Positive online reviews can really help a small business. And negative reviews can tear it down. With that in mind, it didn't take long for company owners to realize they could post fake positive reviews for themselves, or poor reviews of their competitors to help the bottom line. So many did. They also solicited others to post reviews on their behalf.
Yelp, an online company with millions of reviews of local businesses, got fed up with the practice. Company personnel were finding one fake review posted on its site for every five new real ones. So it set up a sting to catch businesses in the act.
In 2012, a Yelp employee posed as an elite Yelp reviewer for hire on Craigslist and was offered $5 to $200 for posting false reviews. In some cases, the businesses had written a review of themselves they wanted the person simply to post. Other businesses wrote parts of reviews and asked the reviewer to fill in the rest. To punish offending businesses, Yelp posted a consumer alert on their profile pages. TripAdvisor put up similar scam notices [source: Streitfeld].
Unfortunately, the practice is not likely to stop any time soon. Consumers should be wary of extra-positive or negative reviews, particularly if they are generic, rather than giving specific examples. Potential customers should read through multiple reviews of a business to see if people praise or gripe about common things [source: Johnston].
Author's Note: 10 Most Deceptive PR Campaigns in History
It was certainly disheartening to learn about all of the deception constantly occurring in PR campaigns. Makes you lose a little faith in humanity.
More Great Links
- American Red Cross. "Our History." (Aug. 6, 2015) http://www.redcross.org/about-us/history
- Bogacki, Mike. "Public relations often relies on deception, lies." Collegiate Times. Dec. 8, 2009. (Aug. 8, 2015) http://www.collegiatetimes.com/opinion/columnists/public-relations-often-relies-on-deception-lies/article_d883fdcc-a681-51f6-a024-f1c7d92f1ef6.html
- Clark, Bruce. "The American Diet: A Sweet Way to Die." Food Safety News. Feb. 26, 2010. (Aug. 6, 2015) http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2010/02/the-american-diet-a-sweet-way-to-die/#.VcPJCXFVhBd
- Colleary, Eric. "How 'Bacon And Eggs' Became The American Breakfast." The American Table. July 19, 2012. (Aug. 3, 2015) http://www.americantable.org/2012/07/how-bacon-and-eggs-became-the-american-breakfast/
- Consumer Reports. "Knowing Which Products are Truly Made in America." February 2013. (Aug. 3, 2015) http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2013/02/made-in-america/index.htm
- Consumer Reports. "Made in America." May 21, 2015. (Aug. 5, 2015) http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2015/05/made-in-america/index.htm
- Elliott, Justin and Jesse Eisinger and Laura Sullivan. "The Red Cross' Secret Disaster." Pro Publica. Oct. 29, 2014. (Aug. 6, 2015) http://www.propublica.org/article/the-red-cross-secret-disaster
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC). "FTC Alleges Stanley Made False Made in the USA Claims About Its Tools." June 9, 2006. (Aug. 5, 2015) https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2006/06/ftc-alleges-stanley-made-false-made-usa-claims-about-its-tools
- Fischer, Brendan. "A Banana Republic Once Again?" The Center for Media and Democracy's PR Watch. Dec. 27, 2010. (Aug. 3, 2015) http://www.prwatch.org/news/2010/12/9834/banana-republic-once-again
- Frevele, Jamie. "That Time Cigarette Manufacturers Got Women to Smoke by Equating It With Freedom." The Mary Sue. Feb. 27, 2012. (Aug. 3, 2015) http://www.themarysue.com/smoking-suffragettes/
- Funding Universe. "Beech-Nut Nutrition Corporation History." (Aug. 4, 2015) http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/beech-nut-nutrition-corporation-history/
- Johnston, Susan. "Don't Fall for Fake Online Reviews." U.S. News & World Report. July 8, 2014. (Aug. 8, 2015) http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2014/07/08/dont-fall-for-fake-online-reviews
- Kaplan, Barry. "Forever Diamonds." Gemnation. (Aug. 5, 2015) http://www.gemnation.com/base?processor=getPage&pageName=forever_diamonds_1
- Kennedy, Dan. "A Great Ad Campaign Can Last Forever." Entrepreneur. (Aug. 3, 2015) http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/200030
- Kurtz-Phelan, Daniel. "Big Fruit." The New York Times. March 2, 2008. (Aug. 5, 2015) http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/02/books/review/Kurtz-Phelan-t.html?_r=0
- McMullen, Troy. "Dannon to Pay $45M to Settle Yogurt Lawsuit." ABC News. Feb. 26, 2010. (Aug. 3, 2015) http://abcnews.go.com/Business/dannon-settles-lawsuit/story?id=9950269
- Merchants of Doubt. "Frequently Asked Questions." (Aug. 6, 2015) http://merchantsofdoubt.org/faq.html
- Rampton, Sheldon and John Stauber. "Weapons of Mass Deception." The Center for Media and Democracy's PR Watch. (Aug. 3, 2015) http://www.prwatch.org/books/wmd.html
- Streitfeld, David. "Buy Reviews on Yelp, Get Black Mark." The New York Times. Oct. 16, 2012. (Aug. 8, 2015) http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/18/technology/yelp-tries-to-halt-deceptive-reviews.html?_r=1
- Sullivan, Laura. "Red Cross 'Diverted Assets' During Storms' Aftermath To Focus on Image." NPR. Oct. 29, 2014. (Aug. 3, 2015) http://www.npr.org/2014/10/29/359365276/on-superstorm-sandy-anniversary-red-cross-under-scrutiny
- Truth in Advertising. "Seeking The Truth In Food Labels." July 3, 2012. (Aug. 3, 2015) https://www.truthinadvertising.org/always-read-the-label-food-label-deception/
- Vaidyanathan, Gayathri. "How to Determine the Scientific Consensus on Global Warming." Scientific American. July 24, 2014. (Aug. 6, 2015) http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-to-determine-the-scientific-consensus-on-global-warming/
- Zoellner, Tom. "Five myths about diamonds." The Washington Post. July 4, 2010. (Aug. 5, 2015) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/02/AR2010070203990.html
Several major companies have been under fire recently for offensive marketing tactics and ads. HowStuffWorks looks at a few that have made headlines in recent years.