Fake Reviews

I used to use Amazon, Yelp & Google reviews extensively to see if a company or product was worth investing in. But so many of them read like they were written by the owner or a family member. I read a review yesterday for a moving company that stated that “they bill in 15 minute increments”. Like a real customer would take the time to mention that?

Maybe they would, but you have to read more of the reviews then and see what the trend is. If they all have a similar tone, or unnecessary details, they are probably fake. If they speak glowingly without any faults, that’s a neutral sign because somebody could be enamored with that company.

I really like to find a 3 or 4 star review to see what they say. That’s really where you’re going to find some surefire honest feedback. I’m not going to not buy the product or hire the company because of a single 3 or 4 star review, but I just want to hear from real people and their real experiences.

I know customers can be crazy and companies can be put in bad circumstances with unrealistic expectations from a customer. In those cases, there are probably 1 star reviews explaining the situation. I read through those to listen to their tone. If they sound reasonable, then that’s just one signal, not the deciding factor. The next thing I’d look for would be a response from the owner or the company. If the company can explain their position and it also sounds reasonable, then that bad review might be overall neutral in my mind.

The bad news comes when there are dozens or more bad reviews with reasonable sounding stories. If there are dozens of bad reviews with one sentence or no explanation, I don’t give those much credibility. Too often I’ve seen rival roofing companies or disgruntled employees sabotage a review page to get back at someone. Another sign that this happened is they all occurred within a few days or weeks of each other. Usually, rivals or former employees won’t take the time to write a thoughtful review in their bad review, just make up something quick or write nothing at all. And they do them all in a short period because they don’t have the patience for spacing them out over time, which would look more realistic.

One other thing I look for is just an overall quantity of reviews. If a company has 1000 reviews online, that’s a sign of an established company. Not that they are great, but they’ve been in business long enough to get 1000 people to give them feedback online. Considering only a fraction of their customers even leave feedback, that means they’ve potentially served 10x that amount over the course of their existence. Longevity is a good sign.

Overall, I’ve begun to trust reviews less. I think companies and products are trying to spam their way to a 5-star rating with poorly written reviews and it’s obvious. I’ve had to rely more on word-of-mouth referrals more heavily.

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