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Saturday, August 11, 2018

Virtual Gumshoe Solves the Mystery of Harriet Klausner!

By Nicholas Stix

Anyone who has read the lists of leading customer reviewers at Amazon has heard of Harriet Klausner.

In early 2000, just after I’d bought a new pc that could handle a modem, and thus was Internet-worthy, I responded to an Amazon solicitation for customer reviewers.

The Amazon come-on said one could become famous from posting reviews on the site. Seeing as I had no Web presence, I though, “Why not?,” and started sending in one review after another. (Many of the early movie and book reviews were ones I’d published in my magazine, A Different Drummer, from 1990-1993.)

I immediately had radically divergent experiences, based on the radically divergent Amazon staffers running the politburo. One of my first reviews, of the Jewish oral history, Our Parents’ Lives, won me a $50 gift certificate, which I plowed into more books. However, I almost immediately ran into problems.

Certain anonymous Amazon staffers were sitting on my reviews. Thus, I had the choice between giving up, and getting more aggressive. I chose the latter path, and began sending each review directly to Jeff Bezos’ email (I believe it was jeff@amazon.com), which meant to one of his presumably thousands of secretaries.

On the rare occasion that anyone responded to my complaints, at least one flunky assured me that all reviews were posted in the order in which they were submitted. Another staffer wrote a kind response, in which she admitted that something was wrong. I never heard from her again.

For all the sabotage, I was climbing quickly in the ranks, and made it as high as 5,770.

When the staffers told me transparent lies, I looked for a baseline, and found it in Harriet Klausner. She was the Secretariat of Amazon book reviewers. Nobody came close to her numbers of reviews or upvotes.

I started checking her daily reviews. She would get several book reviews posted immediately every day (they were dated by her submission), while the apparatchiki suppressed my submissions.

This was a grudge match.

There were Amazon discussion boards, where other customer-reviewers insisted that Klausner was a fraud.

Meanwhile, an Amazon supervisor directly intervened, by sticking most of my reviews in a “private section,” where only nobody but the amazon commissars and yours truly could see them. That also resulted in subtracting all of the votes I’d gotten for the embargoed reviews, and caused my ranking to tank, which was the point.

I would periodically try reviewing again, but the apparatchiki would sabotage me each time, forcing me to start from scratch. When I complained once, the apparatchik who responded lied, saying that I’d submitted the review from a different computer.

Stix Amazon I

Stix Amazon II

Stix Amazon III

They played the same game with Daniel Pipes, constantly forcing him to start from scratch with a new count. Pipes might have been a legitimate champ, if they’d let him be.

Eventually, Amazon implicitly admitted that Harriet Klausner was a fraud, by making her champion emeritus, even though she had many more votes than anyone else.

No matter. Over the years, she was profiled in the New York Times, Washington Post, and TIME.

When Klausner died on October 15, 2015, all the big media gangs I came across sang her praises.

As a representative sample, I re-posted a credulous thing by an
Andrew Liptak, at the late Gawker’s Gizmodo, below.

Amazon has since disappeared Klausner’s profile page, though there may well be a backdoor entry to it somewhere.

While all the big boys published slavish profiles and obits of Klausner, one obscure blogger actually investigated and exposed her, while she was alive, as a fraud and a crook. That investigative blogger goes as “Sneaky Burrito,” and his blog is called, The Harriet Klausner Appreciation Society. The title, as you’ll see, is a deception, presumably to lure in readers who’d otherwise pass by.
 

RIP Harriet Klausner, The Web's Most Prolific Book Reviewer
By Andrew Liptak
10/24/15 10:00 a.m.
Gizmodo (Gawker)

If you’ve ever perused book reviews on Amazon.com, you’ve probably come across a name on just about every novel out there:

Harriet Klausner. By the time she passed away on October 15th, she amassed an incredible 31,014 reviews.

A self-described speed reader, Klausner was a former librarian who tore through four to six books a day. In 2006, Time Magazine listed her as a person of the year who had a significant impact on the information age.

Klausner’s reviews weren’t in any particular depth, but she perfected the art of quickly encapsulating the plot the books that she sped through with a brief recommendation. Her formula seemed to work: she was ranked the #1 reviewer for the site until the reviewing metrics changed, although she retained her #1 spot as a hall of fame member. Her reviews alternatively amused and angered readers and authors who at times questioned whether or not she actually existed.

Despite her incredible output, it was clear that she was a person who loved books: her last review was published on October 12th, just days before she passed away.

[Thomas L. Scroggs Funeral Home]


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Enjoyable story to read.The "fix" has only gotten worse.
--GRA