In the last blog on price comparison sites, I mentioned product reviews in passing. I considered a short follow-up on that topic in regards to being careful about trusting product reviews on these sites as if they were gospel. Today, I caught part of a CBS This Morning story on problems with these reviews.
If you’re making a large purchase, read reviews from several sites, retailers and otherwise. Do keep in mind that there are sources with nothing to gain from reviews. I’ve added a few more to the ones CBS mentioned:
- Consumer Reports
- Cnet, PC World, http://gdgt.com/
- Marketplace sites unrelated to a particular retailer or comparison/deal site.
- Tech Republic
- Good Housekeeping
- Expert sites: For instance, on beauty products – Paula Begoun (www.cosmeticscop.com/) or Elle or Marie Claire
- Get advice from people in the real world
You’ll find product reviews on price comparison/deal, retailer’s and blogger’s sites. Some of them have begun to pay consumers to write positive reviews. It’s too much for some companies to resist. Bad reviews can cost companies money—lots of money. Some companies put up fake reviews. The NY Times discusses this practice. It’s a good article to help understand how this practice works.
Experts suggest employing these tips to avoid being seduced:
1) Click on the “reviewers” name/handle to bring up other reviews they’ve done. Are there too many to be believable? Have they reviewed several different variations of the same product? Are they effusive in every review?
2) Did the reviewer do several reviews on the same day and/or within a small window of time?
3) Does a glowing review seem out of kilter with the product to you? For example, someone rhapsodizing about a hair ornament.
4) Does the review contain marketing speak? For instance, they describe something as “lightening fast”.
5) Does the review include specific specifications like model numbers?
6) Does the review fail to discuss the reliability, performance, and perceived value of product being reviewed? An average consumer would note these things in a review.
Lifehacker offers more suggestions for spotting fake reviews here.
The FCC says fake reviewing is a pervasive practice. They claim it’s difficult, and tedious, to uncover and prosecute the fake reviews; and have neither the budget nor staff for this task. Additionally, the FCC only acts on reported incidents.
So, if you encounter a retailer, product manufacturer or comparison site soliciting glowing reviews for cash or goods, report them to the FCC.
Also, pay attention. Be cautious. Buyer beware has taken on a whole new dimension.
UPDATE: A couple of articles (below) from PerformInsider.com help clarify this issue. Although these are meant as a caution to businesses, it could also help you recognize foul play. Sure, some will say reporting will be useless given the governmental agencies track record. However, no change happens if there’s no change agent.
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- Social Shopping – 10 Routes to Bargains (dlcommunicates.wordpress.com)