Customers Fight Back Over Fake Amazon Reviews

We all know that Amazon’s review system is kind of a mess. It’s plagued by “professional reviewers,” reviews from friends, legitimately critical reviews that get yanked after complaints by angry fan groups, and—worst of all—fake reviews, usually written by employees of the manufacturer. Adam found a new fake reviewer named David Jacob, but what really caught our eye was how real Amazon shoppers have picked up on it and left a series of comments to warn future customers to stay away from Gamenamics.

David Jacob’s reviews, annotated with warnings from real shoppers [Amazon]

Comments

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  1. hewhoroams says:

    Note to self, create multiple accounts when posting fake reviews. Also, always be sure to throw in one seemingly negative thing that isnt’ that bad.

  2. morgasco says:

    One down, only a few million others to expose…

    • RedwoodFlyer says:

      @morgasco:

      I’m amazed Consumerist failed to mention the “Prime” example of a a bullshitreviewer: Harriet Klausner

      This ***** claims to be an ex librarian who can speed read – an average of 6 full novels each day for the past 11 years or so…including 60 on one day, and books that weren’t even released!

      Actually, her Amazon profile says that she speed-reads 2 books a day, yet her daily reviews for the past 11 years are 4 more/day than that….so apparently she fails at math.

      Every single review reads like ad-copy and is a 5 star review..

      I love the part about how on author purposefully named a character after her, and she didn’t even mention that in her review!

      Here’s her scamazon profile:

      [www.amazon.com]

      Here are some other ones I’ve come across:

      [www.amazon.com]

      [www.amazon.com]

  3. Sure I could agree with you, but then we'd BOTH be wrong. says:

    So, “fake reviews” have become the “poor-man’s advertisements?”

    I rely on Amazon reviews when deciding on certain types of photographic equipment, but I only take heed when there are MANY reveiws, and I can tell when someone is bullshitting in a camera review, because their claims are usually outrageous (at least compared to other reviews both on Amazon and on other websites like BHPHOTOVIDEO.COM)

    • Chairman-Meow says:

      @Dooley: I can tell when someone is bullshitting in a camera review, because their claims are usually outrageous.

      You can usually spot the fakes due to how they are worded. Instead of the usual statements, the fakes are carefully constructed and sound like the come from a commercial.

  4. ElizabethD says:

    Consumer review features that I actually find useful are the ones on Target.com and Sierra Trading Post. I never even bother looking at reviews on Amazon.com; everyone seems to have an agenda.

    • stacye says:

      @ElizabethD: You know that Target.com uses Amazon’s reviews, right?

      • dragonfire81 says:

        @stacye: I seldom bother with reviews. I research the product myself and purchase if I think it meets my needs. If it does not, I can usually return it following an initial trial period.

        • Real Cheese Flavor says:

          @dragonfire81: About the only reviews I really rely on are the ones over at Newegg. Even then you have to read them very carefully to sort out the people who actually know what they’re talking about versus the mouthbreathers who only think they know.

      • mrm514 says:

        @stacye:
        No, they don’t.

      • Cyberxion101 says:

        @stacye: I noticed that the other day when shopping for a new TV. Such a turn-off. Well that, and Target’s descriptions are lacking. I wanted to know what sort of inputs the sets they sold had, and I couldn’t find that information anywhere in the item description. Just a bunch of nonsense I couldn’t care less about. :(

    • Wombatish says:

      @ElizabethD: I’ve seen many an online review that said “My sister said this guy sucked in concert, so don’t buy this CD from a band he’s not even in anymore”.
      Or
      “Amazon wouldn’t give me my money back on this when I broke it after five years of use, 1 star!”
      “It hasn’t even arrived yet, but I am excited! 5 stars! Omg!”

      I always just scan over the reviews to see if the tone is positive or negative, and to look for any issues people might be having with a product. I never use them to choose what to buy.

      • Outrun1986 says:

        @Wombatish: Yup, seen many of these, oh my kid LOVED this video game, yours will as well. Parents writing game reviews when they have never even played the video game they are writing about themselves..

        I try to look for a common trend among many reviews, if there are many reviews describing a particular problem with an item, then I tend to believe that is true. The same goes for a good product with good reviews. You need to have a significant amount of reviews to determine this though, maybe 50-100 reviews. Its hard to determine if a product is good through a single review or a small pool of 10 reviews.

    • Zeniq says:

      @ElizabethD: I like Target’s reviews too, but I think they censor them. They seem to like to [bleep] out names of other stores and any time a price is mentioned, so if a review says the item is “a bargain at $30!”, everyone else sees “a bargain at [price]“. It’s always kinda annoyed me.

  5. codepage9 says:

    What about a competing company that creates positive reviews for their rivals then calls them out using ANOTHER account? The internet is a tricky beast.

    • Sure I could agree with you, but then we'd BOTH be wrong. says:

      @codepage9:

      o.0

      That’s a scary thought. Never thought of that one. You must have a devious mind. Nonetheless, it’s true. The internet is a tricky beast.

    • cuchanu says:

      @codepage9: You just blew my mind… It’s like trying to figure out what would happen if you went back in time and killed your mom before you were born.

    • ManiacDan says:

      @codepage9: You are an evil genius.

    • Shadowman615 says:

      @codepage9: “Because iocane comes from Australia, as everyone knows, and Australia is entirely peopled with criminals, and criminals are used to having people not trust them, as you are not trusted by me, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you.”

      • Sparerib says:

        @Shadowman615: You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!

  6. jpdanzig says:

    I look for uniformly good reviews on a product at amazon.

    If a product isn’t up to snuff, SOMEONE will have posted a negative review.

    I have actually done some reviewing for amazon’s Vine program, where they send you free samples of stuff to review, and I must say, the amount of logrolling on display would clog the mighty Mississippi!

    I was amused, for example, to see that my very negative review of a very dumb marketing book was marked with two “not helpful” comments. Would it surprise a consumerist reader to hear that NO positive reviews received “not helpful” comments?

    • I_am_Awesome says:

      @jpdanzig:
      What was the book? Do you have a background in marketing? It’s entirely possible that the people who marked your review as not helpful were people who read the book and disagreed with your assessment.

  7. Josh_G says:

    Yea I pretty much don’t worry about reviews when I shop on Amazon, which is all the time. With marketplace buys I just buy and if they give me any trouble I just get Amazon to refund my money. I’ve had to do that 3 or 4 times over the years, Amazon is always super quick to give me a refund.

  8. HIV 2 Elway says:

    When I need a review I always try to hit up message boards specifically dedicated to what I’m looking to buy. I’m constantly reading musical equipment reviews on Harmony Central.

  9. rshettle says:

    I love his reply after being called out…

    David Jacob says:
    “True I had a interest in Gamenamics Products…..they are quality items that I would recommend to EVERYONE !!”

    …ROFLMAO!!!

  10. cruster says:

    Isn’t posting a one-star review to counter some shill’s “review” of a product almost as bad as being the shill? Shouldn’t these people be flagging the shill’s review instead?

  11. Keavy_Rain says:

    My biggest issue with Amazon’s reviews is how they’ll take reviews from other versions. For example: A movie on Blu-Ray will have reviews from the DVD version; which does me a helluva lotta good when I want to know if the Blu-Ray transfer is worth the extra $5.

    The whole review system is borked and in serious need of overhaul. More and better pictures would be nice, too.

    • AdvocatesDevil says:

      @Keavy_Rain: Yeah, I’ve always found it to be a huge problem when I go to read reviews for a product and they have reviews from other versions, etc. It is NOT helpful and I’m not sure why they do it. Maybe it’s leftover from when they were just a bookstore and people reviewed the STORY and not how the story is delivered (hardcover, paperback, audio).

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:

        @AdvocatesDevil: I’ve seen this happen with things in a series too.

        I was looking at the reviews for a book of patterns the bad reviews were for the next book in the series. The content of each book isn’t the same; it’s an entirely different set of patterns.

  12. I_have_something_to_say says:

    I just called Gamenamics and asked for ‘David Jocobs’ – the receptionist informed that ‘he no longer works here’. I just wanted to ask him how someone can be that full of shit. :(

  13. Griffin Hammond says:

    I love the irony that his one great review causes several negative reviews. Not much return on investment there, David!

  14. BuddyHinton says:

    This Consumerist article is Great !!! Premium SOLID journalism, HUGH overhead title block , Its a piece of writing that you read on !!! ITS GREAT !!!!! Take a look at “others” with these features……go ahead !! And be ready to pay $3000.00 OR MORE DOLLARS !!
    This item reads in 15-20 minutes ! Make sure you have ONE helper as the unit is ROCK SOLID and VERY WORDY !. The SOLID journalism is a work of art !!! This is the “Caddy” of blogs ! I could read this article forever !!!

  15. Hooray4Zoidberg says:

    I used to see this problem a lot on CNET when I worked for an anti-spyware company. We’d see lots of adware vendors would posting thier apps on cnet with about 40 fake reviews of their adware ridden applications. A lot of them were windows utilites like registry cleaners, memory boosters and such that did nothing at all but load you up with adware and run a fake scan every once and a while. But of course there were 20 people claiming how it resurrected their dead hard drive and saved their lives.

    Since then I’ve gotten pretty good at spotting fake reviews. On retail sites like amazon a sure give away is the listing of product features in a review. Typically reviewers are more concerned with performance, reliability and overall value. The fake reviews tend to be a lot of “it has this and that and this OMG!!! I want to buy 7″

    • ZukeZuke says:

      @Hooray4Zoidberg: I didn’t really clue in that CNET might have fake reviews there too. I always check that site for electronics gear.

      Thanks for the tip!

    • mac-phisto says:

      @Hooray4Zoidberg: yeah, i started to notice that myself about 3-4 years ago when the anti-malware craze really started up. i was a dedicated cnet reader & used the site frequently to stay abreast of the tech marketplace.

      i haven’t been back there regularly for at least 2 years (still stop by every once in a great while), primarily b/c their reviews became overwhelmed by interested parties. even the editors’ reviews started showing extreme slant towards specific products & would leave out important details if it took away from a particular product’s sellability.

  16. larrymac808 says:

    > HUGH overhead scoring

    Hugh? Overhead? Which Hugh? Downs, Grant, Laurie? Can you imagine Dr. House, hanging from the ceiling somewhere, yelling out the score?

    Whoo, no thanks, that’s just scary.

  17. LordSkippy says:

    The review in question leaves me on the edge of my seat. What did the “GREAT” of “IT” do? The reviewer never says.

    Also, the entire review needed more exclamation marks.

  18. Etoiles says:

    This is why you always look for aggregate trends in reviews, never for a single review. The outliers are worth noting but what user reviews really do is give you a general picture of where something falls in the spectrum.

    Travel (hotel) reviews are especially prone to outliers (the extremely pleased and the extremely displeased) and seeming plants, so I like it best when I find one that has over 50 reviews and can glean a big picture.

    As for this Amazon reviewer? My god, he’s not even a good plant! If I were faking reviews I’d try for better ones.

  19. nucwin83 says:

    @Real Cheese Flavor: Meh, you gotta be careful over there. Too many people overstating their Tech Level and bashing the product because they didn’t read through the information first. I tend to favor reviews that have the “This user purchased this item from Newegg” line under it, but in any case, I’ve usually done enough research that I know what I’m getting.

    • Shadowman615 says:

      @nucwin83: I noticed often at newegg or even Amazon someone will give a 1 star review because “The one I ordered arrived broken.”

      Unless that’s a huge trend, IMO it really shouldn’t get much consideration — almost every product will have a few that turn up defective or break in shipping. But if someone says they got 4 in a row with some defect, of course that’s different.

      Yeah it seems that the folks who rate themselves as having the highest tech level actually seem to actually have a flimsy understanding of things.

      • JemimaSheep says:

        @Shadowman615: Actually I find those reviews helpful too, if there are a lot of them. I’m normally ordering from overseas, so it’s a problem for me to return something if it’s not working. One person getting four that don’t work is an issue, agreed; but four people each getting one that doesn’t work is also an issue for me.

  20. howman says:

    I just love the consumerist. It is the best place to get all your consumer information. This is not a fake review of the site…
    my palm is itchy mr.editor.
    ;)

  21. cmdrsass says:

    Negative reviews are so much more informative than positive ones.

    • ironchef says:

      @cmdrsass: it depends. some people just have an axe to grind.

      • Corporate-Shill says:

        @ironchef:

        Even axgrinders can be right once in a while.

        Ignoring their whine, look at the underlying complaint. For example, is the processing time to the order 3 days rather than the claimed same day? I have no problem buying from a company who takes 3 days to process an order, but whiners may never be happy with 3 day processing time and will make a stink about the slow service.

    • Corporate-Shill says:

      @cmdrsass:

      Absolutely. Especially when the pattern of smoke indicates a roaring forest fire over the horizon.

    • I_am_Awesome says:

      @cmdrsass:
      I take both with a grain of salt. Often when reading negative reviews it becomes apparent that the reviewer just didn’t understand what they were buying, had unrealistic expectations, or didn’t understand how to use the product.

  22. Pandrogas says:

    I wonder how long it will take before some clever company starts using fake accounts and reviews to start discrediting their competition by making it look like they were the ones writing positive reviews…

  23. digitalbuilt says:

    I came across a publisher that is full of fake reviews. When I look at the profiles they have only reviewed the one series of books. How many people do you know that play golf, boxing and fencing lol.
    I actually bought the Rugby version before noticing this, and the book is generic garbage with a different cover for each sport.
    [www.amazon.com]

  24. SunnyLea says:

    If I was going to pay a reviewer, I would totally pay one that could spell.

  25. ClockOnTheStove says:

    If you’re ever bored, check out the Amazon reviews for David Hasselhoff’s album, “Very Best of David Haselhoff.”

    You will die.

  26. Lazy Line Painter Jane says:

    I was hired by an author to write reviews of his book. I posted on amazon, among many other sites. I would ask my friends to post reviews that I had written on their accounts. I felt bad, though I did genuinely think that people who enjoyed the type of book that i was promoting would like it. Luckily, I am not unemployed anymore, so I don’t have to do sketchy things like that again.

  27. maxx22 says:

    Be a consumer. Approach the reviews like you would any product literature.

    Suspicious review indications -

    -5 *
    -short
    -mentions a product feature
    -mentions some personal experience
    -ONLY REVIEW THAT PERSON HAS EVER POSTED
    -lots of these

    Suggestion -

    -start reading reviews at 1* first
    -look for repetition of negatives
    -check the person’s other reviews
    -pay special attention to 3* and 4* reviews
    -look for some degree of thought process

  28. quail says:

    Personal research is better than trusting a review on some site. In particular searching blogs and forums and the like. Gives a better overall picture.

  29. Quilt says:

    I’ve only ever used amazon for books, so I don’t think I’d get too uptight over a fake review. I can totally understand it with more expensive items though.

  30. Anonymous says:

    With Amazon’s no hassle returns policy, it really doesn’t matter. If you want to try something buy it – if you don’t like it, call them. UPS will come by, pick it up, and Amazon refunds the money to your credit card immediately.

    I love Amazon, love their auto-ship program, and I leave authentic reviews. But again, the reviews are of no consequence when you can easily reutrn any product.

  31. theblackdog says:

    I had an uncle who would call on his friends to post fake reviews of his book and mark down any negative reviews from other people.

  32. tande04 says:

    @ElizabethD: I’m just shocked to see Sierra in your list.

    I guess I always think of it as a local store and forget that they’re a national website and catalogue. Just had some massive layoffs themselves, which was too bad.

    Don’t know why I insist on shopping at REI instead.

  33. ZukeZuke says:

    OMG I love the vigilante counter-reviewers!

    Reading the anti-David Jacobs review comments on those products was pretty damn entertaining!

  34. Anonymous says:

    I love the work of Despair.com to slam a ripoff. They spammed the reviews all on one date. Pretty funny to beat down a cheesey copy. http://www.amazon.com/Humor-Depressories-2009-Wall-Calendar/dp/B001DKTHBY/ref=pd_bbs_2?ie=UTF8&s=office-products&qid=1234314483&sr=8-2

  35. Christopher Scott says:

    Amazon should implement a review system much like Newegg.com where reviews from people, who actually purchased the product, are specially marked as such.

    That way, consumers could make the desicion to place a higher value on reviews coming from those verified as purchasing the product. It also means that fake reviewers would have to purchase the product through their own account, to have a higher value. This additional cost would make fake reviews more expensive for the company, and more difficult to carry out.

  36. SoCalGNX says:

    While looking at my local craigslist for a job, I saw one that was looking for writers to “create customer reviews”. Wonder if this was the same company?

  37. stevgex says:

    I usually read the negative first. I look to see if there is consistent issue or problem with the product that people are experiencing.

  38. johnfrombrooklyn says:

    What really confuses me is when someone leaves a 1-star review and then says “This product is great!”

  39. johnfrombrooklyn says:

    We had a product that sold about 60-80 copies a month on Amazon. It was a tutorial CD that used Flash so you had to put it in your Mac or PC. It was a computer training CD which is a pretty competitive business. We had about 9 mostly positive reviews. All of a sudden we got one nasty review that said “this program won’t play. the company made a piece of crap. it’s garbage.” Turns out the guy was trying to play this CD in his DVD player. Our sales immediately dropped to less than 20 a month. This 1-star review by a guy that didn’t bother to read the packaging, manual, or disc cost us about $20,000 in sales. Amazon wouldn’t edit it. The guy wouldn’t change it. So now you know why companies shill their products. AT least now a company can respond to the comments.

  40. midgrade says:

    @HIV 2 Elway Resurrected: You do know that Harmony Central is owned by the Guitar Center / Musician’s Friend / Music 123 / Woodwind & Brasswind conglomerate, right?

    That being said, the reviews there do seem to be legit, even if the potential for shenanigans is high.

  41. corkdork says:

    I’ll note that the reviews are no longer online; presumably, Amazon deleted them.

  42. Lcstyle says:

    The reviews are here
    [www.amazon.com]

    however they do not appear on the actual product page and you cannot view any of the comments (we) left.

  43. axiomatic says:

    Watch out for “Harriet Klausner” on book reviews at Amazon. She is a known shill.

  44. zandar says:

    link: poof, he’s gone. To paraphrase another commenter, how many left to go?

  45. Mary Lovill says:

    You’re going to love this…I can’t prove it, but I believe that Amazon.com used employess to wash out complaints over the arrival of the Kindle II. Kindle I purchasers who had JUST bought the Kindle I as a result of the Oprah Winfrey push, I am included in that group, expressed their opinions on Amazon.com’s Kindle Reader forum and were immediately surrounded by pirhanas and drowned out. Literally 20 posts at a time attacking 1 poster expressing his opinion is a little bit ‘fishy,’ don’t you think? It was systematic and patterned, so probably provable, so at that point I said enough, and have not bought a single thing at Amazon.com since…

  46. FireFly says:

    The obvious testimonials are easy to spot. It makes me wonder how many of the ones that look real actually are.