Up to 30% of Consumer Reviews May be Fake [Shopping Secrets]

The 2011 holiday shopping season showed that parents and other consumers are shopping online more and more. As a result, consumer product reviews play an ever larger role in helping us decide which products and services are worth buying.

Brands know how important product reviews are to their bottom lines and some are willing to post positive reviews themselves or pay others to do so in order to ensure their products are well thought of by shoppers.

In fact, an article in Businessweek states that as many as 30% of reviews you see on retail sites like Amazon and Best Buy and travel sites like TripAdvisor can be fake. Yep. People were paid with freebies or cold, hard cash to write good reviews for the product. Some were even paid to trash a┬ácompetitor’s brand.

Regulatory groups are trying to crack down on fake reviews, and they’re working on methods to spot them. In the meantime, how can you tell if a review is the real deal?

Most experts agree that it can be difficult or even impossible for the average shopper to tell a fake review from a real one. Just knowing that they’re out there is the first step. Here are a couple of ways I approach consumer reviews.

  • I generally ignore five star reviews. I’m not really interested in how wonderful someone thinks a product is. I pay more attention to the three star review that lists positives AND negatives.
  • I also prefer to scan through the reviews and note negatives and positive attributes listed by various reviews (good and bad) rather than taking one or two reviews to heart. If there’s only one review of a product, I feel that it’s safest to assume that it’s fake.

A few more tips, culled from the sources listed below:

  • Ignore over-the-top praise or condemnation, as well as adjectives like “awesome”, “horrible”, and “best” in reviews.
  • Seek out reviews on sites that don’t sell the product. However, keep in mind that bloggers often receive compensation for reviews, too.
  • Consult reviews by professionals without a financial interest in the product’s success. You’ll find them on sites like ConsumerReports.org.

┬áDo you feel like you’ve seen fake product reviews? How do you approach reviews when deciding whether to buy a product or service?

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  1. Kate says:

    I like to read the 3 and 4 star reviews as well and take the 5 and 1 star reviews with a grain of salt. For example, when I was reading the reviews for the city mini double stroller on Amazon there was one 1 star review where the person was insisting that it was impossible to close (supposedly 7 adults including 2 with PhDs spent an hour trying before giving up). Since almost every other review mentioned how easy it was to close I decided not to worry about it and sure enough, it is easy to close.

  2. Mother Lydia says:

    The problem with reviews on blogs is WAY too many of them seem to give you a “Snapshot” review. IE how they like the product after 2 days of using it. ANYTHING is fabulous when you first open it. I honestly want a feel there was more of a workout. And, especially, some understanding of whether the person would spend their cold hard cash for the item. Plus they just seem to point out what the website does. No “new’ information at all.

    A planetbox might be great–but is it $60 great? Its really easy to give good reviews when you didn’t spend your money for it in the first place.

    I really loved zrecommends for this but they don’t seem to be doing much anymore.

  3. Mother Lydia says:

    PS my favorite reviews on Amazon are those that seem to have tried several of the competitors as well. They seem to have a better base to judge by.

  4. silver says:

    Most blogger reviews aren’t very useful. They are given the product for free along with a PR sheet and most of them just type up the PR sheet talking about all the glowing wonderfulness that the product has–without actually having used the product.

    I tend to read the reviews rated as “most helpful” and then the negative reviews. Reviews rated most helpful tend to give a lot of detail and often pros/cons. Sometimes the negative reviews are actually what persuade me to buy the product–the very thing they hate is what I’m looking for (mostly true with non-fiction books when the negative reviews are people that don’t agree with the author’s point of view).

  5. Francoise Levi says:

    I don’t even read 5 star reviews. The 1 star reviews are usually useless too (usually people complaining that they got the wrong item or that it’s overpriced, lol). I read 2-4 star reviews personally.

  6. jennifer says:

    This is very interesting. I’ve always thought there were planted reviews but not that many. I also like to look at all reviews to see what people like and don’t like. Honestly I don’t put a huge amount of stock in blogger reviews anymore. There are never any bad reviews.

  7. Jennifer says:

    I also look for themes. When considering buying a baby swing on Amazon I payed attention when many reviews listed the same problem, or the same positive features. The more detailed and objective the better. If it is overly glowing or negative and two sentences long, I ignore it. I also feel confident about trusting a product that has many good reviews over a long period of time.

  8. Kim says:

    I have read reviews that I suspected were fakes…it is so hard to know! But I don’t necessarily throw out 5* reviews just because they use words like awesome and best. I just updated my reviews on Viewpoints, and for my stroller, for example, it really is awesome. I tend to either love or hate products, so I give a lot of 5 and 1 star reviews. That doesn’t make them any less valid. And I have made it a point to add reviews when none exist, that tends to prompt others to review it also. That doesn’t mean that my solitary review for a product is fake. I think it is more of an indicator if the person writing the review only has one. Those I tend to ignore.

  9. Deb says:

    Simply ignoring a review just because it is a 5 star or 1 star review is really pretty foolish. Different reviews, regardless of how many stars it may have, are of vastly different qualities. There are great reviews that list pros and cons for particular products, even when the reviewers themselves may love or hate the product. There are also really crappy 2, 3 and 4 star reviews that tell you absolutely nothing.

    What really matters is what is written in the review itself, along with looking at what is said in many reviews combined. As one other poster mentioned, the rating of how “helpful” a review is can make it easier to find good quality reviews, keeping in mind that newer reviews may not yet have many “helpful” ratings.

  10. Rae says:

    I tend to read reviews from people who are in the same situation as me (i.e., oily, acne-prone, medium yellow-based complexion).

    I also take into account what they liked of didn’t like about it and how important it is to me.

    Example: Some people don’t like a product because of how it smells. I’m pretty tolerant with how a product smells, so I ignore that bit and assess for characteristics that are important to me…

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