About Amazon Vine With Tips & How To Get Invited

Amazon Vine

What Is Amazon Vine?

Amazon Vine is a program in which actual Amazon customers who have been identified by Amazon as having previously submitted high-quality reviews on their purchases are invited to provide unbiased reviews about products made available to them at no cost (for free).

Per Amazon, the Vine Voices Program offers select customers access to select products at no cost to generate independent customer reviews on amazon.com and affiliated websites, to provide customer feedback to product suppliers, and to help generate product buzz online.

Product reviews aren’t required in order to receive free products, but reviews are necessary if you want to remain in the program.

What Type Of Products Are Available

You will find pretty much anything you can find on Amazon.com may be available at any given time on Vine.  It just depends on what Amazon sellers want to submit and when they submit it.

If you are a new Vine participant and/or in the Silver tier, you’ll see products valued up to $100.  If you are in the Gold tier, you’ll have access to additional products valued over $100.

Why Would Amazon Sellers Give Away Free Products?

Vine allows sellers to potentially get quality reviews in hopes of boosting product sales.   Reviewed products tend to sell better than unreviewed products; up to 30% in higher sales.  The Vine program does not guarantee the sellers’ products will get good reviews (or any reviews for that matter) and sellers can not contact reviewers nor are they allowed to influence reviews.

So How Does The Amazon Vine Program Really Work?

Once you are invited to Vine, you will be able to search through the product listings for items you might be interested in requesting.

As a new reviewer, you are automatically assigned to the Silver status which lets you order up to 3 items per day that have an Estimated Tax Value of $100 or less.

All Vine users are re-evaluated every 6 months.  You can stay in the Vine program as long as you review 50% of the products you have received.

If you order more than 100 items and review at least 90% of the products you have received before your 6 month re-evaluation, you will be upgraded to Gold status.  Gold status lets you order up to 8 items per day of any value.

How To Get Invited To Amazon Vine

No one is really sure what triggers an invitation to Amazon Vine, but there are things you can do to improve your chances of getting an invite.  At a minimum, you would need to qualify to be part of the “Amazon Community”, which according to Amazon means you must have spent $50 on Amazon.com, using a credit or debit card, in the past 12 months.

Vine invitations used to be linked to submitting quality reviews.  Having quality reviews that are marked as helpful by other Amazon customers doesn’t seem to be a deciding factor anymore, but it can improve your chances of being selected.

The remaining algorithms used for selecting new Vine participants are anyone’s guess. How long you’ve used Amazon doesn’t seem to play a factor. There’s been some speculation about demographics and/or geolocation possibly playing a part. Does having a Prime membership or Prime credit card improve your chances?  Maybe 30 Vine users quit or were suspended so Amazon just randomly selected 30 other Amazon users to participate?  It does seem that Amazon sends out new invites in batches, which may hint that invitations occur as replacements are needed.

So, there’s no specific way to guarantee that you will get an invitation to the Vine program, but based on comments posted by newly invited Vine members there are a few things that might improve your chances.

How To Improve Your Chances Of Getting An Invitation

  1. Update your Amazon profile and add or update your interests
  2. Review past orders and add a few quality reviews (the kind of reviews that others might vote up as being helpful)
  3. Save a few products to your shopping cart
  4. If you have any Amazon Wish Lists, update those with a few more products
  5. Review your Subscribe & Save subscriptions

While there’s no guarantee of receiving a Vine invitation, interacting with more Amazon features might just get you noticed.

Are The Reviewed Products Really Free?

Reviewers do not have to pay for the products they receive. However, per the IRS the fair market value of those products are subject to taxes.

How does the IRS know how much Amazon Vine reviewers received? Amazon sends the IRS a 1099-NEC form which includes Amazon’s “Estimated Tax Value” for all the promotional products a reviewer received (if the reviewer received more than $600 in promotional products).

The 1099-NEC  form isn’t generated because you are an employee or independent contractor for Amazon; it merely declares the fair market value of the promotional products you received from Amazon.

Is Amazon Vine A Barter System?

Should the products be considered a barter, a product traded for your service? Or perhaps the products could be viewed as compensation which you receive in exchange for your review? The answer is clearly listed in Amazon’s Vine TOS: “Products are promotional offers to you and are not sold to you”.  If it were a barter (a product in exchange for a service), you would have to return or pay for items that aren’t reviewed.

What If You Don’t Request More Than $600 Worth Of Products Per Year?

Even if you don’t get more than $600 worth of products a year, the IRS still states that you are required to report the dollar amount received as miscellaneous income.  If you want to have a zero tax liability for Vine products, you will want to select products with a $0 estimated tax value (see list below).

Have you recently been invited to join Amazon Vine? Here are some really important things to know before you go binge shopping.

First, please get familiar with the tax implications. You will have to pay taxes on the products you receive. See our Vine Participation Tax Considerations to learn more.

With tens of thousands of products to choose from, you can find quickly yourself drowning in a sea of products you don’t need and end up with a hefty tax bill at the end of the year.

How to make the most of Amazon Vine

  • Create a Vine budget based on the extra tax you can comfortably pay at the end of the year and limit your total product requests to that budget.
  • Request products that your really want and need
  • Streamline your product searches by using keywords of products you specifically want
  • Request products for which you would be willing the pay taxes. Those “free” $40 compression socks that you didn’t really need looked great until you had to pay $12 in taxes for them.
  • Compare Estimated Tax Value (ETV) prices for things you want. You can find the ETV value of an item by clicking the “see details” button under the Vine product listing. Interested in a pond deicer? There are probably 3 or 4 other identical pond deicer Vine listings, and some might have a lower ETV value than the one you are looking at. Comparison shop just like you would if you had to pay cash.
  • Request products that have $0 ETV (more on that later)
  • Be brief, concise, and (above all) honest in your reviews and post most reviews within 30 days of receiving the item (there are a few exceptions to this).
  • Keep a spreadsheet to track your product requests and reviews
  • Streamline your reviews (see below)

How Do I Find Products With $0 ETV?

Amazon assigns a $0 ETV if the product fits into a special health or beauty category and/or the seller primarily sells products in either of those categories.  The products are usually consumables, but not always.

Every once in a while a random product that’s not in the health or beauty category will show up with a $0 ETV.  The nice thing about products with $0 ETV is that they have no tax implications.

Products that often have no ETV

  • Vitamins
  • Reading glasses
  • Dietary supplements
  • Skin care
  • Bandages
  • Nail trimmers and polish
  • Hair extensions
  • False eyelashes and lash lift kits
  • Body lotions
  • Essential oils
  • Castor oil wraps
  • Food
  • Tattoo supplies
  • Sleep masks
  • Food storage bags
  • Bath salts
  • Shower steamers
  • Hair Dye
  • Heated blankets
  • Drug test strips
  • Pregnancy tests
  • Hair dryers and diffuser attachments
  • Heating pads
  • Red light masks
  • Some medical equipment supplies or accessories
  • Facial beauty machines
  • Ear wax removal kits
  • Massagers
  • Pill organizers
  • Some pet foods
  • Shampoo and conditioners
  • Breastfeeding pump supplies
  • Post-surgery shapewear
  • Blue light glasses
  • Trash and garbage bags
  • Makeup, bronzers, and brow liners
  • Replacement shaving heads for electric shavers
  • Hair removal wax
  • Some gift sets
  • Baby wipes

How To Avoid Being Sucked Into The Amazon Vine Time Sink

Every new Vine user spends their first week pretty much glued to Vine.  It’s the unavoidable FOMO at its worst (Fear Of Missing Out).  It doesn’t help that new products are added continually throughout the day.

Whether you’re eagerly awaiting for an awesome product to become listed, scrounging the listings for $0 ETV items, or trying to catch up on your reviews, you will find yourself spending way too much time on Vine.

After your first week or two on Vine, you’ll realize you need to develop a strategy to make the most of your time.

As mentioned earlier, create a list of products you specifically want and need.  Instead of spending hours clicking through hundreds of pages of product listings, enter keywords for the products you want in the search box.

How To Streamline Product Reviews

If you want to stay in the Vine program, your goal is to give honest, unbiased reviews of the products you receive.  Writing reviews takes as much time, if not more, than finding the product you selected.  If you’re just going to give everything 5 stars and say it’s a great product, you probably won’t be on Vine very long and you’ll be doing a huge disservice to the rest of us who truly rely on reviews to make purchasing decisions.

The single best way to streamline your reviews is to make initial notes in your spreadsheet on why you selected that product in the first place.  When the product arrives, you can compare your findings with your initial notes and expand from there.

For example, you requested a hanging toiletry bag because you liked the floral pattern, the exterior looked like it would be easy to clean, and the description suggested that it would hold large bottles.  When the bag arrives, you can refer to your initial notes to see if the actual product lives up.  Maybe the printed flower pattern is very blurry but the outside does clean easily.  Then you can add observations related to its intended use.  Maybe the zippers didn’t glide smoothly or it wouldn’t close all the way if you stored a bottle larger than 6 ounces.  These are important things for potential purchasers to know.

Approach every review by asking what is it that someone would expect of that specific product.  If it’s a pair of socks, people would want to know if they fit, how comfortable they are, do they stay up or slide down, are they well constructed, how did they hold up after being worn and washed, etc, etc, etc…

The next step is to decide whether it lived up to its description and pictures.  The downside to online shopping is that you lose the advantage of being able to carefully inspect a product.  A review should help bridge that gap.

Reviews can take a lot of time but there is a way to streamline the process so you aren’t spending hours backtracking through your listings trying to catch up.

  • Take pictures of the product when you unpack it.
  • Keep a Vine spreadsheet (as mentioned earlier) and write down your initial thoughts of the product in the Review column.  Maybe add some notes of what you expect of it (those can be changed once you’ve taken the product for a test-drive).
  • After you’ve tested the product, update your spreadsheet and finalize your review.

The single best way to streamline your reviews is focusing on the information that is beneficial (see below)

How To Write Effective Product Reviews

Writing high-quality product reviews can take as long, if not longer, than the time spent selecting the product.  Your primary goal is to provide unbias, beneficial information to prospective buyers.

There are some basics that should be included in every review.  For a definitive guide with plenty of suggestions and examples, visit our How To Write Product Reviews page.

When Can I Have Items Removed From My Reviews Screen

There may be situations where you are not able to review a product.  You can have unreviewed products removed from your account, but it’s recommended that you do this only when necessary.

Contact Amazon Vine and have them remove any products from your Vine account if:

  • If you have to cancel a Vine order because you can’t review it due to a defective or damaged item
  • If there is no review button on your vine Reviews screen (seller may have discontinued item, sold out, or changed listing)

What should you do if the seller changed the product after you received the item?  If you received Orange Socks but the product was changed to Purple Panties when you go to leave your review, you should still review the item you received.  Just be sure to clearly state that you are reviewing Orange Socks.

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