Fake Online Reviews

Well, the Attorney General of New York announced the indictments of 19 people for posting or sponsoring fake online reviews.  I would think that the review sites certainly should be screening the phony reviews efficiently enough.  Although I find them screening more good reviews than bad ones most of the time in order to further their revenue goals. Yelp even has a program that “helps” you improve by buying into it. We have had a couple customers get calls from Yelp proposing such a program.

This is what Yelp uses on some sites when they suspect a business is fabricating reviews.

Fake Online Reviews

Yelp’s Fake Online Review Notice

However, this post is not about Yelp, but about what many people evidently think about the value of good reviews.  Some are going to be paying upwards of $100,000 in fines because they thought having good reviews was important.  The New York Times just posted a survey asking how much people read and trusted the reviews online and it was overwhelmingly; yes!\

Dangers of Trusting Reviews

I think the danger to reading and trusting bad reviews will be when we trust those reviews enough to see a doctor, dentist or attorney who is a quack and you become victimized by not only the professional, but by his scummy practice of posting phony reviews. If you get a crappy meal, then so be it.  That can happen at a good restaurant even with great reviews. I know it sucks but it’s not the end of the world.  The crime is being mis-diagnosed with some malady that the professional now charges you for the treatment and scares the hell out of you in the process.

So, what do we do about this?  Do we just trust reviews or distrust them?  I think there is an easy answer to the question. Do what we have done all our lives.  Take all info with a grain of salt and be our own doctor.  Evaluate the reviews.  read several of them.  if the good outweigh the bad, then don’t be afraid to ask the person of the phone to comment about this review or that one.  Ask him or her what happened here.  Did you have a bad day?  If there are bad reviews out there and the professional hasn’t taken the time to comment on them, then maybe you might look elsewhere.

All I’m saying is; buyer beware no matter how many reviews he or she has.  Take your time, ask a few friends what they think and try to evaluate the business you’re thinking about engaging.  Hopefully, you can become pretty good at detecting the spirit of customer service they are engaging.  I find that if I ask the receptionist who answers the phone two or three questions and she gladly answers to my satisfaction, then the Doctor, Lawyer or Indian Chief has spent some time creating a culture of quality customer service and that is a heck of a good sign that they may be just as proficient in their practice.

Evaluating Fake Online Reviews

My last two tricks when trying to evaluate reviews is to read them very carefully.  If all the good reviews are spelled correctly and have proper punctuation and seem to be more lengthy than normal, you might want to keep reading.  I have found that when you get a bad review, the person is really spewing and they tend to run on their sentences and don’t care near as much about punctuation and misspellings.  And finally whenever you see a negative review, if coincidentally every bad review is followed by several good ones that push the negative review off the first page, you may be looking at fake online reviews.  Life just doesn’t work that way.  If the Dr or employee had a bad day, it happens and the patient may have had a bad day and wanted to vent at the messenger instead of the message, then bad reviews can follow.  But if there seems to be a pattern of one bad, five good, then I’d be very curious.

So, when online reviews are all we have to go on, don’t be afraid to evaluate them just like you would any other time.  You will be well served by making informed and skeptical decisions.  if you think something is fishy, then trust your instincts.  More times than not, your instincts are correct.  They have served us for millions of years.  We’re still here, aren’t we?

Google’s Reputation

It seems to me that Google’s reputation was finally tarnished to the point that they had to react.  This may be one of the great reputation stories of the year. Google has long been courted by the various alphabet of government agencies as a partner in the war against terror and they have been willing participants. I think we’d all agree that we have sacrificed a part of our freedoms since 9/11 to have the feeling that we are in fact safer.  Well, that all ended on Google’s part last week even though they had decided to start encrypting data as early as last year.

Google's ReputationA Washington Post headline last week read: “Google encrypts data amid backlash against NSA spying”. Evidently something has happened behind the scenes to propel Google to begin encrypting their data in order to prevent “governments” from spying on our behavior and searches.  Now when Google says “governments”, I think we can all read between the lines that it means “our government”. I like to think the day had come that Google had to finally realize that they were duped by the NSA and other government organizations into handing over another bit of our privacy in the cause of our safety and freedom.  I think it may be one of the great debates of our time and probably the time and place is here and now to have it.

We can all go on about trying to define the slender line between our safety and security and when we give up our liberties to be so.  I’m of the belief that they can have anything they want of my information because I’m at an age that what the hell do I do wrong anymore?  However, the time has already come when “Big Brother” will bust a common thief by means of a street corner camera.  Drones are now patrolling our skies over this country and we cannot write or utter a word anymore that cannot be read or heard if the government wants to listen in. We cannot text or sext or send an email of Skype or Instant Message without the government reading it. If we want true privacy, what can we do?

My suggestion is start writing letters again.  Although, we send them by U.S Mail.  How ironic! I guess I really don’t know what side I am on in this debate.  Hell, I can argue either position.  The men and women who spy on the “bad guys” are certainly dedicated and care about keeping us all safe and I’m glad they are there.  But on the other hand, it sounds like some have gone too far.  The great question is what is too far.  Maybe Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said it best when describing obscenity.  He said that he didn’t know how to define it but he’d know it when he saw it. (I’m paraphrasing).

Google’s Reputation Will Be Tested

I am certain that they will be tested. I think of things like “anti-trust” and “impeding an investigation” and all sorts of things that an aggressive government can do, might come their way.  And let’s face it; Google has had a pretty stress free run to the top when it comes to the federal government. However, I like to think that Google had a Justice Potter moment.  They finally saw it and knew it.  They realized that they were being coerced in sharing information and when they did, the NSA’a Prism Program had an appetite that knew no bounds.  Google had finally had enough.  Well, hurray for Google and their reputation and hurray for the NSA. Now go and figure that line out.  I told you it was time for the debate.  Let’s have it.