Saturday, June 28, 2008

Studies in Human Nature (Amazon Vine)

Though I have abandoned adding new content to my former blog, I haven't shut down the ability to add comments so occasionally I'll get a notification from Blogger that a new comment has been posted on an old entry. Lately, I seem to be getting more traffic on a post about Amazon Vine (a program where Amazon shoppers are offered occasional free items in exchange for their reviews of products).

The original post about the Vine seems to be the only one that people find and it was made around mid-September of 2007. Despite the fact that the date of the post is at the top and easy to see, people don't bother to look and see if there was an update, nor do they consider that my opinion may have changed since that post was made shortly after the program's rocky start. I felt compelled this morning to add a notation to the top of the post clarifying that there was a follow-up for those who are too myopic to figure things out.

The interesting thing about the newest comments to that antique post is that the new ones coincide with some changes in the Vine program. Some of the old members are being booted out and new members are being asked to join. Before I get any further, let me say that I wasn't one of the old members who got kicked out (at least not yet) so I'm speaking dispassionately here. Invariably, newcomers to the program are hostile toward my initial negative impression of the Vine (which was later modified in a later post where I gave Amazon credit for fixing what was wrong). They're very defensive as they are pleased to be offered things for free.

When I made the initial post, I got a lot of nasty responses from people who accused me of all sorts of imaginary (and fraudulent) acts. It wasn't just territorial protective behavior of the hand that was feeding them free stuff that motivated those responses. They wanted to ostracize me from the Amazon Vine community in the hopes that I'd get fed up enough to simply opt out. The idea is that the fewer people who stand in line for the pie, the bigger the piece of pie for those who remain. You see, the Vine has only a limited number of freebies to give away, particularly of the choicer and more expensive items and it's a real free-for-all during the first minute (literally, the first seconds) the items are posted to get at the small handful of big ticket items.

This competition and petty behavior is not simply something I see in the comments I'm still getting on my former blog. It's also indicated in the way in which Vine members are voting whether reviews of other Vine members are helpful or not. Though I have no idea if it is true or not, it is believed among Vine reviewers that Amazon evaluates the current crop of Vine members by their ratios of "helpful" to "unhelpful" votes. In order to make other Vine members look bad and increase the chances that they may get the boot, some people are suspected of going through and clicking "no" next to any Vine review other than their own in order to ruin the ratios of other reviewers.

Now that some of the people who were asked to join at the program's inception are being let go, another side of those who praised Amazon and the Vine program is emerging. Those who once were kissing the toes of Amazon and castigating the likes of me for not counting my blessings are mad. There is talk about never buying from Amazon again and feeling betrayed now that the supply of freebies has stopped.

This situation has displayed a variety of things which interest me about human nature.
  • Some people will behave unethically if they believe it will result in their getting more and others less (the consistent and arbitrary "no" votes).
  • Some people will attack others without a basis in logic or reason for a small and hypothetical chance at more (commenters to my old post).
  • It may be worse to give someone something for free temporarily than to never give them anything at all as a sense of entitlement develops and they will turn on their benefactor (the members who got kicked saying they are not going to patronize Amazon anymore).
  • The most materially rich of people can sometimes display the most greed for things they don't need and may not even desire (the fact that all Amazon Vine members are regular buyers who have written reviews in the past so they clearly have money and goods).
Being a part of the Vine program has really afforded me an interesting perspective on behavior and it's probably something I'll remember long after I've forgotten whatever free stuff I've gotten.

1 comment:

Sharon said...

I'm curious about the negative helpful results. I wonder if people realize that the IP address of voters can be tracked. I also wonder if Amazon is taking note of people with the same IP address running through and voting other vine reviews as unhelpful on a consistent basis. If someone was doing that and got kicked, it might explain one of the criteria for removing people from vine.