Stores offering refunds in exchange for positive online reviews
Web2Carz Contributing Writer
Published: February 2nd, 2012
ith the advent of Yelp and other review websites, more and more retailers have resorted to bribing customers in exchange for positive reviews. Since people rely heavily on the opinions of others when choosing places to go, it makes perfect sense that businesses would want to present themselves in as best a light as possible, but paying off customers in order to attain those coveted 4- or 5-star reviews is a pretty devious way to build a reputation.
"I would have done 4 stars instead of 5 without the deal."
Some retailers, like VIP Deals, even offered customers full refunds in exchange for a glowing review. After selling a protective leather case for a Kindle Fire for just under $10 plus shipping (when the normal retail price is $59.99), VIP Deals included a note with shipping, suggesting to the customer to "write a product review for the Amazon community," and "in return for writing the review," VIP Deals would "refund your order so you will have received the product for free."
While the note didn't explicitly ask for a positive review, 310 of 335 reviews posted last week were five stars, and most of the remaining 25 reviews were four stars. One man basically sold out VIP Deals' "deal," writing, "I would have done 4 stars instead of 5 without the deal."
VIP Deals denies any wrongdoing, writing to the New York Times in an email, "You are totally off base."
It's disappointing to learn that some retailers would go to such a length to put themselves in public favor, when all they'd really need to do is, you know, be a good business and sell a good product. As any Yelper knows, businesses often respond to both negative and positive feedback with remedying behavior. For example, some restaurants respond to poor-service reviews by offering those customers a free appetizer or meal, in hopes that the customer will come back and experience better service and update the review.
It's a different practice from bribing for a good review, since the customer isn't obligated to change their review; in this instance, the business just wants to rectify a bad experience for the patron.
If we can't count on honest reviews, what's the point in having them in the first place?