Catching those bogus reviewers...
Until a few years ago, for high-value purchases like motorbikes, televisions, washing machines, and refrigerators, somebody else’s opinion and endorsement were a must for most households. It was all about that call to a know-it-all uncle, a teatime discussion with a neighbour, or a trunk call to a smart aunt in a metro city for opinion, suggestion, advice, feedback, or review.
Things are changing, though, and how. Smart uncles, intelligent aunts, and savvy friends have been replaced by expert bloggers, Facebook communities, and ‘real’ reviewers who share their experiences as well as review the pros and cons of products in real time, in the public domain, for anybody to read the same.
Hundreds of researches by dozens of credible organisations say that more than the number of online shoppers, the number of online window shoppers, product comparers and review readers is increasing. Before buying an actual product, almost every individual with even a little knowledge of the Internet goes online to compare features, prices, and pros and cons of similar products from different makers. In most cases, they go with the one that has got good reviews and ratings by real buyers. In some cases, a cheaper product with supposedly better features is turned down by a customer if it has been negatively reviewed by previous buyers.
However, the Internet retailers are smart and product manufacturers are smarter. I recently found out that of 10 product reviews/comments that one reads online, there is a possibility that two to four of them have been posted by the same person with ‘fake’ online identities as he or she has been hired by the product manufacturer or the retailer to do so. Simultaneously, the same reviewer or bogus identity could be writing bad reviews about competitors. In this supposedly digital age, where there is a term even for the act of clicking your own photo, I am surprised at not being able to find any word that best describes these unethical, bogus reviewers. How about coining one of our own? ‘Retail trolls’ maybe? We can describe them as otherwise good-for-nothing people who are paid to write (no, they aren’t writers; they only copy and paste the content given to them by their PR bosses, who are no writers themselves).
For me, they are criminals who are fooling innocent customers into buying not-so-good products by appreciating an experience that they never had. Moreover, when they write a fake review, the real review of a genuine buyer goes way down the review page, minimising the possibility of it being read by a new buyer.
Now, how do we pin down them retail trolls? That’s quite easy, thankfully. Just that you need to give a few minutes’ time to the exercise. The number of online buyers, including you and me, are way more than the retail trolls. They get away with what they do because most of you do not review, share feedback, or comment about your purchase in the public domain.
Also, when you go online to read reviews, do not trust all reviewers. Go a step further and try reading a few more reviews of different products by the same reviewer. If you see a pattern, especially the use of flowery PRish language, you will know who it is. Moreover, it is better to believe in a comment of a person who posted it via Facebook, Google, Twitter, or other social media accounts where their profiles are accessible and one can make out who they are.
Last but not the least – if you actually catch one such fake reviewer, flag him, report him to the concerned website or retailer, and maybe share the experience with us too. We may publish it in the next issue.