Oct 15

Don’t Be Fooled by Fake Online Reviews Part II

In July I wrote about the dangers of blindly trusting online reviews, especially for high-dollar services like moving companies. That piece told the story of Full Service Van Lines, a moving company that had mostly five-star reviews online but whose owners and operators had a long and very public history of losing or destroying their customers’ stuff and generally taking months to actually ship what few damaged goods it delivered. Last week, federal regulators shut the company down.

updownthunbsNBC Miami reports that Full Service Van Lines (FSVL) was shut down by the U.S. Department of Transportation, but not because of consumer complaints. The DOT reportedly revoked the company’s license due to a pattern of safety violations. And that’s saying something: The NBC story said FSVL received more complaints this year than any other Florida mover of its size.

My July story on FSVL concluded that the company’s owners likely inflated and manipulated their online reputation via a search engine optimization (SEO) firm they owned. Unfortunately, this practice is incredibly common among labor-intensive services that do not require the customer to come into the company’s offices but instead come to the consumer. These services include but are not limited to locksmiths, windshield replacement services, garage door repair and replacement technicians, carpet cleaning and other services that consumers very often call for immediate service.

Bryan Seely, a security expert who’s working on an as-yet unpublished book on these so-called dark/black SEO practices, said such services are rife for SEO experts who create hundreds or thousands of phantom companies online with different business names, addresses and phone numbers. The calls to each of these phony firms are eventually all routed back to the SEO company, which sells the customer lead to one of several companies that have agreed in advance to buy such business leads.

As a result, many consumers think they are dealing with one company when they call, yet end up being serviced by a completely unrelated firm that may not have to worry about maintaining a reputation for quality and fair customer service.

“If you can manipulate mass listings online, you can sell those inquiries when they come in,” Seely said. “In most of these cases, the consumer has no idea they’ve just been switched around and sold. At the end of the month, the [SEO expert] sends each buyer of these inquiries a bill based on the number of calls he’s referred. Each call is worth about $50-$60 for the buyer, and it only costs them about $10 per lead.”

The practice of collecting and reselling consumer inquiries for various types of business is known in marketing circles as the “lead generation” or “lead-gen” industry. Interestingly, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission will be holding a public workshop in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 30, 2015 to discuss the consumer protection issues surrounding the lead-gen industry.

In related news, Amazon reportedly is once again going after people who sell 5-star reviews for products. TechCrunch.com reports that the e-commerce giant is going after sellers on Fiverr.com who offer to create glowing reviews for products. The action comes on the heels of a similar crackdown earlier this year on fake reviews through its service.

Remember: Before you hire someone to do work for you, don’t just pick the company that comes up high in the search results on Google; unfortunately, that generally guarantees nothing other than the company is good at marketing. Take the time to really research the companies you wish to hire before booking them for jobs.

Update, 6:50 p.m. ET: Added reference to TechCrunch.com article.

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  1. I’m curious how you think sites like Angie’s List stand up to fraud. As all sides have to pay to play, does that make the barrier for fraud to high?

    • I think fraudulent reviews still exist, it’s just a much smaller number since you have to be a paying member to do it.

      Amazon is dealing with this now that there are so many independent sellers on their platform.

    • Angies list will flat out tell you can pay to manipulate your listings.

      They will also gladly send you a screen shot the search results showing that unless you pay your company is not listed.

      When they sent me this image the top company listed for my services in my area was exactly what Brian describes here, a notional SEO company that is pretending to be local.

      Angie’s List is a scam

    • Angieslist is not immune to the problems, because they are not a closed system.
      They display data obtained from Google, Bing, Citisearch and many other search engines. Basically, if you can get fake businesses online in a few places, it spreads as these directories share information. The one that seems to share the LEAST is Yelp. Angieslist is just another junk directory. I wouldn’t trust what you find there.

    • As a resident of Indianapolis, I can attest to the fact that Angie’s List is a complete scam…. this company has been circling the drain for years. I’m shocked when another year goes by and they’re still in business. Luckily the city voted against letting them reshuffle their debt around with a new loan, which would have been backed by the taxpayers. Angie’s List is so poor, they will call around to solicit other businesses for “donations” to go towards improving the appearance of Angie’s List buildings. If I were ever to choose between working for AL or being homeless, I’d have more pride in being “homeless”.

  2. I used to own a service business related to one of the trades mentioned in this article. I was puzzled by the tactics of my competition. Your article makes sense now. We did our business the old fashioned way. Good relations with customers, game free honesty, etc.
    I recall the business broker I hired to sell it being highly puzzled when I showed him my P&Ls and he wanted to know why I had no advertising budget. I told him I had built the business on a solid reputation and the good word of mouth.
    I did see that a good number of big-ad movers in my market had to turn a lot of customers just to pay for the print in the phone book. Seemed to me that this was a direction I hoped to never need to resort to.
    The new owner is taking the same tact and it seems to be the right one!

  3. Thanks Brian, good stuff, i always look forward to your email alerts…..

  4. Locksmiths are one of the more common online vendors to be wary of. I own a hardware store and noticed several locksmiths listed in our town. One was located in a supermarket, another in a local beer distributor. They took advantage of unclaimed online physical address listings to make it appear as if they had a storefront in town. Once the listing was up they’d put together a few glowing reviews and they were in business. They were much more technically (and SEO) savvy than the average locksmith so they popped up higher in searches. Luckily, Google has started to weed out some of the scammers, but there are still a lot of bogus locksmith entries out there for guys with no physical location, just a van and some web SEO skills.

  5. You would think Google would be interested in resolving it, wouldn’t they? They surely have enough resources to do it.

    • It is not the responsibility of the search engine itself to ensure the legitimacy of such services, but rather the responsibility is that of the consumers.

      • Search engine? Nah, no real responsibility at all, beyond weeding out people trying to game the system.

        A company selling ad space to people, whose ads rank higher than actual search engine hits? Yes, they do have a responsibility. to make sure the people putting ads into their system aren’t criminals committing criminal acts.

        Unless you see no problem with individuals buying ad space for “Flash Player” and similar trojan horses. In which case, may the invisible hand of the free market watch over you and your bank accounts.

      • Or rather, its shareholders. Anything that makes the commodity less valuable is going to matter to them.
        He who pays the piper gets to call the tune. At least that’s what we expect in the US. This article just sounds like a more sophisticated version of exiting the airport in a developing country and being assailed by men wanting to find you a hotel room, friend price.

  6. “Take the time to really research the companies you wish to hire before booking them for jobs.”

    Some things I look for:
    – Verified/trusted physical address.
    – Caller name in my only semi-trusted online phone number lookup (if no name is listed I don’t trust the person/entity who owns the phone number)
    – whois lookup the associated website. Hidden ownership=no biz from me.
    – Verification with some other trusted/semi-trusted website.

  7. Thomas Caldwell

    Brian, are you also going to mention the lawsuit that was mentioned in the news this morning by Amazon against 1000+ reviewers of products? Fake product reviews are just as bad.


    • The funny thing is the recently launched Amazon Home Services is also full of these SEO crap companies.

  8. Look at this item here in the UK on Amazon. So obviously fake reviews which are also verified purchases! http://www.amazon.co.uk/Abdtech-Projector-Multimedia-Portable-Projectors/dp/B014ITJ3LK/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8

  9. This is an old one. It’s the first one that comes to mind when Amazon says they are cracking down on fake reviews:


    • Surprised to learn about the “virtual office space” for rent. Beachwood, Ohio is a high-rent area. You would think that with all the concentration of highly educated people there, someone there would point out the liability of providing a physical address to a scam operation. Can’t think of a better target for a lawsuit: loaded and with a permanent address. If their scruples allow for renting “virtual office space”, let them have what they’ve asked for. How many angry people does it take to make a class-action lawsuit?

  10. It’s not just Amazon. It’s also eBay. There’s so many fake reviews, it’s getting to a point where I can spot them without too much trouble.

    • eBay??!! Where was there ever a review on eBay, other than seller and buyer reputation rate? I’ve never heard of such a thing?!

      • eBay has a similar problem to Amazon and the “Verified Buyer” issue that someone mentioned in a previous comment. For the cost of a few transaction fees, buyers simply purchase their own products, which gives them the ability to artificially inflate their reputation rating.

  11. I found the hard way not to trust TripAdviser reviews. I have tried to alert TA about certain island hotel is not quite honest, but was ignored.
    Be aware of overwhelming amount of ultra positive reviews, especially from new posters…

    • Right you are, BSA.

      Rented a hotel room in Istanbul based on TA rating.
      Got scammed out of 100 euros, plus experienced a few other negatives.

      I can only second your suggestion of being wary of a string of glowing reviews from people who have written only one, maybe two, review.

      Re you writing to TA:
      I am not sure that even of they read what you write (and there is an IF on purpose) they do anything about it. I wrote to them about a gross mistake (map showing the restaurant far from its actual location) but nothing was done to correct the error.

  12. In the past month and a half two major credit card companies have fraudulent charges made. Charges made at stores we never frequent but in counties surrounding the one we live in. New cards have been reissued and put away. We are using cash only now. Talk about inconvenient.

    What should we do next to prevent further fraud? Do you recommend Credit Khama?

    • No.

      If you’re having fraudulent charges appear on your cards, then somewhere in the system, there’s a card skimmer. On the bright side, the more people in your area and the more people who are skimmed, the sooner an individual skimmer location will be identified (assuming it’s stationary) — this is because a “common point of purchase” will be eventually identified by the card issuer/credit network. On the not so bright side, a skimmer typically indicates someone is installing skimmers in your area — and catching them takes longer.

      If your issuers haven’t switched to EMV, you can ask them to. If your issuers have switched to EMV, you should be trying to use only EMV terminals and using your chip instead of swiping. (You could complain to merchants who haven’t adopted EMV, but it probably isn’t worth the effort, the liability shift will coerce them to shift soon enough, and the fact that you hold an EMV card will help push them.)

      While it’s annoying to have cards reissued, it’s part of the current age. The good news is that traditional skimming should be extinct by around 2018 (gas stations will experience a liability shift starting 2017).

      One thing you could investigate is “supplemental cards” — if the card you’re using has no fee for supplemental cards, then you could get at least a second (possibly a third).

      If you get 3, I’d suggest using one *only* for recurring payments (i.e. you should never use it day-to-day). Use the second one for running around. Leave the third for when one of the other two (which really should only be the running around one…) is cloned and you’re waiting for it to be reissued — when you get the reissued card, don’t use it, treat it as your new spare.

      With this approach, you don’t have to reset your recurring transactions when your walking around card is skimmed, and if you have an emergency card, you can switch to it w/o having to wait for your replacement.

      Separately, and not related to credit card cloning (which is the problem you’re currently suffering from), you should proactively freeze your credit — http://krebsonsecurity.com/2015/06/how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-embrace-the-security-freeze/

  13. Thanks Brian thank you for informed people from reviews but in my point of views all the reviews are not fake but still we should not blindly believe on online reviews.

  14. Amazon’s own system is used to buy favourable reviews for products, both for amazon’s own and for third-party resellers. The current legal crackdown avoids this entirely.

    Similarly, Google are unlikely to do anything unless it hurts their bottom line, because why should they?

  15. Outside of this story, but related to Part 1, did Matusiak ever receive his stuff? With the declaration of bankruptcy, I’m assuming that anybody that had stuff “in transit” is certainly never going to see it again.

    • Oh shoot. I meant to mention that in the story. Yes, he did, about 2 months after it was supposed to arrive. And much of it was damaged beyond repair or wet and moldy, he told me.

  16. I ignore all online reviews.. period. The reason is simple: there are usually completely inaccurate.. whether the inaccuracy is deliberate or not is besides the point.

    I’ve been to restaurants that were great but rated poorly in Yelp; and I’ve been to restaurants that were terrible but rated well in Yelp.

    I’ve purchased products with 2 stars on Amazon that turned out to be just fine. And I’ve purchased products with 4-5 stars on Amazon that I’ve returned because of a defect or poor quality.

    The point is that the entire “review” system is not only highly susceptible to fraud (fake reviews) but you also have to take into account that the people writing the reviews probably have completely different standards and tastes than you do. Trusting an online review is basically putting faith into the opinion of someone you have never met, never spoken to, and who is likely very different than you. Trusting that person’s review is simply foolish.

    I’ve been much happier with my restaurant choices and Amazon purchases ever since I stopped using Yelp and stopped reading online reviews. I completely ignore the star-ratings as well.

    My prediction is that in a decade on-line reviews, star ratings, etc. will be a thing of the past. Instead, real data… like product return rates, etc. will take their place. If a product has a 50% return rate then I really don’t care if it has 1 star, 5 stars, or what the reviews say. Most likely, it’s a bad product. And vice-versa.

    The point is, sooner than later sites like Amazon will need to completely rethink their product review systems.. as they are inaccurate and usually false. And once this fact becomes well known, they will migrate to a system that uses real data instead of a system that relies on the opinions of people and fake reviewers.

    • I would say that, rather than ignore all reviews, you need to read them closely.

      Amazon and Yelp are great examples. I never make a decision based on the aggregate star rating alone. I will, however, generally avoid products that have only a small number of reviews. And I will go and read a lot of reviews – both good ones and bad ones. I’ll ignore the ones that I think sound like BS (e.g. where the person sounds like he didn’t use the product, or where he’s complaining about something clearly irrelevant) and try to get an impression from the rest.

      In many cases, I will find that although a product/restaurant has a low aggregate rating, it is based on some fact that doesn’t matter to me, and I’ll buy anyway. Or I’ll find that a product with a high rating has a small number of complaints about something that I think will really bug me, and I’ll continue shopping elsewhere. I may also click-through on particular reviewers’ profiles to see what their other reviews look like (if they seem to love or hate everything, then their opinion probably doesn’t matter.)

      It takes a lot of reading, and you’ve got to read between the lines for a lot of the reviews, but I think you can get useful information from reviews. Just don’t let that be your only source of information when making a decision.

      • The key is to be alert for fake, inaccurate, or irrelevant reviews. Ironically, this is the basis for branding – a well managed brand has a certain expectation level which is a short cut for reviews.

  17. The King himself has no clothes on !!
    Amazon accusing others of shady business with its reviews is like the pot calling the kettle black.
    To increase its revenue from its sellers Amazon itself has been doing something which IMO is quite in the shady category. It lets a seller,esp new companies who have no track record, send 300-500 free items to a bunch of Amazon provided list of its customers, i.e. folks who have purchased a similar product in the past.
    A couple of years ago I purchased a home WiFi router from Amazon. A few months later I received an email from Amazon that I had been ‘selected’ to review a new WiFi router being offered by a new company. If I said yes my name and address would be forwarded to that company to send me a free router. I was amazed that Amazon would do something such questionable but I went along to see the rest of the scheme. I received the free router and wanted to give it a fair review, except that I could not even set it up correctly. I work with IT so I know my way with all kind of routers. I knew what I was doing and this was not a worth while product so I gave it a one star review. Emailed the company back that their router was a POJ and offered them to send me a return label. Did not hear back from them but saw their router continue to be listed on Amazon for a long while after that. About 20% of other folks, who received this ‘free sample’ of something that was selling for $150, also gave it sub par reviews. The other 80% of the free sample reviewers however gave the router 4-5 stars. I suspect that many, or most, of them did that to stay on Amazon’s list of getting more free products for review. Borne out by the fact that I have not received another such offer from Amazon after my one star review.
    Subsequently, this company was able to sell quite a few of these routers and made their money before reality caught up with the reviews that most of the new actual buyers, who were paying for the router based on the glaring reviews from the free sample reviewers and getting burned, came back and posted highly negative reviews. The company kept selling the piece of crap -and both they and Amazon kept benefiting- until the negative reviews became too many but not before a lot of damage had been done to a lot of wallets. Today this company is gone from Amazon and also from the market.

    From what I can tell Amazon is continuing with this shady practice itself. If you read the 4-5 star reviews of products some of them will include a note that they received a free sample.
    It would be interesting to see Jeff Bezos’ answer to a reporter’s question if a company engaging in this questionable practice can consider itself most pious and saintly in the review business..

    • These reviews are clearly marked as Amazon Vine reviews so your entire rant here misses the point.

      • I think this is outside the Vine program (although inflation with Vine reviewers is an issue, too). I see many reviews noting they have received the product in exchange for their review that are ~not~ marked as Vine reviewers.

        Not sure, but I suspect Vine reviewers are when it is “fulfilled by Amazon” whereas these are when the product is through a third party reseller.

      • I’d also add that until Amazon gives you the opportunity to exclude the effects of Vine/advance reviewers from the final star rating, the above “rant” is still very relevant.

  18. It is insane to me what these people at Full Service Van Lines were getting away with and I am happy to hear they have been shut down. However, these owners will go ahead and start another fraudulent business front unless they are apprehended. Interested to see what will happen next… but how many more people will get ripped off and affected by these rats before they are locked up?

  19. I closed my Amazon account and now only buy at brick & mortar( most have online options as well ) stores with good customer return policies ( 90 day minimum ). It might ( but not always ) cost a bit more than places like Amazon, but it’s worth it to me. I still use Ebay because you can find a lot of good used item deals there, and I’ve never had a bad experience yet on that score, knock on wood. I agree with previous poster that reviews tend to be worthless, although I still read them for books.

    • Why this makes no sense to me Amazon has a 100% satisfaction guarantee and it’s just as easy to drop a box off at UPS as it is to go and get a refund at a store.

      • Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough. Amazon has a 30 day return policy on most new items, which has the clock starting from the time you place the order. I’ve come to prefer a longer period, given that I don’t always get to using the received item immediately upon receipt. I have enough brick and mortar options available ( with longer return policies ) to where Amazon is hardly a necessity for me. I no longer saw the value( in Amazon). I will add that some of Amazon’s business practices were a turn off for me as well, but that was just icing on the cake so to speak. Customer choice in action.

    • Amazon is no different from any other on-line store. Especially eBay, which you seem to really like.

      You can buy from Amazon, or you can buy from one of their “marketplace” stores – some of which use Amazon for fulfillment and some fulfill their own orders – all of which is clearly spelled out in the product listings.

      And if there’s a problem, Amazon’s got a great return policy. If the product is defective, incomplete or otherwise misrepresented, you just say so when requesting your return. You get a PDF for a pre-paid UPS shipping label and send it back. The refund (at least for items fulfilled by Amazon) usually gets credited soon after the UPS tracking number indicates that your return is en-route to them.

      The only time you pay a fee is if you return something because you realized after the fact that you didn’t really want it. Then you don’t get a complete refund and you have to pay for the return shipping. But for anything where there’s a real problem, it’s been completely hassle-free.

      • See my reply to Rider above. I don’t have any particular love for Ebay, I’ve just had decent experience purchasing previously used computer hardware from them, and feel comfortable taking a chance on returns because I’m paying pennies on the dollar. They’re seller rating system appears to work well( perhaps I was just lucky).

  20. More fake reviews and they step up with verified purchase:

    Seems that legitimate sites like 9to5mac are involved in this scam too.

  21. Amazon cannot attack Fivvr with a straight face. Amazon–more than any other company–rigs its user reviews. The battle that Amazon is waging is not a battle for quality reviews, it’s a battle for power over who gets to manipulate the reviews. But if the Fivvr reviewers go away that will just mean that Amazon will go about its business lying.

    The underlying problem is that Amazon reviews are not a consumer-to-consumer conversation because Amazon does not serve as a neutral middleman. Amazon makes money from selling products. So Amazon only cares about reviews that help it move merchandise. The problem that Amazon is trying to solve then is inherently perceptual–don’t believe their lies, believe ours.

    So long as Amazon is allowed to lie then so should the Fivvr people.

    As a means of full disclosure never been on Fivvr, long-time Amazon reviewer.

    • Agreed. Their review approval process is rather opaque, too. I left a review that noted how many of the other reviews were obviously shill reviews, and it kept getting blocked/not published until I stripped the text referring to specific shill reviewers.

      In my case, I ordered a product that awful, and so I went back to re-read all the glowing reviews. I noticed that most of the glowing reviews were from reviewers who had a handful of other reviews… for identical items.

      Example, of ten 5-star reviews for the same kitchen gadget by ten reviewers, 3 had also given five star reviews for a specific herbal weigh-loss supplement, 3 had given five star reviews for a USB car charger, and 4 had given 5 star reviews to both the supplement AND the charger. (All “Amazon Verified Purchases,” by the way.)

      Trying to point this out in my review, and in comments was frustrating because my own poor review was soon buried in a mass of glowing reviews (that had also been puffed up with plenty of “x customers found this review helpful”) and was new enough to show up in the first few pages of reviews.

      If Amazon wanted to do a relationship analysis between reviewers and the products they review, it would be a great start toward weeding out sham reviews. They could then decide to weight them appropriately, or remove them as necessary, and even prevent a suspect reviewer from leaving more reviews.

      I am under the impression they take this more seriously when it comes to their kindle-published authors, as I have read stories about people’s reviews being removed because Amazon indicates that some sort of relationship analysis indicates there is a high likelihood that the reviewer personally knows the author.

  22. Why doesn’t Amazon assign employees to offer fake reviews on Fiverr, and then mention the fact on the reputation pages of sellers who hire them? Wouldn’t this make sellers reluctant to take this shortcut?

    • Because Amazon isn’t serious. This lawsuit is about trying to combat a perception not a reality. Amazon has no interest or intention for legitimate reviews to take0ver its site.

      • Daniel – I disagree. Amazon has a lot to lose if people lose faith in the reviews and ratings.

        I have seen some bad ones but in general they were so at odds with the others that they were easy to spot. It would certainly be more difficult if there were only a few reviews.

        So I certainly look at Amazon reviews when I’m interested in a product but they form only a part of the evaluation.

  23. I have a different issue with Amazon – related to but not exactly the same as the “fake reviews”.

    It is that some products have descriptions that misrepresent them, and often photos as well. For example, there are iPhone/iPad chargers that are described as “Apple …..” including an Apple part number but the product as delivered is clearly a knockoff (no required UL label, etc etc etc). We’ve all seen the problems that occur with substandard parts (several people have been killed, and Apple has offered an exchange program even for non-Apple chargers). SO the problem is real and non-trivial.

    But the I reported it to Amazon they blew me off. No interest at all.

  24. 2 things I look at when shopping online:

    • (Sorry)…

      1- I read mostly the bad reviews. I make my mind on how serious they are and their level of gravity. In a hotel, were the bad review because of noisy neighbors? Or because the room was dirty and completely different than what expected? How many people have raised the same issues?
      2- I skip all positive reviews containing too many !! and “Awesome” and “Great”… and so on.

      Don’t forget people: Reviews are like GPS: Use them as an extension of your brain. Not as a replacement of your brain…

      • IMHO, the most important charateristic of a review, good or bad , one should trust is lots of concrete facts, instead of generalities. Also, a lack of emotional wording.

  25. In the last couple of years, I’ve noticed that typing in a product with the word review in google will nearly always put Top-Ten Reviews near the top of the list. Never heard of them before that.

    Many many years ago I used to rely on Consumer Reports – but after getting burned by their best buy recommendations on three items (two major appliances and a car), I chose not to rely on their opinions.

    I too prefer brick and mortar. But they simply don’t exist anymore – and if they do, their aisles are empty and their sales forces know nothing.

    I spend significant time on open forums when researching products prior to purchase and look at trends rather than complaints or kudos.

    • I used to love Consumer Reports as well. That was in the 80’s.

      Then I noticed that they were devoting large numbers of pages of their magazine for advocacy issues and had less product testing.

      And their product testing articles contained less and less (and eventually nothing) describing their testing methodologies for each product.

      The final blow was when they started reviewing computers and consumer electronics. This is stuff that I know a lot about, and I found that their reviews were diametrically opposed to my own opinions. Especially noteworthy is that they would never give a good review to an Apple product – absolutely everything good took a back seat to “won’t run Windows software”. I decided that if I can’t trust their opinion about product categories that I know a lot about, I certainly can’t trust them about product categories that I know nothing about.

      I think it’s also telling that their board of directors (elected every year by magazine subscribers) is full of people from a political activist background, and has almost nobody with a product testing background.

      • You might be surprised to hear, then, that they seem to consistently give top marks to Apple products these days. I don’t think they get many “Best Buy” recommendations, though, since bargain pricing weighs heavily in that metric.

        True, though, they are full of political opinions and operate on the assumption that the subscribers share their passions.

        Political activism has always been a large part of Consumers Union and they’ve accomplished some great feats, including but not limited to making me feel guilty about not giving a crap about their causes. (I just want to know which stuff is the best stuff before I buy more stuff, man.)

      • Also of note: while their explanation of testing methodologies is still pretty thin in the print publication, they often have supplemental web videos explaining their approach.

  26. interesting, thanks

  27. Brian,
    I’m a consumer that almost always does his best to find out the most about a product before purchasing, either from first hand use, asking someone who has personally used the product or reluctantly relying on online reviews. Unfortunately I’m like most users that rely on Amazon to try to come to the best decision I can, which is read as many reviews as I can on Amazon and try to decipher which review is authentic and which is not. Additionally I search other sites that sell the product and read their reviews. When I do make a decision to purchase, it helps to know I can always return it and receive a refund, however I’m trying to avoid any down time, hassles of working with product support to try to fix the issue and then deal with return shipment and then having to research again to find a product that will meet my needs. To compound the issue is finding a product, but then reading that the product may not be the exact item I’ve found, such as a web camera that “may differ” from the item shown or come from a seller that I wasn’t expecting. Then there is an issue with the electronics of the product, that it can’t be updated or has a different firmware. Most of these issues are cloned products from China. An interesting subnote, I’m actually friends with a reviewer who is listed on the complaint from Amazon filed October 15, 2015, though he is not listed as one of the John Does. He has worked his way up to being listed in the top 200 reviewers on Amazon after 2-3 years of work, and he makes genuine objective reviews of the products. His review process is as follows: he receives products free of charge and is asked to review the product. In some instances he was paid for his review, paid for the positive reviews he posted, but it was a legitimate review, which is a violation of Fiverr. He’ll be changing his policy obviously and hope Amazon settles with the John Does before they go on to the small fish. Maybe he’ll have to pay back what he received from payouts, that is if Fiverr complies by releasing the names of the reviewers. I’m sure he is in the minority of reviewers because unfortunately most reviews probably do alter their reviews for compensation. But put aside fake paid reviews. There are plenty of products on Amazon that have obviously false comedic reviews, such as the “AutoExec Wheelmate”.
    Consumers now just have to almost take a chance on the product and hope you get your money’s worth from the item (a few months use or a few years depending on how you determine the value is). I’m becoming more conscious that you get what you pay for, and that products today almost always are bought for temporary use due to cheap construction or that a new updated product will be sued to replace in the future.