What is Amazon Vine?

By Teri O.

Amazon Vine is a program that gives their best customers free products in exchange for reviews on the site. Do you ever see those reviews on Amazon marked “Vine Customer Review of Free Product” and wonder how they get all that free stuff?

Well, I know I did, because I’m always writing detailed reviews of stuff that my family purchased on Amazon and after a while it gets to feel like, am I wasting my time? Does anyone even read my reviews? I’m doing all this work and what do I get for it? I must be one awful influencer, because I actually have to PAY for the items I’m reviewing!

Then one day, out of the blue, Amazon contacted me and said “you’ve been selected to join the exclusive Amazon Vine program. We hope you will accept this invitation to become a member of Vine!” Are you kidding me? Of course I will!

As it turns out, Vine is a really unique Amazon program where less than 5% of Amazon customers are eligible. They said, “Amazon Vine is an invitation-only program for Amazon’s most insightful reviewers. You have been selected because you have consistently written helpful reviews over the course of your Amazon membership.”

I couldn’t believe it, someone finally did take notice!

Amazon doesn’t give away too much about how their reviewers are selected, but I’m sure that rather than focus on the quantity of reviews, they are focused on quality. It’s no good if you’re just leaving one-word reviews left and right. That said, being a prolific reviewer is no guarantee of joining the Vine program. Amazon’s guidelines for a Vine Voice are:

  • A reviewer’s rank, which is based on the overall helpfulness of reviews, while also factoring in the number of reviews.
  • More weight is given to recent reviews.
  • An interest in products similar to those enrolled in the Vine program.
  • Demonstrated expertise in one specific product category.

Another thing I always wondered was, can you really trust Amazon Vine reviews? Won’t they naturally be inclined to leave a great product review if someone gave it to them for free? But it’s not actually like that, as I found out.

They don’t just send us a random bunch of free products. They provide access to a wide variety of items across hundreds of product categories, so it’s similar to shopping on Amazon. Vine Voices have the unique opportunity to order items free of charge, but you only choose what interests you, and you can search for things that you want or need.

Vine reviewers then use the products and provide insightful reviews that reflect their honest and unbiased opinions – positive, neutral, or negative. I’ve only been in it for a month and I’ve already left all three types of ratings so far. Reviews of a product ordered through Vine appear in the same location as other reviews, but Amazon Vine reviews are distinguished with the special badge “Vine Customer Review of Free Product” for full transparency.

Vine Voices are regular shoppers like you and are not paid to participate in the program. However, the catch is that even though the items are free, they have to pay income taxes based on the retail value of the products that they receive. It’s like having your own business, and the free items equal your profit, and you will have to account for them at tax time. The more free items you request, the bigger your “profit” and the more taxes you will owe. So as a Vine reviewer you’re not going to request a bunch of stuff just because it’s free, since you know you’ll have to pay taxes on it!

Just like you, I rely on reviews when making my own buying decisions. So, being a Vine reviewer, I understand the weight of my reviews for fellow shoppers. Thus, I’m dedicated to offering a valuable service to those contemplating the products I review. Furthermore, I’m committed to providing honest reviews for every item I receive.

For your reference, here’s how I rate products (think of it in terms of grades):
• 1 Star (F = 0-59% = Failure): Bad product. This item is not as advertised, it has serious flaws, it doesn’t meet basic standards, or it completely failed at its intended use. Sorry, but there are no redeeming qualities. Needs to be re-designed or re-written. Not recommended.
• 2 Stars (D = 60-69% = Poor): Needs Improvement. Not recommended, unless it’s for a very specific use and you can’t find an alternative. This product has major downsides or issues that need to be worked out, and it doesn’t provide enough value for the money. Even though it’s less than adequate, there may be some redeeming feature that kept it from getting 1 Star.
• 3 Stars (C = 70-79% = Average): Satisfactory but average. It performs the basic functions as advertised, but it’s just okay and there may be a similar product that’s better. Nothing makes me think “that’s a nice feature” and give it a 4-star (i.e. “above average”) rating.
• 4 Stars (B = 80-89% = Very Good): Meets expectations. This item is a good value for its intended use, plus something about this product makes it above average and sets it apart from similar ones on the market. Recommend purchase.
• 5 Stars (A = 90-100% = Excellent): Exceeds expectations. It is a superior product, great quality, and well packaged. Highly recommended. I love this product!

Short version of my grading scale:

1 Star = F = 0-59% = Fail

2 Stars = D = 60-69% = Poor

3 Stars = C = 70-79% = Average

4 Stars = B = 80-89% = Very Good

5 Stars = A = 90-100% = Excellent

Most Vine reviewers have developed a similar system. Hopefully this article covers everything you want to know, but leave a comment if you have any questions. Look for more of my reviews in the future!

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