Amazon has a real fake review problem


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/05/10/caveat-emptor.html


#2

I wonder what the going rate is. Thirty bucks? I wouldn’t get dressed for thirty bucks.


#3

I wouldn’t get undressed for $30.


#4

The problem is pretty widespread, i typically look at products with odd brand names with a lot of skepticism. I also like to read the 2-3 star reviews as i often feel they’re more representative of what a person thinks was good and bad about the product.


#5

If they ever get close to solving their real fake review problem, the next step will be tackling all those fake real reviews.


#6

I’m making the following statement based on pure speculation, having done zero research.

I think Amazon is disingenuous in their attempts to stop fake reviews. They are financially motivated to allow the fake reviews to persist.

Their only motivation to stop them is the potential lost of customers like me who have been burned too many time by cheap knockoffs with glowing reviews. But for every one customer like me, there are hundreds of others who will make a purchase based on fake reviews not knowing about the problem.

I see two fixes that Amazon can apply:

  1. Do not allow non-verified purchase reviews. I know they have a filter, but at a minimum this should be an opt-out filter (click to show non-verified purchase reviews, not click to hide)

  2. Give refunds to customers who are victims of fake review fraud. And provide a longer return period.

I offer the following tangential evidence of Amazon’s disingenuous behavior:

On their Fire TV devices, they sell subscriptions to Channels such as HBO, PBS Kids, etc. You can easily click through on you Fire TV to purchase a subscription. However, if you wish to cancel your subscription, you have to open your web browser, log into your Amazon account. https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201749290

(End of unsubstantiated rant)


#7

Part of the problem on this one is that the reviewers are being required to buy the product outright and then are being compensated after the fact, so they’d show up as “verified” reviews which makes it difficult to parse if its a genuine review or not.

I think a possible solution is to have Amazon do quality control on products from small sellers. The logistics behind this are likely not doable but it could resolve a lot of the problems outright.


#8

Reason 4798 that I avoid user reviews like the plague. Sadly, Google seems to think they count just as much as actual in depth reviews. Then again, for years google has counted ecommerce pages that have zero reviews but do have the word “review” on them as a hit when searching for “#productname# review.” So, Google continues to sit on their laurels and not improve search meaningfully.

Related: more and more often, hits for “#productname# review” take you to a site that just regugitates the marketing material for the product (sometimes with non-native English speaker additions). Naturally Google places this spam up near the top of their search results. It’s getting harder and harder to find legitimate, genuine, non-shill reviews of products.

(puts on radical extremist hat) This is why all web browsers need to ship with a full fledged ad blocker preinstalled by default. Only by strangling the source of the money that creates this shit can we get back an internet that actually provides useful and relevant information again.


#9

How does the post-purchase compensation work? Does the seller include a $20 in the package the send to the buyer (or the digital equivalent of that).

Agreed that the logistics of Amazon doing product QA is unfeasible.

I see the same shitty-cheap-goods problem at dollar stores. You can buy a toy sand bucket with shovel for $1, but the second you try to fill the bucket with wet sand, the plastic bottom drops out and your shovel handle snaps. I imagine there are a lot of beach towns that have to deal with cleaning their sand of this shitty plastic waste (crappy foam boogie boards too).

Are there any sorts of import controls on shit products? Maybe in Europe ?


#10

I wouldn’t get $30 for undressing.


#11

I’m not sure but based on the BB post i presume once the seller sees that the purchaser has left a positive review with pictures they will email a gift card to them.

And wish i knew more about Q&A and import controls, but you’re right that these shit products are wasteful on various levels.


#12

This is why fake reviews are often not 5 or 1 stars. There is no real way to know which reviews are real. Sorry. There are many other problems with Amazon. For example, there are many fake vendors who have no product (or nothing like what’s listed) but just hope you will forget or lack the desire to fight for a refund. Then, MANY overcharge for a product they just then order for you from another Amazon “real” vendor because most people will just click on the first item for a search. It is common for there to be up to a 100% variation in pricing for the same product with up to half of all product sales not coming from the actual manufacturer who must then deal with unhappy customers. Amazon does not care and makes little effort to curb any of this because they make a percentage of every fraud sold at their site. I was once the 1400th top reviewer (one of the few never paid by vendors) and I was spammed by another reviewer who claimed to have installed six new $8,000 home air conditioners giving them all 5 stars - lol. Amazon did nothing because I can only assume that the shill made them money. In anger, I paid a few dollars more on my next purchase at ebay. It showed up in an Amazon box. But, I then found that most of the items I would have bought at Amazon were cheaper elsewhere if I did a bit more comparisons. Amazon has simply gotten too big to care. This is why there are anti-monopoly laws. Imagine what a mess this country would be in if it was legal for politicians to be paid for their opinions if they just made such payments public… oh wait, that is how it works. We need to do something. There’s no such thing as oppression, only what we tolerate. We have met the enemy and he is us.


#13

And oh, I have been paid more than the value of a product in the hopes I would change one of my negative reviews, etc. The reason professionals offer you a free bottle of water is that it is much harder to say no after accepting anything from someone.


Kentucky cop drove rape victim to hotel and raped her again, says prosecutor
#14

“Give refunds to customers who are victims of fake review fraud.”

Amazon has an exceedingly generous customer service and likely would offer a refund if you made this claim.

While it may not seem like Amazon cares, or benefits from fake reviews, that’s not the (entire) case. Part of why they are so dominant now is because of their review system and their customer service. They know that, and so have done major purges of reviewers over the last 5 years, completely erasing major reviewer accounts and their reviews, banning manufacturers and sellers. Companies then change names. They buy reviews by paypal deposits or gift certificates, so the verified buyer label remains. They’re very, very creative. And it’s watered down the reviews from their previous trustworthiness, but there’s still a lot of cues to how to read the reviews for good info. Some product types are impossible, like cell phone cases, but most are still very useful.

I’m not an Amazon employee, have issues with a lot of their business practices, but I have been using Amazon and reviewing on their site since 2000.


#15

Verified reviews are not a fix. If you order the product, review it, and then cancel the order, you become a verified reviewer. I don’t know if this still true or always works but it did for me a couple years ago for a product I ended up getting for less at a brick and motar). I create a new account every few months. When Amazon and I got into a disagreement, they shut down my account. I asked them to delete my thousands of reviews. I was told they owned my reviews and refused.


#16

I’m not so sure. If things you keep buying from Amazon keep turning out crappy you are going to go back to buying from places you can at least see the product before you buy it. Amazon doesn’t want unhappy customers now at the expense of far fewer customers tomorrow.

Knock-off products I understand the conflict, as long as the knock-offs are of decent quality (i.e. people that buy them are happy to have them at the price they paid) then Amazon gets more customers now, and they keep them. That is good for them.


#17

You could get 18 months though.


#18

What’s crazy is my partner and I were just talking about real fake posture corrective device ad reviews in front of our smart phones and BOOM this article shows up on bb.


#19

The linked article says the reviewer notifies the seller they have posted a review and later receive a PayPal transfer of the full some for the product + a fee for the review. The reviewer is then free to sell the item on for a further profit.


#20

I can’t understand why Amazon didn’t simply acquire FakeSpot.com or replicate the functionality in-house.