Saturday, September 1, 2012

Harriet: Epitome of the Current Fake Review Ethic

The whole point of Amazon customer reviews is that they are supposed to be the unsolicited opinions of disinterested amateurs. (A quote from Iain Manson, the No Hoper).

Harriet Klausner is neither unsolicited nor disinterested and she is not an amateur. She is a reviewer who is paid by the publishing industry, receives free books in exchange for good reviews, or free advance copies, all of which she is supposed to disclose. Do you see that disclaimer anywhere? Of course not, because she WANTS you to believe that she is your ordinary reader just like you and me. The new ethic in today's world of reviewing is that reviewers don't have to read the books they review, in spite of the consumer's belief that a reviewer has read the book. In fact, reviewers argue that because they don't have to read the books they review, they aren't required to SAY they read the book. Yeah, and I'm a carpenter--I've just never used any tools or built anything.

Harriet posted 45 bogus reviews overnight, all of which were 4 stars or higher.  In the last 11 years she has posted 27,784 reviews, averaging 6.5 to 7 books fake read and fake reviewed every day of the week, every week of the year.  She is employed as a paid staffer for the Washington Times, Baryon, Porthole Cruise Magazine, Affaire de Coeur, and I Love a Mystery; is an advance reader for Double Day, a print editor for Painted Rock, and a resident scholar of; she is a member of many more online reviewing consortiums; she owns and operates two of her own websites.  She makes an untold number of $$ from reselling her free advance copies of books back to other booksellers.  She has skillfully packaged herself so that she is an invaluable marketing tool to publishers, authors, and Amazon while duping unsuspecting readers like you and I.

If you have any doubt about whether or not she reads the books she reviews, just go back to a review of a book AFTER you've read it to see how much she gets wrong and how much she leaves out. Then google her. She is a notorious fake.

Klausner is incapable of telling the truth because she is consumed with several things: being on the top of the heap, being famous, and making lots of dishonest money.

Her reviews devalue all reader reviews and she thumbs her nose at the entire process with help from Amazon. Readers everywhere should be insulted by this fraudulent activity.

It's time for a call to arms.


Sneaky Burrito said...

Hello all,

I'm new here (obviously). I decided to join you all because, independently, some time ago, I stumbled upon some of HK's reviews, for books I had read. I thought they -- the "reviews" -- were worthless, and I kept noticing them pop up (I tend to read fantasy, which is one of the genres she covers -- I won't say "reads" because we all know that she doesn't), so I Googled her and learned the truth through blogs and sites like this one.

I have not done nearly as much research as some of you, and the extent of the action I've taken so far involves down-voting all of the HK "reviews" I see, and occasional complaining in my blog about Amazon reviews in general. But maybe more regular visits here will inspire me to do more.

I think the reason that fake reviews really get to me is that I review books on my blog. For all but one book I've reviewed, I've paid to buy the book, and spent sometimes days, sometimes a week reading it, maybe more (hectic schedule), and then taken an hour or more to write the review. I can do maybe 50-60 in a year. HK easily posts that many or more during some single days.

Anyway, good post Embee. You've said a lot of the things I feel.

Beachmama said...

Sneaky Burrito: Welcome, I'm rather new here as well and joined because as a lifelong reader who loves, loves books it just drives me nuts that Amazon allows this prolific fake to thrive on their dime. Back in the day when I didn’t know anything about Harriet’s books/money for stars scam I bought books based on her useless drivel.

Just this morning I read a review she wrote on a book I’ve already read. While written in her usual summary of the plot and characters style vs. any personal observation or opinion she did accurately recap the first chapter. YES, she read the first chapter or one of her minions did. I personally don’t believe Harriet represents a single person; she is a review churning industry. No single human being could read even the first chapter, back cover, or publisher’s blub in the numbers she manages, write and post the quantity of reviews she does on multiple sites and blogs while eating, sleeping and dealing with complexities of real life. For anyone to believe she single handedly manages that AND reads anything she writes about is beyond imagination AND yet Amazon allows this and continues to allow it knowing their customers are making a buying decision based on the opinion of a compensated shill.

I haven’t figured out how to get Amazon to stop her but more and more people are paying attention to this dishonest practice, including high profile folks like the NY Times. Creating bad publicity for Amazon may be the best weapon at our disposal.

Malleus said...

Hello, Sneaky Burrito. I seem to rmember your name from somewhere else, though I can't recall where exactly. Welcome aboard! I think everyone here will agree with your comment. But Amazon has stuff to push, so ours miserable fifty reviews a year doesn't cut it, you understand. They need automated, industrial-scale shilling, and that's what they have in abundance. Harriet, of course, is the Queen of them all, due to the sheer degree of absurdity of her good works.

Sneaky Burrito said...

Thanks for the welcome, everyone. (If you're wondering where you've seen me before, it might be the Best Fantasy Books forums, or Book Country, or possibly Twitter.) Anyway, it's sort of a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't scenario for me. For books, I usually buy based on the recommendations of people I know (even if I only know them online) or from the Science Fiction Book Club or from a physical Barnes & Noble store. Unless there's something I know of that I can't get from any of those places. Then, well, I do buy from Amazon. I'm relatively immune from HK-like reviews as far as books go because I'm willing to exploit other resources, even if it takes more effort.

But...I need a new lunch bag because mine's falling apart (and has olive oil permanently in all the crevices from a leaky Tupperware). And so where did I go looking? And what was the only merchant that had something that suited my purpose? Amazon. And yeah, I read some reviews. I know there are fake reviews for products other than books, so maybe all my effort with respect to books is for naught.

Malleus said...

Your effort is not for naught 'cause real reviews are imporant to the public (at least to those members of it who bother researching). But do be aware that since, on Amazon, anyone can post reviews, and since it's possible to create multiple accounts (and thus post even more reviews -- under different names), opportunity exists to BS the buyer. And then, you know, a bunch of friends of the author and/or publisher personnel go online and buy a copy of the book they want to promote (so that their review gets marked as "verified", as if it meant anything) and then post five-star hype for it. Personally, I expect that: courtesy of Amazon (thieving fucks are very coy about it and carefully look the other way when it comes to shills) the door is wide open. Now, if the door is open, why would all manner of conniving bastards not butt in? Silly to expect otherwise. Hard to believe it is all by accident, by omission, an oversight: all the little backdoors that are availabel to shills there are just so convenient for them, that you gotta believe they're there intentionally.

What I do (as a reader/buyer on Amazon) is go first to the negative reviews -- those are rarely fake. In some cases, it's all I need: they disclose some fundamental flaw in the item that is unacceptable, so that's all I need to know (funny how no five-star reviewers mention it ;-) ). If not, or if they (neg reviews) are stupid, or -- very rarely -- look fake, then I go to the rest of the reviews.

Most imporant, I trained myself not to buy on the "feel good" impulse produced by the very presence of five-star reviews: I do read them. You can always tell a real review from a reluctant zero-substance blurb by a lazy friend of author's, or a hunk of advertising copy (instead of the review), or a bunch of irrelevnat crap added to provide bulk so that it looks like a review (but, if you read it, very obviously isn't).

Trouble is, a lot of people don't do that: they do what I did in the late nineties/early 200s, i.e., get enthused by a pile of five-starrage and buy a book. Then they have a piece of crap in their hands. And if they buy it from a seller, then they can't even return it. Amazon know what they're doing. I suspect a huge proportion of sales is influenced by their bullshit-review machine. I think so 'cause even though I pride myself on being a suspicious paranoid bastard, they got me at first: I started noticing crap only in 2004, I think. Now and then there's some innocent simpleton who starts sparring with us HK bashers trying to prove it's not impossible that she reads megabazillions of books every day. My only remaining question is, where the fuck is the FTC? It's their job to rein Amz in.

Embee said...

Oh, wow, I just now saw the comments. Sneaky Burr-rr--rrrito, welcome! Thanks for the kind words.

I, like Beachmama, am a lifelong reader who has had a love affair with the English language. Believe me when I say that yours, hers, and everyone else's comments have not been for nothing. Like Malleus, I do my research on reviewers. I check to see how many reviews a product has posted, and then I start investigating the reviewers. Do they only have one or two reviews out there? What did they review? Are their reviews original and unique or similar to those of other reviewers? I wander all over the internet picking up information and comparing so that I don't get gulled. And still it happens! It really ticks me off, but at least it doesn't happen like it used to.

There's an awesome discussion going on the "Ammy's been deleting a lot of comments lately" discussion. You might want to check it out. It's current and has lots of really interesting information.

Hope to see you around soon and often.

Dona said...

Sneaky burrito,
I think I joined up about when you did, and have been posted on another thread. ( the deleting comments one) so I didn't notice you till today.
Anyway , hello.