Online Reviews: The New Way To Flame?

Have you noticed when reading online reviews that they are usually either very positive or very negative with not much in between? On sites like Amazon and Ebay where people are encouraged to review each time, you will typically see a lot of good reviews with a bad review mixed in. Even on those sites maybe 1 in 10 will actually leave a review. Most of the 3rd party review sites are havens of negativity. Ripoff Reports and Complaints Board and other are used to slam businesses rather than be a realistic and balanced representation. Theoretically they are designed for consumers to alert each other to “scams” but in today’s reality what is called a scam by a consumer may not be a scam at all. It may just be a late shipment or disagreement over a return policy. Perhaps one in a thousand or one in ten thousand will leave a review and then only if they are upset about something.

As an example, Widget company sends out 50 orders a day with no problems. 99.99% of their customers are perfectly happy and reorder regularly but that is how it is supposed to be so why would they go out of their way to go around leaving good reviews? They are busy people and move on to other things. Then one day a shipment is lost in transit. The customer will call and get a replacement order shipped out but now it has been an extra week. She goes on a review site to tell her story and states that “this company has poor service and takes an extra week to ever deliver anything!”

Now that review site rates Widget company as a bad 1 star company and it will start to show in search results. About a year later another shipment is lost in transit. The customer starts to worry and decides to research Widget company. He comes across the review site and sees the bad review from last year and decides that he has been taken. He immediately posts a bad review of his own that says “This is scam, they should not be in business!” But then 2 days later his order arrives and he is happy again. However he doesn’t bother to go back and rewrite or remove his “scam” review. He is busy and doesn’t think about it again. In fact he is still a regular and happy Widget customer.

Bad Reviews

A month later a customer places an order and reads on the site that all orders are shipped out the “same or next day” but she is new at ordering online and thinks that means it will be delivered to her the next day. She searches for Widget company for a phone number to find out where her order is and she stumbles on the review site. Incensed that she has placed an order without checking first, she immediately adds a negative review of her own. “They said it would be here today and it isn’t. Why are they in still business! I’ve been scammed!”

You can see where this is going. This popular company with fast shipping and good customer service is developing a bad reputation. Consumers who decide to do research before they buy now think twice about ordering from this company even though the reality is that 99.99% of their customers are very happy with them.

Unfortunately there are also unscrupulous people out there who will post negative reviews about their competition to try to drive them out. They may also hire people to do this. It’s a very ugly practice.

It’s very natural to believe the reviews you find online. I do it myself and I have to remember to be skeptical. You might see a page full of negative reviews and assume that this is a good representation of the company. You may be seeing only the tiniest fraction of unhappy customers or customers who were unhappy for a minute but then satisfied after the post was created. If you are worried about it, do a little more research. See if they have a comments section on their site. Take a look at their Facebook page and interact with customers. And by all means, if you depend on reviews for your research. be sure to leave good reviews when you have good experiences. You might be helping your fellow consumers find a great place to shop and you might also be keeping them in business.