CHARLOTTE, N.C. — If you’re like most people you take a look at customer reviews for products you’re shopping for online. According to a recent survey by brightlocal, 77% of online shoppers say they “always” or “regularly” read reviews before making a shopping decision. Brands know reviews are extremely valuable. A few years ago shoppers at Amazon could trust reviews labeled as a “verified purchase”, but companies and scammers figured out a way to get that label on every review they leave.
Even reviews that are bought and sold can easily get the “verified purchase” label.
Here are a few ways they do that:
Some brands give away products in exchange for a positive review. They find someone who agrees to leave a positive review and who will order the item from their Amazon account. Once the review is written, the company reimburses the customer for the full cost of the product. Facebook recently banned groups promoting this method of stuffing the comment section with fake or dishonest reviews but brands seek out shoppers who agree to their deal. Many brands even recruit friends of friends to do this.
There are brokers who sell fake reviews to companies that, for $20, can get a “verified purchase” label and customer photos posted to the product’s Amazon listing. Sellers can also send a request to people who purchase the item to leave a review from their seller’s Amazon account. Sellers are also known to include an offer for money or Amazon gift cards inside the packaging of a product so the buyer gets an opportunity to make some extra money or even have the item paid for by the seller. Using these tactics makes it nearly impossible for Amazon or for regular shoppers to spot and report fake reviews.
If you are going to make purchasing decisions based on reviews, you should try these tactics:
● Pay attention to the 3 and 4-star reviews as you’re more likely to get both pros and cons of the products.
● Look for the label “Early reviewer rewards” in the comments section. For a while, Amazon offered select customers gift cards in exchange for writing honest reviews of products. Amazon no longer takes sign-ups for the program but you will still see a few comments or reviews from people who were in the program.
● Pay attention to reviews by “Vine Voices”. This is a program run by Amazon. Select customers are offered free products in exchange for honest reviews. Although this is believed to be a solid way of seeing honest reviews from Amazon shoppers, some may feel obligated to write a good review since the products are free.
● Disregard 5-star reviews accompanied by a short review such as “great product”, or “love it”.
● Read the reviews that are reasonably lengthy.
● Disregard reviews that are written with poor spelling or grammar.
● Check the dates of the reviews. You’ll always want to filter the review listings to see “most recent”.
● Many fake reviews are posted within a few days of each other. To its credit Amazon has cracked down on fake reviews, deleting millions of comments and kicking some brands off its platform.