a Girl Scout haters club free for the taking if they leave an honest opinion of them and expect it to do any good for your marketing. HA No one could ever say they don’t care for Girl Scout cookies, right?! Hopefully that made you laugh but it does makes sense, doesn’t it?!?
If you found my review helpful, please take a moment to let me know by clicking “Yes” below. Thanks and happy”

Hope you got a chuckle reading these!



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Don’t be a jerk!

jerkTalking to various sellers who offer products to reviewers like me, I have learned that the majority of reviewers are not very good, or courteous.    One person in particular from a Chinese company gave me a very sad statistic.  Only 1 out of 5 people he sends free product to actually leave a review for the product they receive.   This is outrageous, and as angry as this makes me, I’m more disappointed because that stat doesn’t surprise me.  People are becoming greedy, self-entitled and lazy.

I’m amazed that any companies still offer product at all with such poor results.  I’m glad they do, but it may be some day they decide it’s just not worth it because people are jerks.

My humble plea to you, dear reviewer, is this; make sure you review everything you receive and if you can’t, communicate to the seller why.   Be up front, be prompt in your communications, and be a decent human.  Don’t be a jerk.


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