With Amazon Reviews, Look Beyond the Stars

January 14, 2021

We have covered Amazon’s persistent problem with fake reviews for products on its platform. Ars Technica discusses a slightly different issue in, “Amazon Still Hasn’t Fixed Its Problem with Bait-and-Switch Reviews.” Writer Timothy B. Lee describes his effort to find a good drone for his kids. A certain selection enjoyed thousands of five-star reviews—great! Many shoppers would stop there, hit “add to cart,” and be on their way. However, Lee actually checked out the text of the best reviews and discovered they were singing the praises of a certain brand of honey. Honey! How one would confuse the rich, golden sweetener with a flying head-bonker is beyond us. Lee writes:

“When I sorted the reviews by date, I saw that the most recent reviewers actually had bought a drone and they were overwhelmingly not giving it five stars. ‘Bought this for my Grandson,’ a customer wrote on December 26. ‘He played with it for 2 hours before it broke and is no longer working.’ He gave the drone one star. But the older reviews were for honey. Apparently, the manufacturer had tricked Amazon into displaying thousands of reviews for an unrelated product below its drone, helping the drone to unfairly rise to the top of Amazon’s search results. The story was similar for the second and third results in my drone search. Both had thousands of reviews with five-star averages. In both cases, many of the five-star reviews were obviously for other products—including a bottle of vodka, a bracelet, and a box of Christmas cards. In both cases, the most recent reviews were almost all negative reviews from customers who had actually bought the drones. One reviewer claimed that a drone had scratched their son’s face.”

Ay, Caramba! This sellers’ scam has been going on for some time now; we’re reminded Buzzfeed covered it over two years ago. We doubt Amazon will ever raise a finger to fix the problem—that would cost money, which they would prefer to avoid. As much as the company blusters about putting the customer first, it is really the bottom line at the top of its agenda.

Cynthia Murrell, January 14, 2021


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