The Art of Funny Amazon Reviews

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A few days before Christmas, I decided on a whim to solicit funny one star reviews for my new book, Everyday Bicycling. The book’s listing on Amazon went from 2 to 34 reviews in a relatively short period of time, most of them single star send-ups of the online review form.

My reverse astroturfing campaign made some people laugh (usually shortly after it made them confused) and seems to have resulted in a sales bump. But the jury is still out on whether or not it’ll continue to be a good thing in the long term, or end up a liability.

One definite bonus has been learning about the world of funny reviews on a wide range of products for sale, from the bizarre to the mundane. As the reviews become Internet memes, more people flock to join in the fun. The funniest get upvoted, the ones that fall flat (or just sound sincerely mean) sink to the bottom. It’s kind of how the Internet is supposed to work.

Here are some of my favorite products that have enjoyed this treatment:

  • I can’t believe I didn’t know about the audaciously attractive Three Wolf Moon t-shirt. It’s one of the originals of the genre. Apparently it’s led to a huge number of sales of the shirt and a small-ish economic boost for the Vermont community out of which they’re shipped. See? This might not be self-sabotage after all.
  • A classic in the making is the collection of Bic for Her pen reviews, written by women (and men) who care.
  • Perhaps not as timeless, but contemporary and funny are the three-ring binder reviews poking fun at a recent presidential candidate’s “binders full of women” comment.
  • Numbers are not yet in as to whether or not this handy dandy Banana Slicer is flying off the warehouse shelves, but it sure is amusing to read about.
  • The $45 gallon of milk. Is this is a database flaw? I don’t know, but it’s inspired poetry. Literally.

There are plenty more out there for the seeking, from uranium to rabbits to horse masks to books about numbers… and tons of other products available that are silly enough to inspire great lengths of parody. The Internet’s an amazing platform for these cooperative public art projects. The real winner, of course, is Amazon. That’s their brilliance. And it makes me all the more determined to thumb my nose at them, even as I acknowledge my (partial!) dependence.

So I urge you to go on, join the fun, and leave a review of my book — and then turn the tables right back around and buy it directly from me.

Thanks for playing!