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.

Vanilla Umbrella Problem

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.

Vanilla Umbrella Problem
Vanilla Umbrella Problem

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.)

Vanilla Umbrella Problem

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.

Vanilla Umbrella Problem

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.

Vanilla Umbrella Problem

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.

Vanilla Umbrella Problem

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.

Shame really.

UPDATE: 23/9/2016

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.

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14 thoughts on “Why I won’t review the Vanilla Umbrella App”

  1. Maybe they are taking business/marketing advice from Lelo? IE piss off your user base on the grounds thxzaqt all publicity is good publicity and perverts will just suck it up, or something?> Or maybe they are simply graduates of the Haven’t A Fucking Clue academy.

  2. AuntieSocial says:

    I’m not at all surprised that they blocked me as well. Okay, I was a bit surprised that they would reject our criticism, you know, since they said that they listen to all feedback … but their bias towards only receiving positive feedback is evident in their 5-star rating reward program. We obviously aren’t 5-star reviewers!

    As I said in the Twits … I would have no ethical problem if they were rewarding all reviews. People do tend towards the positive when they are being rewarded anyways. Also, people who are leaving poor reviews aren’t likely to be requesting their in-app credits. So, rewarding all feedback isn’t going to change their costs, or their ratings, all that much. However, it would demonstrate that they are ethical.

    The other comments they made to you (which I am only reading now) indicate a MUCH bigger problem. As you said, they appear to have no clue about the culture they are trying to serve. My guess is that they are trying to capitalize on the bump in mainstream awareness for BDSM without having any real idea of what we do and who we are.

    I had never heard of them before this exchange came across my Twitter feed. I don’t really use dating apps, so it really wasn’t something that would have interested me. However, having witnessed this exchange (and being party to it), it isn’t something that I could recommend. There is something clearly off in their ethics (not just their pay for 5-star review policy, but a deeper issue concerning sex worker rights, D/s and quite possibly other topics that are integral to our lifestyle).

    (As a side note: I wonder what they will do with the inevitable consent violation feedback, since they appear to be marketing to anyone, all experience levels, any knowledge base … No doubt, they will try to bury it. Maybe they will even offer hush credits.)

  3. Kagero says:

    This is absolutely one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever read. The situation, not the review – to clarify. Perhaps the ethics of their business practices should be brought to the attention of the Google store. Brilliant review though, had me in stitches at the pure stupidity of these people.

  4. Michael says:

    Wow, that’s pretty intense. You’d think at some point a company would just back off and stop acting like spoiled brats. Who’s running their operation? Their immaturity bothers me the most.

  5. Brandy says:

    Glad I found this information! My hubby wanted to sign up to find a playmate and asked me to research the site before he did so (as he does with all these things). After reading this my answer is going to be no!

  6. My goodness!! Have never been one for these kind of apps but the way they are buying ratings is quite disgusting and sad if you ask me!
    Well, hope that others get to read this and keep well away from that kind of fraud.

    #BedroomTaboo

  7. Lali says:

    I am posting this even though from what I see here this is a cotrolled vendetta and my comment will probably be deleted. So despite of reading this which might or might not be true, I created an account. And the app is really cool, met a lot of cool people on it and they actually deliver. I reported a guy who was extremely rude to me and next thing he was gone. I feel SAFE on there, no matter what you all say and I will keep using it and telling all my friends about it, whether you delete this comment or not.

  8. Lali says:

    PS: I looked on the credits page and there is no reward for reviewing. So maybe they didn’t know it was against policies and they removed it. I personally think you have a personal vendetta against them and you decided to hurt them by digging and posting about any dirt you could find instead of just admitting this is a damn cool app. Also, the fact that you delete the comments that are not convenient to you, how is that ethical?

  9. If it works for you then cool, if you want to tell your friends about it that is also cool. Not exactly sure where I deleted any comments that weren’t useful to me to be honest, there were a few I wasn’t able to get shots of before being blocked by them though. You have had a better experience with them than I have, that’s great for you and I’m not going to tell you that you’re wrong for feeling the way you do.

    At the end of the day if they have removed the incentive for positive reviews then the blog post did exactly what it was supposed to do – cause change. The post will be updated to reflect that those changes have been made. However I won’t do that until I have re-signed up and confirmed it for myself. But the post will not be removed or any of the other details changed, nor will the app be reviewed because no matter what change they make – they still didn’t refund my money when they closed the account, which would be theft.

    So no, I’m not going to delete your comment because you have your own opinions and I respect that. They just aren’t the same as mine and that is absolutely fine. I hope you continue to have success with the app, be good and if you can’t be good, be safe 🙂

  10. Lali says:

    Oh I understand now, this is all vengeance because they didn’t refund you. Well I hope they keep being exactly as they are because they are the safest option out there. As for you, now that you said why all this campaign against them, I believe in kharma, hope it’s there for you.

  11. Lali says:

    So I was wondering if you are so ethical and never delete comments, where is my latest comment that underlines what you just said about the real reason behind this post? The one posted about a week ago? You know, one has to be stupid not to see through your comments “approving” system… lucky for you, people seem to be stupid but let’s see, maybe i should let them know about your pracyices via means you can’t control, like social media

  12. There’s a big difference between deleting posts and having been away in london for the weekend and not being able to approve them. But as you can see, now that I am home your post is indeed in place as it should be – so that would be that accusation addressed.

    As to your “Oh I understand now, this is all vengeance because they didn’t refund you” – Well no, you clearly do not understand as the only thing I said about the refund was that I still wouldn’t review the app despite any changes made due to them not refunding me after closing my account when I had not breached any of their policies. In effect, stealing my money. Imagine your sky broadband being cancelled because customer service disliked your tweet but still took your money, same thing.

    As I’ve said previously, you’ve had a good time with the app, good for you. I had a great time with the app, as is mentioned in the article. I pointed out that they were acting against google policies and they were a little butt hurt about the fact. They tried to defend it and their defense turned nasty when it fell apart. But if you want to believe that they weren’t aware then believe that but let me just offer this for you to consider.

    Vanilla Umbrella Buying Reviews

    Vanilla Umbrella Buying Reviews 2

    Feel free to continue to defend them, feel free to continue to believe that they “weren’t aware”. But also you are free to go to Ravi Tamada’s twitter, go to his website where he clearly advertises the “reviews” that he sells. Finally, you are also free to use whatever social media you care for to bitch about me because the evidence presented damns them, not me.

    Even though that has been clearly presented to you I don’t expect you to accept it, even though it is clear as day that their business practices were unethical and calculated while silencing those who disagreed or wanted to speak out. Let me make this perfectly clear to you, any further response from you will not be approved because frankly you are just spamming my comments section and thus will be treated as spam. You’ve had your say, you like the app – awesome. I’ve presented why I won’t review it. That’s the end, I doubt I would change your opinion anymore than you will change mine, you have your experience, I have mine and my evidence. Be good, and if you can’t be good – be safe 🙂

  13. LatexGuy says:

    But is this not just the same as certain major online adult toy retailers who in essence pay people to upload reviews and photos of products, by entering them in a draw for £100, there was a big trumpet fanfare on ETO the other day because this particular system of buying reviews had managed to top 150,000 customer reviews. some of which are fairly clearly at the very least semi professionally written

  14. Not really no, the Lovehoney example that you are using is simply a competition. Not everyone is being “paid” or receiving some form of credit, the are just entered into a draw for a chance to win some money. Also, and what is the biggest difference is that said competition only requires you to review an item, not give it a very specific positive or 5 star rating. Vanilla Umbrella were only providing in-app credits to those who reviewed the app favorably on the app store so to better position themselves within the stores ranking, as they said “we help those who help us” and that a low score doesn’t help them (rank higher).

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