Behind the Prime is my new series where I want to expose you to the dark side of Amazon. These posts will do everything from talk about the dirty review tactics being used, to telling you how to protect yourself and shop smarter, to exposing the brands who are doing this. When so many people Google these Amazon brands for research, all they get are bought and paid for shill blog posts raving about how awesome they are (after being paid to say so) – I want Google to start returning search results that show the truth about how these companies are approaching people. I’ll join the blackmarket communities, get myself on the underground mailing lists, and show you the dark side of Amazon Marketplace.
You might remember my post on MeshForce and how they were running targeted Instagram ad campaigns looking for “product testers”, which then quickly turned into review and product shills once they had you hooked and determined you to be a worthwhile victim. It’s quickly become one of the most popular posts on this blog actually – ranking near the top of Google for everyone researching MeshForce!
It’s no surprise that Aumox, a subsidiary of MeshForce that makes POE (power over ethernet) switches is caught up in much the same game of buying and paying off Amazon reviewers for five star feedback.
It all started with a harmless Instagram ad again – my online shopping habits must somehow put me in the same audience these companies are targeting ads at (I buy a lot of consumer electronics and PC gear!). I knew exactly where this was going and knew that Aumox was a division of our old friends MeshForce. I signed up and eagerly awaited the email to qualify me – knowing full well that this would quickly turn into them offering me money for five star Amazon reviews.
And here we go:
Hello, This Jane from Aumox. Thank you for your interest in testing our new product: Aumox 18 port gigabit switch. Kindly provide detailed information below：16 port POE ports + 2 Uplink gigabit ports， 250W Built-in Power, 30W per port， 19-inch wall mount design，Supports VLAN functions We would like to get some additional information to determine whether 18 Port Port Gigabit Switch is suitable for you: Have you ever reviewed any product on amazon? If yes, send us the link. If not, please send the link of your profile to me. I am looking forward to your reply. sincerely, Jane
Once again, this harmless ad wanting “product testers” is nothing about product testers. They’ve immediately dove into wanting my Amazon info only. They didn’t even ask any questions to see if I was properly qualified to test a POE network switch! Hint: most home users are not and do not have POE equipment unless they have advanced access points or POE security cameras. The goal here is to get unqualified people because they’re easier to just give a quick five star shill review on Amazon and not dig into the fact that these products are crap.
I hate having to get my Amazon account on these company lists, but for the sake of investigating these further I provided the information they asked for.
Time to go look at their products while we wait.
Catching all the red flags in these reviews that these folks have no idea what they’re talking about? One guy thinks it’s a hub, another is using the switch to power an entire assortment of devices that aren’t even POE devices, most of the folks just ramble on about totally useless or random things and “features” to get their character count up, and all of them feature so many photos of the unboxing experience. All gave five stars. These are very typical traits of behavior that these companies ask for when they try to manipulate Amazon reviews (photos, long form text, etc), but I will cover these telltale traits in a future article!
Even when we switch to other country reviews of this product, we’re seeing the same shill behavior on Amazon.com as well. The screenshot is too small to read, but is just to show the pattern of including lots of pictures/videos and overall rambling:
When you look at the 1 and 2 star reviews, you’ll see far more natural reviews. Usually less than a paragraph, and written by people who understand POE switches and why these ones suck.
This pattern repeats itself on all Aumox product pages on Amazon.
Back to our product testing application now – unfortunately I “didn’t qualify” for this 18 port switch. My Amazon account has no shill reviews and is a personal/honest account, so it makes sense that I probably didn’t fit the mold of who they wanted.
But wait, there’s more! I was target again by an ad for another Aumox product not long after. Of course I was going to apply again! This time I got Samantha who replied; same pre-screening questions, but Samantha liked me more and I did qualify this time apparently. Check out all the red flags in this email:
Hi, Thank you for your quick response. This 5-port poe switch offers a maximum 78W POE power output in total. Single-port POE power up to 30W, meets power supply requirements of various applications. It features 100/1000 Mbps ports, enables ultra-fast wired connectivity and instant large files transferring. Unmanaged gigabit switch, easy to setup, plug and play. If you have any question about the product please feel free to ask me. We sincere invite you test the product. (Retail value CDN$52.95) Here is how to: Place order: We will guide you to place an order on amazon, then reply to me with your order number. Receive payment: Please let me know once you receive the product and use for 5 days, if you are satisfied with the product, please post a 5-star review with 3 pictures(more than 30 words) on amazon, we will reimburse the product price by PayPal. Not satisfied? If the product does not work well, or you are unhappy for any reason, I will assist you return and refund in full. Remarks: Checkout with a valid credit/debit card when you place order. To be eligible to submit a review on amazon, make sure you have minimum fifty dollars purchase across amazon. (In past 12 months) Do not mention the product is free in the review. To confirm your participation and get your purchase link, please reply me this message in next 24 hours. I am looking forward to your reply.
This is what we wanted now! I’m not being sent a product to test – I’m being asked to buy a product on Amazon with my own money (to inflate their sales ranking), leave a review, but not just any review, leave them a five star review with three pictures and 30+ words to also help their ranking, and only once I’ve done all of that will they PayPal me money and refund my purchase. If I give actual honest feedback that the product sucks, my money is held hostage. Oh wait, there’s one more caveat at the bottom – I’m not allowed to say the product is free for review or to disclose my relationship with Aumox. This is actually illegal in Canada – to not disclose a relationship with a company when endorsing their product publicly.
I’m not throwing away a perfectly good and honest Amazon account, so my involvement ends here and I do not accept these solicitations.
There you have it folks! Would you rather buy from an unethical company who is making people lie to you about their product to dupe you out of your hard earned money for junk? Or would you rather spend not that much more and shop ethically. The decision is yours – but remember, the more we support these manipulative and deceiving companies, the more they will continue to thrive and keep doing what they do.