Informed buyers know to look for reviews and testimonials from people who have already purchased, before they buy something themselves. There are quite a few inherent problems with this strategy, even though it’s a lot better than just buying blindly. Let’s explore what they are.
Testimonials are wonderful when they’re real. The trouble is, a very large percentage of them are bought by the seller. When this happens, it skews the perception of a product by making it appear to be much better than it really is, or to conceal actual, real, bad reviews by flooding that section with bought reviews that obfuscate the truth. Some sites require that bought reviews come with a disclaimer, but since disclaimers are legal jargon and read at a much more difficult level, watch for words like redacted, censored or tergiversate. Redacted means, “to select or adapt for publication; to obscure or remove text”, censored means the same thing basically. Tergiversate is a verb that means, “to be evasive or ambiguous.” While this last word isn’t used as much, it is still a huge word that most people don’t hear regularly, so likely will not know.
TIP – Watch out for products that have ALL 5 star ratings. A real review will, inevitably have at LEAST one which is less than 5 stars, as well as one which is considered a negative review. Also watch for broken English as many of the bought reviews come from places where writers can be found on the cheap.
5 Minutes of Fame
Not all testimonials or reviews are bought, and this doesn’t mean that everyone out there is intent on fleecing you for all you’re worth. However, some are simply looking for their place on the Internet, and they’ll post a review to be funny, to gain attention, or just to be a troll. (An internet troll, for those unaware, is someone whose sole existence seems to be making others upset, mad, or frustrated for their own obscure enjoyment) For example, an innocent banana slicer sold on Amazon has nearly 6 THOUSAND reviews, most being people trying to top each other for the best and most funny comment. The same fate befell Haribo’s Sugarless Gummi Bears, also sold on Amazon, which became a siren’s call for pranksters who discovered the laxative effects the bears give when eaten in large quantities.
The trouble with both of these products, is that while some of the reviews are real – most say they’re verified, including the ones meant to be funny or a joke. Clearly all these people didn’t buy the items, but thanks to an imperfect system – it appears they did. It also makes it hard to filter out the fake or funny reviews from reality.