The Snoop

With holiday shopping on our minds, it was interesting this week to hear that several large retailers who have a huge online shopping presence, are guilty of posting phony product reviews on their websites.  

Yep, the reviews are fake.  

The news report stated many of the reviews are generated by robots. 

Additional reviews are generated by groups that are selected and paid to write something flattering or positive.  Yet, unverified. Untrue. 

During the Christmas season, many gift buyers tend to rely on website reviews before making a purchase.  Did you know over one-third of those 5-star ratings are bogus?

According to ReviewMeta and Fakespot, when a product receives an unbelievably high number of positive ratings –– the genuineness of the reviews truly are unbelievable.  It is likely the reviews are fake.  

The problem is – it’s a problem because there are so many different ways for a retailer to place ‘fake’ product reviews on their own website.  

This means companies not only use robots to establish glowing, positive reviews, but also set up a bogus network of ‘commenters’ and hide their identity.  

Many times college students interested in earning extra money are engaged to write fake reviews.  Sometimes students are paid with coupons or discounts.  Maybe gift cards.

News reports also elude to the fact some large retail stores will pull positive product reviews from other sites, and post them on their own.  And yet, they claim the product review details a purchase from their store location.  

Who to trust? 

According to a Wall Street Journal article, Best Buy.  

Best Buy “does not use third-party reviews and almost all their posts are verified as from Best Buy purchasers.”   According to Fakespot, this policy has kept Best Buy’s website more honest than most, as it boasts a phony review level of  roughly 10%.  

I’m not plugging Best Buy, but it seems noteworthy that the company makes a concerted effort to do what is right.

There are options however. 

For an honest product review, you may want to subscribe to Consumer Reports.  

Wirecutter, a New York Times Company website also appears to be a reliable source for product information. It is reader supported. 

If you suspect a retailer is displaying bogus comments, file a complaint on the company website.  Note the complaint on Yelp.  Visit Ripoff Report online. Contact the Missouri Attorney General.  Contact the Federal Trade Commission. Maybe write a letter to the Better Business Bureau.

According to a CBS News report dated Feb. 28, 2019, fake reviews are increasingly prevalent across many top retailer websites. 

The story noted the following:

• 52 percent of reviews posted on Walmart.com are “inauthentic and unreliable,” Fakespot estimates.

• 30 percent of Amazon reviews are fake or unreliable, the study found.

• About a third of the reviews listed on makeup retailer Sephora and video-game service Steam are also unreliable or fake, the analysis discovered.

So shoppers, as you search online and peruse options for purchasing a special Christmas gift this season, it seems quite appropriate to be skeptical.  

And remember, if it seems too good to be true, it’s very likely that indeed it is.