Yet Another Company Learns The Difference Between Amazon Reviews And Ads

Instead of paying outsiders to give their products fake positive reviews on Amazon product pages like Belkin and other companies, DeLonghi cut out the middleman. Their communications manager, Tara Carpenter, simply went on Amazon and gave a variety of DeLonghi products five-star rave reviews herself.

Blogger Russ Taylor discovered the coincidence and tracked her down. Brilliant. Wall Street Journal blog The Wallet picked up the story and put it in its proper context:

Amazon has to police a huge and exponentially growing space. So it’s up to shoppers to take any star rating or comment with a grain of salt. The real-life equivalent would be questioning someone standing outside a store yelling “shop here!”

“I think the majority of reviews are fantastic reviews,” Russell Dicker, Amazon’s senior manager of community content says.

Dicker declined to comment on specifics of how Amazon spots phony listings for security reasons. (The U.S. government isn’t going to tell us all the things that make a dollar bill special, either.) “Making reviews helpful and making them a pristine source of consumer opinion is incredibly important to us,” he says.

In her work, Carpenter probably had the opportunity to try a wide variety of her company’s products, or access to freebies. Maybe she genuinely did enjoy them that much.

Or maybe another company has just been caught astroturfing their reviews.

DeLonghi faking its Amazon product reviews [Russ Taylor Ephemera]
A Fake Amazon Reviewer Confesses [The Wallet]


Edit Your Comment

  1. RedwoodFlyer says:

    I HATE shill reviews with a passion, and refuse to buy any product that has been astroturfed! I also hate reviewers who are fanboys of xyz product and “troll” reviews. There was one guy who reviewed 50+ unrelated items, within a 10 hour period, and simply wrote “this (fill in the blank) was cheap crap made in china and fell apart”

    Then there’s the morans who whine about the price or shipping instead of commenting on the product itself! One HDMI cable had a 1 star review that said “It wouldn’t fit in the round slot with pins (s-video?) on my DVD player”.

    • GuinevereRucker says:

      @RedwoodFlyer: I hear ya. As a cheap online shopper, I rely on honest reviews for almost every purchase I make other than groceries and bills. Both shill and idiots bug me. But I think you can usually tell when a review is thoughtful and helpful.

      Very often it helps to skip over the “OMGSH THIS THING IS AWESOME” and read the careful, thoughtful, meticulous reviews that point out both pros and cons. Those are the reviews I use to make decisions.

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:

        …read the careful, thoughtful, meticulous reviews that point out both pros and cons.

        @GuinevereRucker: I agree. You don’t necessarily have to ignore all the 5 and/or 1 star reviews, just the ones that don’t give enough information.

        I don’t understand why people leave reviews without saying why they like or dislike something. What’s the point?

        • dialing_wand says:

          @Rectilinear Propagation: And, to some degree, since reviews can be rated themselves, those reviews (the complete, comprehensive, thoughtful ones) do tend to get the highest ratings.

          But then, who moderates the moderators? ;)

    • Yoko Broke Up The Beatles says:


      You mean, you aren’t swayed by 5 star reviews that state: “Product arrived on time.”?

    • anduin says:

      to be honest though, those delonghi machines ARE pretty awesome. My mom got one years ago and its just the best thing ever, no filters, no nothing, even have it set to turn on at certain times and make 2 shots of espresso…love it

      • bohemian says:

        @anduin: Maybe some of the older ones are. The newer ones certainly have their issues with quality and engineering. I bought an espresso machine at Macy’s. The online reviews on their website were pretty glowing with a few frustrations due to inability to use anything but a shot glass to catch the coffee. The machine I bought started leaking after a few weeks to the point it wasn’t usable. It blew a seal around the milk steamer wand. This is a case where the Amazon reviews were probably more helpful, I wish I had read them before buying at Macys. There were tons of irate customers. These machines have a massive failure rate and your only option is to mail them for repair with a turn around time of months. Macys was nice enough to give me an exchange. So far the new one hasn’t failed, yet. Delonghi products have gone massively downhill. I have an old radiator space heater that is great. The new one we bought failed the first winter. They are probably astroturfing to try to counter the fact that their products are now utter crap. After this coffee machine issue I will never buy another thing from them. Just hoping this machine holds out while I save up money for a Francis machine.

      • aikimann says:

        @anduin: Uh-oh, look out! Tara Carpenter is posting on Consumerist now too!


    • LatherRinseRepeat says:


      Yeah, I hate troll reviews too. On Amazon, there’s this guy that has some weird personal vendetta against Canon cameras. Every time a new Canon camera hits the Amazon catalog, he copies/pastes his ramblings all over the place.

    • katstermonster says:

      @RedwoodFlyer: Wait a minute. You’re saying it’s not alright to be annoyed when a product doesn’t do something it never said it would dO?

    • Keavy_Rain says:

      @RedwoodFlyer: I hear you and have a few complaints myself about Amazon reviews and the trolls.

      First, why the hell do people give a product a 1 star review if the problem was with Amazon or the seller? I, too, would be pissed if my full season of a series on DVD arrived damaged or it took three weeks for a product to arrive if I paid for overnight shipping, but the product page is not the place for those comments.

      Second, there’s a lady whose son recently died who happened to be a fan of a particular artist. She has gone on to every product this artist has on Amazon and given the product a 5 star review and copy/pastes the story about how her son died and she is now the artist’s biggest fan. I feel bad for her losing her kid (He was 15 at the time of his death by the way) but her reviews artificially inflate the product’s score.

      Third has to do with Amazon itself and their policy of taking reviews for one product and copy/pasting them across all versions of said product. For example, the page for the Blu-Ray version of Ghostbusters has reviews from the various DVD and VHS releases of the film. Its annoying when I want to know about a particular version’s special features, packaging, or in the case of Blu-Ray visual and audio quality, and have to dig through hundreds of reviews to get the information I want.

    • Spinfusor says:

      @RedwoodFlyer: You shouldn’t call people “morons” when you can’t even spell the word.

      • Spinfusor says:

        @Spinfusor: *spell the word correctly. Damn…

        • WraithSama says:

          It was misspelled on purpose. It’s a meme that originated from some guy picketing something or other calling someone “morons” but spelling it “morans” on his sign. I saw the original picture once, chuckled, then forgot about it until this meme started showing up.

          • nybiker says:

            @WraithSama: I caught the typo as well and was debating bringing it to the commenter’s attention, but decided against it. I appreciate you reminding us about the meme as I had forgotten about it too. Thanks.

  2. Homerjay here for OxyClean! says:

    That’s some pretty shitty grammar for a communications manager.

    • ludwigk says:

      @Homerjay here for OxyClean!: Agreed. I do email-based technical support and some technical writing for a living, so I do concentrate on making sure that what I write is clear, concise, and grammatically correct. I sit here worrying about semicolons and comma splices, then I see this shit and start to wonder why I bother.

      On a less related note, I correspond with a lot of international customers, and it’s vindicating to see that the grammar in the UK is just as atrocious as here in the States. The ONLY people that seem to have a consistent grasp of english grammar are the Dutch, and certain Scandinavian countries.

      • KeepingTheForeName_GitEmSteveDave says:

        @ludwigk: But the Dutch are cheating. Everyone knows marijuana is a drug enhancement that can help you on track and field to come last in a team of 8 million other runners… who are all dead.

    • Damocles57 says:

      @Homerjay here for OxyClean!:

      But, if she used correct and/or typical advertising grammar or phrasing, she might not seem believable to many of the demographic she is trying to relate to.

    • LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

      @Homerjay here for OxyClean!: Maybe she’s used less than polished grammar so the review would look more “real”? If that’s not the case, ewww…

  3. TechnoDestructo says:

    I’ll bet if an ad copy writer tries to write a product review, they’ll never be taken seriously because it’ll sound like an ad.

  4. Yoko Broke Up The Beatles says:

    If I am even half thinking about buying a $1700+ expresso maker, then I probably already am too aloof to care if a review is written by the company itself or not.

  5. Joey_Brill says:

    I knock out candidates under four stars and then I have to discount goobers like Ms. Carpenter.

    I’m thankful for judges – the OCD people who measure cord length, temps, and time. Some of them even give 6 month reviews.

    Going through elliptical trainers and treadmills was a pain. CR reviewed machines out of my price range ($900+). All googled reviews shilled specific products. The Amazon reviews (sorted by date) showed a mechanical defect for my pick that was resolved – you could see satisfaction jump from October to December of that year. That was cool. Sure enough, I haven’t had that problem with the machine.

    Off thread, but you wouldn’t believe the number of 300 plus pound people irate that exercise machines don’t support their weight.

    • sinfonian94 says:

      @Joey_Brill: Hmmmm…. who needs an exercise machine? Probably someone over 300 pounds… Seriously, if an exercise machine can’t support up to 500 pounds, it’s a poorly designed piece of junk.

      • katstermonster says:

        @sinfonian94: These are lower-end machines, though. The people who need the extra weight support can pay less than the cost of a machine to go to a gym that most likely has higher-end machines. I pay 10 bucks a month at my gym…I’ll choose that over buying a treadmill any day, convenience be damned.

        • bibliophibian says:

          @katstermonster: Ever consider that transportation might be a problem? That’s why I have two pieces of exercise equipment at home – because for a while, I was not able to drive myself (doctor’s orders, post surgery), and while friends and relatives don’t mind shopping trips or doctor’s visits once a week or so, having to schlepp someone to the gym every day and sit around outside and wait (or pay for a membership they neither want nor need) was too much for me to ask.

          As an overweight person myself, I have no problem with machines having weight “limits” on them – what I DO have a problem with is when that information is not included in the ad, summary, professional review, or technical specs. They’ll put 35 lines of measurements and media-accessibility but can’t drop in a mention that if you’re over X pounds you’ll be voiding the warranty. You don’t find out about the weight guidelines until you’ve already opened the package, and at that point, dealing with sending an opened, 100-lb, oversized* package back for a refund or exchange is nightmarish. So yeah, I’d probably complain too.

          *No puns intended.

    • Sidecutter says:

      @Joey_Brill: Rediculous isn’t it? And while in a lot of cases, big folks have to blame themselves at least in part (there are exceptions, legitimate medical issues, etc. of course), it really is discouraging to go looking to DO SOMETHING about that fault and find that ‘Oh, look, none of the equipment to help me improve myself will support me’.

      (Work my way down myself…dropped over 20 lbs in the 12 weeks starting at the of March…)

      • Sidecutter says:

        @Sidecutter: Ridiculous, even.

      • Megladon says:


        Thats really not even that much, thats like walking 100 extra steps a day will get you that pound a week. The point is they’re marketing their equipment to people to lose weight, why wont it support someone thats more likely to use it for weightloss? Its like me marketing extra sugary candy to diabetics, its just wrong.

        • johnfrombrooklyn says:

          If a well designed piece of exercise equipment doesn’t support 300 pounds, then it won’t support 150 pounds either. So if 300 pounders are complaining, then it’s a hunk of junk.@Megladon:

    • KeepingTheForeName_GitEmSteveDave says:

      @Joey_Brill: Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t the forces applied by a person who is 300lbs HIGHER than 300 lbs? So they probably can handle 500lbs, but that’s what the force a 300lb person exerts on the machine.

      • Smashville says:

        @KeepingTheForeName_GitEmSteveDave: Yeah…but I believe the force of a 300 pound person walking is similar to the force of a 200 pound person running…says 300 pound person whose natural weight is around 200…

        • katstermonster says:

          @Smashville: Yeah, it all depends on what kind of activity they plan on doing, how “heavily” they run or walk, etc. etc. etc. I’ll bet a lot of the lower-end treadmills COULD support a heavier person, but safety concerns prevent them from saying that. You’ve gotta have a safety number somewhere. I wouldn’t want to be the person doing a safety evaluation on a treadmill, now that I think about all the possible applications of force. Shiver. Also, my Machine Design professor was older than dirt and totally useless, so there’s that.

    • RogerTheAlien says:

      @Joey_Brill: Okay…but what about the fact that unless you’re really tall, 300 pounds isn’t something that you just get rid of through 20 mins/day, three times a week. That kind of overweight category would fall out of the typical gym equipment category, I’d think. At that point, someone with that much…heft…might need something more robust than the normal “stay in shape” versus “get into normal overweight standards” equipment.

  6. anduin says:

    and don’t you love how they use the word “investment” in the review ? I mean I’m not sure Ive spent close to 1800 on coffees yet but Im sure the hardcore coffee drinker could use one of those (as opposed to knocking back a starbucks coffee everyday.)

    • twonewfs says:

      @anduin: As a hardcore – really hardcore – coffee drinker myself, I’ve been thrilled with my $25 Aeropress. I can make coffee better than many of the $6 espressos I used to treat myself to on trips into the city – add a $1.99 IKEA milk frother – heaven!

      • Hooray4Zoidberg says:

        @twonewfs: +1 for the aeropress, that thing is awesome. I actually look forward to making the coffee with it, makes me feel like I’m doing a science experiement. I think I actually got mine for $20 from amazon, but it’s well worth $25.

  7. scarlin says:

    I tend to skip the high starred reviews. I’m more interested in what people didn’t like about the product or what problems they experienced with it.

    I look at the number of 3, 4 and 5 star reviews, but I generally don’t read them. If the majority of the people are giving more than 3 stars then it’s probably a safe bet that the product is well liked.

  8. Anonymous says:

    @ Scarlin

    I agree. I also tend to avoid passing judgment on items that have very few reviews, as well. Typically, I look at the number of reviews, and how many each category has as a basic meter of quality before I read (usually) the worst reviews first, and the best reviews last. You can get a good idea of quality when 90% of the one star reviews are “broke during shipping had to replace it” or “wasn’t the (fill in the blank) I thought I needed.”

    If you see that most of the bad reviews are from idiots, then you’ve got a good gauge of an items quality.

  9. chiieddy says:

    This is why, whenever I review or comment on anything I or my husband are related to, I’d make sure to note it in the review itself. I reviewed a local Starbucks store on Yelp recently (a rather scathing review actually) and made sure to note my husband was a partner.

  10. Gaambit says:

    There’s a reviewer on the Barnes & Noble’s website that does this, yet as often as I feel I call her out, she still keeps showing up! She often posts “reviews” of books up to two months before they’re released, always with 5 stars, and rather than actually give an opinionated critique, she just reiterates the blurb or blatantly writes out a plot summary, with something ague thrown in the end like, “Perfect for fans of thrillers!”

    Seriously, catch any new or major release and you’ll see her on there. Here’s an easy example – [] That title was just released this past Tuesday, 7/7/09. She reviewed it on 6/10/09.

    Also, last check, she’s posted almost 17,000 reviews!

    • selianth says:

      @Gaambit: She does the same thing on She’s some kind of speed reader and attracted the attention of publishers, so now they send her tons of advance copies. Google her, there’s actually several articles & blog posts out there about her. I find her incredibly annoying as well.

    • MMD says:

      @Gaambit: To go a step further, I’d love to see an outright ban on posting reviews before a product, film, CD, etc. is released. I can’t tell you how many reviews I’ve seen on various sites that are just assumptions and prejudgments about what the reviewer thinks the film/CD *might* be like. Useless!

      • acarr260 says:

        @MMD: Most products are released to certain people (in the given trade) before the product is released to the public. It’s pretty standard fare nowadays. Go to and you will see that they openly talk about getting advance copies of games.

        • Mike Gerow says:

          I think MMD is referring more to the people who place reviews like “This WILL be an awesome book/game/movie”, and simply give pre-release ratings based off of their expectations of the product. Those reviews are tremendously annoying and useless.

  11. RevRagnarok says:

    I have yet to see an Amazon review be removed. I’ve flagged many as inappropriate with zero results.

    I’ve flagged ones that the reviewer even claims they haven’t SEEN the product. Example would be a DVD of a movie that hasn’t been pressed. OK, the MOVIE was awesome, but for all you know, the DVD will be defective and in mono or missing some of the screen (Back to the Future Trilogy anyone?).

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      @RevRagnarok: I hate that too. People refuse to understand that you’re supposed to be rating the product not just the plot.

    • bravo369 says:

      @RevRagnarok: I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a bad thing. Everyone was tipped off about turbotax because of amazon reviews from people who didn’t even buy the product. They just warned people that the product is not as described and you would not be able to do your entire family’s tax return with it. it was becaue of those reviews and subsequent public outcry that forced turbotax to change their pricing.

  12. johnfrombrooklyn says:

    There’s nothing wrong with an employee posting a positive review as long as he’s transparent about it. Or in the immortal words of Sy Sperling, “I’m not just the Hair Club for Men President, I’m also a client.”

    • bohemian says:

      @johnfrombrooklyn: I noticed this on the Sally Beauty website. Every product had about the same 5 star review on it. Hey all their products are amazing. Hrm.

    • econobiker says:

      @johnfrombrooklyn: I am actually cool with employees reviewing products if they mention that they are employees, if they say how they got the product (free, discounted, full price), if they contrast the product to competitors, and that they don’t shill other related company products which they haven’t bought/used.

      If she had said: “I work for DeLonghi, got this product with an employee discount, and this is what I like about it versus competitors in the industry.” with no other shill reviews, I would have been ok with it.

  13. maxx22 says:

    There is a product called the Garmin 260W (GPS) that continually gets 5* reviews that are short, name a single product feature, frequently say they bought the unit for someone else and, most important, are from reviewers who have never reviewed any other Amazon product. All these reviews are useless but they increase the overall rating.

    I expect that anyone taking the time would find the same for many other products.

    I usually start reading the 1* first and then move up. I really want to know what is or could go wrong. For the higher rated reviews, I tend to pay special attention to those who have previously reviewed products and to those who seem go have given some thought to what they are writing.

    The review system needs work but it can be helpful if properly used.

    • bohemian says:

      @maxx22: I usually read through reviews in date order as posted. Starting from the bottom up sounds like a better way to get the truth and ignore the shills.

    • bibliophibian says:

      @maxx22: I do this too. My reasoning is that if the 1- and 2-star reviews are “this didn’t match the wallpaper in my kitchen at ALL” (my hand to God, this is a review I saw on Amazon – though it might have said “paint” instead of “wallpaper”) or “took 5 days instead of 3 to arrive,” it’s probably a safe bet that there’s not much about the actual *product* to find fault with.

      By the same token, I also ignore 5-star reviews that say how it “is the perfect size for the odd little corner in my dining room!” or “reminds me of my grandmother’s [whatever].”

      I am guilty, though, of using the 5-star rating as sort of the default setting and “taking off points” from there. Some people, I guess, think that everything should default at 3-stars, and the only way they would give anything five stars is if they had spontaneous multiple orgasms every time they walk past it. I consider five stars, for the purposes of online reviews, to mean, “It lives up to all reasonable expectations of the product, it is accurately advertised and portrayed on this ad/entry, and there are no hidden flaws or disappointments.” When I order something, that’s my base expectation – that it’s going to look like the picture (IF its appearance is important, such as a piece of furniture or clothing), do what it says it does, and leave me content with the purchase – and if it lives up to that, it’s five stars.

  14. Riff Raff says:

    (The U.S. government isn’t going to tell us all the things that make a dollar bill special, either.)

    Um, not true. There have been multiple news specials on what makes a paper bill special. Sure, they may not disclose the exact formula of the reflective ink, or the composition of the inner bands; but the US Mint hasn’t shied away from showing the exact location of those hidden bands, the super-fine print, the exact way Washington’s hair curls, etc. They don’t care, because they know how hard it is to make a perfect duplicate, not to mention it’s hard to cover up something that’s in the public view millions of times over.

  15. The Dude says:

    Amazon is still the best way to get product reviews, especially on what ‘not’ to buy. Even Consumer Reports seems to lack when it comes down to the nitty gritty and performance over a period of time. I’ve NOT bought many an item due to the reviews there.

    • econobiker says:

      @The Dude: Also don’t forget the google search with “product name sucks”, “product name broke”, or “product name scam”.

      That will bring the problems up quick…

      You can also substitute “company name” for “product name” in the above…

  16. zandar says:

    It’s so unneccessary. I have a budget $90 DeLonghi espresso machine and it actually kicks ass. They should let the products speak for themselves!

  17. ret3 says:

    Hey, it’s another Russell Taylor, and one that I’m not related to! Also, two Russells in one post. We’re usually spread a bit thinner than that.

  18. JustinSane07 says:

    This is why NewEgg does it best. “Pros” and “Cons” fields on the review forms.

  19. backbroken says:

    By now, we all know that the only reviews you should read are the negative ones, right?


    Been that way since the beginning.

  20. The Black Bird says:

    Last year I found out that an item I purchased on Amazon had the ratings falsely elevated because of shills.

    I was within the 30 day period to return the item so I did just that. I even told Amazon, for what it was worth, that the phony 5 star reviews was the reason for my returning the product.

    From that point on I will return anything that I purchase online if I find out the reviews I have purchased it from have been skewed by shills. If I find out those reviews were done bysomeone working for the manufacturer I will no longer purchase ANY product that is made by that company no matter how good it might be.

  21. Skin Art Squared says:

    Yep, I’m in the low star group too. I always read the worst reviews, then decide for myself if the faults can be overlooked or lived with or gambled on, or not. Rarely ever do 5 star reviews play a role in my buying decision.

    • Garbanzo says:

      @BZMedia: I especially do this with video game reviews. I see whether the low reviews complain about stuff that I know would bother me (frustrating cheap platforming deaths with sparse checkpointing) or stuff that I don’t care about (omg!!! teh main character is NOTHING like he is in the anime series!!!).

  22. Moosehawk says:

    For a $1700 coffee maker, that shit better come with a 3x[Lifetime Warranty]. I want my children’s children’s children to be able to appreciate that thing.

  23. Winteridge2 says:

    Hey, if there are no happy customers out there, somebody has to step up and give a good review. Who pays attention?

  24. Winteridge2 says:

    $1729 for an espresso machine? For just a few bucks more, you could get a starbucks franchise.

  25. KCChiefsFan says:

    As someone that has purchased a metric TON of stuff from Amazon, let me offer sage wisdom:

    Don’t buy anything with less than 10ish reviews. Never buy from Amazon’s partners, even if they are a bit cheaper. Make sure you are actually buying from Amazon (I know people that have bought from other companies through Amazon accidentally). Never use free shipping on a fragile item. Always shop around (for electronics, Newegg is often cheaper, with tons more reviews). Never trust a 5 star rating from someone that hasn’t reviewed more than 10 items (from different companies, obviously). Always trust the average of the star ratings over any one review (if there are 100 reviews, 90% of them being 5 stars, you shouldn’t worry about a 1 star review).

    Let’s see…what else… it’s very important that you read the most CURRENT reviews. Products (especially electronics) go through a lot of revisions in their life times, and a product that started off well built may have turned into a poorly constructed piece of crap in the interim years between that 5 star rating from 2005 and your purchase being made in 2009. It’s not uncommon to see recent reviews of electronics that say things like “the color has since changed”, “the accessories have changed”, etc. I once bought a pair of headphones from Amazon that were shown as having a metal storage case, lined with foam. The headphones arrived without the case, which the reviews I hadn’t read quickly revealed to me was the new norm.

    One last thing: Prices on Amazon change day to day. I often find myself believing that there is a piece of software watching the online market for items, and adjusting Amazon’s price to be competitive, or to beat, the prices of other online retailers. Amazon lists the best price as the default, so it has a stake in making sure that it is cheaper than it’s affiliates at the very least (often by a penny) to avoid being the non-default retailer for that item. An example is the Chuck Season 2 Blu-Ray set, which was 70 something dollars one day, and 50 something the very next day. You should hold off on any big purchases for a couple of days, just to make sure you are getting the best price.

    *fingers have fallen off*

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      Always trust the average of the star ratings over any one review (if there are 100 reviews, 90% of them being 5 stars, you shouldn’t worry about a 1 star review).

      @KCChiefsFan: The reason why someone gave it 1 star might be important.

      For example, there is a book of knitting and crochet patterns that has a decent average rating. However, if you read the one star reviews you’ll find out that almost all of the patterns are for knitters. If you only crochet that matters more than the average rating.

  26. parrotuya says:

    I read several reviews (good and bad) while watching for “corporate shill” speak. Overly glowing reviews are a red flag.

    Most bad reviews are from technically-challenged consumers who don’t read instructions. I also check Consumer Reports and other review sites for the same product. I check price variation between stores for the same or similar models.

    Do your research before buying. It’s a jungle out there!

    DOWn,baby, DOWn!

  27. Christopher Piersol says:

    My wife pointed me to this after I told her about this reviewer on amazon, who gives all 5 star reviews.


  28. discounteggroll says:

    and unfortunately walt mossberg gets to live another day =(

    one of these days walt…one of these days