Amazon’s got an infestation to deal with, and it wishes it was rats in the warehouse. Fake and biased user reviews are popping up all over product pages, bewildering for genuine consumers, and making life rather busy for the company’s legal team.
Earlier on, we broke down just how messy the situation is becoming, but fortunately it’s not especially difficult to spot a review you’d be best off ignoring. Here are our tips.
The High-Tech Way
Alright, minimal effort first. FakeSpot is a site -- also available as a Chrome extension -- designed to flag up the bullshit and warn you when a product’s rating system has been rigged by dodgy users. It’s a great time-saver, quickly analysing all of the reviews on a page and working out whether they’re suspiciously positive or not, as well as figuring out who actually bought the product in question.
When you've found the Amazon product you want, simply hit the FakeSpot icon -- or copy and paste the URL on the FakeSpot site -- and wait for it to sift through the stuff you might not want to. Do, however, bear in mind that unreliable reviews don’t necessarily equate to poor products. I know, I know, it’s frustrating. If you decide to do a deep-dive, the following is what you need to look out for.
The reviews you should definitely, definitely ignore are those that come with a disclaimer. You know, something that reads a little like this:
Disclaimer: I have received this product at a discounted purchase price or, in some instances, free from charge from the seller. This was on the condition that I test the product and leave comments on my opinion of the product and write an honest, impartial and fair review. I try my best to weigh up the pros and cons of each product to give potential customers a balanced view from the perspective of a buyer. As per the terms of my agreement with the seller, I reviewed the item within a few days of delivery. For this reason, I may not be able to provide any advice in terms of long time use of the product.
They’re absolutely everywhere, thanks to sites like HonestFew, which promise heavily-discounted goodies in exchange for impartial feedback. Unfortunately, you’ll find that the vast majority of reviews of this type tend to be completely impartial five-star affairs. Not especially insightful, especially when you realise that there are thousands of these apparently unbiased reviewers around, and many of them receive the same products.
After that, things become a little less clear cut. If the item you’re weighing up has a lot of reviews, it could be best to consult the ‘Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought’ section first. If it’s loaded with things that have nothing to do with the product you’re looking at -- in one recent instance, a smartphone case being linked with fitness DVDs and vitamin supplements -- it’s safe to assume that all of the unrelated, listed items are being given away in exchange for reviews. Almost certainly biased ones.
From then on in, it’s all about you and your investigative powers. Vague, extreme reviews, whether positive or negative, may be fake, but they’re definitely not helpful. If you’ve got the time and energy, it’s worth vetting the reviewers themselves.
If you see an orange ‘Verified Purchase’ logo underneath a reviewer’s name, you can be sure that they bought and received the item from Amazon, which gives them at least some degree of legitimacy. By clicking on a reviewer’s name, you can see what they've been up to -- anyone who makes a habit of posting vague, extreme reviews isn’t to be trusted.
However, we can understand that this is a time-consuming, head-bangingly painful process. Your best bet could simply be to ignore all five-star and one-star reviews, and instead focus on the comments of the more moderate customers, who don't appear to have an axe to grind or a ring to kiss. It isn't the quickest process in the world, but the extra effort can pay off in the long run.