Can you trust online product reviews?
Whether it's a coffee maker, a computer, a frontloading washing machine or a vacuum, I'll spend days trolling the internet to see what other people think of the product.
Now I know I don't need to bother.
There seems to be a growing number reviewers being outed as product totes.
Last week, Apple turfed Molinker, a development company that had created 1,011 apps on the App Store. Turns out, a majority of reviews on Molinker apps were fake. This was brought to Apple's attention by a customer named Patrick Timney.
In July, an employee of DeLonghi, best known for its high-end espresso makers, confessed to having written several rave reviews about DeLonghi products sold on Amazon.com. Not that DeLonghi took action when informed by a reporter from the Wall Street Journal. Their response was employees were free to write passionately about the products, whether they sold them or not.
In that same month, a New York plastic surgery clinic was fined for writing fake positive reviews to buttress real reviews written by unsatisfied customers.
In January, it was revealed that electronics maker Belkin had paid to have someone write five-star reviews of its products on Amazon.com.
And on and on. And it wasn't just positive reviews, it was negative ones too.
When I was researching the perfect front-loading washing machine, I came across scores of reviews that sounded like they'd been written by a paid employee. The reviews would hit on all the chords a typical salesman would, often starting off: "I don't mean to sound like an employee....." But there was a ring of insincerity. Frankly, they had no passion.
But reading the above fake reviews, it seems there was lots of passion, lots of heart, totally believable, and they were only caught because someone starting doing footwork: Tracing names back to original sources, double checking reviews and then contacting companies and websites.
Will I still continue doggedly researching products that I intend to buy? Sure, but when I visit the corporate websites, at least I'll know the reviews are biased.