FOOLED BY A FAKE RE­VIEW…

Australian HIFI - - CONTENTS - greg bor­row­man

De­spite me hav­ing in the past ex­posed dodgy re­views of au­dio com­po­nents on var­i­ous au­dio web­sites over the years, I still find that when I am look­ing at web­sites that have noth­ing at all to do with au­dio I am of­ten ‘sucked in’ by false and mis­lead­ing ‘re­views’. By way of ex­am­ple, I re­cently went on hol­i­days, and in the process of try­ing to book ho­tels in ad­vance, ended up read­ing quite a few re­views of ho­tels posted on Trip Ad­vi­sor. I not only read those re­views, I fol­lowed their ad­vice. Oops. Big mis­take. On one oc­ca­sion, I won­dered if the re­viewer had ever stayed in the ho­tel. Not that the ho­tel web­sites were any bet­ter. One of the ho­tels we stayed in (it was a fam­ily hol­i­day) had posted room im­ages on its web­site that were taken from a com­pletely dif­fer­ent ho­tel! No won­der the view from the win­dow of my room (or from any other win­dow in the ho­tel for that mat­ter) didn’t match the web­site im­ages.

One of the big­gest con­sumer re­view sites in the US is Yelp. While the com­pany be­hind this site says it takes steps to try to en­sure the re­views on its site are ac­cu­rate and truth­ful, it ad­mits that around one quar­ter of the re­views on its site are ‘sus­pi­cious’. My guess if it’s ad­mit­ting to that amount, the real fig­ure is al­most cer­tainly far higher… maybe even half the re­views.

Why are there so many fake re­views? One rea­son is that many peo­ple are get­ting paid good money to write them. UK jour­nal­ist Oobah But­ler (and no, that isn’t a fake name) is on record as ad­mit­ting that he was once em­ployed to write fake re­views for restau­rants that he’d then post on Trip Ad­vi­sor. Restau­rants were pay­ing him $20 per re­view.

If that jour­nal­ist’s name sounds fa­mil­iar, it’s be­cause But­ler achieved his great­est fame by writ­ing fake re­views for a Lon­don restau­rant called ‘The Shed at Dul­wich’. His re­views were so en­thu­si­as­tic that the restau­rant was very briefly (Novem­ber 2017) the No 1 rated restau­rant in Lon­don. The only prob­lem was that not only were the re­views fake, but the restau­rant it­self was also fake. It didn’t ex­ist. ‘The Shed at Dul­wich’ re­ally was just an empty gar­den shed in a back yard in Dul­wich and the restau­rant a sin­gle-night pop-up in that back­yard. But­ler cre­ated the hoax so he could write a story about it for Canada’s Vice mag­a­zine. The web­site But­ler built for the hoax still ex­ists (at the time of writ­ing) with an ‘ex­am­ple menu’ that in­cludes a dish claim­ing to be ‘ a de­con­structed Aberdeen stew; all el­e­ments of the dish are served to the ta­ble as they would be in the process of cook­ing. Served with warm beef tea.’ The site is theshe­dat­dul­wich.com. You can also see the restau­rant in ac­tion here: tinyurl.com/but­ler-dul­wich-shed

The Shed at Dul­wich is a funny story, but the truth un­der­ly­ing it is not funny at all. Fake re­views are be­com­ing a se­ri­ous prob­lem. There are so many of them that con­sumers are be­ing mis­led and in the au­dio sphere are be­ing de­ceived—‘tricked’ if you like—into buy­ing prod­ucts they would not nor­mally have pur­chased. With au­dio prod­uct prices con­tin­u­ally in­creas­ing, the temp­ta­tion to cre­ate fake re­views is be­com­ing greater, and as a re­sult the dol­lar loss for con­sumers is be­com­ing ever-higher.

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