One of the best things about shopping on Amazon is reading the product reviews. Along with offering a broad range of customer feedback, Amazon's reviews are awesome for researching the pros and cons of a particular product before you decide to splurge.
Though Amazon reviews are meant to be honest and transparent, unfortunately sometimes they're not. Deceitful companies are creating compensated reviews — aka fake reviews from dummy accounts — to blow up ratings and boost purchases. Before you get tricked into buying an untrustworthy item on Amazon, read ahead for a breakdown on compensated reviews, and more importantly, how you can learn to spot them.
What are Amazon compensated reviews?
The compensated review process is fairly straightforward. Some manufacturers pay sketchy businesses to create fake Amazon accounts, purchase products, and write high-star reviews tied to those technically verified purchases. The dummy accounts continue to buy and review items across the website, drumming up positive reviews and falsely validating the product.
Even worse, as Lauren Dragan at The Wirecutter points out: "Some of the more savvy pay-for-review sites even have faux reviewers pepper in a few negative reviews of products made and sold by brands that aren't clients to create a sense of 'authenticity.'"
The fact that these reviews are results of verified purchases makes it difficult for Amazon to distinguish fraudulent comments. Meanwhile, some companies continue to hire these faux reviewers to create biased reviews that bolster sales and drown out negative (albeit honest) feedback.
How to Spot Compensated Reviews on Amazon
Although there aren't a ton of ways to tell these tricky reviews apart, Fakespot is a great place to start. Devoted entirely to validating fishy reviews, Fakespot allows you to quickly verify honest reviews by copying and pasting an Amazon product's URL into their search bar; completely free of charge. Fakespot then spits out a grade — from A to F — based on how many of the reviews the site deems "reliable," taking into account the review's writing style and the correlation of the dates between purchase and review, as well as the user account's purchasing patterns.
For $1.99 a month, Fakespot also offers browser extensions—as well as free iOS and android apps—so you can see instant review grades without having to leave the Amazon page you're shopping on. These downloadable add-ons are an awesome deal for repeat Amazon customers or shoppers who depend on truthful reviews to justify their purchases.
A Note on Amazon Vine
Amazon Vine is a different beast — it's an invitation-only program that invites select real customers (usually based on their reviewer rank) to create "honest reviews" in exchange for free (or deeply discounted) Amazon-vetted products. Although these posts are way more ethical than the compensated reviews mentioned in this article, they arguably still have a bias. Luckily, Amazon labels each of their Vine member reviews — you might spot text labeling them as a "vine customer" or part of the "vine program" — so it's super easy to identify them.