Disillusioned!

I’ve heard that you shouldn’t believe everything you read, so maybe this article isn’t true. Maybe this lady doesn’t really post five-star reviews on Amazon for stuff she’s never tried. The article is fiction — or at least distortion of the facts.

But maybe it is true. Maybe she does. And maybe there are dozens of others like her?

If today’s writing challenge were the word Dismayed, Dishonest, False, or even Phony, I’d have an easier time launching into this. But the Ragtag Daily Prompt word today is PASSAGE.

Well then, I’ve just made a swift passage from credulity to incredulity.

When I turn on my computer in the morning I get a selection of interesting news articles to choose from. This morning BuzzFeed News offered an intriguing headline about  someone who writes fake reviews of products and posts them on Amazon. READ IT HERE.

Those of us who write and have books listed on Amazon know how important reviews are. Potential readers scan the lists of books in their genre and decide — often based on reviews left by other readers — whether the book is worth their reading time. And I know there was a time when friends, relatives, and fans of this particular writer would load Amazon with glowing reviews. At times, having read the book myself, I’d shake my head and scroll down a page, where I’d see more honest reviews. “Poorly written,” “needs editing,” “grammar mistakes and typos,” “limp characters.”

Amazon has weeded out a lot of these reviews by ruling that only VERIFIED PURCHASERS may review and NO REVIEWS IN EXCHANGE FOR a free book or an equally glowing review of the other writer’s book. There was a time when small companies could make a profit by selling reviews to authors. Now the rule is NO PAID REVIEWS.

But I gather from the article I’ve just read that there are loopholes and some people are finding quite lucrative ones. Free products and even financial reimbursements from the advertiser, lots of freebies that make good gifts for friends.

While she may make some negative comments, the Reviewer in this article gives five-star reviews on all products, not matter what she actually thinks of them — or if she even tries them. But one day a co-worker asked about a product she’d reviewed and she admitted this is simply a way to get freebies and make a bit on the side. The coworker was disappointed that the review wasn’t honest.

“I definitely feel like I have to keep it a secret from people who have strong morals,” the Reviewer told the article writer.

She admits that for safety reasons she’s afraid to try some electrical devices from lands afar, but gives them a good review anyway. Her boyfriend’s a chemist and has discovered toxic ingredients in some skin care products, so she’s leery of trying them.

According to the article, a lot of her business is with small businesses in China—often claiming to be family-owned. Companies want to get their products taken seriously on Amazon and some are willing to cheat to do it, reimbursing purchasers and even paying a small fee. Sadly, where not-quite-honest people are looking for some small passage through the tangle of rules, they will find it somehow.

Oh, buyer beware!

Those Seasonal Sales

Today’s Word of the Day prompt is WRINKLE. Coupled with the inspiration from my recent shopping adventure, I’ve composed this poem. (You may call it a consumer rant if you wish. 😉 )

Seasonal Sales

In the blink of an eye,
the wrinkle of a brow,
another sale—limited time offer!—
kicks off with spectacular
savings you can’t miss.

First New Year’s sales, then Spring
with its end-of-winter-clearance,
followed by ready-for-Easter sales
with prices so low you have to
spend and stock up.

In the blink of an eye,
the wrinkle of a brow,
summer sale are upon us:
holidays, barbecues, cottages;
you need to buy all kinds of stuff!
Suntan lotion, insect repellent
by the gallon, at low, low price!

In the blink of an eye,
the wrinkle of a brow,
the back-to-school sales start
abutting nicely, while you’re there,
with end-of-summer clearances
that lawn mower you wanted
back in spring, now price-reduced
and ready for that fall clean-up.
Yes, you can spend—and save big time—
all in the blink of an eye.

Parents shopping for school books
are greeted by goblins, masks
and shelves of lanterns, because Halloween
is just around the corner. And fall’s the time
to plant those shrubs and bulbs
now on sale at half price.

In the blink of an eye,
the wrinkle of a brow,
Thanksgiving adds pumpkins, pilgrims
Black Friday and pre-Christmas sales
to keep the economy afloat.

Up go the calendar displays,
offering convenient gifts to please
those “impossible-to-buy-for”
bosses, uncles and aunts.
At the Super-Fall-Clearance table,
shoppers eye a book that offers to explain
how to reduce clutter and stress—
“Half price this week” —and sigh.

In the blink of an eye,
the wrinkle of a brow,
Christmas season’s upon us;
trees and lights go up and last year’s
decorations are on sale for a steal
and merchants pray for snow.
“Remember those folks on your lists,”
competes with “Jingle Bells”
to jingle tills, while shoppers
wander the aisles in a daze.

The first week in December
Boxing Day fliers arrive, awash
with after-Christmas bargains on
those gifts not bought, left-over
boxed cards and wrap, 60% off!

Eyes blinking, brows wrinkling,
and wallets seriously depleted,
consumers take a deep breath
and wait for the New Year
and the next onslaught of sales.

You Gotta Want It

Fandango’s challenge for today is HAPHAZARD

Which makes me think of a certain used bookstore I’ve been in a few times. The senior gentleman who runs it has thousands of books. He’s purchased an old commercial building and has it piled floor to ceiling (think 12 foot ceilings here) with books.

His aisles do not look like this:
Books

No, his aisles look very much like this:
Book stacks

With barely enough room to walk through the tunnels between the stacks, this is not the place to hang out if you suffer from claustrophobia. (Or from allergies.) You’ve got to really want that book!

I don’t know if he buys many new books, but he has many old, rare books, and he usually can tell you about which part of which aisle you’ll find the one you’re looking for. Or the author you want to read. Agnes Sligh Turnbull for example, or Ralph Connor.

So you go to that area he indicates and start perusing the shelves and stacks. Perchance you’ll see exactly the book you’re looking for.
Books in stack

My thanks to to the folks at Pixabay for all the free photos. 🙂

The word HAPHAZARD means “determined by accident rather than design.” It can be stretched to indicate possible danger to the person engaged in something haphazard. Such as a tower of books landing on your head. But our used book seller’s wares seemed to be stacked securely enough.

His merchandise does, however, suffer from the usual fate of many books crammed in a small, poorly ventilated place: they’re musty. And I’m really sensitive to must or mould, so I have to air my purchases outside for hours every day over several days, turning the pages every half-hour or so, before I can read the thing.

For those of us who appreciate books, his store is a real treasure trove of possibilities. someone doing historical research for the 1900s would be in their glory. Sad to say, though, there’s a limit to how useful out-of-date information is. He apparently has a mail-order business, yet I do wonder how many books he actually sells in a month.

Looking through a multitude of used books, or seeing the millions of e-books and print books available today, I recall the never-so-true words of Solomon — supposedly the writer of the Bible book of Ecclesiastes:

“And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” Ecc. 12:12

The Plumpest Goose

The Word of the Day prompt today is SHAMBLES
Here’s my response:

O Caveat Emptor!
by me

To the shambles she made her way
to choose their goose for Christmas Day.
The butcher offered “My very best!
This bird will look delicious, dressed.
I’ll set a price you can afford.”
Her shillings in his hand she poured.
At home she learned that goose so plump
had been enhanced with a bicycle pump.

🙂

Writing Delights

Writing is a delightful pursuit. As some great author once said, “It’s easy. You just sit down at the typewriter and open a vein.”

And then there’s the joy of editing, which I’ve tried to capture in this senryu:

editor slings red ink
bloodied words fly here and there
novel shavings
🙂

Alas! Those days are long gone when writers handed their books to an editor and the editorial staff did the fixing. Now it’s up to the writer to have the manuscript error-free and print-ready. Which usually means hiring a freelance editor.

Self-Publishing Options:
Print-on-demand companies like Amazon make publishing a price-painless proposition. Download a pdf, hit publish, and you’re good to go.

Now comes the joy of marketing. If a traditional publishing company is selling your book, they expect hands-on involvement from you. If you’ve self-published with Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, or any similar company, your hands are the only ones working the Ads & Sales desk. Unless you have kin and friends who’ll help promote your book, you’re on your own.

Thankfully companies will help in small ways. I recently made a deal with PrairieView Press, the printer/seller of my children’s book, The Rescuing Day, to list it in a flyer they are sending out to bookstores.

Rescuing Day cover.jpg

Plus, I’ve just made an agreement with Amazon.com to do a special free book offer for my e-book, Silver Morning Song.

SMS Cover page
As you see in my side bar, my book will be free on Amazon.com this coming weekend, November 22 to 26. So if you enjoy my blog, with it’s mix of short fiction tales, poetry and micro-poetry, take this opportunity to get your free copy. Here’s the LINK.

NOTE: I wasn’t given the option to list this on Amazon.ca, so I’m not sure if you’ll find the FREE COPY listed there. If you’re a UK reader, I plan to make the same offer on Amazon.uk next month.

And of course, if you do pick up a copy, I’m really hoping you’ll leave an honest review on Amazon. Even a couple of sentences will help. Thanks much!

The Adaptable Brew

FOR THE LOVE OF A BEAN

In morning mist of history, someone invented a pot.

Somewhat later one of these pots, full of boiling water, sat over someone’s cooking fire and they decided to toss in some dried berries they found on a bush. And when they took a slurp of the dark, dark water covering the beans, they thought, “Hmm… I kind of like that!” Someone soon thought of crushing the beans to release more of this appealing flavor. And the rest is history.

After years of boiling the crushed beans in a pot some clever soul saw the potential for improvement by putting these grounds in a bag and pouring boiling water over them. His idea caught on; folks did like the taste better.

Some years later another inventive person thought of a longer, skinnier pot with a spout for pouring, a metal basket like a sieve to hold the beans above the water, and a pipe that would pump boiling water up and over the beans. This “coffee percolator” went over well.

While percolators were bubbling merrily on stoves all across the world, other innovative people were at work with wires, metal drums, dams and windmills — testing, adapting. Finally lights went on all across the land and homes were wired for electricity. Some manufacturer of coffee percolators saw and opportunity and invented a stove-less coffee perk.

People developed more refined tastes. The idea of water washing repeatedly over the coffee fell into disfavor. Innovative designers produced an appliance where the water dripped down over the grounds only once. This new drip coffee-maker went over big time.

Electronics were added a clock so the user could programme when the machine would start to drip. Presto! Fresh coffee in the morning. Consumers were delighted with this innovation.

Someone else, in an attempt to satisfy the world’s need for speed and convenience, thought of putting the coffee grounds into small pods — then designed a machine that would hold an individual pod and drip water over it, to produce a single cup of coffee.

Innovation didn’t stop there. Someone else adapted the idea by adding a reservoir to hold water and a heating chamber to heat enough water for each cup. An electronic panel lets users select the amount of water that passed through the pod, and the speed, which affected the strength of the brew.

Our daughter found one of these marvelous inventions on Kijiji some months ago and presented it to us as a just-for-anyhow present. So we’re up with the latest; my morning cup of coffee sits here beside me as I type this. And I see a bug has landed in it. Grrr…! Guess you can’t fix every glitch. 😦

As I write these words, more adaptations are being tested in laboratories around the world. Ideas to make brewing our favorite beverage even more convenient. Who knows when the next clever innovation will appear in the market place?

Alas! If this process continues, I fear the day may come when I can’t figure out how to operate a coffee maker and have to become a tea granny like my Mom.

Disclaimer:
The writer makes no claims as to the historical accuracy of this article. 😉

Daily Addictions prompt: INNOVATION

FOWC with Fandango: PRESENT

Word of the Day challenge: POTENTIAL