Belkin's Fake Review Apology
The Belkin company, which makes a wide variety of PC products from wireless routers to USB hubs, got in trouble last year for paying people to post positive reviews of their products on Amazon.com. One of their instructions was to "write as if you own the product and are using it". Belkin even requested that people mark negative reviews of their products as "Not Helpful" in order to push them off the top of the listing when you view the product’s page. This was done using a service called Mechanical Turk (also owned by Amazon) where people can make pocket change doing random tasks such as writing brief reviews and so on.
Belkin isn’t the first company to post fake reviews of their products. Several years ago, Sony Pictures got in trouble for quoting a fake critic on some of their movie posters. The critic was supposedly named David Manning from The Ridgefield Press, but it was later determined by a Newsweek reporter that Manning did not exist. A class action lawsuit was filed against Sony and as a result, people could get a $5 refund if they could prove they saw and were unhappy with any of the several movies featuring Manning’s fictitious quotes.
On another review site where I mainly write book and movie reviews, there has been a recent flood of overly positive reviews for one particular product – a loan service that I will not name here. Many of us have suspected the company is running some kind of promotion, and that finally became evident when one of the reviewers mentioned how they wished the company would give them more than just Starbucks gift cards for their ‘referrals’. I spent nearly an hour on Google trying to find the source of this referral program, but could never uncover anything, although it is obvious somebody is rewarding people for posting positive reviews.
It has long been said that you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet. I remember one time on Wikipedia, I was looking up some 80’s bands and found where somebody wrote that actor Tom Hanks used to play banjo for REO Speedwagon. Just in case you were wondering – he did not. Any time you are looking up product reviews, you really need to consider the source and be sure to check for multiple opinions. All those anonymous reviews you find on various retailer sites could have been made by employees of the company that made the product. You just never know.
The lesson to be learned from the recent Belkin fiasco is that when you go online for information, especially product reviews, it is important to consider the source. That’s why sites like Bright Hub and many others have writers create accounts where you can see what else they’ve written and determine their status on the site as far as longevity and so on. Chances are that you can trust the opinion of someone who is an established writer with dozens or more reviews under their belt that some anonymous Happy_Customer001 who writes a single review of one product and gives it nothing but praise.
For your reading pleasure: An apology from Belkin’s president, Mark Reynoso