Why I won’t review the Vanilla Umbrella App
About a week ago a kinky dating app called Vanilla Umbrella was brought to my attention by a friend as something that I could possibly do a review for on the site. Having more recently wanted to expand the list of things that I review and having previously done a piece on Whiplr it was just the kind of thing I was looking for. Having looked at it’s features I signed up, created a profile and because I like to review thoroughly – bought a month’s VIP status so I had access to ALL of the features.
My time with it was pretty good, I had a few gripes about this and that but nothing particularly major until I was putting my initial thoughts together and I saw this.
Provide the the app with a 5 star review on the store and receive 50 free credits? Oh no no no. Instantly my desire to review Vanilla Umbrella was quashed. Why? Simple, it’s a business practice that is no different to buying review scores, followers on social media and the like. Something that not only do I see as unethical but Google itself does as it outlines in it’s developer policy here. So I decided to tweet my dislike of this business practice and make it known it was the reason that while I like the app, I couldn’t review or support it.
Vanilla Umbrella could have ignored my tweet (common for a company to do) or they could have responded (which they did). Now, had Vanilla Umbrella simply taken my reason for not supporting or reviewing, deciding to perhaps review and change this particular breach of ethics I would have praised them. I would have reviewed the app and as I have done in the past with others – lauded the company for listening to and acting upon the feedback of its users. But then this happened.
As you can see, from Vanilla Umbrella’s perspective they are supporting the users who support them by giving them a 5 star rating. However when it is pointed out that this is unethical and compared what would happen if I were to accept payment for a positive review of a product (that I would virtually lose all credibility as a reviewer) – they seemed to think I was upset that they didn’t pay me?
Fair enough, I guess you could read it that way if you tried really fucking hard? It was then pointed out that they could reward and support all users who reviewed, however they scored. Alas as can be seen here no matter how much they “welcome and actually listen to all our users and their feedback” they tell us how really only the 5 star rating users count as supporting them because well anything short of that doesn’t rank them high in the store (and increase their potential for profit by manipulating review scores – but you know, details.)
They then went on to make a comparison about how it is no different to the refer a friend aspect that they also run though I didn’t grab a screen of that one. These are not the same thing at all, one is manipulating review scores for better placement on the app store and is direct violation of ethical policy. The other is not. But then it just gets weird.
Ok what the actual fuck? I’m just…what? First and foremost I mentioned in the entire twitter exchange how I “like” and “love” the Vanilla Umbrella App but I’m curious as to which apps they are referring to here or what they seem to be insinuating about me as a person? I mean yes, I am a firm believer in Sex Worker Rights but chaos? No no, I’m a Dominant, it is in my nature to want to control, to order – the opposite of chaos. The only Chaos I enjoy is in my Warhammer 40k. So “anyway, good day, bye”? Well not quite.
What the actual fuck? (take two) I took this image this morning because at the time I hadn’t got a shot of it but for the sake of keeping things in correct timeline, you can see the time it was posted. Not exactly sure what my profile on their app would indicate that I like offending or attacking people? Humiliation is not one of my kinks for starters and I’m sure wasn’t listed and as for attacking, well if that is what was surmised from my profile then the people behind the social media at least don’t have the faintest clue about the activities and culture they claim to “support”. But again, details.
Having said that they had seen my profile I received a message from my slave asking if I had removed my profile from the app as it was no longer there. I had not, but they clearly had as you can see in the image. Though I have yet to be refunded the remaining 26 days worth of VIP status that was remaining because I neither deactivated the account, nor did I break their policies. They did that out of spite because I wasn’t a supportive user, inflating their store ranking. Because you know, anything less than 5 stars, fuck you, it doesn’t help us. The twitter blocking was to be expected though I didn’t expect another user to be blocked just for agreeing with me.
I slept on it, I always do before writing these kind of things. It helps to clear the head and consider. Perhaps Vanilla Umbrella was ignorant of the fact that it was breaching policy, that it was using unethical practices in order to inflate their own rating to increase their potential revenue stream. It’s possible right? I’m willing to give anyone the benefit of the doubt.
For shits and giggles I decided to audit the Vanilla Umbrella twitter account and found that about a third of their followers are considered fake. Ok that’s a touch high? I mean yeah, sure, there are plenty of bots and crappy profiles but still. I played a little game, I scrolled through the followers and picked one at random about 30 times. Two of those times I clicked on a profile that had been active within the last week. 28 of those profiles all tweeted between the 10th-13th of May, never heard from again. Was someone naughty and buying a bunch of twitter followers in April/May?
I’ll take a stab in the dark and say they did, which would suggest that having used that as a shitty business practice they are more than aware they are being unethical with that review nonsense.
As of this date I can confirm that said positive review incentive has been removed from the app. I’m still not going to review it because as far as I’m concerned they cancelled my account out of spite for speaking out against it. Still, if you want to check it out – I encourage you to do so.