Breaking News Emails
A lot of Americans are none too happy about Donald Trump becoming President. And many of them are also displeased at the notion of his adult children's close involvement in his presidency — particularly Ivanka Trump, who could be taking on the role of First Lady in an unconventional twist.
Critics of Trump and his eldest daughter are letting their voices be heard wherever they can, including on Amazon pages for Ivanka's fashion and beauty products.
And they're talking some serious smack.
Haters Gonna Hate
Reviews of the Ivanka Trump Women's Issa boots, which tout a list price of $180, included this: "These boots were perfect for wiping my feet on the Constitution and trampling the civil liberties and basic human rights of my fellow Americans," wrote a user named Susan Harper. "The spike heel is ideal for grinding democracy into the ground, or simply kicking the downtrodden as you stride past."
Amazon user AR called them "two extremely right boots" in her one star review and added that the "sizing and all other info is in Russian, but they are made in China."
The stinging insults go on and on. Virtually every Ivanka Trump product on Amazon has at least one scathing review designed as a barb against the businesswoman, particularly as she relates to her father's political agenda.
Rise of the 'Activist Reviews'
This is hardly the first time products on Amazon have been assailed by trolls — just recently Megyn Kelly's book "Settle For More" was targeted, and the site worked to scrub the hateful comments. These guerrilla attacks, if you will, have become more common in recent years.
When contacted by NBC News about the trolling, a spokesperson for Amazon said, "Customer Reviews must be product reviews and are designed to help customers make purchase decisions. There are many other forums available across the internet to discuss topics of interest which are not product reviews."
"We've seen these 'activist reviews' for several years but they appear to be getting more common," said Jason "RetailGeek" Goldberg, SVP commerce and content practice at Razorfish.
"In some ways, these smear campaign reviews are the natural extension of 'funny fake reviews,' which have been occurring for a number of years. Amazon even embraced these joke reviews by curating a list of their favorites. So now that the 'funny' reviews have taken a negative turn, retailers need to crack down on them in order to preserve the credibility and trust in the whole review system."
Amazon Is Where The Trolls Go
While other retailers such as Macy's and Nordstrom sell Ivanka Trump products, a quick look around reveals that these sites aren't being targeted by trolls to nearly the same degree, if at all. Why is Amazon the destination for Ivanka Trump trash talkers?
"It's similar to why you rob a bank — it is where the money is," said Lisa Merriam, brand consultant at Merriam Associates. "You troll Amazon because that is where the people are. Amazon ranks number 4 on Alexa's measure of Web traffic. Macy's is 57 and Nordstrom is 124."
Given that Amazon is so large, and brimming with so much content, it's easy for trolls to blend into the crowd of real reviewers. This brings us to the reason why Amazon isn't immediately scrubbing the site of fake reviews.
"Because Amazon gets so many more reviews and carries so many more [product lines] it's a much bigger challenge for Amazon to manually curate them," said Goldberg. "There are over 400 million products on the Amazon site, and a popular Ivanka Trump item could easily have 300 reviews, so it takes time for Amazon to discover an obviously fake review. Many retailers require a human curator to approve every review before it goes live on the site; Amazon does not."
Goldberg pointed out that like most other online retailers, Amazon removes reviews that clearly violate their terms and conditions. However, Amazon "does not require reviewers to actually prove they purchased the product, so it isforced to give questionable reviews the benefit of the doubt," he told NBC News.
Enjoy It While You Can
Does this mean the trolls can just take over? No, not exactly.
Gisela Hausmann, Amazon e-commerce expert and author of "Naked Truths About Getting Product Reviews on Amazon.com" noted: "Amazon's algorithm notices disproportionate numbers of negative reviews [and] weeds out these reviews according to their criteria, as defined in their Community Guidelines."
In time, these reviews will be plucked from the site, and aggressive trolls could face lawsuits for their words, even if they were simply horsing around.
"Retailers are taking an aggressive stand to crack down on fake reviewers; Amazon has sued more than 1000, for example," said Goldberg.
Amazon sues fake reviewers because reviews are such important credentials for a brand.
"In many cases, ratings and review are now more important than brand reputation to a product's success," said Goldberg. "So anything that affects the integrity of reviews is of great concern to marketers."
That said, these aren't really the kind of fake reviews that could hurt a huge brand like Ivanka Trump's. It's the false reviews that cite realistic complaints about a product, like poor quality or inaccurate sizing, that can actually hurt a brand — not wisecracks or political digs.
What a Retailer Wants
Still, all this upset prompts questions: Will some retailers distance themselves from Trump products while others rush to buy up?
At the moment it looks like retailers who carry Ivanka' products will continue to, for the time being; but her brand likely won't be attracting any new vendors.
"At the end of the day, retailers that were already carrying Ivanka Trump are likely to continue to carry it as long as it's justified by sales, but it could be tougher to convince new retailers to add the line, given that most retailers won't see enough up-side to justify the potential controversy," said Goldberg.
An Unclear Future
When considering the editorial letter that Ivanka Trump's site released a few weeks ago, which indicated that Ivanka would be spending more time advocating for women, and less time as the face of her fashion brand on social media channels, it's unclear whether Ivanka Trump will even continue her brand.
If she does want to continue it, her biggest problem is one that some of the trolls are touching upon: the fact that much of her manufacturing takes place outside the U.S, largely in Asia.
"The optics of the President's daughter running a business that primarily manufacturers in Asia is likely to be an ongoing challenge," said Goldberg. "The other wildcard in all this is if Ivanka does in fact move to Washington and takes an active role in her father’s administration.
“In that case, her company could shift from a celebrity brand being run by its founder, to a more arm’s length licensing deal, and that probably makes the company far less valuable."