Some Negative Reviews Are Like When Your Dad Says He’s Not Mad, He’s Just Disappointed

You’re 16 and just came home reeking of Peppermint Schnapps, and have failed at making it into your bedroom undetected by your parents. Here it comes: You’re totally gonna be grounded, no more phone in your room and absolutely no AOL time. But wait, what’s this? Dad isn’t mad — he’s just disappointed in you. And there it is, the worst punishment ever — being told more is expected of you and you’ve failed. Turns out reviewers try this same treatment on the retailers they love the most.

Researchers at the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management (via Time.com) found that not all questionable or fake online reviews are aimed at harming a company in order to boost the competition. So why else would someone post a review of a product if they haven’t even bought it? Out of loyalty, perhaps.

After sorting through hundreds of thousands of online product reviews, the researchers found that about 5% of questionable reviews were cases where “it was very likely that these customers had never bought the product.”

As for why they were reviewing an item with a negative rating if they hadn’t used the product, it could be because those customers tended to be good or loyal customers of the retailers they’re bashing, with purchase histories of more than 100 items from that company, and as such, have a bone to pick.

Back to the Disappointed Dad model: All these customers want is for their favorite companies to reach their potential.

“They’re such good customers that they now feel like they should be guiding the company,” says Eric T. Anderson, a Kellogg School marketing professor involved in the research. “And when the company makes mistakes in the eyes of the consumer, they want to correct them.”

This was indicated in the research by the occurrence of phrases like “carry more” or “go back to” in a disproportionate amount, showing that they’re not interested in letting other customers know about a product, they just want the company to know they’re peeved.

They’re not mad. They’re just… disappointed. Now go to your room and don’t even think about leaving it for the foreseeable future.

The Weird Reason Consumers Write Bad Online Reviews for Products They Never Bought [Time.com]