In our technologically-influenced world, online reviews determine whether or not a service or product is worthy of one’s time and money. Although the purpose of reviews is to reveal the truth behind a business’ quality, their content encourages an over-dramaticized promotion that should not be trusted.
First of all, the five-star review system is used in almost every industry where it is valued differently within each. Consequently, its widespread application lends critics to evaluate experiences on a surface level, failing to give in-depth reviews on quality.
These meaningless reviews become the basis of a company’s review system, where high ratings of four and five stars are seen as routine handouts.
This trend of constantly receiving high ratings, despite their authenticity, has been coined “uberization.” Even the minimal level of satisfaction from a customer can lead to exaggerated ratings that are only meant for extraordinary experiences.
Uberization is seen in the car service Uber, where drivers are expected to maintain an overall rating of 4.6 stars out of five. Anything lower can be detrimental to their careers.
The problem is businesses are more obsessed with their online reputations than they are with how they treat their customers.
“Astroturfing,” a term that compares online reviews to artificial grass, explains how businesses manipulate their reviews by paying consumers to positively critique their services or products.
Also coming in the form of free products, businesses are unfairly creating a superficial appearance to the public.
Times reported that some websites, such as Freelancer.com, offer positions to people who write good reviews, typically paying around $5 for each positive comment they receive.
On Yelp, a small but powerful community known as the “elite squad” produces more than half of Yelp’s restaurant reviews. This community is highly respected by Yelp, and while they do not receive financial compensation, they do receive many perks from the company.
This continued trend of bribing people, even going as far as hiring people outside of the U.S., should not be allowed. It distorts our views of a good or service, which falsely leads customers to give business to industries that are unworthy of their support.
After being accused of publishing fake reviews, TripAdvisor changed its slogan from “Reviews you can trust” to “Reviews from our community.” Allegations such as these support the idea that the honesty behind reviews lies in the public’s hands, not guaranteeing a credible source.
Companies also have the power to remove negative reviews by claiming that the comments “violate the website’s content guidelines,” as stated by Kiplinger.com. Having a monopoly over their reviews, industries self-create a prestige they do not deserve.
Furthermore, the extreme presence of high ratings cannot be depended upon since consumers’ guilty consciences can impede the honesty imbedded within them. Even if their experiences of services are poor, people often reevaluate the situation and settle for a rating of three or higher in an attempt to remain polite and to not jeopardize an employee’s reputation.
Statistics have shown that people are unaware of these dishonest tactics. Kiplinger.com states that 54% of customers refer to online reviews before finalizing their purchase, even though, according to Times, 30% of product reviews are false.
By being aware of the dishonesty in reviews, it is safer for us to form our own opinions to prevent ourselves from falling into the traps businesses unjustly establish.
–Kiley Distelrath and Maddy Gonzales