Are You Being Conned?

Original post

There used to be a time when you could trust a review.

The thought was that anyone who took the time to post a review, whether for a dentist, pet groomer, window tinter or kitchen counter installer, was being truthful and independent. Why would someone post an unsolicited review unless they really meant it?

Think of your own habits. Do you write reviews often? What about for movies or for purchases on Amazon?

Worse still, how often do you read a business’s reviews and partially or fully make your decision based on them? Want to visit a new restaurant? Better check out the reviews on Yelp or OpenTable.

Reviews can be the lifeblood of some businesses and just a way to increase business at others. But whatever the case, we are the ones that either benefit or suffer from reviews that are either altogether false or solicited using underhanded methods.

Let me explain. I’ll use my HMO (health maintenance organization) dentist as an example.

Last October, I wrote about how he recommended several treatments that I did not need just to generate extra profits. For example, instead of a regular cleaning, he wanted to give me a deep gum cleaning, which would have allowed him to charge three times the amount to my insurer!

On my way out of his office, I saw a sign that read, “Leave us a positive Google review and receive a goody bag.” Most likely, that “goody” bag was full of miniature samples like toothpaste and floss that the dentist had received free of charge from the manufacturer.

These are staple free giveaways at most dentists. I thought it strange that they were soliciting “positive” reviews – not just reviews in general – and offering a reward for those reviews.

Then, a few months ago, I replaced the countertops in my kitchen. The counter company did a great job – but it also had a “bonus” that I am not sure I agree with.

I had the option for the stone from the sink cutout to be fashioned into a cutting board. The upgrade could be mine for an additional $150 (charged for polishing and finishing) or free of charge if I left a good review. Even though the company did a good job, I declined the offer. It just didn’t sit well with me.

And those Amazon reviews? According to a recent analysis by The Washington Post and Fakespot, 61% of the reviews for products from certain categories on Amazon, like phones, watches and makeup, were fake. That’s staggering!

The percentage of fake Amazon reviews, broken down by category, were:

  • 61% of electronics reviews
  • 64% of beauty product reviews
  • 59% of reviews for sneakers
  • 64% of reviews for nutritional supplements.

My dad used to have a bunch of favorite sayings. One was that “a fool and his money are soon parted.”

Here’s how to not be that fool…

Two websites are dedicated to spotting fake reviews. The first is Fakespot, and the second is ReviewMeta. Both use unique formulas to weed out fake reviews and get you a new weighting after rooting out the reviews that they deem untrue.

It’s not perfect, but it’s a start – and if you are trying to make your finances more efficient, you owe it to yourself to not fall for tricks that will part you from your hard-earned cash!

Good investing,

Karim