You may be shocked considering the quality of the reviews printed here by moi, but I have been a member of Amazon Vine for a couple of years. Amazon Vine is a program set up by the online company whereby they invite their (apparently) most trusted and most respected reviewers to select up to 4 free items a month to keep forever on the promise that we will review at least 3 out of every 4. I’m not elitist, but I’ve noticed quite a few frankly terrible reviewers have been invited- the type whose reviews are usually 2 lines long and consist of ‘I bought this for my little sister and she seems to love it. Therefore I give it 5 stars’. By and large though, the Viners, as some like to call us, are a genuine bunch who try to review fairly, honestly, and would still write reviews regardless of whether we were receiving free stuff or not. Over the months I’ll list some pros (quite a few) and cons (also quite a few- not for me personally, but for some people they can be) of being a Vine member, and each month I’ll try to cover all the treats which I receive.
But for those of you who are only just hearing about this and wanting to know how you can get involved… I’m sorry, there doesn’t seem to be any easy way to get in (though apparently a recent system glitch let quite a few uninvited members in). I had been happily buying and reviewing from Amazon for years, unaware that such a group existed. Then one night I got an email claiming to be from Amazon and invited me to this exclusive group. Naturally it seemed too good to be true and too much like a scam, though the mail looked authentic. After some googling i realised it was legit and that my presence had been requested into this quest for the Holy Grail. Click! I was in.
There is a forum for members where we discuss what each other has been offered, the perks and pitfalls, and of course other assorted internet forum junk. There are trolls, there are weirdos, we are from a wide range of ages, races, and backgrounds. Just to let you know- I am currently residing dead centre in The Spac Hole, also known as The UK. The US have their own Vine program, as do certain other European Countries- Germany, possibly The Netherlands. Sometimes folsk from those distants lands and forums join us for a while to say hi and discuss any differences in the program. I believe Australia has one too. So, if you buy from Amazon in any of those countries- start writing reviews! To get back to the main point, my reviews were n ot necessarily sending me up to the highest ranking positions of Amazon’s Top Reviewers League (which some people are extremely precious about) but they were generally well received, plus I had written over 100. So my best guess at how to get an invitation is:
1: Be an Amazon customer, probably for a few years, and one buys regularly from the site.
2: Be a reviewer.
3. Review far and wide- not just music, not just movies, but clothes, software, books, anything you have near to hand.
4. Make sure they are good reviews. Well written (though this can be debated) and fair. Amazon wants you to sell the products for them, but you don’t have to ass-lick every terrible product. If you like it, explain why. Likewise if you don’t.
That’s about it really. It may be a long process, but if you get enjoyment from writing, even if it is only a review, then you shouldn’t mind. Try not to write with the goal of getting free stuff- write primarily as a lover of what it is you are writing about, and throw in the odd zinger that would catch a buyer, or an advertiser’s eye.
A few more rules about how the program works. On the 3rd Thursday of each month, at 8PM, we are emailed a list of products (usually between 8 and 15) which are meant to be catered to our personal tastes (though this is rarely the case). When you first join, you are asked to fill out a questionnaire on your buying history, your preferences, your hobbies etc. Computers, sports, movies, books etc are all listed, though in much greater detail. Supposedly it is from these choices, and from what Amazon knows you have bought from them that they create a list and send to you on that beautiful Thursday. Now just because you only buy Japanese Pop music doesn’t mean that you will only be offered music CDs. The way the program really works is that Amazon has a large shipment of new items and they divide them up as accordingly as possible. If the items Amazon receive that month mostly consist of breast pumps, baby monitors, and bibs, yet you are an 18 year old geekazoid male who has never tasted a woman’s tongue, then chances are you’re still going to be offered a breast pump.
That brings me to the purpose of the program. Vine was set up so that the best reviewers could preview products not yet released to the public, hopefully cause a bit of a stir by reviewing positively, and generate a buzz (and provide free advertising) so that come release day more people will know about and buy the product. For a while there that seemed to be the case, but nowadays it looks like we can be offered products which ahve been on the market for months. Books and movies still seem to be previews though (or new editions of classics). In many cases the books are advance copies- not yet proof read, not yet edited fully perhaps. Based on our comments the publisher may decide to make a few changes. So it isn’t Amazon going crazy and giving away millions- there is a method to the madness.
On the 3rd Thursday we can select up to 2 items from the list. The following Thursday, all the remaining items from everyone else’s lists are combined into 1 beast, and we can then again select up to 2 items. A total of 4 a month. This means that if someone on the forum claims to have been offered a laptop (known to happen) yet you only got offered audiobooks, then next week you may get the chance to grab any spare laptops going. This second list regularly has over 100 items, but you’ll have to be quick as everyone will be grabbing at the same time. Tip: if you want the expensive, electrical stuff, it’s usually on the last page, so skip skip skip. Oh yeah- the email list I mentioned earlier. Forget about it. 7.50, just log into Amazon, click your Vine link, and F5 until the new list appears. Many times I’ve got the email 1 hour later, or never. It’s pointless.
So the final rules are: If you pick 4 items one month, you can’t pick any the following month. You have to review 3 of the items before picking anything else. More accurately it’s 75% of your items which need to be reviewed Strange as it may seem there are some months where the choice is so bad that I don’t want anything. Must house is coming down with free stuff, and as I have a bambino (complete with free breast pumps, bibs, wipes, steriliser, bottles, changing mats- thank you Amazon), room is rapidly depleting. Oh yeah, you’re not meant to make any financial gain from any of this. Yes, the products are your’s to keep for eternity, but that doesn’t mean you can sell them. Amazon must have a way of tracking these things- if you stick them on Ebay, chances are you’ll get caught and get chucked out. I’m not sure how this works, and I know some members do sell, or give away the things they don’t wawnt anymore, but be careful. Amazon reserve the right to recall any of the products, though I’ve never heard of this happening.
The good stuff now: You can be offered anything. And I mean ANYTHING. Mostly it is computer software and books, but there are also many DVDs, video games, board games, cds offered. And other products too, from lawnmowers to kettles to ladders to Lego to protein supplements to 40 inch TVs to blocks of paper. It is an honour to be part of this, mostly because I now have wonderful books I may not have otherwise read (though some had been on my wish-list for a while), hairdryers (lots), movies, digital cameras, video cameras etc etc etc without having spent a penny. If you have anyone questions about it, feel free to ask. Or if you just want to kiss my feet, that’s fine too; they were free from Vine (lie).