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Guest Comment: Beware dodgy online product reviews

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MSE_GuyMSE_Guy MSE Staff
1.7K posts
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This is the discussion thread for the following MSE News Story:

"Many of us use online reviews to judge products but one digital marketing expert says they are open to abuse. ..."


  • rogerblackrogerblack Forumite
    9.4K posts
    A lot of suspicious reviews read exactly like they've been made from the information put out by the makers.
    A kettle - for example:
    • 3 kW.
    • Capacity 1.5 litres.
    • Concealed element.
    • Rapid boil.
    • Boil dry protection - automatically switches off when the kettle is empty.
    • Removable, washable limescale filter.
    • Water gauge.
    • Illuminated power indicator.
    • Easy fill and easy pour.
    • 360 degree base.

    You might get a review along the lines of "I got this kettle a week ago, and it's great, it holds 1.5l, which is a lot of cups of tea, and boils rapidly. The indicator means you can easily see it's boiling"

    This contains no information that's not in the product description, and while not certain to be false, is a risk. People writing fake reviews generally only have the product/box description, they can't touch the product.

    Something like "Boils fast, though is quite noisy to start, switch a bit fiddly, but a good kettle. The water gauge is easy to see, but the power light is hard to see in sunlight" is less likely to be fake.
  • From the article :
    "Don't believe everything you read"

    Hmmm ... :think: ;):D
  • I'd recommend always reading the bad reviews first, I've bought a few things on Amazon after reading the bad reviews - e.g (pure coincidence) a kettle again, the worst review it had says it was heavy when full of water. And there were plenty of good reviews I didn't bother reading. Still a good kettle 3 years later, even if it is heavy when full of water :p
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    But ensure the two are not connected!
  • shaggydooshaggydoo Forumite
    8.4K posts
    Part of the Furniture 1,000 Posts Photogenic
    rogerblack wrote: »
    You might get a review along the lines of "I got this kettle a week ago, and it's great, it holds 1.5l, which is a lot of cups of tea, and boils rapidly. The indicator means you can easily see it's boiling"

    That does seem to be the sort of thing that people want however. I've found that if I don't state the obvious in my reviews on Amazon I get negative feedback. People seem to rate highly a good description of the product followed by an opinion (in my experience).
    What do we do when we fall? We get up, dust ourselves off and start walking in the right direction again. Perhaps when we fall, it is easy to forget there are people along the way who help us stand and walk with us as we get back on track.
  • RuthnJasperRuthnJasper Forumite
    4K posts
    Debt-free and Proud!
    Private Eye magazine has occasionally flagged up this sort of thing in their Literary Section - whereby authors have posted glowing reviews of their own books using several different user IDs or, alternatively, rival authors/editors/publishers have trashed the book for their own reasons.

    It's a pretty rotten thing to do, for the sake of a few quid extra profit (one assumes).
  • Also applies to reviews of 3rd Party suppliers. I neg'd one who sent me a fake DVD, the response back was remove the comment and I'll refund you in full .... just because a supplier looks good in a few dozen or even a few hundred reviews, it doesn't necessarily mean they are all genuine reviews.

    The higher the feedback level the harder it is to fake as the sellers are likely to be busier selling stuff than manipulating their ratings.
  • I have used Tripadvisor for a long time and I have always tried to be honest and helpful in my reviews. Recently I went on holiday to a hotel which had received excellent reviews, these sadly turned out to be far too glowing. The experience we had at the hotel was not the same one that the other reviewers seem to have had previously. I realised that most of the reviews were done by people who had not submitted reviews for other hotels, so, from now on, I am going to take reviews by people who have only done a small number of other reviews with a pinch of salt. On the plus side, there were some good reviews after my visit and I can only hope that the hotel took the problems we had experienced on board and improved on our experiences. There were also a number of poor reviews at about the same time as our stay, so, maybe the hotel was having a difficult time. I think the key is to remember, as in all situations, if something seems too good to be true, then it is!
  • Holiday reviews are usually the ones that need to be taken with a very large pinch of salt, some of the complaints really show up the reveiwers lack of intelgence, they complain about the 'Germans' being ingnorant, why is it that any non brit tourist has to be German? In fact most are not German and these people want to take a good long look at their own behaviour before blaming 'the bloody Germans'. Another complaint that made me laugh 'Could not get a full english breakfast' err, this is Tunisia we are talking about, they are Muslims they don't do pig, also complaints about fish, seaweed and jellyfish in the sea, err yes all signs of a healthy marine environment. The biggest thing that these people can't get into their pea sized brain is that the star rating on these type of hotels relates to facilities not necesarily luxury.
    I hate football and do wish people wouldn't keep talking about it like it's the most important thing in the world
  • pixwixpixwix Forumite
    121 posts
    While this sort of thing can be a nuisance, I'm only surprised than anyone is actually surprised. I'd have thought this behaviour was inevitable, if inexcusable. Not to mention the fact that even if a review is honest, that doesn't mean it's at all sensible ("I haven't even used my ... yet - but it's cool!")

    The real danger lies (as the OP suggests) in the increasing skill of many dud revues as opposed to the vast majority which are often pathetically transparent. On one review site recently, I read half a dozen 'independent' reviews of a builder who had clearly cut and pasted the identical review across several user names! It's really much the same as every other kind of scam - the half of the population who readily twig the scams can't understand the half who never seem to. Up to now, anyway - this development moves the goalposts.

    And not just reviews - I take the Amazon and eBay feedback systems with a pinch of salt too. I've seen hugely unsatisfactory traders sporting almost perfect feedback - often via a simplistic display which not enough buyers ever bother to go beyond. But I've also seen a guy selling literally 100s of those dud plastic cameras we all avoid at 'one-day auctions' - at £20 a go - and he still had 100% feedback! For me, a 95% eBay rating for someone with a dozen transactions is fine. A 99.9% rating for someone with 5000 transactions isn't. A 100% raiting for 5000 sales must surely be impossible.

    There are other dangers - for the reviewer too. Read about this nasty business (no suprise given the firm involved) -

    At street markets - more years ago than I care to remember - we used to watch as shills (who the vendor would claim never to have seen in his life) called from the crowd about their experience as highly satisfied customers. Nobody was fooled for a moment - in fact that kind of street theatre was half the reason we were there!
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