If you operate a book selling business, or any other for that matter, you undoubtedly know the importance of online customer reviews. As customers, I imagine most of us look at these when evaluating a merchant, even if we aren't entirely sure whether all of the reviews are real. Maybe your mother gave your business a good review, or a competitor a bad one. Still, we tend to feel the reviews as a whole, whether more good or bad, give us a sense of whether that is a merchant we want to patronize. Certainly, when traveling, I look at the motel and hotel reviews and afford them more credence than perhaps they deserve.
On the other hand, I rarely provide my input. I mean to. Particularly if I'm very pleased with my experience, I want to recognize the merchant. However, there are lots of review sites and I'm very busy, so my legitimate input rarely makes it to the web.
Recently, we received an offer designed to help our business with this problem. Obviously, they think this is good for a book-related site or they wouldn't have contacted us. It is a way to increase our positive reviews, 5-star ones no less.
The email pointed out, “A low number of reviews coupled with negative feedback can significantly affect potential customers' perception of your brand, ultimately leading to missed opportunities.” Fortunately, it continued, “The good news is that we specialize in turning such situations around. We specialize in boosting businesses like yours with positive GMB (Google My Business) reviews.”
How do you get these good reviews? The process is very straightforward. Money. $30 buys you ten 5-star positive reviews, $150 gets you 50 (no volume discounts). They describe these as coming from “verified USA accounts.” In more detail, “We will provide positive and relevant feedbacks to your Google My Business. All will appear to be from verified accounts. You can write the text, or I can write it to save your time.” That's nice, but I think I'd prefer to write my own “verified” reviews. The “USA accounts” is reassuring as their WhatsApp number indicates they come from Bangladesh. If your business is in the West, you probably don't have ten customers from Bangladesh, let alone 50.
They say their reviews are posted in many of the most important review sites. They list Google, Facebook, Yelp, and Trustpilot, along with specialty sites HomeAdvisor and Tripadvisor. They also claim reviews come from different IP addresses, another sign of legitimacy. No bots, programs, or software is used, they add. Indeed, “The right thing to do is order our service now so that you get more 5-star reviews and build your reputation as an outstanding business. The more reviews you have, the better it is for your business.”
Are they legitimate? Maybe from the business' standpoint in that they say you don't have to pay until after the reviews are posted. They can't just take your money and run. Perhaps that's an advantage Bangladesh has over Nigeria. Are they legitimate from the customers' standpoint? Of course not. Do you really need to ask?
There are companies that provide reviews not quite as shady but still not ones I want to see. They hire people knowledgeable about certain products to evaluate them, but considering the people who pay the bills want to see good reviews, that doesn't quite meet my standard of objectivity.
I don't know how many merchants avail themselves of these services, especially those from Bangladesh. Hopefully, no one who reads this article is so ethically challenged as to even consider such a scam. I can't imagine anyone trusting a merchant who resorted to such tactics if they knew. But, this should be a caution in your role as a consumer. Now you know what's out there. Reviews are helpful, but not always what they seem to be.