Put Down that Sock-Puppet or I’ll Shoot!

If you’re an author with a book being sold on Amazon, and you post a fake rave review, or if you’re a company that creates a fake blog where consumers are represented as raving about your product, you could be prosecuted in Europe as a criminal!  From Britain’s TimesOnline:

Online consumer reviews are playing an ever greater role in shaping shopping habits, with websites such as TripAdvisor for the travel industry being seen as increasingly influential.

However, a string of businessman in the UK and the US have been caught posing as supposedly independent customers in an attempt to boost sales.

A recent investigation found that poorly rated travel establishments could lift their reputations from one to four stars in hours by posting fictional positive reviews.

Shortly before Christmas, the owner of the Drumnadrochit Hotel near Loch Ness admitted to posting a fake review of his own venue on the TripAdvisor site, calling it “outstanding” and “charming”. David Bremner said: “Maybe I shouldn’t have done it. But I don’t think it’s that big a deal.”

Well, it is certainly true that before I buy anything, I try to find customer reviews to verify the manufacturer’s claims.  Don’t you?  But I take anything I read with a grain of salt.  I’m not sure I’m ready to see some poor hotel owner locked up in a Brussels prison for trying to lure me in.  What about “buyer beware?” 

I think the Word of Mouth marketing trend, all the research suggesting “people like me” can make me want to buy something, runs aground right here.  I’ve watched fake “people like me” try to sell me stuff on TV my whole life.  You’d have to be pretty naive to think the Internet is magically different from all other media in this respect.

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