Confidential transcript of a recorded conversation that took place at an undisclosed location in San Mateo County, California on December 18, 2020 between Amazon Investigative Team A3b and Amazon Prime customer, Bradley N.
Amazon IT-A3b: Hello, Bradley N. Please have a seat. We will be recording this conversation. Is that OK with you?
Bradley: Yes, that is fine.
A: Do you know why we are here?
B: Because of a recent review I wrote for Bruce Springsteen’s recent album, Western Stars. At least, that’s what Jeff told me over the phone.
A: Good. I’m glad we’re on the same page. Did Jeff also mention why we want to talk with you about your review, exactly?
B: No, not exactly. The phone connection wasn’t great, as Jeff was on his way to Texas in a helicopter to tour a Blue Origin launch facility. But I have to assume it’s because I gave Western Stars a 5-star rating on Amazon Prime shortly after it was delivered to my home address. Isn’t that why you’re here?
A: We’re here because we have reason to believe that you decided to give Western Stars a 5-star rating on Amazon Prime even BEFORE you finished listening to the album in its entirety. In other words, you may be guilty of a serious infraction. Premeditated 5-star reviewing. It’s a growing problem. In fact, we at Amazon think it ranks right up there with prescription drug abuse, unauthorized immigration, and the sky high costs of rent and new housing in this country. And COVID-19. Obviously.
B: Obviously. But wait a minute! I didn’t just GIVE Bruce 5 stars for his new album before I listened to it. Like, that’s just wrong!
A: Well, Jeff will be very pleased to hear you say that. On the record, of course.
B: I will say it again: I did NOT review Western Stars prematurely! I listened to the whole album before I awarded it 5 stars. Bruce EARNED those stars, man. Believe me! It’s just that, well, as I clearly state on my Amazon Prime profile page – and I quote:
As an Amazon Prime reviewer, I intend to highlight only the very best work of authors, musicians, artists, filmmakers, and scholars, along with a carefully curated selection of consumer home products with which I have direct and positive personal experiences. If I cannot award 5 stars unreservedly, I will not submit a review.
A: Yes, our Investigative Team has researched your profile and past reviews quite exhaustively.
B: So why the suspicion now about my review of Western Stars? I mean, have you even listened to it yet? It’s Bruce’s best work in years, and his most Western-oriented effort ever. It’s even better than The Ghost of Tom Joad or The Seeger Sessions.
A: We can’t reveal our reactions to Western Stars, or comment on any other Bruce Springsteen-related products available for purchase on Amazon, like his memoir, Born to Run. Conflict of interest and all. You understand, I’m sure.
B: Come on. Just between you and me. Jeff won’t mind. I’ll bet he loves the Boss as much as I do!
A: Sir, Jeff’s opinions of Bruce Springsteen – as a person, political activist, campaign fund raiser, singer, author, standup paddle boarder, downhill skier, or avid motorcyclist – are definitely not relevant subjects to this investigation.
B: Well, then, what is relevant to this investigation?
A: Your 5-star review of Western Stars, sir. Is it genuine? Did you actually listen to the album in its entirety before submitting your customer review? What is your favorite song on the album?
A: Hmmm. Sounds … convincing enough. I think you might be telling the truth after all.
B: Of course I am. They don’t hand out these Amazon Prime “Verified Purchase” badges to just anybody, you know. But, in point of fact: what would happen – theoretically speaking – if I had actually submitted my review before I finished listening? Maybe I was so impressed by the first few tracks that I made up my mind before reaching the end. Or maybe I found the album cover’s original artwork was worth 5-stars alone. Or maybe because Bruce is a living god who can do no wrong. What would be the harm with any of that?
A: Sir, the vast majority of Amazon Prime customers take their jobs as unpaid product reviewers extremely seriously. We can’t have people questioning the veracity of their reviews and star ratings. It’s our job to investigate suspicious cases, just to be sure.
B: Oh, you mean those suspicious 10 words of less “reviews” that pass as actual ones? And at least a few of those words are usually misspelled anyway. Probably their iPhone autocorrect feature is to blame, they’ll tell you if asked about it. But I don’t think Bruce decided to name his album “Worsted Ishtar,” now did he? So, what about all of those cases? Do you investigate those reviews as well?
A: Sir, our investigations are completely confidential. We can’t reveal who we speak to, or why. It’s need to know only. And only Jeff, plus an elite cohort of our most prized, Top 100 Reviewers, need to know. You sir, are #4,335,331. You most definitely do NOT need to know!
B: But I have far more experience than many others who sought the badge of an Amazon Prime Top 100 Reviewer, or other high-ranking badge, for that matter. I have as much experience in reviewing products as “The Jeff Bezos” did when he started out reviewing products for Amazon. And I will be prepared to deal with the people who assiduously read Amazon reviews before making their purchasing decisions, if an unfortunate event were to occur to a major badge holder like “The Jeff Bezos.”
A: Sir, I’ve served with “The Jeff Bezos.” I knew “The Jeff Bezos.” “The Jeff Bezos” was a friend of mine. Bradley N., you’re no “The Jeff Bezos.”
B: Ouch. That hurts. That really hurts! It’s true, of course, but that doesn’t dull the pain.
A: I’m sorry I had to go there, sir. But you kind of had it coming.
B: Agreed. But I must tell you, once again, for the record. Bruce Springsteen’s Western Stars album is an instant classic. It’s 5 stars all the way. Now, if I were to give a 5-star review to Madonna’s newest album, then … Well! Then you’d have something genuinely suspicious to investigate, now wouldn’t you?
A: Don’t get me started on the Madame X investigation, sir. It’s the biggest case file in our history – and growing.
B: I mean, what’s with the eyebrows and kabuki-theater white makeup? A Frida Kahlo portrait it most definitely is not. Looks like it should be cover art for an Anne Rice novel, if you ask me. Interview with a Blood-sucking Diva. Which I mean in the nicest way possible.
B: Yes, quite.
A: That’s a good stopping point, I think.
B: Fine. How about listening to Western Stars with me on the stereo before you have to leave?
A: Only if you’ve got something cool and refreshing to drink as well.
B: As luck would have it, I’ve got a growler filled with Fieldwork Brewing Company’s “Shindo” West Coast style IPA. And fresh, German-style pretzels from Backhaus Bakery in San Mateo. Would that work?
A: Indeed, it most certainly would. This case is closed. Cheers, Bradley N.
B: Cheers! You know, as I look at us all gathered together here, drinking local craft beer and snacking on fresh, American-made baked goods as the sun sets once more over the redwood-bedecked San Mateo coast, I think that Bruce and Jeff would both be so proud. Don’t you think?
A: Yes, sir. Most definitely! I can most definitely drink to that.
[end of transcript].