A user on TikTok has sparked discussion after claiming that an Amazon seller sent her 4 emails offering bribes to take down her negative review of their product.
In a video with over 228,000 views, TikTok user Kayla (@thisisforkayla) says she purchased a bottle warmer from Amazon. The specific warmer is the BabyBond Portable Bottle Warmer, which is currently unavailable on Amazon’s site.
When she followed the instructions to warm her baby’s formula, Kayla says the formula quickly burned “to the point where it was, like, black.”
Accordingly, she left a one-star Amazon review saying that it burned her baby’s formula.
Soon after, she received an email asking her to take down her review in exchange for a $20 Amazon gift card. When she didn’t respond, the offer went up to $40.
@thisisforkayla #greenscreen if the email didn’t look and read like phishhing emails maybe I would respond to it but no lol #amazon ♬ original sound – thisisforkayla
“It’s like, random emails, too,” Kayla says. “It’s not even a company email.”
In a follow-up video, Kayla posted her initial review along with the various emails the company allegedly sent her. In one email, the company claims to have changed their manufacturer and have begun testing their products before shipping; they provide no evidence for this claim, then repeat their request for her to delete her review.
@thisisforkayla Replying to @smorepie ♬ Cool Kids (our sped up version) – Echosmith
To be clear, this goes directly against Amazon’s seller policies, and sellers caught doing this can be banned from the platform.
“We have clear policies for both reviewers and selling partners that prohibit abuse of our community features, and we suspend, ban, and take legal action against those who violate these policies,” an Amazon spokesperson told CNET for an article on the topic. “Bad actors that attempt to abuse our system make up a tiny fraction of activity on our site and we use sophisticated tools to combat them and we make it increasingly difficult for them to hide.”
That said, it’s notable that the seller reached out to Kayla via email, as Amazon sellers are not supposed to reach out via any medium other than Amazon’s own channels — or have access to customer email addresses in the first place.
In a 2021 article for the Wall Street Journal, author Nicole Nguyen investigated how sellers may obtain a customer’s email address.
“James Thomson, a former Amazon employee who is now a partner at brand consultancy Buy Box Experts, said some third-party tools take customers’ shipping information and match it to known email addresses,” Nguyen wrote. “He emphasized that the practice violates Amazon’s rules and that he wouldn’t recommend sellers or brands use these tools.”
The article then lists several companies that purport to offer such a service.
Back on TikTok, some users claimed they’ve had similar experiences in the past.
“This happened to me,” alleged a commenter. “They credited me 3 times the cost of the garbage product. And I never deleted the review.”
“I had a similar thing happen. I just kept saying no. They finally gave up,” wrote another.
“I got so many emails to take my review down for something that had such strong adhesive it ripped the paint off my wall no matter what I did,” recalled a third. “It was like a $10 item and they offered me $5 initially and increased to $20 before they gave up lol.”
As Kayla explains in a comment, the possibility of this occurring makes the buyer experience significantly worse and causes people to lose trust in reviews.
“Maybe if they had honest reviews I would have known to only use water before warming the formula even though it was advertised as a formula warmer,” she wrote.
On Amazon’s part, the company says it has been working on combating this issue.
“In 2020, we stopped more than 200 million suspected fake reviews before they were ever seen by a customer, and more than 99% of reviews enforcement was driven by our proactive detection,” the company detailed in a blog post. “In addition to stopping these reviews, we take action to shut down and stop review submissions from the accounts contributing the fake reviews and to enforce the bad actors’ selling accounts trying to artificially benefit from this abuse.”
As for what customers can do when they receive an email like this, CNET advises the following: “Customers who have been contacted by a seller about a negative review can report it to Amazon via email, the Report Abuse link available on published reviews, or directly in the messaging system.”
We’ve reached out to Kayla via Instagram DM, and to both Amazon and BabyBond via email.
Update 8:00am CT February 9: In an email to the Daily Dot, Amazon encouraged users to “Report” cases of policy abuse like the one seen in the video. The company also noted that they have investigated the case and taken action against the seller.
Furthermore, Amazon stressed that it is working on resolving this issue by shutting down fake review brokers and targeting groups designed to farm positive reviews.
An Amazon spokesperson also shared the following: “We have zero tolerance for fake reviews and want Amazon customers to shop with confidence knowing that the reviews they see are authentic and trustworthy. We have clear policies that prohibit reviews abuse, including offering incentives like gift cards to write positive reviews. We suspend, ban, and take legal action against those who violate these policies and remove inauthentic reviews. More than 99% of products viewed by customers in our stores contain only authentic reviews.”
Update 10:55am CT February 13: In an Instagram direct message exchange with the Daily Dot, Kayla noted that the seller had reached out to her on occasions beyond those mentioned in the video, including an instance after the video was live. The initial contact was made through Amazon; however, all subsequent contact was made through Kayla’s personal email. Kayla is not sure how the company got her personal email address.
Furthermore, she says that the initial instructions for how to use the device were sent via a message on Amazon. This message was signed by “Fanxi Global,” which is a Chinese company that claims to specialize in jewelry display.
Kayla says she still has not heard from Amazon, even though “the customer service employee said that an Amazon representative would have contacted me within 24-48 hours…”
“I did not try to return the item and I did not request a refund,” she wrote. “I honestly left the review and decided to cut my losses. I really only needed it for the trip and we found a different option once we got to our destination.”