Tag Archives | User Reviews

Bundle.com Crowdsources Reviews, Without the Crowd Knowing They’re Reviewing Anything

While trust in the pro media falls, faith in the views of regular folk keeps growing. In an April survey by PowerReviews, for example, over half of consumers said that they trust user reviews of products, and they are reading more of them.

But the more they read, the more confused they can get. According to users of Rotten Tomatoes, for example, the new movie Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is either a “Kick Ass, well research, solid story” or “an embarrassment.” It just depends on what review you read. (And the overall average rating of 56 percent doesn’t clarify.)

To remedy the user-review confusion, a new company called Bundle is committing the social-media blasphemy of rejecting what people say. Instead, it looks at what they do–mainly by analyzing credit card data to see how much money people spend, and where. (They also look at government statistics and third-party surveys.) Through a deal with Citibank, Bundle culls anonymous credit card info from 20 million shoppers to analyze spending habits. “So what if five people swear really wildly that this restaurant is lousy, if 95 percent [of the customers] go back,” says the company’s founder, Jaidev Shergill.

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Do You Trust User Reviews on the Web?

T-PollMore scuttlebutt continues to emerge in the case of the glowing reviews for Belkin products that turned out to be written by a glowing-review mill set up by a Belkin employee. The Daily Background, which broke the story in the first place, has found evidence that the Belkin staffer who was apparently behind the scam was also publishing favorable reviews under multiple accounts. And Gizmodo has published an incendiary e-mail, supposedly from an ex-Belkin employee, that charges the company with making crummy products and then engaging in an array of sleazy practices, including posting negative reviews of competitors’ products, engaging in rigged demos at trade shows, supplying bloggers with products that sported custom, non-standard firmware, and paying off magazines to publish favorable reviews.

I have no information on whether any or all of the charges in the Gizmodo letter are true, but my instinct is to be skeptical about the notion of Belkin (or any company) paying magazines for positive coverage. When I worked at PC World, Belkin networking equipment sometimes performed well in our tests; I hope it goes without saying that we said we liked it because we did like it.

Much of the coverage I’ve seen of Belkingate, including comments here on Technologizer, has been from jaded folks who have said that lots of companies game user-review systems, and therefore user reviews simply don’t provide reliable advice. (Speaking of PC World, here’s a story it published after I left investigating the issue.) Time for a quick T-Poll–feel free to leave further thoughts in comments:


Belkin Responds to Fake User Review Charges

Belkin president Mark Reynoso has issued a statement in response to the discovery yesterday that one of its employees was paying people sixty-five cents to post fraudelent favorable user reviews on Amazon.com, Buy.com, and Newegg. The gist of the statement: Belkin didn’t know it was happening, it’s sorry it happened, it’s undoing the damage, and it won’t happen again. It’s appropriately humble, but you’d hope that Belkin is doing one more thing, whether it chooses to disclose so or not: Terminating the staffer who came up with this brilliant idea. I think most every consumer would agree that you don’t want other employees at other companies thinking it’s possible to play these sorts of games and get away with it…


Is Belkin Paying For Fake Favorable User Reviews?

Bilkin' logoThis is still a story in progress, but it looks just horrible: The Daily Background is reporting that a Belkin employee has been using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk piecework service to pay people to post fake positive reviews of Belkin products on Amazon, Newegg, and Buy.com for the princely sum of sixty-five cents per review. (From appearances, the gent behind the scheme isn’t too bright, since anyone who rummaged around in Mechanical Turk could uncover his plotting.) Belkin hasn’t yet responded; maybe there’s more here than meets the eye, and it’s certainly possible that the Belkin staffer in question is a renegade who’s violating corporate policy.

Assuming that the situation is as it appears to be, you gotta hope that Belkin will go to extraordinary means to make clear that what’s going on is profoundly unacceptable. And that it’s humiliated to such a degree that other companies that do this or contemplate doing this–and there are surely more than a few–get scared enough that they steer clear of lying to their customers in order to drum up business.