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Your take: Do you trust online reviews?

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Do you consider online reviews when making a buying decision, even though they might be 'astroturf'?Do you consider online reviews when making a buying decision?

Most people do. A 2012 Nielsen survey found that 70 percent of global consumers surveyed online trust online reviews, second only to recommendations from friends and family.

Maybe that’s why there’s a cottage industry built around falsifying online reviews to sucker consumers into buying products and services that can’t get good reviews on their own, a practice known as “astroturfing.”

This week the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced an agreement with 19 companies to stop writing fake online reviews after an investigation uncovered evidence they had “violated multiple state laws against false advertising and engaged in illegal and deceptive business practices.” The companies will also pay $350,000 in fines to settle the charges.

Investigators posing as owners of a yogurt shop in Brooklyn contacted several large SEO companies in New York for help with combating negative online reviews. Representatives from those companies offered to fabricate positive reviews on Yelp.com, Google Plus, Citysearch.com and other sites.

While it’s great that someone in authority is policing reviews for fraud, it’s probably inevitable that companies who can’t produce genuinely good experiences for consumers will try to game the system. I have to admit that well-written reviews by users who don’t seem like total idiots often sway my buying choices, even though there’s always a chance the they’re written by someone paid to have that opinion.

What about you? Are you swayed by online reviews? Are there other sources you trust more or less? Let me know in the comments.

(Photo: David Sim)

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9 Responses to “Your take: Do you trust online reviews?”

  1. I have about the same level of trust in online reviews as I do of stock market “analysts.” Caveat emptor is a good policy!

  2. SLCCOM says:

    I always trust a truckload of bad reviews!

  3. Yes, particularly if they ring true or if there is a lot of them. Some sound ‘canned’ or made up so I ignore them.

  4. Sadie says:

    Though online reviews may or may not always be reliable, I always check reviews for that famous Maine retailer, LL BEAN, prior to ordering. Reviews have almost always proven to be reliable.
    Should several reviews identify items runs small, then I order the next size; has worked for many years!

  5. As a micro business (petsitting), I have learned to distrust Yelp reviews. I and many other business owners can attest that Yelp filters the good reviews of companies who do not pay to advertise with them. This was recently mentioned on a program on NPR. It’s basically extortion. I won’t pay, so only two of 11 reviews are showing, and they are from 2011! The recent great ones have been filtered. So I have zero trust in Yelp. I have more faith in reviews on Amazon.

  6. Shirley says:

    I do look at online reviews but I mostly pay attention to those in the mid-range between wonderful and horrible. Often (like Sadie posted) an item may not run true to size or the color may not be quite as shown and, if several mention this, it may affect my decision.

  7. Honey says:

    I always take into consideration online reviews when buying cosmetics or electronics cause I don’t trust comercials. I know that they are not always honest but anyway better than nothing.

  8. Huskervball says:

    I have great faith in Angie’s List. It has steered me correctly several times.

    I look at Trip Advisor just to see what they say and I report to them on my trips.

  9. Claes says:

    Honey: Good point … they’re definitely better than commercials, even if there are some that are astroturfed.
    Huskervball: I’m partial to reviews on Amazon… I feel like they do a pretty good job of filtering out bogus reviews.


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