How seriously do you take the customer reviews of products or businesses online? You may want to rethink taking a stranger’s word for it after reading this article. The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy talks about Todd Rutherford, who started GettingBookReviews.com, a service that paid people to write (usually positive) reviews of books on Amazon.
The site has since been removed, but the article also posits that “one-third of all consumer reviews on the Internet are fake.” Where are these fake reviews coming from? Services like Rutherford’s, friends and family wanting to help a product or business succeed, or even unethical practices by review websites: Yelp has recently been hit with several lawsuits claiming that their site buries positive reviews if business owners do not purchase advertising on Yelp.
There’s also robust product reviews for bloggers: according to Business News Daily, “Almost half (47%) of U.S. blog readers tap into blogs for finding new trends or ideas, 35% for finding out about new products, and one in four for help with making a purchasing decision.” Businesses will supply bloggers of all stripes with the latest products in hopes that they’ll write positive reviews. This is prevalent enough that, in 2009, the Federal Trade Commission changed their guides about testimonials and endorsements to include bloggers and mandate that “material connections” (like payments, free products, or commission) must be disclosed on the blog.
Given all of this, I’d prefer to stick with real-time reviews: simply asking friends and family about purchasing what I’m interested in. Some websites offer great guides about when to buy certain items, which are really helpful and product-free. But I’ll admit, I can’t resist checking out customer reviews when shopping for clothes online.
Do you trust bloggers and customer reviews?