Amazon (Finally) Suing Sellers Over Fake Reviews [REBLOG]

Reblogged from: GreyWarden

(reblogged from


One of Amazon’s most appealing features is the unbiased reviews provided to members. Unfortunately, it turns out that some sellers have taken it upon themselves to feed fake reviews to their customers-to-be. This wouldn’t be a prudent idea. Amazon is (and has been) suing those sellers that are buying positive reviews.

Amazon has previously sued to stop websites that sell fake Amazon reviews, along with individuals offering to write fake reviews. This latest batch of lawsuits is against the companies that buy fake reviews for their products.

A story from TechCrunch this week reports that three new lawsuits were brought against sellers where the fake reviews made up 30 percent to 45 percent of the overall reviews. According to TechCrunch, the defendants are Michael Abbara of California, Kurt Bauer of Pennsylvania and a Chinese company called CCBetter Direct.

We reached out to Amazon for comment and received the following in regard to these cases:

While we cannot comment on active litigation, we can share that since the beginning of 2015, we have sued over 1,000 defendants who offered to post fake reviews for payment. We are constantly monitoring and will take action against abusive sellers by suspending and closing their accounts and by taking further legal action. Our goal is to eliminate the incentives for sellers to engage in review abuse and shut down this ecosystem around fraudulent reviews in exchange for compensation. Lawsuits are only one piece of the puzzle. We are working hard on technologies that allow us to detect and take enforcement action against perpetrators while also preventing fake reviews from ever surfacing. As always, it is important for customers to know that these remain a very small fraction of the reviews on Amazon and we introduced a review ranking system so that the most recent, helpful reviews appear first. The vast majority of reviews on Amazon are authentic, helping millions of customers make informed buying decisions every day.

The rules in this type of a case are fairly straightforward. Amazon has sellers agree to the following:

You may not intentionally manipulate your products’ rankings, including by offering an excessive number of free or discounted products, in exchange for a review. Review solicitations that ask for only positive reviews or that offer compensation are prohibited.

Furthermore, when sellers choose to break selling policies, they may find themselves without much recourse. The seller policies make it clear that any disputes or claims will be resolved by binding arbitration and won’t go to court and that each party waives their right to a trial.

So sellers take heed, if you want a good review, make sure your product/service earns it. To make sure that you are adhering to Amazon’s rules, read the full Participation Agreement in its entirety.


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6 Dead in Shooting Rampage in Munich, Police Say

Police have confirmed that it’s likely a terrorist attack.

I hope all those in this community who live in Munich or have friends and family there are safe and OK.

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The countdown has started! — Pencils and What-Not [REBLOG]

Just six days to go till publication day!Here’s a Goodreads review:Excerpt: The Sugar Planter’s Daughter by Sharon Maas is a deep and heartrending story of love and loss; betrayal and forgiveness; secrets and lies. I felt deeply involved in Winnie’s and George’s lives; the lives of George’s family and their encompassment of Winnie into their hearts. But…

via The countdown has started! — Pencils and What-Not




Ruminating On: Scared White People and #blacklivesmatter [REBLOG]

Reblogged with the author’s express permission from: Edward Lorn – on BookLikes: Lornographic Material

There are people, white and black and otherwise, who will read this blog post and automatically dismiss it. Some might even say it’s not my place. I cannot do anything about them. All I can do is tell my story, and maybe someone will understand. Nowhere in here do I mean to shirk my privilege or put myself outside the broad stroke of “white people”. When I say “white people”, I am including myself in that statement. I don’t dig labels. Never have. But the rest of the world does. So, yes, I am White People. But I have a little more, just a tad more, experience dealing with systemic racism, and that’s what I want to talk about today. Because the biggest problems with white people are fear and disbelief. “There is no problem,” they say. “It’s blown out of proportion by the media, by race-baiters.” Nope. You’re wrong.  I’ve seen systemic racism firsthand. And, while there is a problem with today’s media, scared white men shooting black men is a problem that needs to be addressed.

 I moved to Troy, Alabama, in 1996. I started working for the Burger King on Highway 231. That’s where I met the man whom I would, almost twenty years later, name my son after. My buddy’s name is Christopher McCord. He’s a black man. That didn’t matter to me then. It doesn’t matter to me now. But, in this story, his race does matter.

 Though we came from much different backgrounds—he from Birmingham, Alabama, and I from southern California—we shared a love for music. All kinds of music, man. Metal, classic rock, R&B, hip hop, even a country song or two. We’d roll through Troy in his Dodge Daytona, a car by the name of Rudy, blasting everything from Bone Thugs & Harmony to Matchbox 20. And I mean blasting. Chris had a killer sound system. Not one of those bullshit rattleboxes. He dressed Rudy to the nines. Only the best. We spent a lot of time inside that car and on my back porch. Chris was there for me during some rough times, and he remains the only friend I have who remembers the waste of life that was my father. Chris soon became my brother in every sense of the term other than blood. I would do anything for the guy.

 One night in 1997—this was late, probably almost midnight, if not after—Chris pulled into the old Walmart parking lot on 231. He killed Rudy’s Engine and we sat listening to a Bone Thugs album. Chris was laughing at me trying to skip over singing the N-word and still keep up with the rapid-fire lyrics. We were having a good time. We were not hurting anyone. There were no posted signs. Nothing to tell us the parking lot was off limits, because it wasn’t. There were two semi trucks parked off on the other side of the lot with their running lights going. Truckers trying to catch some sleep.

 I’m not sure how long we were there, but soon enough the cop cars showed up. I know you know it’s coming, so we’ll jump right into it. Three cop cars, four cops, all for a Dodge Daytona sitting in the middle of an open, all-but-empty parking lot. We were, of course, either having sex or doing drugs. I’m sure these officers thought that anyway. Hell, maybe we were having sex AND doing drugs! I jest, but my point is, I know why they stopped. It’s how they reacted to Chris and then me that changed the way I saw things.

 Chris got out, revealed himself to be black, and the cops lost their shit.

 “Put your hands up! Don’t move!”

 First, which is it? Which one was he supposed to follow? “Put your hands up!” or “Don’t move!”? Given those commands, which one would you do?

 Next thing I heard was one of the cops tell Chris, “Lemme see your ID.”

The cops, all four white, didn’t know the race of the other person in the car. Namely, me. The cruisers were parked behind us and Rudy’s back window was tinted. And, as I’ve said, it was dark. They could obviously see me moving around inside, but there was no way they could’ve seen I was white. Thinking we were in some serious trouble, I got out of the car to try and help explain why we were here and what we were doing.

 I popped the door open and I might as well have drawn a gun. Shouts and barks for me to stay in the car or stay where I was exploded all around me. But I was already pulling myself out. Besides, these were cops. They weren’t going to shoot me for no reason. That doesn’t happen. Right?

 Well, they didn’t shoot. But I’ll never forget the change in those officers’ demeanors when they saw who, or more importantly what, I was.

 Three of the four officers visibly deflated when they saw me. They couldn’t see my hands, only my face over the top of the car. They relaxed completely. Even took on jovial joking tones. The questions were then directed at me, the passenger.

 “Why’re you guys out here?”

 I told them and they relaxed even more.

 Not one of them asked me for my ID. I’m four years younger than Chris. I was 17 at the time this happened. But not one of them asked me for my ID. But I’ve always looked young. At my best, I could’ve passed for fifteen. Now, you can say that they didn’t ask for my ID because I wasn’t behind the wheel, but that doesn’t change what I saw.

 I saw three men who were scared to death of Chris and were not the least intimidated by me. I saw three men on the verge of violence solely because of the personal appearance and not the actions of the person they were faced with. Chris didn’t make any sudden moves. He didn’t pose any threat. He sure didn’t argue with them. But they were still terrified of him. Of him. Not me.

 Before that night, you might have made me believe that the recent rise in black men being shot and killed by police was something trumped up by media outlets. But the truth is, my fellow white people, is that the media didn’t used to focus on this. It’s always happened: scared white men, who’re scared for no other reason than they’ve been taught that black men are vicious animals, putting down what they perceive to be vicious animals. And when it did hit the news, white people would say, “They must’ve done something to deserve it.” Even now, just a few days ago, a black man with a conceal and carry permit was shot to death after following instructions. Those instructions being, “Show me your permit.” Philando Castile, a man who was just following orders, was shot and killed in front of his girlfriend and her daughter while reaching for the permit the officer asked for. Why? Because of a scared white man.

 I firmly believe that the only reason that Chris went home unscathed that night was because I was there. Hell, two days later, when I went back to work, all of Chris’s friends came up to me and thanked me for being there. All I did was be white at the right time, and here I was, a hero. That’s crazy. If I hadn’t been there, I would not have believed it. Had you seen the way those officers’ faces changed when they saw that Chris the Scary Black Man had Edward the Safe White Person with them, you might understand instead of fearing and disbelieving. But seeing is believing. You just have to open your eyes.

 All I can ask is that you do not dismiss this. White people do not talk about our roles in systemic racism enough. The way we act and react when faced with these tragedies speaks volumes. Silence is a reaction, and it’s not the right one. I don’t know how to fix this, but I’ll continue to educate myself.

 Take care of each other,



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Liebster Award


I’ve been tagged for this by Kendall Roberts of curious•pondering on WordPress – thank you so much!

Since it’s very much in line with the things folks on BookLikes seem to find irresistible, too (witness the most recent incarnation, “50 questions”) – and since it’s specifically designed to spread the word on (and communicate with) new blogs, something the BookLikes community also deeply cares about, I figured I’d cross-post my responses on both sites.

FWIW, in case anyone is wondering, there’s no actual “award” ceremony: as with other memes of this type, the “award” is being tagged at all.  Also, while the name sounds German and there is a literal translation for it that you may see being bandied about on the web in connection with this thing, it really only makes sense if you make it a whole phrase (in which “liebster” is an adjective, not a noun): “Mein liebster Blog” – “my favorite blog.”  I don’t think whoever first envisioned this actually ever thought of nominating random strangers’ blogs as their “darling” or “beloved” (which would be the literal translation of “Liebster” when used as a noun).

Anyway, since this sort of thing seems to spread like wildfire regardless how many people are tagged (or not), I’m just going to invite everyone who sees this and wants to join the fun to consider themselves tagged.

Since its purpose also is, however, to highlight recently-created blogs (or, I suppose, blogs that are new to us, which in my case comprises just about the entire WordPress community), and the rules expressly call for specific blogs to be tagged, too, I’m going to tag:

On BookLikes:

On WordPress:

… and as a bonus entry, a blog I just discovered on both BookLikes and WordPress: Mybookfile (= BookLikes) / My Book File (= WordPress)!


The Rules:
  1. Thank the blog that nominated you and link back to them.
  2. Nominate up to 11 other bloggers for the award.
  3. Answer the 11 questions from the blogger who nominated you.
  4. Tell your readers 11 random facts about yourself.
  5. Give your nominees 11 questions to answer themselves.


My Answers to the 11 Questions Asked of Me:

What is your favorite season?

I’ve more or less answered this one before, at least after a fashion, though obviously only on BookLikes (so here goes for the WordPress crowd):

Spring, summer and early fall, at least where I am living now.  Winters tend to be gray, wet and murky hereabouts.  I love snow, so if I were living in the mountains, I might just go for “year round,” or “any day that it doesn’t rain all the time.”  But I don’t particularly mind heat (and I’m not living in the tropics to begin with) … and I absolutely love what spring and early summer does to nature, including our own back yard.


What is your favorite security item? If this is too personal, do not feel pressured to answer.

No “item”:

Her name is Holly.  She’s the most loving and affectionate creature in the world, and whenever I’m down or depressed there is nothing better than feeling her soft, warm body and silky fur cuddling up next to me with the sweetest and most eager of purrs.  I love her to pieces.

What is your third favorite website?

Hmm. Until a mere three days ago, I’d have said I have two favorite websites; BookLikes and Leafmarks. Since Leafmarks’s sad demise, however, it comes down to just one – the BookLikes community I’ve come to care about more than about anything and anyone else online.

Everything else is just utilities. I do tend to get my news from a bunch of major newspapers’ sites (both English and German), I use Facebook to stay in touch with a number of friends who neither live close by nor are members of BookLikes, and there’s a really good translation website named Leo that I use a lot – though first and foremost for my job – but that’s pretty much what it comes down to.

WordPress is looking promising, but at the moment I’m still building up the basics of my blog and I haven’t connected with too many people yet (which is why this “Liebster award” is probably coming exactly at the right time, so thanks again, Kendall). Will have to wait and see, I guess.

What is your favorite movie?

Another one I’ve answered before on BookLikes:

“Here’s looking at you, kid …”

 Casablanca, hands down.

What is the best smelling plant/flower to you?

At a pinch, I’d probably say citrus fragrances and similar scents (especially verbena); though I love most natural fragrances – flowers (lavender, roses and apple blossoms come to mind in particular), Mediterranean herbs, spices (the more exotic, the better), pine woods, wet grass, sandalwood, you name it.

If you could have one wish, what would you use it on?

Well, this is going to sound boring beyond belief, but I’m a little past the mid-point of my life now and I’ve had the good fortune of being able to fulfill some of my really great wishes already, so I mostly would wish I’m going to be able to go on leading a meaningful life instead of just going through the motions.

Of course if someone were to somehow transform me into a literary genius of Shakespearean dimensions, that would be very nice indeed …

Would you rather be able to produce music or literature?

See last paragraph above, I suppose. I love music and my life wouldn’t be the same without it, but the use of language (which is what literature is ultimately all about) is a big part of my day job, too, so I suppose literature would be somewhat more within my reach, and it would also be, I think, ultimately what I’d most like to try my own hand at.

(Sure. One day …)

Who is your favorite actor/ actress?

Actor(s): Humphrey Bogart; closely followed, however, by Robert Redford, Kevin Spacey, Colin Firth, Jeremy Brett, David Suchet, and half the alumni of the RSC (in no particular order and to name just a few, John Gielgud, Ian McKellen, Derek Jacobi, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Alan Rickman (RIP earlier this year), Patrick Stewart, Ralph Fiennes … plus a whole bunch of others).

Actress(es): Emma Thompson, Susan Sarandon, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, and the great leading ladies of Hollywood’s golden years – Lauren Bacall, Bette Davis, Greta Garbo, and Marlene Dietrich.

What is your favorite beverage?

Tea – pretty much any and all kinds –, Diet Coke, and single malt Whisky (preferably Glenlivet, Laphroaig, or Bowmore; though the latter only if 18 years and upwards.  And yes, I know I’m a snob when it comes to whisky).

       Left: 17yo cask strength limited edition Glenlivet (this: Right: 10yo Tobermory:

What author do you most wish to meet?

Dead: William Shakespeare – the greatest literary genius that ever walked the earth.
Living: Salman Rushdie – one of, if not the most important contemporary literary voices, particularly (though for reasons I wouldn’t wish on my very worst own enemy) on the great scouges of the post-Cold War world: fundamentalism (religious and otherwise), racism, and the encroachment of freedom of thought and freedom of expression.


Do you keep an offline written journal?

No. I tried a couple of times, but the habit never stuck – I neither have the patience nor the time for it.


11 Random Facts About Me

For this, I’m going to draw on the “50 Questions” list that is currently making the rounds on BookLikes.

1. I’ve never made a habit of counting my steps, but when walking on brick or flagstone paths, tiled sidewalks and the like, as a kid I used to make up rules about where I had to / could only step – e.g., never on the same stone / slab / tile with both feet, etc.

The Yellow Brick Road:

2.  My everyday breakfast consists of black tea, freshly-pressed orange juice, and a roll straight from the baker’s with butter and jam.  I love hotel breakfast buffets, however, and when traveling will always indulge in those; with everything from cereals (preferably granola) and fresh fruit to scrambled eggs / omelet / eggs over easy, bacon, croissants, you name it.  Bonus points if the buffet includes local food items.  When in Great Britain, nothing but a full English breakfast will do (solely minus grilled tomato, which I can’t stand).  Similarly in Mexico, huevos rancheros, quesadilla, and at least one variety of a tortilla wrap (enchiladas, burritos, etc.) are a must.

3.  Stubbornness is one of my greatest failings (or strengths, as the case may be?).  I can also be lazy to the point of utter procrastination – which however tends to conflict with the fact that as a rule I am also fairly ambitious and, if something truly matters to me, an OCD level perfectionist.

4. In Chinese astrology, I’m a dragon.


5. The last time I had a photo taken for a portrait by a photographer was four years ago, for our office’s website.  More recently, an artist friend of a colleague / friend of mine created a micro-portrait picture on the basis of a photo of me – though you have to stand very close to the picture to recognize it’s (a) a photo (b) of me, which is sort of the point of the whole thing.

6. The first music performance I can remember attending was Engelbert Humperdinck’s children’s opera Hänsel and Gretel, together with my mom and my grandparents, when I was about 5 years old.

Hänsel und Gretel (Oper Bonn)(Hänsel & Gretel and the gingerbread house: image from a recent production of Bonn Opera)

The first concert I attended without parental supervision, just with my then-best friend, was either Chris de Burgh or Hot Chocolate (anybody remember them?) – anyway, same venue for both, and in pretty quick succession one after the other, as I recall. I must have been about 14 or 15 at the time.


7.  If in terms of biorhythm we are either owls or nightingales, I am definitely an owl.  Can’t go to bed, much less sleep, before 11pm, but the only way I’m able to function at all early in the morning is on autopilot.  Change even the slightest bit of my morning routine, and I’ll be walking around like a zombie, utterly and completely lost.

8.  The issue of tucked-in sheets doesn’t arise as a matter of routine, as we don’t use them in Germany and I never used them when living in the U.S., either, but in hotel beds, the first thing I do is pull out the sheets.  I need to be able to wrap my feet in whatever I’m using as a cover, and anything tucked in makes me feel claustrophobic.

(A Highlands welcome – Loch Torridon Hotel, Torridon, Scotland)

9.  If listening to CDs while I’m driving, I sing along all the time.  Same if / when there’s a song on the radio that I truly like.  Lately, that hasn’t been the case very often, though, as my heretofore favorite station has taken a musical turn towards the bland an meaningless recently, thus putting me in the position of either having to find a new radio station or live with their current musical selections in order to continue getting their (still rather good) talk radio contributions and editorial contents.

10.  I’ve never used a gun, nor would I ever want to.

11.  I have tremendous respect for the fact that the greater the height you’re at, the worse you’re likely going to get injured if you fall (if you survive in the first place, that is).  That doesn’t stop me from climbing up every bell and observation tower I come across for the view from the top, but I’ll never be found too close to the edge.


Questions for Others

For my questions for others, finally, I’m going to draw chiefly (though not exclusively) on the Proust Questionnaire:

1.   What do you most appreciate in your friends?

2.   What fault do you find easiest to tolerate in others?

3.   What is your favorite occupation?

4.   What is your idea of happiness, and what is your idea of misery?

5.   If not where you are actually living right now, where would you like to live?

6.   What is your favorite color?

7.   Who is your hero / heroine in fiction, and why?

8.   Who is youro hero / heroine in real life, and why?

9.   What natural talent would you like to be gifted with?

10. If you had a time machine allowing you to travel to up to 3 different eras (past and future), what era(s) would you like to travel to?

11. From a burning building, you have the option to rescue either a [cat / dog / supply your own favorite animal] or a priceless work of art, but not both.  Which of the two do you rescue, and why?



Question of the Month

In this post, Olga Godim says:

“Periodically, BL explodes with questionnaires. It could be 50 questions or 5 or 12, and everyone pitches in, because we all want to talk about ourselves, express our struggles and thoughts and quirks. We want to share ourselves with our friends.

One of my online friends, Michael D’Agostino @ A Life Examined, came up with a blog hop Question of the Month. Once a month, he makes up a question, sends it to all the participants, and we answer on the first Monday of the month. This month, his question was:

What was the first book (or book series) you really fell in love with?”


My answer (as already set out in the maxi version Bookish Q&A that made the rounds a while ago):

To an equally great extent:

– The various collections of Greek mythology that we owned (they taught me to value courage and intelligence — my favorite hero was Odysseus; my favorite deity, you’ve guessed it, Athena — and they gave me a first inkling of just how far the history of mankind actually goes back);

– The books by German adventure novelist Karl May (they taught me to respect all people equally, regardless of their national and ethnic origin, as well as to value friendship and, again, courage, and they fed into my curiosity about countries and cultures other than my own),

– Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking books (they taught me that girls can go absolutely everywhere they want to), and

– Otfried Preußler’s Die kleine Hexe / The Little Witch (it taught me that in the face of a setback, perseverance and cleverness equally pays off; if you stick to your guns and use your head you will still prevail in the end – even if you are seemingly outnumbered and outranked).


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