The Words of a Stranger

Most online product and service reviews are best taken with a grain of salt.
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Most online product and service reviews are best taken with a grain of salt.
cfoley

More than 70% of consumers read online reviews before they make a purchase, and most read six or more reviews to make a decision. But are the reviews legitimate?

If someone writes that a product is the best they’ve ever used but doesn’t mention how many similar products they’ve used, I ignore the review. How do they know Product A is the “best” shampoo ever, if it’s the only shampoo they’ve ever used? A good review should include comparisons.

The reviewer should appear educated. The writing should show intelligence. In researching this editorial, I stumbled across an exchange of comments that made me laugh out loud (yes, LOL). The article in question was about the controversy over whether Yelp.com’s reviews were fraudulent or not (the company behind Yelp now uses a filter to ferret out fake reviews).Here is the exchange of comments, written exactly as they were posted:

 Comment 1 (listed as having 87 fans): AS A long time yelp reviewer you can tell the boges reviews. I have over 52 reviews, when I have a grate meal or a real bad one I try to tell what good and bad that is all (posted at 1:38 a.m.).

 Comment 2 appeared two days later (listed as having 4 fans): If your Yelp reviews are written as poorly as this comment, I wouldn’t pay any attention to them either (posted at 6:24 a.m.).

 Comment 2’s point is valid. I also question the legitimacy of a review posted at 1:38 a.m., not because intelligent people aren’t up at that hour, but because a lot of night owls online are just marking extra time on their hands.

 If everyone who could type “www” were honest, the review system might work. However, according to an ABC News report, ”As many as 30 percent of online reviews are fake, from hotels to toys and books.” That’s because marketing departments can ask people to post reviews that boost their products. They can also ask people to post bad reviews about a competitor’s product.

 We know that small starter companies ask friends to send reviews in for them, and we don’t blame them. Reviews are mighty. But we’ve received letters that are so perfectly drafted Mr. Magoo could see a manufacturer’s marketing department was behind the letter.

 We’re also suspicious of reviews on sites that contain advertising, as the advertising dollar is powerful. In fact, some websites accept money from a manufacturer in return for reviewing a product on the site. We believe mixing ad revenues with reviews is like trying to blend oil and water.

 Until there’s a system that guarantees you to know who is posting and why, take online reviews with a grain of salt. Read them, but then look further for verification from truly impartial sources.

Cynthia Foley, Editor-in-Chief