This blog has covered plenty of instances of deceptive marketing tactics by companies. The New York Times reported about a new tactic where companies pay their customers to write glowing reviews of its products. The higher the customer review rating, the more the company paid each customer.
In this case, Amazon.com did the right thing, which all online retailers must do in these instances:
"Amazon, sent a copy of the VIP letter by The New York Times, said its guidelines prohibited compensation for customer reviews. A few days later, it deleted all the reviews for the case, which itself was listed as unavailable. Then it took down the product page itself."
Of course, the companies involved do not advertise the fact that they pay their customers to write fake or glowing customer reviews or products/services. Some customers have admitted in their reviews receiving payments, but many don't.
The related issues are numerous:
- Paid reviews threaten the credibility of the Internet
- Is this marketing tactic honest? Of course not. It undermines the reliability and credibility of customer-submitted product reviews. I expect the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate and take punitive actions.
- Are these paid consumer-written product reviews honest? No.
- Should reviewers disclose these payment arrangements? Yes. If you are paid to write a review, definitely disclose both the payment arrangement and your relationship with the company, so readers can evaluate the reliability and honest of your reviews.
- Online retailers need clear policies about reviews, which should be clearly and prominently explained in their website terms and conditions. Actions taken against violators should be swift, as Amazon.com did.
- Yes, it is difficult to uncover paid reviews. Online retailers should explore methods to verify product/service reviews. If not, consumers can and should take their business elsewhere
And yes, that old saying still apples: caveat emptor (buyer beware).