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Friday, January 24, 2014

A plague of fake reviews

It's not just Amazon and the political trolls:

Sites such as Amazon, TripAdvisor and Yelp are now the go-to destinations for customers who want to cut through advertising waffle and discover what products and services are really like. Yet, according to research that is sure to panic business owners across the world, a fifth of Americans have left online reviews for items they’ve never bought or even used.  This figure is even higher (32 per cent) among parents with children under 18 and the most popular reason why online shoppers questioned did this was simply because ‘they felt like it.’
I think "panic" is too strong a word. But I do think the online retailers need to do a much better job of eliminating fake reviews and providing meaningful rating systems than they do.

Although the inaccurate headline is misleading. A fifth of all online reviews are not fake. A fifth of Americans have, at some point, left a fake review.

Labels:

48 Comments:

Anonymous Porky January 24, 2014 4:36 PM  

★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

I give this blog post one out of five stars.

Anonymous But January 24, 2014 4:37 PM  

Fake reviews are easy to detect and ignore.

If you're too dumb to detect a fake review, real reviews aren't really going to help you, either.

Anonymous Huckleberry - est. 1977 January 24, 2014 4:42 PM  

In addition to fake reviews, the 1-star reviews that love the product but hate the delivery of it, and go on to complain for five paragraphs about the tracking number and the UPS guy really just need to stop.

Anonymous Krul January 24, 2014 4:42 PM  

Porky - I give this blog post one out of five stars.

Meh, I give it a 6/10.

Anonymous Josh January 24, 2014 4:47 PM  

In addition to fake reviews, the 1-star reviews that love the product but hate the delivery of it, and go on to complain for five paragraphs about the tracking number and the UPS guy really just need to stop.

ITEM WORKS GREAT BUT HAVE TO GIVE ONE STAR BECAUSE BOX WAS BADLY DAMAGED AFTER NEIGHBORS DOG RIPPED IT UP BEFORE I COULD GET HOME THE MAILMAN DID NOT PUT THE PACKAGE ON THE TABLE ON MY FRONT PORCH AS I HAD REQUESTED IN MY EMAIL TO THE COMPANY THAT I TITLED SPECIAL SHIPPING INSTRUCTIONS AND THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME THAT THE DOG HAS DAMAGED PACKAGES I'VE NOTICED THAT IT ONLY HAPPENS WHEN I'M NOT THERE TO RECEIVE THE DELIVERY WHY CAN'T THEY JUST ALWAYS DELIVER WHEN I'M HOME????????

Blogger RobertT January 24, 2014 4:50 PM  

Somebody on this blog suggested indicating whether the review was purchased on Amazon. I think that's a good idea. I also think indicating how many books they've bought would add credibility. That being said, I've left some highly negative reviews, but never a fake review. I buy a ton of business books that aren't worth the air they're printed on. If I'm lucky they will have one good concept. Although Taleb milked a good idea for three books, at least his books aren't boring because he's all over the place and even the ancillary stuff is interesting. When I get one of those 'one concept' books, or a poorly written book, I'm sadistic about getting even.

Anonymous Krul January 24, 2014 4:56 PM  

RobertT - I buy a ton of business books that aren't worth the air they're printed on.

If you want business advice, here's a free tip: don't buy worthless crap.

Hey, I just came up with my next book!

Anonymous Catan January 24, 2014 4:58 PM  

But the fact that you hate lying liars who post false reviews just shows how insecure you are, or something. At least, that's what the rabbits told me.

Seriously though, the equalitarian idea of 'all opinions are equal' is one of the dumbest concepts ever concocted by man. And we've came up with some pretty stupid ideas.

Anonymous But January 24, 2014 4:59 PM  

The 1-star reviews that amuse me are the ones that complain (a) the Kindle price is too high, or (b) something about the Kindle format bugs them, e.g. the pictures were too small.

Anonymous Krul January 24, 2014 5:00 PM  

Don't Buy Worthless Crap: Business Success the Thrifty Way by Krul A. Kruller

Coming soon to a bookstore near you. Reviews appreciated!

Anonymous WinstonWebb January 24, 2014 5:04 PM  

Feel free to post reviews in advance for my as-yet-to-be-written, sure to win a Tony, Broadway musical:

RABBITS!

Blogger RobertT January 24, 2014 5:11 PM  

OK. Good idea. Maybe I don't pay enough attention to the reviews, but I always read a few just to get the general feeling about the book. That doesn't seem to help me avoid them. I didn't say they were 'worthless crap'. Many people would probably consider that single chapter and single concept an excellent reason to buy the book. Just not me. When I buy a book I am expecting a complete book on someone's novel ideas for conducting business, after all it's my life's work, not just ten pages and a single chapter of a single great idea. And I buy hundreds of books a year, so I don't take it lightly. What I really should avoid is buying any business books at all. But ever since I read my first business book, Up The Organization by Robert Townsend, I've been addicted. They're like heroin. What I really need to do is look into Business Books Anonymous. "Hello, my name is RobertT and I'm addicted." But thanks for the helpful advice.

Anonymous Josh January 24, 2014 5:28 PM  

Feel free to post reviews in advance for my as-yet-to-be-written, sure to win a Tony, Broadway musical:

RABBITS!


2/10. Would not bang.

Oh wait, wrong review format.

I laughed, I cried, it was better than cats.

Blogger Rantor January 24, 2014 5:28 PM  

So only 20% of Americans are liars? Is that good or bad? A lot or a little? OBTW while on the subject, I must admit that I lie sometimes... But, I can honestly say, I have never lied in a book review on Amazon. Was that review helpful?

Anonymous Jimmy January 24, 2014 5:30 PM  

It would help if businesses publish their own surveys and reviews. I am constantly asked to complete a survey upon completing a transaction, usually shown on the receipt. Sometimes I might get a survey in the mail or email. Who knows if they do anything with the surveys.

Anonymous Porky January 24, 2014 5:30 PM  

Krul: "Meh, I give it a 6/10."

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

I give your response 2 out of 5 stars.

Anonymous dh January 24, 2014 5:46 PM  

Porky--

1 viewer(s) did not find your review unhelpful.

Anonymous indpndnt January 24, 2014 5:47 PM  

Amazon does have "Amazon Verified Purchase" next to some reviews. It will also have higher ranked reviewers being noted. It's not hard to cut through the crap.

Yelp and all those other sites need to adopt the same "Verified purchase" model, I think. It wouldn't be hard for a business to put a 48 hour code of some kind on the receipt that verified that you ate there that Yelp would accept in order for a review to be made.

Blogger Bogey January 24, 2014 5:52 PM  

Fake reviews are pretty easy to spot and I really wouldn't mind if some legitimate reviews bit the dust in the interest of integrity. Were not exactly putting people to death here, strengthen your damn review if you don't want it deleted.

Anonymous Will Best January 24, 2014 6:02 PM  

Did they lie when they created the false review or are they lying now?

Are people so desperate for attention that anonymously telling the world their opinion on something they don't know anything about becomes a worthy use of time?

Incidentally, Amazon might have done it to themselves with the "was this review helpful" like system that allows people to get a dopamine fix when somebody validates them. The other thing they have added is comments to reviews which is probably causing more harm than good.

What would be fascinating to me would be the gender breakdown. If I had to guess women create more false reviews than men by a substantial amount.

Anonymous Krul January 24, 2014 6:13 PM  

Re: RobertT,

You should buy my book. The title of chapter 1 is "Library!"

Porky - I give your response 2 out of 5 stars.

I give your fist star two thumbs up, your second star one thumb up, and the other three stars a golden shower.

Anonymous Pinakeli January 24, 2014 6:20 PM  

★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

I give comment number 62 one star. But only if it is by someone I don't know. Or if it's green.

Anonymous Porky January 24, 2014 6:23 PM  

@Krul

♞♞ ☹

I give your trolling two black knights and a frowny face.

Anonymous Stephen J. January 24, 2014 6:32 PM  

This is one of the reason the only reviews I read are the three-star reviews. Someone who's thought enough about something to see both its pros and cons is by far the likeliest to provide useful information about the *product*, rather than just *their reaction* to it.

As for filtering out "fake" reviews, I agree that this is going to be a necessary survival tactic, but I'm not sure I can think of any method to filter the fake reviews that couldn't be selectively "tuned" to ensure only the *bad* fake reviews are removed. (I would gladly welcome enlightenment for the better on this front, from those who have more experience in such fields.)

Anonymous Stilicho January 24, 2014 6:33 PM  

ITEM WORKS GREAT BUT HAVE TO GIVE ONE STAR BECAUSE BOX WAS BADLY DAMAGED AFTER NEIGHBORS DOG RIPPED IT UP BEFORE I COULD GET HOME THE MAILMAN DID NOT PUT THE PACKAGE ON THE TABLE ON MY FRONT PORCH AS I HAD REQUESTED IN MY EMAIL TO THE COMPANY THAT I TITLED SPECIAL SHIPPING INSTRUCTIONS AND THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME THAT THE DOG HAS DAMAGED PACKAGES I'VE NOTICED THAT IT ONLY HAPPENS WHEN I'M NOT THERE TO RECEIVE THE DELIVERY WHY CAN'T THEY JUST ALWAYS DELIVER WHEN I'M HOME????????

He left it right beside your Swingline stapler.

Anonymous Steveo January 24, 2014 6:33 PM  

How did the title make you feel?

Anonymous patrick kelly January 24, 2014 6:40 PM  

If I'm serious about using reviews to help decide whether to order something I usually look at Amazon, then at least a couple other sites with the same products. Also helps me find more detailed information lacking in the Amazon description.

Anonymous Sean January 24, 2014 6:47 PM  

Stephen J. - a technique I use, is to look at the other reviews that a person has made. Red flags are: a) The reviews are all 5 stars, b) made within a short timeframe, c) Generic wording and filled with superlatives. Usually two out of the three criteria is enough to eliminate a reviewer's feedback -- and I usually do this only if I'm waffling on the item in question.

Anonymous WaterBoy January 24, 2014 6:52 PM  

Rantor: "So only 20% of Americans are liars?"

That depends on how many survey takers actually told the truth about lying....

Though I couldn't possibly imagine anyone lying on a survey *cough lesbian eskimos living in a basement cough*

Blogger rcocean January 24, 2014 7:03 PM  

Restaurant reviews are just as bad.

"The food was great, it cost 15 cents for my entire family, and we had a great view of the ocean. BUT my server brought me 2 pats of butter instead of 3! ONE STAR!!

Anonymous Stephen J. January 24, 2014 7:12 PM  

Sean - Oh, it's easy enough for me as a user to spot probable fakes versus likely real opinions; the technique you mention is definitely one of them -- I also tend to be skeptical of reviews that are nothing *but* superlatives or denunciations, hence my preference for three-star reviews over the extremes.

I'm thinking in terms of the *retailers*, who on the one hand have an interest in being seen as honest compilers of reliable product evaluations and, on the other hand, have just as much interest in moving product; whatever algorithm they use to eliminate false reviews, I just find it hard to believe they would resist the temptation to only eliminate the *bad* false reviews. (A sufficiently long-term rational perspective certainly shows the merit of resisting this temptation, but corporate execs don't always take the long-term rational view.)

Blogger Jeff Burton January 24, 2014 7:54 PM  

This is an incredible product that had changed my life. Don't even think about - just buy! 5 stars.

UPDATE

Broke after first use. ONE STAR. STAY AWAY!

Blogger mmaier2112 January 24, 2014 7:57 PM  

Huckleberry - est. 1977 January 24, 2014 4:42 PM

In addition to fake reviews, the 1-star reviews that love the product but hate the delivery of it, and go on to complain for five paragraphs about the tracking number and the UPS guy really just need to stop.


True. "The packaging of the snare drum was awful and it was damaged in transit" says nothing about the snare drums itself.

But my real favorites are the ONE star reviews... that rave about how great the product is.

SMH...

Anonymous bw January 24, 2014 8:10 PM  

@ Jeff Burton

I know you just retired from NASCAR and have little else to do probably, but how did you find your way over here?? Ward??

Anonymous Smokey January 24, 2014 8:34 PM  

I don't think having an "Amazon Verified Purchase" system would help much. For all we know, a person might have purchased a product somewhere other than from Amazon, and then left a review for it on Amazon. Doesn't mean they haven't used the product, they just obtained it from somewhere else. I've certainly done that. Neither would checking how many reviews someone's posted to estimate their validity be that useful - everyone's got to start somewhere, right?

Maybe it is just me, but I think that pursuing the elimination of fake reviews is ultimately a kind of pointless endeavor. My general experience is that most people are usually observant enough to skim over the clearly-fake crap ("My delivery wasn't fast enough! ONE STAR!"), and onto the more substantial stuff.

Anonymous roger u January 24, 2014 8:53 PM  

My wife manages apartments and they spend several hours each month writing themselves good reviews for apartment finder and such.

We did this for our business also. Reviews are marketing.

ps I feel kinda guilty, now.

Anonymous V.R. Ditteaux January 24, 2014 9:51 PM  

According to people I've known who've worked in the world of publishing, the more a person strays into a niche genre of books, the stranger and more twisted and occasionally enteraining the review fakery becomes. For instance I was pointed to somebody's brief online article, ages ago about two gemology experts who published rival guides to buying rings and had been going at each other for years in constant battle of fake bad reviews of each others' books and fake good reviews of their own books, ever since Amazon first made customer reviews a feature.

Anonymous FritzG January 24, 2014 10:07 PM  

I've had three poor (and obviously fake or libelous) reviews removed from Yelp for Clients. Thought never Amazon. It's not as hard to do as some make it out.

Anonymous Titus Didius Tacitus January 24, 2014 10:09 PM  

But: "The 1-star reviews that amuse me are the ones that complain (a) the Kindle price is too high, or (b) something about the Kindle format bugs them, e.g. the pictures were too small."

That's legitimate. Often formatting, diagrams and pictures are make-or-break for the usefulness of a Kindle edition. And if you know the format is no good because you've been trying to use it, that's an honest review.

Anonymous Idle Spectator January 24, 2014 10:33 PM  

A fifth of Americans have, at some point, left a fake review.

Yes, but they didn't inhale.

Blogger rcocean January 24, 2014 10:56 PM  

The other kind of bad Restaurant review - Long winded blow-by-blow accounts of the meal. I don't need a six page write up on your lunch - just tell me if the food is good and worth the price.

Blogger rcocean January 24, 2014 10:58 PM  

And like I stated. I ignore all 5 star reviews. It astounds me when some book has 150 five star reviews. Really? "The Generals" is that good? I don't think so. I generally start with the one-star reviews and work upwards.

Anonymous Ain January 25, 2014 1:59 AM  

Though a different topic, shills are another big problem. I've gotten to where I assume most reviews that give a perfect score are shills. Sometimes it's so obvious that all the perfect score reviews follow the same format.

Anonymous Dr. Idle Spectator, Oxford Etymologist January 25, 2014 2:13 AM  

We need to start that game up again that the aristocrats used to do since our democracy is fast failing, both online and in the home countries. "Plague" does not sound good enough.

Pod of whales.
Knot of toads.
Murder of crows.


Perhaps a "quackery of fake reviews" or "crackery of fake reviews."
Or even a "pseudopod of fake reviews" or "pseudomorph of fake reviews."

Anonymous VanDerMerwe January 25, 2014 2:47 AM  

Look for "Verified Purchase". Or as in iTunes, you can only leave a review, if you purchase or download (if it's free), the product first.

Anonymous Dr. Idle Spectator, Oxford Etymologist January 25, 2014 3:06 AM  

Mandela of South Africans.

Blogger Jeff Burton January 25, 2014 9:58 AM  

Stumbled on this site while trying to figure out how to deal with Danica.

Anonymous E. PERLINE January 25, 2014 12:03 PM  

Signpainting made me a better artist because it added to my knowledge of art materials and techniques. Signpainting was supplanted by the computer and it changed the lettering arts. But it still allowed bad "layouts" to proliferate

I wrote 2 books on "how to design the right sign for your business" each with 150 illustrations, explaing why layouts may be good or bad. I found most them bad.

Then, wouldn't you know it, when I looked into HTML I found most of the web site design was bad also. If I had to put my criticism in a word, I would say the product "scattered."

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