Note: To those who keep commenting on this post (long after it was made) as if it were my last word on Amazon Vine, there is an updated post here. Also, please note this post's date before making snarky comments. It reflects the state of the Vine very early on. If you can do a Google search to find the original post, you should have the grey matter to search for subsequent posts in this blog to make sure you're seeing the whole picture.
Two months ago, my husband and I were invited to join "Amazon Vine". The program was sold to us as an opportunity to get products early and for free in return for reviews. Since I've written about 4 pages worth of Amazon product reviews, I figured this may have been the reason we were chosen.
If you read the banner above (click it for a larger version), it says "Free stuff, spotlight reviews, envious friends. It doesn't get much better than this." I'm beginning to think the only thing my friends are going to feel is that I'm an incredible sucker for believing this program is in any way operated as it has been represented.
In the first two newsletters, attempts to request every single product are met with this message:
In the case of the first newsletter, I assumed my waiting 2 days to ask had something to do with it. Amazon sent out out an e-mail a couple of weeks later saying they'd "underestimated demand" and things would be better in the future. I heard the second newsletter hit my in box with a "ding" and figured I'd try again much more rapidly. Lo and behold, every single item was out of stock within 2 minutes of my having received the message.
The Vine message boards attribute this to a "disconnect" problem. This is a pretty absurd notion as it shouldn't be the case that delayed messages (the claim is 8 hours) should cause a complete shut-out in getting a chance to receive and review items. If the program is always going to be survival of the fastest, then it is essentially useless to anyone who isn't monitoring their e-mail constantly for the message's arrival and clicking madly to get first crack at items to review. This would hardly have anything to do with receiving quality reviews for the products and would have everything to do with a mad grab for anything and everything you can get because it's "free" (you do pay postage, or so I'm told...I can't know for sure since I've never seen any item available).
It's my guess that this is a clever means of spamming customers and that my husband and I were chosen not because I made a lot of reviews but rather because we've bought a lot of items. The newsletters encourage you to focus carefully and develop an interest in items because, in theory, you should read the description and choose only to receive items you personally want enough to inspect, read, or watch carefully and write a thoughtful review about. If you pay that much attention to an item and don't get it, there's probably an increased chance that you will buy it or something similar in the future.
I have no doubt that Amazon is giving away some free products and that there are a very small percentage of people on the Vine newsletter who receive items. However, I believe their mailing list is knowingly far, far greater than the number of items available for review. While the Vine program claims to be exclusive, I sincerely doubt that it's sampling a small pool or people who have written helpful or thoughtful reviews in the hopes of stimulating more of the same.
I'm going to see if the program gets any better but I have very low expectations. One of the reasons I feel this way besides a natural cynicism about any business failing to take advantage of an opportunity to advertise under the guise of "free stuff" is that the program currently allows people to get up to three items to review each. Those who get in are getting a lot and those of us who don't are getting squat for the time we waste with the newsletter. If the program really wanted to encourage reviews, it'd limit each person to one item that they'd spend more time with and write careful reviews of.
Personally, this is damaging my regard for Amazon and making it less likely that I'll choose to purchase from them in the future. I don't like being played for a sucker. Even if I give them the benefit of the doubt and chalk this up to poor organization of the program, it doesn't necessarily inspire confidence in them as a business. Either way, Amazon loses and they go down in my estimation. Since my husband and I live in Japan, Amazon has always been a good way to get access to books, DVDs, and CDs we can't get here and to get them more cheaply. Up until now, we've been content to buy from them but this experience is convincing me to take more of my business to Deep Discount DVD even when prices are roughly equivalent (in the past, when all things were equal, I chose Amazon).
At this point, I think that the tag-line for the Vine program ought to be, "It doesn't get more pointless than this."