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?

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