Home Depot Lovers Keep Spamming Comments On My Blog

Corporate guerrilla marketing efforts are getting more sophisticated, as well as more annoying. A Consumerist-reading blogger is under constant commenting attack from either paid Home Depot plants or a well-organized squadron of people with a lot of spare time on their hands who really, really love to defend the big box chain’s honor. And who share the same IP address.

Stuart says Home Depot shills are attacking his blog, ToolGuyd, with spammy comments and fakey product reviews.

He writes:

It looks like Home Depot or an agent for them is leaving fake comments on my blog. I was wondering if you had any advice as to what I should do about it.

Right now I am absolutely furious. A few days ago someone left a seemingly honest review in response to a rather harsh post I wrote about a new gimmicky tool Home Depot’s Husky brand just came out with. A reader left a comment about the review, which at the time I thought to be honest. I then wrote up a second post conveying that perhaps I was unfair in judging the new tool a bit too harshly.

Over the weekend I documented a few of the other new tools Home Depot has put up on display, and I wrote about them in a post today. A few comments went up, discussing some of the tools I had been critical about. One of the commenters even responds to the other.

I then notice that the three comments originated from the same IP address. IP addresses are automatically collected when a reader leaves a comment. Different names and email address were used for the three comments, but the evidence is rather conclusive.

So… obviously I’m furious. So what should I do?

Any advice for Stuart?

UPDATE: A rep for Home Depot has sent the following statement to Consumerist:

To clarify, we do NOT allow any such activity and are investigating the claims made by ToolGuyd. We have a social media policy in place for all employees at The Home Depot that clearly does not allow any kind of misleading tactics such as these suggested here. We instruct our associates “If you are discussing The Home Depot, you should always identify yourself as an associate of The Home Depot.” And “Never communicate any false or misleading information.” Our brands, agencies and other third-parties working on our behalf are expected to abide by these same guidelines, including “I will never ask someone else to deceive bloggers for me”. Thank you ToolGuyd and the team at Consumerist.com for bringing this matter to our attention. If we find anyone in violation of this policy we will take action immediately.

Comments

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  1. RxDude says:

    Block IP?

  2. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    They recently passed legislation requiring bloggers to disclose when they are paid or compensated otherwise by a company.

    It’s too bad this isn’t legally required for random commenters.

    • 99 1/2 Days says:

      Really? Is Loias your real name? Can you give me your IP address, since you wish to do away with web anonymity?

      • Nikose says:

        He didn’t say “Do away with web anonymity”. He said “Disclose when you’re being paid to shill someone’s stuff.”

        If you were looking for product reviews on something, you’d be looking for honest reviews to get a good product for the job, not find a fake one and end up with a broken snow shovel inside an hour(for example).

        Yes, it could be seen as the first step in that direction, but it takes a pretty slanted view to see it that way.

      • nonsane says:

        lol, you think you’re anonymous on the internet?

    • howie_in_az says:

      One could make it part of the sign-up requirements or at least a question the user must answer in order to make a random post.

  3. guymandude says:

    What should you do? Block the ip address or suck it up and deal with it. They’re just as entitled to their opinion (true or not) as you are to yours. If you’re truthful and factual your readers will likely see that and conclude that the HD cheerleaders are brainless.

    • djudd says:

      what’s the IP? Go to arin.net and see who it belongs to by doing a whois on it.

      • Dover says:

        I second this and am curious to know where it’s coming from.

      • suzieq says:

        I third this. Askimet is your friend too.

      • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

        I fourth this, and Network-Tools.com is my preferred site for that info.

      • Bohemian says:

        I would go see who the IP addresses belong to. Then I would delete the comments from the schills and block either their IP addresses or their user id, email address etc. Most blogging platforms have tools to do this. I get Russian spammers trying to post crap posts with links in them all the time. I just ban, block and delete as they come up.

        BTW. If the IP addresses happen to come from Home Depot consider me now a loyal Lowes customer for life. Nothing annoys me more than companies shilling online.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I agree that he needs to block the IP…but the “people” who are entitled to their opinion is really just one obnoxious idiot. It doesn’t matter whether he or she has the right to express an opinion – no one likes a comment spammer.

      • kc2idf says:

        They are entitled to their opinion. A blog, however, is the private property of the blogger, and it is entirely at the discretion of the blogger to decide what is allowable. The entitlement to their own opinion manifests itself in the sense that they are able to start their own damn blog.

    • kc2idf says:

      Tarpit?

      If you’re handy with PHP (or whatever language your blog is implemented in) then blacklist these users such that they all see each others’ comments, but nobody else (you included) does. They’re silenced, you don’t have to see it, and they don’t know it, which will prevent them from bothering to do something about it.

    • spamtasticus says:

      It is not an honest opinion. Period

  4. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    Call them (or him/her) out publicly?

  5. gglockner says:

    Require all comments to be moderated. It’s your blog, you can manage it how you want.

  6. lehrdude says:

    I agree with Phil…The best-est, most loving and honest Consumerist editor in the history of Consumerist editors.

  7. typetive says:

    Uh, it’s pretty obvious. Remove the comments.

    I get these all the time on CandyBlog.net. Sometimes it’s from the company I’m reviewing (and I have a posted policy that there must be full disclosure for those associated with the candy industry). A lot of the time they’re from third party SEO companies.

    Check the IP addresses and see if they’re coming from the US. Sometimes these things are farmed out to overseas comment mills.

    I’ve had offers to revise posted reviews, I’ve had offers of money to post articles they provide, write my own article and include links … all manner of things.

    I generally don’t hold it against the company but do call their attention to it if I have direct contact information for them. (And some have been pretty aghast, as they’re paying these PR companies.)

    You might even consider closing the comments on that post with a note to the public about what you’ve observed. Remember that your allegiance is to your readers, not the companies or products you’re profiling.

  8. magickalrealism says:

    WP-Spamfree allows you to block the IP really efficiently. I’ve had issues with human-spammers who can’t even bother to make their comments relevant.

  9. tekmiester says:

    Home Depot is a great company and would never resort to such tactics. As one of the most beloved companies in the history of the world, all the do is bring a much needed light into the otherwise cruel darkness that is this world. BTW, check out Home Depot’s November specials!

    That’s the power of Home Depot®

  10. Daverson says:

    No matter what you review on a blog, you run the risk of corporate cheerleaders shitting in the comments. On my blog, I just delete the spammers and the sock puppets when I discover them.

    There have been a few times when something I’ve written has touched a nerve and I’ve been flooded with obvious trolls, sock puppets, and cheerleaders. I don’t want to lock out legitimate commenters, though, so I set comments to “post after moderation” and screen everything for a week or so. By that time, the idiots tend to lose interest and move on, and I quietly set open comments again.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      That’s a good idea. I’ll have to remember that. I use Askimet too, and it’s blocked a LOT of crap.

  11. mzito says:

    If you go to http://whois.arin.net, you can plug the IP address into the search box on the upper right hand corner and see who “owns” that IP. It could just be an ISP, but if you get lucky, it’ll be a Home Depot corporate IP address, and you can then email their corporate PR people and ask about their policy on this sort of thing.

  12. Harmodios says:

    Home Depot always has the highest quality products for the best price. Service with a smile! I can recommend Home Depot to everyone!

  13. Firethorn says:

    I’d check up on the IP address a little more; many people are behind proxies today. For example, the IP asociated with this post would be my work’s proxy IP address, which is shared by a couple thousand people.

  14. IphtashuFitz says:

    Look up the details of the IP in question (see the post from mzito). If you can definitively prove that the IP belongs to Home Depot or to some marketing firm then call them out. Post a followup story to your blog about how Home Depot is apparently spamming your blog. Show the specific details you dug up. Then contact Home Depot for comment.

  15. swimman1 says:

    That’s why I prefer to shop at Lowe’s or a mom and pop shop which are actually further away from my home. I liked Home Depot in the early years but no longer. They are trying to hold on to market share any way they can. Fortunately, they are not the only player in the game.

  16. heltoupee says:

    If you don’t want anonymous comments, require a login to post, with an email address (at least) required to create an account. All the commenters that are currently very active on your blog won’t mind having to login, because that’s what many other sites (consumerist included) are doing. Spammy McSpammerson will be deterred, and if they do create an account, you will have an email address to tie to them if they try it again.

    What’s better is the signal-to-noise ratio in your comments will go up, and your active users/posters will appreciate that in the long run.

  17. photoguy622 says:

    Designer handbags at low prices!!! Nike Jordans at 80% off retail!!!

    http://www.youstupidfoolijusttookyourmoney.com

  18. goodpete says:

    I have a good guess at what is going on and I don’t think it’s as malicious as the OP thinks:

    If Home Depot is like many large corporations, all the computers on their intranet share a small group (or even a single) IP address (as the OP guessed). So it’s possible that the “offending” posts are all coming from Home Depot employees using corporate workstations.

    I work for AT&T and read the Consumerist (and comment regularly). Obviously, I am often interested in posts regarding AT&T and I often find myself expressing my opinion on a post in the comments. I’m sure I’m not alone there. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were instances where other AT&T employees responded to one of my comments (or vice versa). That doesn’t mean we all got together and planned it out. We likely didn’t even know we were both employees.

    All that being said, AT&T has a policy regarding social media that requires us (employees) to disclose our relationship to the company when discussing it (a look at my comment history shows that I do that). This policy prevents this sort of perceived propaganda conspiracy. Of course, it’s possible that Home Depot has no such policy, or that these employees are simply ignoring it.

    So I suspect that the OP’s tool blog is frequented by Home Depot employees for much the same reason that I (as an AT&T employee) frequent Consumerist. And that’s the same reason that an Apple employee might read Gizmodo, or a Google employee might read Slashdot.

    I doubt it’s anything as malicious as the OP makes it out to be. I suggest the OP simply put a notice on their site that commenters affiliated with a company discussed in the post should reveal their affiliation. And then remove posts that are not following that policy.

    Similarly, the OP might try contacting Home Depot and letting them know about the confusion. Home Depot might consider implementing their own Social Media Policy or (if the already have one) send out a reminder about it to their employees.

    Oh, yeah, and per AT&T’s Social Media Policy: I don’t represent AT&T, I just work there. These are my own opinions. Not AT&T’s. :-)

    • goodpete says:

      Also, I should note that the drama on the OP’s site seems to have resulted from a user-submitted review on a tool that may have actually come from a Home Depot employee.

      Submitting reviews for our own products isn’t against the social media standards, but it IS required that we disclose our relationship with AT&T when doing so.

      For instance, I love U-verse. It’s a great product and I have been known to promote it to pretty much anyone who listens. However, as an AT&T employee, I get a discount on my U-verse service. So if I ever found myself writing (or contributing to) a formal review of the service, I would be required by AT&T (and the FCC??) to disclose that my service is discounted due to my employment.

      If the OP’s offending poster got their tool for free from Home Depot (or before it was released) they should have been up front about that.

      This whole thing is shady, but I’m still not convinced it’s malicious.

    • AstroPig7 says:

      The employees who enforce the social media policy are sometimes very zealous in doing so. I just stay out of posts altogether when they relate to my employer or my industry.

  19. The cake is a lie! says:

    I wouldn’t necessarily be too upset. That IP logging stuff isn’t always entirely accurate. it could have just been an office where the article was passed around. who knows? Bottom line is that I would just delete the offensive comments, ban the IPs, and get on with the day. The drama on the interwebz isn’t worth the ulcers you are giving yourself over this business.

  20. Stuey says:

    Hi, here’s an update:

    The alleged shill comments were actually caught in a different post. The one the Consumerist linked to was actually worded with the intention to attract additional incriminating evidence from the shill(s) to help solidify my argument against them.

    The nature of the comments, especially the timing, suggested that a product manager, PR agent, or marketer for Home Depot or Husky set up a google alert for relevant keywords. My post was indexed by google, an alert was set out to them via email, and they pounced.

    The chances that the IP belongs to three separate people/networked computer in the same office is extremely low, but possible, in which case we’re dealing with three shills, not one.

    An Arin IP Whois for the Florida-based IP leads to EMBARQ-GLOBAL, which doesn’t really provide any useful info.

    I had every intention of modifying/deleting the fake comments – there was never any doubt about that. When I asked “what should I do”, I was wondering exactly what measures I should take to “out” them. Silently remove the comments and replace them with a disclaimer noting their moderation, “out” them publicly and leave it at that, or try to take my complaints to higher levels. This Consumerist post on the matter will definitely do a sufficient job of outing them, and I’ll watch the comments for more helpful advice.

    I was gullible enough to fall for one fake comment/review. Shame on me. That’s probably why they felt comfortable enough to try it two more times. Well, shame on them.

    Thanks, all!

    • GoPadge says:

      EMBARQ is just the newest name for Sprint’s old Local Telephone company, so there is the potential that it’s no different than seeing AT&T or Comcast as owning the IP’s.

  21. groveysgirl says:

    Are we sure that this same IP was the same physical location? Perhaps it’s the IP address of the edge equipment that that ISP uses. If so, that IP address could show for thousands of people. I see on his website that a arin pull comes up with EMBARQ-GLOBAL. That network is going to service thousands and thousands of people.

  22. HomeDepotInfo says:

    To clarify, we do NOT allow any such activity and are investigating the claims made by ToolGuyd. We have a social media policy in place for all employees at The Home Depot that clearly does not allow any kind of misleading tactics such as these suggested here. We instruct our associates “If you are discussing The Home Depot, you should always identify yourself as an associate of The Home Depot.” And “Never communicate any false or misleading information.” Our brands, agencies and other third-parties working on our behalf are expected to abide by these same guidelines, including “I will never ask someone else to deceive bloggers for me”.

    Thank you ToolGuyd and the team at Consumerist.com for bringing this matter to our attention. If we find anyone in violation of this policy we will take action immediately.

    Sarah, Home Depot Social Media
    sarah_social@homedepot.com
    @homedepotsarah

  23. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    Enable Akismet? Block the IP?

  24. peebozi says:

    Corporations have every right to dispute your opinions on your blog…in fact, I’d argue they have MORE rights to dispute your opinion…they’re wealthier than you and they’ll never die…so, while you’re right and ability to give your opinion will end sometime in the next 50-75 years, their ability to destroy you will last indefinitely.

    Corporations rights > individual right.

    thank our corporations for allowing us to use the internets even though they might not agree with everything we say…it’s mighty noble of them!

  25. dwrichards says:

    I have the tool in question and left a “mini-review” on another site about it. It doesn’t look like anyone from Home Depot got to that site. About 3/4 of the comments were about how they wouldn’t buy the tool and the rest were they tried it and it works ok but isn’t a daily use tool and better suited for the emergency toolbox.

    What I don’t get is why would anyone from Home Depot feel the need to over hype this tool which is a very inexpensive tool. I could see a table saw or cordless drill set but not this cheap rotary wrench multi tool thing.

  26. Stuey says:

    I have been in contact with reps from Home Depot, and they are investigating the matter. They’ve assured me that they’ll look into this further, and that they would never accept actions like this by one of their agents or affiliates.

    If not a rogue agent of HD or Husky, who would go so far to plant phoney reviews?

    It wasn’t just the one Husky tool that I found a seemingly planted review for – I found similar overwhelmingly positive comments left for other Husky tools that we recently posted about separately. The tools in question may be inexpensive, but it looks like Home Depot intends to sell a lot of them come Black Friday and the upcoming holiday shopping season.

    It looks like all of the big box retailers are counting on deals on inexpensive products to lure more shoppers into the stores. Once physically in-store, many people will end up purchasing more items than they had originally planned on. One can go to a store for a $10 “special buy” screwdriver set and leave with two flashlights, a socket set, a saw blade, and a cordless drill kit.

  27. Bojangles says:

    They are still a great store. I recently bought 25 pieces of OSB board. I paid with my Home Depot credit card. With paying with that card I was able to rent their truck for free for the first 75 minutes. I only made one trip with their truck, instead of two with my S10. The distance was so close it didn’t even cost me any gas, drove about 15 miles total. What’s also worth mentioning was that all the boards were loaded onto the truck by their employees. Awesome store. They need to keep up the good work.

  28. u1itn0w2day says:

    I thought I read some where that companies were skirting around the disclosure law by paying the bloggers with gifts cards who in turn can sell them if they don’t use them. Either way these companies that use these paid bloggers are using sub contractors which Home Depot has used alot over the years.

  29. BytheSea says:

    Love when you have a complaint about a company, and the company says “our employees aren’t allowed to do that” as if that reason alone means their employee didn’t do it.

  30. Earl Butz says:

    Block, remove, moderate. I find Home Depot’s disclaimer a little odd. I suspect they outsource that job – I’ve seen plenty of examples of what the OP is talking about.