Suppose you are not sure of a product's quality. It might seem like a good idea to read the reviews at Amazon (or eBay and other sites) to learn more about it. But it is possible that the reviews are not completely authentic if people have been bribed to change them somehow or just delete them.
Life is full of fake information, fake products and fake people (see the list of related posts for countless examples below which includes another post about Amazon). Also, the issue is explained in a graphic by the famous psychiatrist Dr. Van Pelt.
See When Amazon Customers Leave Negative Reviews, Some Sellers Hunt Them Down by Nicole Nguyen of The WSJ. Excerpts:
"Ever wonder how cheap, no-name products on Amazon can amass hundreds, sometimes thousands, of nearly perfect star ratings, with just a handful of negative reviews?
Here’s one way: Some sellers are reaching out to unhappy buyers to revise or delete their negative reviews, in exchange for refunds or gift cards. With fewer disgruntled shoppers, the overall average star rating rises.
Sellers who ship products via Amazon aren’t supposed to reach out to customers outside of Amazon’s official channel—in fact, it’s a violation of the terms they agree to on the retail platform."
"Sellers are permitted to communicate with buyers through Amazon’s built-in messaging platform, which hides the customer’s email address. Amazon’s terms of service also prohibit sellers from requesting that a customer remove a negative review or post a positive one.
“We do not share customer email addresses with third-party sellers,” an Amazon spokesman told me."
"Sellers and brands sometimes find ways to reach customers away from Amazon’s watchful gaze."
Fake Reviews and Inflated Ratings Are Still a Problem for Amazon
The Myth of Authenticity Or The Story Behind Products
Students: Make a mistake on purpose, its good for you!
A fake job reference can be just a few clicks away.
Fake Economist Fools Portugal.
Slave Redemption in Sudan. (Fake slaves are sold to those who buy slaves and then give them their freedom)
Can A Product Work Just Because It's Expensive?. (fake medicine)
If It Pays To Have Friends, Can You Pay To Have Friends?. (you can hire fake boyfriends)
Study: Half of American Doctors Give Patients Placebos Without Telling Them.
Saudis grapple with fake street sweepers .
Rent a White Guy: Confessions of a fake businessman from Beijing (by Mitch Moxley in The Atlantic Monthly, excerpts below)
Can adding a phantom third story to their homes help families find a wife for their son?
Why do employers pay extra money to people who study a bunch of subjects in college that they don’t actually need you to know? Signaling
Mexicans buy fake cellphones to hand over in muggings
Conspicuous Consumption, Conspicuous Virtue, Thorstein Veblen (and Adam Smith, too!)
How does a company selling used luxury goods spot fakes? (signalling and conspicuous consumption).
Why do stores sometimes pay people to be fake shoppers?
What if companies can't afford real models for their ads? Use AI generated fake pictures
Excerpts from "Rent a White Guy"
"Not long ago I was offered work as a quality-control expert with an American company in China I’d never heard of. No experience necessary—which was good, because I had none. I’d be paid $1,000 for a week, put up in a fancy hotel, and wined and dined in Dongying, an industrial city in Shandong province I’d also never heard of. The only requirements were a fair complexion and a suit.
“I call these things ‘White Guy in a Tie’ events,” a Canadian friend of a friend named Jake told me during the recruitment pitch he gave me in Beijing, where I live. “Basically, you put on a suit, shake some hands, and make some money. We’ll be in ‘quality control,’ but nobody’s gonna be doing any quality control. You in?”
And so I became a fake businessman in China, an often lucrative gig for underworked expatriates here. One friend, an American who works in film, was paid to represent a Canadian company and give a speech espousing a low-carbon future. Another was flown to Shanghai to act as a seasonal-gifts buyer. Recruiting fake businessmen is one way to create the image—particularly, the image of connection—that Chinese companies crave. My Chinese-language tutor, at first aghast about how much we were getting paid, put it this way: “Having foreigners in nice suits gives the company face.”
Six of us met at the Beijing airport, where Jake briefed us on the details. We were supposedly representing a California-based company that was building a facility in Dongying. Our responsibilities would include making daily trips to the construction site, attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and hobnobbing. During the ceremony, one of us would have to give a speech as the company’s director. That duty fell to my friend Ernie, who, in his late 30s, was the oldest of our group. His business cards had already been made."
"For the next few days, we sat in the office swatting flies and reading magazines, purportedly high-level employees of a U.S. company that, I later discovered, didn’t really exist."
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