When Is a Star Not Always a Star? When It’s an Online Review

Customer reviews are incredibly important in e-commerce, but they can be unreliable or downright dishonest.

Comments: 205

  1. You can abuse anything including motherhood, apple pie and online reviews and all have been abused. Bottom line ask around from friends and reliable media reports what review sites are the most honest. Use them but constantly be ready to dump them if when you patronize the site you disagree vastly with the review especially if you go more than once. On a "reliable" site I look for a majority of people who like the thing in review and where there are many reviews. I go to restaurants a lot and fine Yelp to be very helpful especially if they have many reviews of a restaurant.

  2. The sad fact is so called legit sites like Amazon have done virtually nothing despite what they say regarding false reviews. Almost ALL good reviews are false on every web site and having companies that sell reviews proves the net will and is doing nothing to stop them. I ONLY believe bad reviews as a result of constantly being lied to.

  3. I've been using fakespot.com to check on review reliability. Most Amazon products now consist almost entirely of fake reviews. It is extremely difficult to find a product having any better than a "B". Most products are rated "F". This includes well-known brands. What we need now is a Website that checks review validity AND also points to products of the same type that have better ratings. Unfortunately fakespot only does the validity check. This means consumers are forced into running repeated validity checks, trying to find a better-rated product. This is a very time-consuming effort.

  4. Perhaps the best advice is that one should ignore the one star and four star reviews and focus on the details of criticisms that the in-between star raters offer. It usually isn't that hard to figure out the phony review. Also, if you are gullible enough to believe that a "lactic acid treatment" is going to provide you with the fountain of youth for $85 dollars, then what is the point of even caring about what people write?

  5. @Jeff Bad advice. One-star reviews often contain the most important information about a product: weaknesses and flaws that many people have experienced. True warning flags. You simply can't generalize. You need to read those reviews and evaluate whether they seem to be valid or not. This article would have been more useful if it contained tips on what to look for to ferret out fake/paid reviews. And as someone else here said, I've seen no evidence that Amazon is doing anything about this problem.

  6. @gf As an example, i was looking for essential oils on Amazon, and there is one company whose products are at least half the price of everyone elses, and that boasts hundreds of reviews, almost all overwhelmingly positive. I wondered how they can consistently undersell their competition, so I looked at the single stars reviews and discovered that the company is facing a class action suit for selling oils that are just chemical concoctions, and not natural at all. A web search verified this information.

  7. @Jeff I agree. I take note of the 5-stars and 1-stars, but you can tell when the 5-star is a fake and when the 1-star is from someone venting anger that their shipment arrived broken or because they didn't get the thing or service they expected. Those are good to notice - especially if a lot of people have the same 1-star complaint. But it is the middle-range ones, obviously written by a true buyer, where you find out the true pros and cons of the product or service.

  8. To paraphrase Captain Renault, I am shocked, shocked to learn that people and businesses will fake reviews for money.

  9. Online reviews of physicians are often unreliable and just plain wrong

  10. @Bob I completely disagree. In fact, doctor reviews are, in my experience, the most informative reviews of all -- but a reader has to use his interpretive skills based on prior medical contacts. A petulant and ill-informed review is spotted easily; a careful and credible one is also spotted, so that difference is made. Treatment by a doctor isn't a product, it's an exercise in skill & knowledge, and highly personal. You can't generalize appreciation of personal reactions. You can, however, generalize bedside manner and care, as well as some sense of the doctor being current and well-read.

  11. @Tara Oh, and I forgot one thing: rely on stats and consider how the sample was built. First, what's the median view of the practitioner? Second, happy-faced patient-reviewers may be fewer online than infuriated patients who just lost their liver to a careless surgeon. Take that into consideration.

  12. @Bob I completely agree. Patients are often not in a position to judge accurately how good a physician is at diagnosis and management. Also, there are patients who become angry when things don't go well (and it may not be clear to the patient whether that was avoidable), and those patients are disproportionately represented in reviews. Physician reviews often overemphasize bedside manner, pleasantness of the office experience, etc. Those things matter, but are not the most important aspect IMO.

  13. Depending on the product, reviews can be very helpful and sometimes very informative (e.g. settings tips for a new TV set). Obviously some products are so much a matter of "taste" or individual fit that they're mainly worthless, e.g. books, media, apparel, a surprising amount of technology preference. For more utilitarian purposes, a large number tends to reliably confirm a product's popularity and star power. "Verified purchase" flags add some credence, but mainly the qualitative content of thoughtful reviews, versus puff or hack jobs, speaks for itself.

  14. The sample fake reviews reported here are evidently a deception, so should be prosecuted. However, the solution to world-wide review-fakery is internet literacy, not regulation (although allowing reviews only from certified product buyers cuts down on the fakes). Literacy skills let you sniff out a piece of puffery (but I'm not going to say how-- that would be arming the fakes!). I will say that a persuasive critique is detailed and reasonably worded. However, persuasive puffery these days is hard to construct and rarely seen; fakers tend to be low-skilled in writing. Also, beware of ANY puff that appears as a response to criticism; that's the sign of a seller's strategy and it's usually not credible. Hotels do this all the time: "oh thank you, we're working on that right now."

  15. What this article completely misses is the fact that there are often a high volume of false NEGATIVE reviews left by competitors, former employees that have left in a less than honorable way and even some who just get some weird thrill from hiding behind the internet to cause harm to others. Companies and organizations are often helpless to do anything about this and the platforms themselves (Amazon, Google, Yelp and (by far the most egregious) Glassdoor will just ignore your legitimate requests to have false reviews removed (or at least reviewed and/or verified). Sure, fake positive reviews are bad but if you are going to write an article like this, tell the whole story and not a biased one that fails to take into account an incredibly important perspective!

  16. @SAB You bring up an excellent point and I think you can extend this further. Even with an honest, "true" review, I suspect people would be more likely to leave a negative versus a positive one. I personally will be less likely to take time out of my day to leave a review online about something I am 'enjoying'.

  17. @SAB Good point. I don't pay attention to a 5 star or 1/2 star review on yelp or TripAdvisor if the rater only has one or two reviews.

  18. I found this particularly true for travel reviews. When going to Israel last year there were several very disparaging hotel reviews that had me grilling my travel agent on his hotel selection. He explained that it was not unusual for competitors to post outrageously bad reviews. As I re-evaluated the reviews, I could spot the ones that seemed fake as they usually made very critical claims without details and were poorly written. I took his word for it and every place we stayed was perfectly suited to our needs, boutique hotels with great service and charm! Ironically, the NYTimes posted a review of one in Jerusalem while we were staying there!

  19. Companies now have software that go out and scour the internet for online mentions. They search by company name and several other key words. Stars are given a weight, with the first 2 being negative, the third neutral, and the top 2 positive. Stars and reviews are broken down to percentages and whether you are up or down from the week, month, quarter and year before. It is possible to move the percentages by means other than customer reviews. Companies no longer advertise as in past and instead rely on reviews. (I believe there is a companion article to this regarding advertising in the Times.) But people take the time to complain, and rarely bother to compliment. Unlike professional critics, reviews are very one sided and uninformed. In most reviews, the person will complain online without even alerting anyone in the business while they are there to allow anyone to right the situation. There should be more transparency in online reviews. Being able to see how a person reviews other businesses is helpful. Some folks just don't like anything. When it comes to reviews online, the old adage about never reading anything about yourself online, or going to search about yourself online is true.

  20. The one star reviews are the first I look at, I disregard four star reviews entirely. Then I look at the two and three star reviews. They is no information to be obtained by looking at the highest ratings. As a aside it has become apparent that no manufacturer builds a refrigerator that is not a pile of junk..

  21. I used to think that Consumers Reports was the gold standard until I started comparing their reviews with those of people that actually bought the item. Often “top rated” items by consumers reports were poorly rated by people. The only way to review a item on CR is to be a subscriber, so I doubt that the owners reviews are bogus.

  22. @Paulie Consumer Reports independently does their own testing of products, not their magazine subscribers.

  23. @Paulie My faith in CR dropped dramatically over the years. It took a fatal hit when they stealthily renewed my subscription. I had checked to make sure autorenew was not checked and somehow it got checked. Also, they appear to have fewer and fewer resources.

  24. @Tres Leches. Yes, some testing is done, and can be helpful. However, Consumer Reports also poles subscribers to assemble statistics about customer experience or perceptions of products. These poles are very tightly controlled as to what aspects are looked at, and may not provide an accurate picture of this reception.

  25. It is interesting that I am not allowed to review some items I have purchased on Amazon with a gift card (certainly verifiable to Amazon). Apparently, some money is greener than other money.

  26. Another reader posted about the reliability of reviews at travel websites. What I often find useful for travel-related reviews is to see how and in what manner proprietors reply to a negative review. If a hotel manager replies to a detailed negative review with specific actions to remediate problems, I am more inclined to take seriously such correspondences than a generic response promising to simply do better in the future.

  27. @Metaphor yes! And the ones that reply rudely or claim it was all the guests’ fault (especially airbnb) are red flags. The chances of these hotels or Airbnb’s taking your own issues then seriously will be nil.

  28. If it's a product I'm unfamiliar with, I usually start out by skimming the one-and two-star reviews, as those are usually written by real people, and it's easy to sort out the thoughtful reviewers from the cranks. Also, critical reviews are more useful to me as a consumer. Five-star reviews are often either vapid or phony; four-stars a little less so, but again, if you take the time to scratch at the surface, you can find the ones that are useful. Best of all is asking yourself, "do I really need any of this?" and waiting a few days to see if you're still hot for whatever it is you thought you wanted.

  29. Be honest everyone. No one leaves 2 stars. It's either five stars and a rave review, unless someone in the shop looked at you wrong in which case you "found" a rat in your soup.

  30. @CJ Two stars can be legitimate. Sometimes things aren't absolutely horrible, but they're also not even mediocre. It's like getting a D in a class. I also think product reviews are different from restaurant and other service sector reviews where people start getting fired if they get too many 4/5 reviews.

  31. Apart from fake reviews that can mislead, there is distortion in control over which reviews are printed. For example, Amazon exercises such control, sometimes suppressing reviews for rather subjective reasoning by moderators, for instance, that the review is inaccurate, or that suspiciously many bad reviews have been coming in. (Not to mention that actual publication of inaccurate reviews is extremely common, often rave reviews of dubious accuracy.) In some cases this editorial censorship of low-star reviews has misleadingly frozen a product’s favorable star ratings for months by excluding negative reviews. In other cases, reviews for products different from the one offered are mixed in, sometimes with the disparity identified by Amazon, sometimes not.

  32. @John♻️Brews I once bought a product from Amazon; the product I was sent was not at all the color I ordered. I tried multiple times to post an honest description of what was actually sent me, Amazon would not post my review until I took out the negative (though honest) wording. For that, and for the fact that Amazon won’t pay its fair share of taxes in this country, I stopped buying from Amazon altogether.

  33. I was looking for some electronic equipment for a nonprofit where I volunteered--I found what we wanted on Amazon and it had lots of raves. Noticed the reviewers had unusual surnames--did some online research. All of the names were Macedonian and several belonged to the same Macedonians-in-America organization. Had a good laugh and purchased from Tech Soup (bargains for nonprofits) instead.

  34. I look at reviews for certain products. When it's business related I find it frustrating because what I need to know is often not posted or is glossed over. Google and other search engines often bring up the extremely laudatory reviews. I'm looking for a critical review; one that lists the pros and cons of a particular application or piece of hardware. Companies that remove the critical reviews or that hide their problems behind a stream of constant self promotion are not doing themselves any favors. Companies are not being realistic if they deny the downside of their products or remove the negative reviews. I resent the implications that most negative reviews are fake. I view the majority of rave reviews as fakes because they do not, in my experience, coincide with product excellence. If companies don't want negative reviews they need to improve their product, improve their services, or admit that there are problems they need to fix. If restaurants can't handle a negative review perhaps they ought to go out of business. Maybe the food wasn't what the patron expected. Perhaps the service wasn't exemplary. It happens. But letting the negative reviews stay helps others. Maybe that feature a person complained about is vital to someone else. Be grateful when that leads to one less negative review because the person didn't buy it.

  35. I live in LA but visit New York often. A couple years ago I was amazed when the new Zagat Guide came out and a previously unknown steakhouse was suddenly number 2 behind Peter Lugar. I went for dinner and indeed it was good but I realized that somehow I must have given them my email address because almost daily afterwards I was sent emails asking me to write Zagat and give them rave reviews. Up until then I took Zagat as “gospel” but now not so much.

  36. @Pablo The tipoff for you should have been that Peter Luger was ahead of any steakhouse. It was good 30 years ago. Now it's like visiting a Planet Hollywood restaurant and expecting to have good food.

  37. Reviews are useful in two ways, I think. One is the percentage of low star ratings: if these amount to 20-25 percent of reviews it’s a warning. The second is specific information about a product that can illuminate aspects that are very informative. These helpful details rarely appear in top-star reviews, so it’s worth looking at the low-star reviews to find out just how a product works out.

  38. Go for the one star reviews and read the criticisms first. It's there where problems with products and sellers are exposed. Watch out for verbose comments (negative and positive) on platforms like Yelp where writers see on-line prompts encouraging rambling reviews. Speaking of Yelp, they even have a "Yelp Elite Squad" - Real people. Real reviews® - promising trusted voices that make a difference. Okay. And finally, when making an online purchase, find out what the return policy is. That's a far better insurance policy than any review.

  39. @jmilovich How about book reviews. I haven't read any reviews yet of Triggered by don jr but the fact that 100,000 books have been bought and given away to RNC donators of $35 says quite a bit about the quality. BTW only 115,000 of the books have been sold. That leaves 15,000 books bought. Oh well, the Trump's can afford it. They'll probably write it off as a charitable deduction.

  40. Restaurant reviews on sites like Yelp can be very helpful when they are accompanied by health department ratings. I always read the most recent one and two star reviews. Customer complaints about an unkempt venue are frequently reflected in the health department scores. In San Francisco, and many other places, the scores can be very detailed. Low scores for peeling paint and such can probably be overlooked, but improper storage and holding temperatures will likely be more significant. Although some ignorable comments give fewer stars because of parking issues (which have nothing to do with the restaurant), I take the ones about hair or insects in the food very seriously, and take my business elsewhere.

  41. Yelp is the last place I’d go for reviews.

  42. Health department ratings are a major source of information me in choosing a restaurant. I always check.

  43. Just yesterday I had a package from Amazon stolen from my doorstep. Amazon has already sent a replacement order, so yeah! What I'm writing about is that I have already received e-mails asking me to rate these purchases. I'm tempted to write a low review and state it was stolen but it seems to me that the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. There should be a way to flag my order as having been stolen so I do not get e-mails asking me to rate a product I did not receive. Another thing to note is that if a product is reviewed immediately after having been received the buyer is still in the honeymoon phase of the purchase wanting to justify the money paid and to love it. Concerns somebody might have about durability or other issues have likely not popped up yet. These reviews skew favorably because most people never back-track and rate an item after a period of time. The thing that is most useful to me are the question & answer feature. I can get a real idea about the product that way

  44. Why would you give a poor review for an item stolen from your doorstep? In what possible way could that be a reflection of the quality of the product? This is a big issue with negative reviews. I see so many of them that are a reflection of things unrelated to the product itself.

  45. @Dean Reimer Yes exactly why I did not review it. Not their fault. It would be a way of venting and was my first reaction. Thankfully I have learned to take a minute to reflect what led to my impulse and to check myself.

  46. I purchase online often and I am quite active on TripAdvisor. Reviews do not provide answers, they are tools to help you make your decision. The highest rated product or facility may not be the "best one for you". You cannot just look at the rating, you need to actually read the reviews. I rarely read the 5-star reviews. I focus more on unhappy customers and look for a problematic pattern. Often the bad reviews are about an aspect that is irrelevant to me or are because of the purchaser's own mistakes or irrealistic expectations. In these cases, I won't keep me from buying the product or service. Also, in the reviews, I am looking for facts rather than opinions. "Best hotel that I ever stayed at" - right but where else did you stay before? Useless statement coming from a pure stranger. Slow internet or the shower isn't very hot, these are facts that I care for. Ultimately, as in any statistics, the truth lies in the large number. Despite some fake reviews, if a place has over 1,000 reviews then the rating is fairly reliable. If it has six, not so much so.

  47. My experience with giving a poor review on Amazon is that the seller will try to bribe you with a gift certificate or the like to change your review to stars. I now include this fact in my reviews so that others know that some high rankings may have been bought.

  48. @Alan end of first sentence should read "5 star"

  49. @alan The review system on Amazon for everyone is horrible. On the seller side, poor reviews can be from competing sellers and products who hire people to buy your products leave poor reviews and ruin your brand. It’s unbelievable. Buyers also try and abound the review system on Amazon saying they will leave a port review and try and get a free product. Little known fact. Sellers can report abusive buyers like this and their accounts are marked in the Amazon system.

  50. Yes, I have seen this. I posted a review on Amazon that was only slightly negative. The hose nozzle was very well designed, but the pivot screw was only nickel plated and started rusting. I was first offered a refund. Then after accepting the refund, they wanted me to delete the review.

  51. I recently rented a car in Melbourne, Australia, and the service was fantastic. Absolutely wonderful and helpful people. Yet when I wanted to give them a 5-star review on-line, it was only possible over Facebook and Google, neither of which I use. Disappointing for the many travellers who might have benefited from the lovely people at this agency.

  52. @Eddie, What’s the name of the car rental company you used? At least people here will see your review!

  53. As a thinking person I communicate verbally to my friends who may or many not have used a product. I have no desire to read or write reviews. If I am going to write a review it is to the shareholders of the company that made the product or to the CEO who continually produces defective products. People are under the illusion that they have the right to destroy a product because they say so. who are these important people? I would hope they help out dealing with climate change, seniors stabilizing communities. Registering people to vote. Since technology is overrun with Trolls from Russia it is a waste of time to be bothered with them.

  54. Some thoughts, from someone who does a lot of on-line shopping. 1. Amazon and other on-line market places should add another metric: Percentage of returns. How many people return an item? That tells you a lot. One expects a few returns on even the best items, but if there are too many? Suggests a problem. 2. Longer reviews are more valid than are shorter ones, for many items. The more detail provided the more accurate they are. 3. I am rarely (i.e. almost never) disappointed in an item from Amazon or ebay. I have purchased hundreds of items from these sites and, on eBay, have sold thousands. Take home point: the bigger the site the more resources they have to put into detecting fake reviews. 4. Remember: if you get a fake reviews, and the product isn't described accurately in the reviews, then have no hesitation about returning the product. That costs the seller.

  55. @Travelers 1. is already being gamed by competing vendors: pay people to buy and return the item to increase the return rate to make the item look bad. Yes, it's being done.

  56. I never read five star reviews. I look at one and two stars first, but only read detailed reviews with good reasoning. Who cares if someone just "hated" it. Then I check three and four star reviews the same way. If something sounds like it's written by marketing then it probably is.

  57. *** Well written article but I would have given it more stars had it suggested practical solutions to the problem it describes.

  58. Ideally, reviewers should be peer rated. Main problem is reviewer's anonymity. Anonymous person can't be trusted or be accountable. Until there is safe way to establish a public identity that it is not held captive by a specific company, online ratings will be fake. This will require solving the privacy issues. “Privacy Matters” https://link.medium.com/cGgg9cUKZX

  59. I was looking at Amazon for heart rate monitors (wrist style) and sorted by rating. The ones with high ratings had comments like "best eyeliner I have ever used!". Not only were the reviews fake they had NOTHING to do with the actual product. Cmon Amazon, you have got to do better.

  60. @lexdad If you knew what kind of brutal enviroment to sell on Amazon is like you would be shocked at what happens there by Amazon and sellers. It’s highly competitive and combative. Not always like this but the past two years it’s gotten crazy there.

  61. @LexDad I found the same thing with blood pressure monitors....only a few mixed reviews for the products, but hundreds of other reviews for other products included in the rating. These are medical devices! Scary!

  62. I never pay attention to reviews. They are mostly phoney because merchants do not want negativity about their products.

  63. I order regularly from Amazon and EBay. Some of the sellers are persistent about asking for reviews. They include a note in the order asking for a 5 star review and then sometimes they email at least once to say they want to be sure we received and enjoyed the product. Sellers, I’m much more likely to write great reviews when I’m not asked to.

  64. Not to opine for days gone by, but I do fondly remember a time when the only requirement from a vendor was prompt payment! Most honest things in life are satisfactory, not meriting a survey for every customer service contact, hotel stay, or purchase!

  65. @Broc Hite Hear! Hear! I am to this day astonished at the number of vendors I have tried to buy from who are willing to forego the sale rather than make it without my email address and/or phone number.

  66. @Broc Hite I agree with your thoughts on eBay sellers We sell on eBay and never ask , hint or incentivize for feedback. It’s tacky and amateur

  67. Twice within the last six months, I have been asked to rate a product I bought from Amazon either on the company's or Amazon's site. I had researched each product and thought I made a good decision. But when the seller reached out with either a free product or a sizeable discount for a positive review, I became even more skeptical than my skeptical self that the posted reviews were honest evaluations. Reminds me of a terrazzo person I found on yelp. He had 36 reviews, all five star. Our condo board asked why I rejected him. I told them that no one gets all perfect reviews. Anyone in business is bound to irritate someone. Had he sprinkled in a few 3 star reviews, I might have fallen for it.

  68. I have owned a small but influential business for 20 years. Over the last 10 years I have seen tons of my former interns, receptionists or other low- level employees flat out lie on site like Linked In or Glassdoor. They have completely fabricated their position, work and more. In some cases they were student interns and took credit for work that employees with years of experience worked on. In some cases these people have gotten jobs based on these lies. I have tried time and again to remove the lies from Linked In, but it’s useless as there is just about nothing you can do to stop it. I once spent hours dealing with a particularly egregious example, which I managed to get taken down, but I don’t have the time to do this. There is seemingly no way to stop people from making anything up online!

  69. @GO LinkedIn is garbage!

  70. I purchased a pair of bicycle pedals from a vintage parts seller on eBay and paid promptly. I did't write a review, and so the seller blocked me from making any further purchases from them. We live in a topsy-turvy world.

  71. It's remarkable how many people have no clue how to do a review. So often I see a 1 star review of a restaurant, and then read "I had a headache that night, and then we got a flat tire on the way home. It was a terrible night." Also, too many people only give 1 or 5 stars, no shades of difference; sort of like Trump, for whom everything is either the best in history or a catastrophe.

  72. This morning I received this email from a company (azeus) from which I purchased an air purifier via Amazon. As you can see, it is offering me a free new product if I will give it a 5 star review on Amazon. I looked all over Amazon for some way to notify them, but there does not seem to be a way. Guess they are not interested How to claim a free product? 1. Purchase our product on Amazon.Send your order ID (Checkout Screenshot) and PayPal account to me. 2. We will issue you a full refund including PP fee via PayPal or Amazon Gift Cards after your order number is confirmed. 3. Test the product and leave us 5 stars review with a short video or some pictures on Amazon. 4. Send your review link/screenshot to me once your review is confirmed. 5. You can keep the product, get a refund and wait for the next free test cooperation. If you are happy to do, we will send you the purchase guide to place the order now.

  73. @bob yep - it’s clearly against Amazon’s rules but they will never stop the seller.

  74. @Concerned Citizen I can think of some other recent examples...

  75. GASP! What a surprise!

  76. Fun fact: online text of all types, including the ubiquitous "Republican with just a few questions" comments that the NYT like to promote to add an air of equity to the comments sections, can literally just be fabricated by anyone at all, at any time. I might be "Randall in Portland," or maybe I'm Sally in Long Island, or maybe Vlad in Moscow, or maybe Li Ping in Macau. Assuming what you see online is true is a sucker's game.

  77. The first site to be blatantly abused (knowingly?) was TripAdvisor. They are now hardly alone. Online planning and purchasing is a crapshoot. It just might remain that way. AirB&B’s review system is particularly laughable. It’s a vicious circle of thumbs up. Its intricate unproductive strategizings — from hosts and guests — makes me question human nature.

  78. Amazon is riddled by fake reviews by the item sellers that are obviously fake. People copy/paste the same review over and over to get many high ratings. In the age of trump there is no truth

  79. Hucksterism and online buskers ... while elected officials are sleeping off another impeachment binge with a little hangover from Russian meddling, citizens go unprotected against tech oligopolists.

  80. I don’t believe in reviews and don’t write them. I do read the low ones and it has saved me.

  81. Amazon is absolutely flooded with fake reviews. They are not difficult to spot - the reviewer reviews a large number of products in a short time & gives them all 5 stars. A lot of the time, the items are linked by manufacturer or seller, as in this seller on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/profile/amzn1.account.AE2NMD2VO4Z3SQDEPXEIQV2YXTBA/ref=cm_cr_dp_d_gw_tr?ie=UTF8 All of the items come from 3 or 4 different manufacturers, who are all linked and probably come from the same Chinese owners. All the reviews are 5 stars, the words gushing, the criticism non-existent. Some of them read exactly like the PR splurge they actually are. They are varied - the woman, we are to be believed, works on car engines, is pregnant, is an IT whiz who also games and looks after her looks. Basically, any reviews on Amazon that are overwhelmingly 5 star need to be more or less ignored. Look at other reviews outside Amazon, they'll be more trustworthy.

  82. I go straight for the 4-star, and sometimes the 3-star reviews. I find a ton more truth in them then in those at either extreme.

  83. @Dean The link now goes to a missing page.

  84. The fact that so many humans are instinctually compelled or driven somehow by default to lie, steal, cheat (and help others lie, steal, cheat) is disturbing and makes me feel apathetic regarding the survival of the human species. Most people don’t deserve life on this planet.

  85. As usual, the Times is stuck on yesterday's the-internet-is-evil issue and they seem to have this class thing against people without a portfolio they approve of. Amazon reviews are a source of many things, most of which are not evil. And there are the annoying bits such as those endless followup email pleas for reviews on staple items, such as cables, batteries, and antidiarrheal over the counter meds. Yep, the cables weren't broken, the batteries powered my devices and...well...no point in reviewing that last one. They are also the source of immense entertainment, such as the hilarious reviews for the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer, along with hundreds of tongue in cheek questions and answers about the product. Professional comedy writers couldn't have done better. But the internet gives power to "nobodies" as one recent article put it. Yes, there's corruption, fake reviews, paid reviews. But is that the problem or is the real issue the fact that people tend to trust other consumers of a product more than the promotional or advertising material created by companies that make those products?

  86. @Jonathan Baron "the Times is stuck on yesterday's the-internet-is-evil issue and they seem to have this class thing against people without a portfolio they approve of." Credibility matters. Where do you get these notions from? What on earth are you talking about?

  87. @Jonathan Baron No, the problem is that the advertising is in the consumer section. It’s like editorials presented as news. It shouldn’t be done. The Buzzfeed article lady won’t plug in most of the products, put them on her body, or cook food in them all for fear of injury. 5 stars, works great. Took five years off her face! Eventually, these reviews drown out one that says it ate off the person’s skin. Especially for a new or unknown product. Not sure how that’s an internet-is-evil issue, or whatever. Just companies behaving badly. But go off, I guess.

  88. I am constantly astounded with the number of nitwits who decide on the purchase of an item by looking at reviews from other people on the WEB. I purchase from reliable produces whose products have survived the test of time and who size products correctly. Anyone who relies on user reviews has forgotten the ancient axiom, Caveat Emptor!

  89. I own an online company. I had a customer that left a review and accidentally put their last name on it and kept writing me to delete her last name. I thought I can't edit her review, that would make all reviews on Facebook untrustworthy. Since she was very upset about her last name, I thought I'll at least try. I found out that a business can edit their reviews on Facebook including deleting them.

  90. @L. Colorado Thanks so much for this! That is very interesting indeed.

  91. Interested to know how you do that?

  92. Even worse than this are the absurd rating sites for physicians and other professionals. Disgruntled, unrealistic people dominate these sites including Google Business.

  93. @JCX I live in a small area with one, oddly, world class ophthalmologist who visits this side of the county once a week. There’s always a wait. Read a review for him the other day on Google. A 45 minute wait in the waiting room is ridiculous. Then we waited another half hour in the little room. (We’re all with the lady so far; that’s the worst.) Dr. (I’m not gonna say) has been treating my son for a year and saved his vision, but do I really need to wait this long?! - 1 star I mean. The only alternative for a kid is a 3 hour drive to Children’s in Little Rock. Guess what? You’re going to wait there too. I know that woman and her son. Before seeing the good doctor, he walked with a white cane and now runs around at recess. 1 star. Yes, the medical rating sites are ridiculous. Never mind my area’s best rated doctor doesn’t treat so much as give out fun drugs. Seen a commercial for something? Sure. You can take it! Sadly, much like Amazon reviews, this system was set up to save you time, money, and, in the medical case, lives. But nope. Fake reviews, slow shipping, long wait, didn’t read the description... yikes.

  94. "Two of the F.T.C.’s five commissioners, Rohit Chopra and Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, objected to the proposed settlement" Oh look, this ineffectual settlement that has zero financial penalty was rammed through the FTC by "pro business" Republicans. Just another thing the Republican party wants to be known for - supporting fake reviews. They already throw their weight behind their fraudulent disaster of a president, so why not fake reviews too?

  95. Really? I had never heard of fake reviews before. Who would do such a thing? 9LOL. Never pay attention to an online review unless the reviewer has reviewed at last 30 items, and there is a spread in the quality ratings. Yelp especially makes this easy to determine)

  96. @Snowball Who would submit 30+ reviews unless they're doing it for money? I'm not certain I would value the opinion of anyone who thinks the best use of their time is to write online reviews.

  97. I actually find reviews on Amazon to be quite helpful and accurate. For example, bras, one of the least pleasant items to shop for in the real world unless you enjoy fighting with those demented little hangers while standing around half naked. So, I read the reviews, which are often hilariously funny and or painfully honest. I have no doubt the women, and sometimes men, reviewing the bras have actually worn them.

  98. I only trust reviews that number in the hundreds on Amazon. I think it'd be hard to plant/fake/buy that many. A piece of media or tech that has thousands of reviews, most numbering 4 stars or better is likely a good product. Even then, I tend to go for products that are professionally reviewed (movies, video games, books, tech, etc.) on other sites. What annoys me the most are 'political' reviews, ie: trolls that give one star to something that they perceive as left-wing or whatever. Well known examples of that include negative review bombing for Star Wars:The Last Jedi and Captain Marvel. Both of which are excellent popcorn action/sci-fi flicks if you don't hate women.

  99. @Matt Products with hundred of reviews on Amazon are often the one that bought them on Facebook farms. These reviews have been allowed to stay on Amazon. Amazon likes the sales. You can scroll through the reviews and some are downright hilarious because they don’t even make sense, or written like a novel. Additionally slightly off track Amazons Choice products are chosen because those products are in Amazon warehouse. Amazon does this to get sellers to send products to the warehouses and pay storage fees - this is another Amazon topic.

  100. If you sell on Amazon the people who leave real reviews are leaving complaints and these are generally because they did not read product description, so they complain online. This is very unfair to sellers. Amazon says they police the feedback left thought Facebook feedback farms but they don’t. Reviews even fake increase sales. Amazon and other retail sites should remove the star system and this would stop all this nonsense. Additionally sellers are so competitive they will buy another sellers products to leave negative reviews and ruin a business. All the reviews and the stars and the like dislike can be blamed on Facebook. It’s horrible, and the world would be better off without it.

  101. Fake reviews are definitely a problem. But preventing honest reviews from being posted is a problem too. When I wrote a one star review of a product I had bought from Amazon criticizing the hard plastic packaging, Amazon refused to post it.

  102. @LadyC - I have had the same experience on Amazon. They refused to post a 'one star' review. Apartments.com has refused to post a negative review as well. There are many sites that do the same. I don't trust reviews much any more.

  103. @LadyC My negative reviews submitted to Amazon are usually rejected (positive reviews are never rejected). I’m never given a reason why my reviews are rejected. However, when I submit negative reviews a second time (usually with even more criticism of the product) they are always accepted. My interpretation is that Amazon gives their sellers a certain number of vetoes for product reviews. If you’re persistent your review will be accepted.

  104. @frank I had this issue and believe it or not, but that’s against Amazon’s rules. Part of the agreement to using their site is that if your review is removed, you’re not allowed to review it again. If you do it enough you’re the one that gets bounced, not the fraudulent seller!

  105. As a seller of political merchandise on Amazon, I find it infuriating that people can post negative reviews that clearly are politically motivated. They don't even have to buy the product, and there seems to be no screening process whatsoever. If enough people complain about a review, it might be removed, but this can sometimes take months, if it ever happens. Meanwhile, a single negative review on a new product with few or no other reviews, can doom a perfectly good product. People clearly want honest and reliable reviews. But from my perspective, Amazon seems to be doing next to nothing to facilitate this.

  106. @Dan Frazier No doubt. Look at any Amazon review for anything with "Palestine" in title, like license plate frames. Lots of 1-star reviews, never a verified purchase. When I have nothing going on, I spend some time reporting these reviewers to Amazon. I don't know if it's a waste of time, but it's something.

  107. On anything important I read Consumer Reports magazine which accepts no advertising and whose mission is to be objective. When shopping on line I watch for a "free returns" for any reason. A company must have faith in its product to offer this. Consumers do offer occasional insight and descriptions, but I don't expect it.

  108. @David Henry Consumer Reports does a great job. For kitchen items I also like Cook's Illustrated, which does reviews in addition to its recipes.

  109. Some categories of online reviews are patently useless. I refer to restaurant reviews. Tied for the Bottom-of-the-Barrel Medal in this category are three sites that will publish almost anything that's submitted (you know which sites I'm referring to). Vacuous comments like "Yummy" and "Our waiter was the best ever" embellish top ratings, even though they do not include any substantive remarks about the food, its quality, or its preparation. These are far more common than are rarer, knowledgeable descriptions and comments. Fortunately, there often are online restaurant reviews available on newspaper and food and travel magazine websites. These are typically written by professional reviewers/critics, and are almost always more descriptive and reliable than are comments on those other sites. Using any other ratings source makes selecting a restaurant a (pardon the pun) a crapshoot.

  110. Also useful, if your state makes them public, are state health department inspection reports. While they won’t tell you how good the food and service are, they will tell you which restaurants are dirty, back in the kitchen where you can’t go, and which ones have unsafe food handling practices. After getting an upset stomach several times at a local restaurant, I looked up their reports and found that, inspection after inspection, for several years, they had gotten citations for serious safety violations. Any restaurant can occasionally get a bad inspection report, but to do so year after year indicates a careless attitude on the part of management toward public safety. We no longer eat there.

  111. @Linda ... Good advice. Thanks for the info.

  112. In a recent segment John Oliver mentioned something far more troubling than fake reviews: the possibility of being sued for leaving an honest review.

  113. @Mark W. Miller I believe there is a recently enacted federal law which protects honest reviewers. (I just wish the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau had a better leader so some of the most dishonest people in the U.S. could be more heavily prosecuted faster.)

  114. No-one has mentioned RottenTomatoes, the film review site. Earlier I found it useful for its averaging of audience responses (and it's always useful to see what major critics have said, all in one place). It is still accurate, I think when there is enough mass of audience response (tens of thousands). But lately, especially for smaller independent films, it's quite obvious that filmmakers' friends, family (and possibly paid claques) are writing dozens of 5-star, one-line reviews as blatant as "Best film ever! You gotta see this." That of course bumps up the film's RT average to unbelievable levels, which subsequent honest reviewers sometimes note as the very reason they decided to write a review and set the record straight about what an awful picture it really is! In the end, I must confess, I usually only check RT after I've already seen a film, to see who all agrees with my own judgement.

  115. @Election Inspector I only look at the top critic reviews. I do find those helpful.

  116. Baby-boomer reading this article- what I am reading here would make me ignore online reviews altogether. Use the internet for mapping- like what is the location of the place (if a restaurant) but that's about it. But otherwise, smell the food upon entry to a restaurant, and if a big box item, actually visit a store (if you can find one in proximity) before buying it.

  117. It's not just a matter of fake reviews. On a number of occasions I have tried to post reviews critical of some product, such as a fountain pen. These pens can be very expensive, limited editions, etc. and none of my critical reviews appeared on the pen store's website, only positive reviews from other people. Because of that, I am extremely reluctant to buy pens online. These stores are hurting their own businesses.

  118. Not posting critical reviews, therefore over-inflating customers’ ratings and reviews, is a much bigger problem than fake reviews.

  119. OK, so if a company has the ability to remove fake reviews, how does it also not have the ability to remove low reviews?

  120. I do not trust online reviews because they are given by people who have a vested interest in themselves; I won’t contribute to the narcissism of strangers.

  121. I don't trust online reviews, even ones at sites like OpenTable, which are supposedly "verified." On many occasions Amazon sellers have offered me a "gift" in exchange for writing a review and sending a link to it. And at OpenTable, a restaurant owner / manager / employee simply makes a reservation for their establishment, then confirms with OpenTable that the non-existent diner showed up. They're then invited to post a review. I've dined at one-too-many mediocre restaurants with glowing OpenTable reviews ("Best meal of my life!") to trust the site.

  122. I almost never do product reviews, but do post on TripAdvisor of the places that I visit (mostly cafes or restaurants - never sites or places). But, here's the thing, I rarely, if ever, post a negative review. Of course, I have had my share of negative experiences in cafes, but feel reluctant to be critical based on just one visit (anyone can have an off day) . . . on the other hand, I do post enthusiastic reviews of positive experiences (like an amazing cheesecake I had at a number one rated TA cafe in Sintra, Portugal - absolutely to die for) . . .

  123. I do the same. I especially give five star, detailed reviews to small businesses I frequent in hopes of helping them stay in business. For instance, my local privately owned pharmacy who delivers prescriptions, gives advice, and doesn’t cost anymore than the order by mail my insurance company pushes on me received a five star review after using them for six years. Pretty soon the only brick and mortar retail will be banks, nail salons, and restaurants. Stop ordering by mail and support small retailers. They are often your best source of product information.

  124. There are two independent websites that can help you determine whether a group of amazon product reviews are legitimate or not. The website first is reviewmeta.com. The second is fakespot.com. Each website uses a somewhat different method for testing. So on big ticket items, I like to check both websites. Otherwise, I generally go with reviewmeta. The checking process is quick and easy. Just copy the address of amazon's product listing and past it into one or both of the review checkers. https://reviewmeta.com/ https://www.fakespot.com/

  125. @Nancy Robertson Thanks for sharing this, I'm checking these sites out now - should be a big help!

  126. I give this article 4 starts out of 5.

  127. Great article

  128. Yeah, and the sky is blue.

  129. I prefer the strangely over the top reviews given for useless items

  130. @John I often wonder about negative reviews for certain trivial items... I mean, what were they expecting for $14.95?

  131. Yelp is questionable now in my opinion. I made a bad review about a company in MA after being treated poorly by their rent-a-cop private security guys and the review was deleted. I'm sure the owner of the security firm made a complaint to Yelp and that's why it was deleted. Be very careful,when reading online reviews since it's so easy to fake them right along with news and the truth.

  132. @Sheila Yelp definitely has questionable practices. They routinely deletes positive reviews or marks them as "unreliable" if businesses refuse to pay them for advertising. And if businesses do pay them, they'll delete their negative reviews.

  133. @Tzimiskes As small business owners, we have had the very same experience with Yelp. We have had complaints about work we don't even do. Yelp wanted us to advertise before they would take them down. One of our former subcontractors - who we know does very shoddy work, has many tens of glowing reviews, written by family and friends. I've always thought their name "yelp" was fitting, and still can't imagine anyone taking them seriously. I don't.

  134. This is key: pay Yelp and bad reviews go away. Don’t pay and the good reviews disappear.

  135. Like fake News posts from bots, dishonest consumer “reviews” are the price for the ability to disseminate information without any accountability. Clients extort businesses by threatening to write a negative review. Disgruntled patients who did not get the opioids they requested or had other absurd requests pan their physicians all the time. It’s a new world and there are few fixes.

  136. I have become fairly adept at recognizing fake reviews on Amazon. When there are just too many effusive positive comments, it gets pretty obvious. That said, why does the FTC enter into the picture at all? Lying advertising? Let's start with McDonald's (ever see a real mcburger that looks like the photos?) or Coke (does it really make you that happy?). Caveat emptor! Please, government, this is not your business -- and I am a radical left-winger....

  137. @Mike Clark It is absolutely the government’s business to protect consumers from fraud. We need much more such help from the government at every level.

  138. This is a very timely article. Can we say this is a "review and stars bubble" we are at? Well, it is time it bursts! Who writes what, where are these gold color stars coming from, these are mystery to me! Problem is not only about daily consumer products regarding their fake and shady review and stars, also about major service providers in all areas!

  139. It is an important issue. However. Really. The products that Sunday Reilly were selling and promoting did not immediately alert consumers that it was a fraudulent business. Tidal Brightening Enzyme Water Cream. I believe people who would buy this product wanted to be cheated. Unhappy. Embittered. Looking for reasons to hate themselves and the world. And so they were cheated.

  140. @HT Especially since the first four words of Tidal Brightening Enzyme Water Cream make it sound like something one would use in the laundry. And "influencers" are the influenza of product reviews. Stay away. On the other hand, I don't think people who would buy overpriced products with "miracle" ingredients want to be cheated. They are bombarded with articles and ads about the importance of looking younger - hey, even the Gray Lady runs articles about what products celebrities use. Let's see...Rachel Brosnahan uses the $95 SKII sheet mask - and there's a handy link! Of course, it's balanced out by a few good drugstore brands like Cetaphil, so those of us who'd rather not pay $100 for a serum won't feel left out.

  141. Has no one been paying attention to the reports of the lies that are spread through the Internet. Any and every blog is self-serving. Propaganda. Unverified. And, from a celebrity or "influencer", especially so. Anyone who believes and acts on them is just plain untutored or some other politically correct aberration.

  142. I don't use online reviews for anything, I'm surprised that so many people do. I ask friends or family about products or places or Consumer Reports or I've tried it before and liked it.

  143. A lot of the reviews are genuine and helpful though, and customers will answer your questions and post pictures of items in their own homes. I'm thinking of sites like Amazon and Overstock. One woman wrote such a detailed comment detailing her experience learning to use her Instant Pot that copied it and saved it.

  144. I believe the honesty and integrity of online consumer reviews are orders of magnitude more truthful than the businesses that are alleged to rely on the reviews.

  145. Reading reviews is occasionally useful if one thinks of it a little like an overheard conversation of strangers. It may be reliable or it may be gossip. All of it should be taken lightly. What I enjoy are the ones that start off seriously and then become fun —- like the famous “binders of women” and the maga hat Christmas ornament reviews. As mentioned by another person in this section, they are little bits of great comic writing in an unexpected place.

  146. @Sarah Oh, this brings me back to the BIC pens for her reviews!

  147. Very often one or less star reviews tell you more about the product and level of complaints. Of course, a competitor may abuse this method, but they can't just say it's bad, they have to give a good reason for their review, which even that tells you. For example, if they complain about a specific part no working, you can follow that thread and verify if the bad review is legitimate. This works better than reading good reviews as they are very broad. Bad reviews are often specific when true.

  148. I make it a point to read negative reviews to get a clearer picture of any product or service.

  149. I use Amazon Vine, another website that adjusts the star count through language algorithms.

  150. This is because online “reviews” are opinions and not reviews in the sense it was understood for decades. If people were made aware of this distinction and if it was enforced it might make a great, positive difference.

  151. It's like Trip Advisor. We own a tour company in Costa Rica and I know for a fact some of my competitors' reviews are fake reviews. Dates/weather/conditions/equipment/expertise don't jibe with reality. I have also been in hotels where a flyer in the room promises a free dinner with proof (a print out) of a positive 5 star hotel review! This I have reported, twice, to Trip Advisor. On Amazon, I scan the most recent reviews, but you never know, so I also look at other sites, like Wirecutter and Consumer Reports.

  152. @Van Verre this happens on Amazon all the time. I gave a bad review to a company that did this and included a photo of the postcard they sent me. Amazon removed my review and the seller is still there, despite it being against Amazon’s rules.

  153. As others have said, I look at the negative reviews far more than the positive ones, both to see what complaints people have and how, if at all, the company responds to those complaints. The positive reviews I generally ignore, for the reasons given in the article.

  154. Precisely. No business is perfect and the replies are key to see how the problem was dealt with.

  155. I once bought an LL Bean Duffle Bag which I used to go from Boston (BOS) to NYC (JFK). When I got to the hotel, I found the fame shattered, after the cold ride in a cab from JFK. My complaint to LL Bean was removed after one day. Have had the same experience with Trip Advisor.

  156. I'd like to see an article on the difficulties of reviewing businesses. Everytime I do a review, especially a restaurant, I end up with massive pangs of guilt. What if they were just having a bad day? What if the food I ordered was bad but everything else was great? What do I owe the business as far as should I return again and verify my bad experience? Should I allow my review to sit there for years... the business hopefully learns and changes based on it's reviews. If the business only has a few reviews and I give a bad review, it could seriously harm the persons livelihood. Too many people put out "revenge" reviews and those are just as bad as over the top fake good reviews. Anyway, from a reviewers perspective I often wonder what is the point of doing a review and how can I do it ethically.

  157. @Joe Shmoe Precisely because of your humane and mindful attitude, I have a hunch that any negative review you write would convey that conditional, forgiving tone and help others judge for themselves--to be a bit wary but not dismissive of the business you're talking about; to ask the proprietor/clerk to make sure X doesn't happen/take too long/etc. Constructive criticism can be a positive thing.

  158. There is not enough work done to fetter our fake reviews and one-off “flamers” going off the deep end. This has real consequences and is truly sad. For everyone who second-guesses and is thoughtful about providing a neutral or negative review (thank you!), there are plenty of people who use online review sites to rant and give one star ratings. But they just don’t review the product or service, they go into character assassination and really stretch the truth about what occurred in the interest of getting the ultimate revenge. Uncontrolled, this kills small businesses by scaring off prospective clients and limiting growth. No business is perfect and unfortunately it seems the only people who take the time to write reviews are those who are super happy or those who go on a tirade. As a small business owner myself, it is now my job to constantly ask my clients for reviews to counter all of the crazies who post one star reviews because they get ticked off at a policy they don’t agree with. There is even a new industry to sell new services to me called “reputation management” so I get to pay to try and limit the fallout. Or, I can buy ads on Yelp so that my ad shows up on my competitor’s Yelp page. The problem for me is real and will eat up a significant portion of my small marketing budget just to counter the damage.

  159. @Scott Bloom ....Good points. I worry too. As I commented -- It is possible people are more drawn to write a review if they have a negative experience with a product or business. Or movie or anything. They want to tell the world. People with positive satisfaction with the product might not be so motivated to review. Unless it's unexpectedly or extremely great. Are there any studies on this? Otoh, some products have mostly positive reviews, not negative. So what does that mean? Have Amazon reviews ever been correlated with Consumer Reports reviews on the same product? Or other dependable evaluators? I've wondered how vulnerable businesses and professional people are to anyone, who for any reason decides to be negative about them on line. It can be a whim, or a disagreement, or a rant from an unbalanced, resentful type person. After years of business, or medical or law school, etc, a professional's career could be ruined, with no recourse possible. Has this happened? How about an article on that, NYTimes? I've read reviews on yelp with extreme, wordy complaints about terrible customer service that sounded exaggerated. If I was a business owner, I'd worry every day about reviews. Anonymity is the problems on line. Anyone can say anything. I'll add this---seems businesses, services, professionals as well as our politics, our elections and national security -- all are at risk from on line manipulation!

  160. Five Stars! This was an excellent article! I've read the companies products for years and I'd definitely read it again!

  161. @Kit It was exactly as described! Would buy again!

  162. There’s also the Amazon bait and switch review. A company will sell a product, a shirt for example. It will get good reviews. Later the company switches the product listing for a completely different inferior shirt... but carries over the stars from the first shirt. You can see this if you go back far enough and start to see that the questions and reviews are clearly for another product.

  163. Many restaurant and hotel reviews seem to have been written by people who have never been there. They seem to be designed to steer customers elsewhere. I suspect that they are generated by competitors.

  164. Amazon has bad actors writing reviews? Amazon IS a bad actor. I try to search for x, and I get x plus y, z and a,b c.... I searched for an LED lamps with a particular output, and it insisted on presenting every light bulb imaginable. And relying on customer replies for questions about products, no thanks. I'd rather go to a well-stocked, well-informed brick-and-morter store and find what I need.

  165. @Doug Fuhr I could not agree more. A knowledgeable customer service person can make excellent suggestions and recommendations that will save you time and offer a better result. Is it worth all the wasted browsing time on Amazon?

  166. @Doug Fuhr I don't disagree with your sentiments, but what if there isn't a well stocked, well informed brick and mortar light bulb store out here in Moose Jaw?

  167. Wow. I love the advice given here by several commenters... ignore the 5 stars and the 1 stars, and read the 4 and 3 and 2 stars carefully to get a good view of the product/service. If enough people did this it would begin to solve the problem itself. This reminds me of the skating scoring system... throw out the top and bottom scores and average the rest. Ironically, this article's reviewers/commentators have better points (in my view) than the article itself. If I know a topic well enough, I often skim the articles on newsfeeds and read the most recommended comments in the NYT ... it is more efficient, like crowd-sourcing knowledge.

  168. Not a lot of comments here that have to do specifically with Sunday Riley. Absent any kind of reasonable penalty for their actions, I can think of one that everyone should try: don't buy Sunday Riley products. Ditto other companies, if you are convinced that they are either using false positive reviews, or grooming negative reviews out of the line-up. That said, when I see a product with hundreds (or thousands) of reviews, I do put some weight on that. It might not be 100% accurate, and it might not be my personal experience (these are, after all, just little opinion pieces), but in the vast panoply that is now the consumer universe, you've got to have something to go on, and Consumer Reports does not in fact review every product under the sun.....

  169. @0sugarytreats Is anyone not leery of a company that only gets great reviews? I look for the lowest ratings to see what the flaws are, and often it is not an issue for me. Other problem is most people are reluctant to be critical, not nasty, but realistic.

  170. I immediately read the bad reviews and then compare to the best...and then buy something else

  171. Welcome to Late Stage Capitalism, where consumer choices should rule, but instead are guided by deception.

  172. As noted in the article, Sun Riley’s settlement with the FTC regarding all its fraud did not require them to pay a penny. Basically, they were ordered to clean up their act and not do it again. An FTC press release touted the tough settlement order. I only know what I read. But what’s up with that?

  173. Yes, I’ve gotten better at ‘reading between the lines’ of reviews to discern which are phoney and which might be real. One clue: reviewers that use the same line to praise the product and it is in the awkward English you get with foreigners from certain countries. Worse are sites that remove critical reviews because a business complained - remember who has the power when you use a site for free but they get advertising fees from a business!

  174. Reading reviews becomes an art as much as a science. Super glowing reviews without idiosyncratic details about use of the product are noted as....fluffy. And useless. I buy a great deal of luxury skin care - and Sunday Riley won’t get a dime of it. They could likely care less, but I see no need to reward their underhanded behavior.

  175. I am in real estate and if you think this is bad, it is nothing close to what goes on in the Real estate industry and agents. The industry is a pay to play industry. Very low bar to entry. Shocking you do not even need a high school degree to practice. No kidding. Pay company X $10K a month (The one that is a huge search engine and give you estimates) and you will be overloaded with 5 star reviews. On top of that, your name comes up on all other agents listings. Pay more and you show up on as many listings as you want. And if you don't pay them, then your real reviews will not get published. The company claims it was too good to be true so we blocked it.

  176. @Cookie What is Company "X"?

  177. @John Sounds like Zillow??

  178. Telling fake reviews from legitimate reviews is not difficult. All it takes is a little attention to detail. If the reviews are short, repetitive, and lack details - they are most likely fake. If they are detailed, lengthy, and one of a kind - they are probably legitimate. That’s true across the board - from Amazon to Yelp. Next time you shop at Sephora, take all your selections to the register. After they’ve been rung up, tell the cashier that you’ve changed your mind because you’ve just realized that Sephora is the company you read about that doesn’t care if the online reviews of the products they sell are honest. And until they start selling their expensive skin care products with integrity, you’ll be shopping elsewhere. If just 100 Sephora shoppers do this, the business will straighten up quickly.

  179. @Peter Civardi If 100 Sephora shoppers did this the only impact will be to harass 100 underpaid stressed cashiers. Customer service in the retail environment is tough enough without this sort of behavoiur (just be nice!) ...and also you do realise that it is not the cashiers who make decisions regarding whether 'skin care products are sold with integrity' or not.

  180. @Peter Civardi Serendipitously, I had emailed Sephora customer service just before reading this comment, and I asked them what they were doing about fake reviews. (I also noticed a facial cleanser I had been planning to buy received an "F" on Fakespot. I've also asked Fakespot how they assess their Type I and Type II error rates.) I am sure with enough such comments, they will revise their business practices.

  181. It is possible people are more drawn to write a review if they have a negative experience with a product or business. Or movie or anything. They want to tell the world. People with positive satisfaction with the product might not be so motivated to review. Unless it's unexpectedly or extremely great. Are there any studies on this? Otoh, some products have mostly positive reviews, not negative. So what does that mean? Have Amazon reviews ever been correlated with Consumer Reports reviews on the same product? Or other dependable evaluators? I've wondered how vulnerable businesses and professional people are to anyone, who for any reason decides to be negative about them on line. It can be a whim, or a disagreement, or a rant from an unbalanced, resentful type person. After years of business, or medical or law school, etc, a professional's career could be ruined, with no recourse possible. Has this happened? How about an article on that, NYTimes? I've read reviews on yelp with extreme, wordy complaints about terrible customer service that sounded exaggerated. If I was a business owner, I'd worry every day about reviews. Anonymity is the problems on line. Anyone can say anything.

  182. When I read reviews, I look for consistency in what is being reviewed, especially negative ones. If many people have similar criticisms it tells me the review is real and quite legitimate. It's true people can be reluctant to write a bad review. Airbnb, for instance, offers the host to respond to a bad review and then criticize the reviewer. Its why there are rarely outright terrible reviews, but you must read between the lines. I have found doing this goes a long way to getting an accurate picture. Also, I love writing a good review so the honest players with a good product or business are praised and get more business.

  183. I like Amazon reviews. I look for items with a large number of reviews compared to other sellers with the same item. Then I use the filters. Filter for both verified purchases and recent reviews. Read the last 10 verified purchase reviewers. If they are lower than the average, read more. Sometimes you will see that the person bought the item before, but now the quality is lower. If I still wonder if the product will work for me, I do a keyword search of the reviews. This seems to get me to real reviewers because the information is specific. Use the questions answered section. These do not feed into the review stars so have some good information. I find reviews useful so I review. Most of the products I buy are quite good. If the product does not last I go back and update the review. Updates, are one way to identify real reviews. Amazon asks for some reviews and sellers also ask for reviews. I do not mind. The sellers who ask are just people making a living and they really want you to be satisfied. I hope people look at what I write before buying. I try to give specific, useful information that will show up on the keyword search.

  184. Amazon reviews have become almost worthless. At least the positive ones. Often something will have dozens or hundreds of four and five star reviews, but you buy it and realize all the scathing one and two star reviews were the real ones.

  185. Many platforms have mechanisms to delete negative reviews in order to protect the seller. I found this out when my family rented a house via vrbo. Immediately after we left, my mother realized she had left her makeup/jewelry bag on the back of the bathroom door. We contacted the owner who said it wasn’t there. Long story short, the owner or her cleaning crew stole the items (there were many valuables in the bag). When we tried to leave a review that included this experience in the comments, vrbo told us the owner had petitioned to block our review. We had no recourse and no way to warn future families about theft at this property. I’ve never put much faith in online reviews since.

  186. @LW Major bummer, theft is such a violation.

  187. I live in France and shop online occasionally. The fake online review system here is much more nascent and rudimentary. What’s especially interesting is that overall, reviews are much more negative for everything (a half star difference is attributable to the French being more critical consumers, and also lack of familiarity with the whole rating system). But what’s especially refreshing is the honesty! Reading a ‘real’ review and comparing it to the glowing, gushing American reviews is definitely an eye opener.

  188. The problem are not only the fake reviews, but the incompetent ones, i.e. texts that are about unboxing, written right after purchase. The good reviewers wait maybe a month or more and then write their thoughts, often with how-to and additional hints about the product.

  189. I relied on google reviews to choose a contractor (small job) and said, "Never again." The man was dishonest, incompetent, and not even licensed as I learned. Yet according to his google review he was a five-star performer.

  190. Please, a star is not even a real star when buying financial instruments - as evidenced by the financial crisis of 2008 when ratings agencies were revealed to sell good ratings for more cash. ANY rating is for marketing purposes and therefore is rarely real.

  191. I understand the pain of slipshod negative reviews. Businesses have been crushed as a result. I also read that reviews were being used against reviewers in a "customer score" with the concept that squeaky wheels should be avoided at all cost. Mama told me "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." If a restaurant or business gives me GREAT service or value, I want to give them a great review. If they fail, I tell them directly and if possible, in person. I'll gladly steer you to the winners, but someone else will have to winge about the losers.

  192. Before the internet, people got opinions about products and services from other people they knew---friends, relatives, co workers, etc. They could usually judge if the person's opinions were reliable, and they could ask questions. On the web, it's all anonymous. Anyone can say anything. We can sometimes ask questions in reply to a review but we don't know who we're talking to at all. Or what their judgment or motivation may be.

  193. Sometimes, o stars reviews are posted to crush competition (it happens on Amazon when a book enters the top 40, not before, as a means to kick it down a notch.) However, one-star reviews are generally very useful and often deleted or unpublished by sellers and platforms. I posted a bad review on Trip Advisor and Booking.com for a terrible hotel in Amsterdam, which was 2-star hotel presented as a 4-star hotel, and priced as such. It was deleted. I had purchased the reservation misled by the good reviews, and the absence of bad reviews. These days I look at the one star reviews first because more often than not they are spot on.

  194. On Amazon, I want to buy a Sony Walkman cassette player/radio for my old audio tapes. I've gotten 2 in past years on Amazon. One I had to return, the other was ok. The new ones cost much more than used, of course. Trying to choose, I worry if the sellers are reliable. Some say used --- very good. Or used--good. Much difference? 'Sellers ratings', may vary--- 90% positive, or often less. Some say 'fulfilled by Amazon'. Is that safer? How can you judge these?

  195. I was going to buy blood pressure monitor on Amazon that had over 600 verified reviews and was rated 4.7 stars. Upon looking through the reviews, I noticed that by page 3, the reviews were for other products with comments like, "Just what Grandaughter wanted...hours of fun" and "Love this chocolate. First had it in Belgium last year... worth splurging for once in a while and buying it again...." and "I have used these to make dinosaurs and dolls. Makes everything easier!" I could go on and on. I contacted Amazon 4 weeks ago multiple times about this as this is a medical device with fake reviews stolen from other products. The representatives passed along my comments but the fake reviews are still up so buyer beware. Amazon doesn't take these fake reviews seriously and I have found that many, many blood pressure devices have similar fake reviews and contacting Amazon about this does no good.

  196. In Trumpworld, fake online reviews are the way to go as long as they work to increase sales. Even getting caught generating fake online reviews can increase sales, so getting exposed may not matter since it increases exposure. In Trumpworld, truth is what benefits you, and what does not benefit you is fake. The distinction between real and fake makes no sense because how these labels are applied depends on the labeler. As Trump increases his domination of the deep state, the FTC will stop trying to enforce an objective distinction between real and fake, and will instead adopt Trumpworld's definition -- real is what defends Trumpworld and fake is what attacks it.

  197. I think consumers should not put much weight on customer reviews online. Apart from the fact that one person’s tastes aren’t the same as others, companies do manipulate and make false reviews. We were completely taken in by all the positive reviews for a well-known local construction company specialising in home extensions. There were many glowing online customer reviews and the only bad reviews were dated and written in a way that made the customer seem like a nutter. I also later noticed that one reviewer’s comments went from one star “don’t ever deal with this company” to a five star review about what a life-changing experience it was. I heard that he wrote the positive review in exchange for the company actually completing his job. Our extension was a total nightmare, they failed to tarp properly and once failed to tarp at all and our whole house got flooded. Also, since then I’ve never met anyone who has had anything good to say about the company. They’ve been called an “immoral company” in parliament and for a time their was a Facebook support group for customers. While I wanted to warn people that this company’s marketing is far better than their building, Australia’s draconian defamation laws mean no media outlet will touch it even though they thought I had a story. I’m worried that if I wrote a review I’d be sued myself, or befall a tragic accident. Our regulators are hopeless. So people continue to be ripped off by a company which is not what it purports to be.

  198. Amazon has a major problem along these lines. I have received multiple different products from them which contained a note with an email address to "claim your free bottle" (for example). When you do so, you get directions on how to claim your free item, but the process requires that you write a 5 star review. There is no way Amazon's filters can catch this; the reviews are not fake but are simply strongly biased. I spent much of my career working on machine learning; you cannot solve this problem by looking at just the reviews. You'd have to have someone check what's being sent to customers and follow the process to uncover the fraud. Which doesn't seem too much to ask of Amazon - they are selling these products, after all, and checking for suspicious included notes would only need to be done once or twice per product, or at least, once a customer has given feedback that the seller is doing this. But they don't (products with multiple such 'fraud alert' reviews are still being sold there). Shame on them.

  199. @Tired Of Being Cheated Seems an important step here is to write negative reviews for companies that do this. I've not seen it yet myself but would report it, the same way I leave negative reviews for sales people who use high-pressure sales tactics and the like.

  200. Reviews on most any provider for example businesses found within a given locale, on Google Maps can be interpreted if there are enough reviews to confirm good reviews on services or products. Typically a thread though many reviews read a commonality of feedback. If there are few reviews, then I would probably skip the business (if a restaurant among many choices). I provide reviews at the extreme 5 star or 1 (zero star) only because I have been extremely pleased or disatisfied. There is no compelling reason to for me to otherwise waste time on writing a middling reviews that does not help a reader to properly decide to pass on a product or service.

  201. Whether it is Republican think tanks bulk buying Donald junior's book or click farms paid to up the response rate to on-line ads, faking up the numbers is an old game - be it done on-line or off. A healthy skepticism about all of these figures and reviews is the right attitude.

  202. @Frank Bannister If I recall correctly, Trump University was the only school in the US that had a program in Healthy Skepticism on the books. Such a loss when they closed up shop, truly rocking the foundation of higher education in this country.

  203. According to renowned publicist, John Barron, this 'cheating-like' behavior is sometimes necessary to draw attention to the otherwise unknown/under-reported supreme excellence of a person (or thing).

  204. Based on the experience of my own business, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has an excellent compromise that offers a letter grade business rating of A-F based on complaints/resolutions conducted through BBB as well as a star rating based on customer/client reviews. Each review is independently verified by BBB and the system errs on the side of rejecting legitimate independent reviews. Online reviews for products are much tougher to police.