He works at Amazon.
(Perhaps it's a Sizeable Sister, but whatever. They work at Amazon.)
The BB/SS was brought to my attention by a sweet librarian in the Midwest who was baffled by strange goings on surrounding the removal of a review she submitted for Sammy Keyes and the Power of Justice Jack.
Perhaps authors should have better insight into the workings of this book-selling giant. I'm sure some do--I'm just not one of them. I spend my time writing, not analyzing Amazon. So when the correspondence came from this librarian, I initially thought that her experience reflected a simple glitch in the web giant's posting system. After all, the review (which she sent me) had nothing objectionable in it, and she was a legitimate reviewer--an educator at a middle school. What reason would Amazon have to remove it?
After I told her I was clueless about why it would be removed, she waited a few days and when she was sure her review was not magically reappearing, she contacted Amazon directly.
They wrote her back, saying:
We do not allow reviews on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product. This includes authors, artists, publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product. As a result, we've removed your reviews for this title. Any further violations of our posted Guidelines may result in the removal of this item from our website.
She wrote them back explaining who she was and that she had no vested interest whatsoever in the book.
So they reinstated her review.
And the next day it was, once again, removed.
This librarian works at a school that annually does an all-school read to tie in with a theme. This year their theme is"super heroes" and their book of choice was Justice Jack. They liked the book's theme--that one person can make other's believe in and act upon doing the right thing. So lots of people at this school have read this book. And in addition to the librarian's review, the assistant principal posted (from a separate computer and through a separate Amazon account) this review:
Sammy Keyes is a great read! I am an assistant principal, and I have always tried to read the books that the young people I am working with may be reading. I recently read Sammy Keyes and the Power of Justice Jack and found it to be a wonderful read. The book was very entertaining. It flowed very nicely, kept my interest, and made me laugh at the escapades of the superhero Justice Jack. I love the author’s colorful descriptions of her characters. The characters are easy to relate to, and the moral behind the story was positive and easy to discuss with young people with an opportunity to encourage them to incorporate it into everyday living. I strongly recommend this book to read with your children. In fact, I read this book with my eleven-year-old daughter, and it was a great father-daughter bonding experience.
Very nice, and nothing that puts up any red flags that I can see. But it, too, was mysteriously removed shortly after it was visible on the site.
When the librarian told me this, I searched the ol' gray matter for a reason. There had to be a reason! And what I hit on was that the school had ordered a large quantity of books through Amazon and somehow Amazon could track the school's computer system (BB/SS!!) and saw the reviewers as having some resale interest in the title.
But guess what?
The school did not order their books through Amazon!
Since nobody could figure out what's going on, the librarian contacted Amazon again and asked for an explanation. She got the same message as before. So at this point she was ticked off enough to track down a real person via phone (not an easy thing to do). She explained the situation to this real-life person, and the next day both 5-star reviews were reinstated.
Twelve hours later, poof, they vanished again
About twelve hours later, poof, they were back up!
Then poof! they vanished again!
At this stage this librarian and I are e-mailing back and forth like mad. They're up! They're down! They're up! They're down!
And I'm finally the one who says, "Man, this feels so Big Brother."
In the end, after Amazon threatened the librarian with future reviews (for any books) being automatically blocked should she persist, I told her that she didn't have to be a superhero about it. She could just let it go.
Which she has.
But not before sharing Amazon's final correspondence:
"I understand that you are upset, and I regret that we have not been able to address your concerns to your satisfaction. However, we will not be able to offer any additional insight or action on this matter."
That was it. No actual explanation.
My theory is that the librarian was dealing with two people at the Big A. One daytime, one nighttime. And as the Up and Down Battle ensued, the person in a position of greater authority exercised that authority and shut down the conversation.
Who knows what the actual truth is. After all, they're "unable to offer any additional insight", so that leaves it to our dangerous imaginations.
Besides not being able to get to the bottom of this mystery (and the little fact that the Five-Star Killer got away), what irritates me is that there are presently only 2 reviews--one 5-star (from a legit outlet) and one 2-star (from someone who clearly has no sense of fun or humor). So the average star rating looks pretty bad! Which is sad because everyone tells me that the book is really good!
People are entitled to their opinions--I can live with the negatives. But Amazon shoppers do judge a book by the customer reviews (I know I do), and to have the positives excised without justification seems wrong.
Justice Jack would be appalled!