How To Judge Online Reviews

In the previous post, we explored ways to find and understand starred reviews.  We shall now turn to ways to interpret and judge the merits of these reviews.

The Ethics of Reviews

A review is only ethical if a person was not paid or compensated to do it by the company that they are reviewing- that they did it out of their own free will. If a person was paid to write a ‘review’, it is then not a review – it is an advertisement. Therefore, the onus is on review sites to specify, when a user sends in a review that they are not allowed to post reviews they are paid for. This does not mean that staff reviewers working for media houses are unethical – it is only unethical if they are paid by the company whose product is being reviewed.

Another way reviews can be unethical is if a person writing the review posts a factual statement that isn’t true, or writes a review of a product that they were not a customer of. This is a fake review. You can use to help to identify fake reviews.

Some companies may try to have negative reviews about them removed. This may often be unethical too, depending on the situation. In extreme cases, companies may even pay review site owners to take negative reviews down. If a site becomes known for doing this, it is likely that users will find another site who specifies in their policy that they do not allow reviews to be taken down, except in cases of obvious abuse.

Being Critical of Reviews

It is important to remember that reviews may be written or starred by a person in a very emotional state. If a person leaves a 1-star review but does not explain why, it may be better to ignore this. Since a 1-star review can be quite damaging to a business, it is quite unfair of users to do so without an explanation that can then be read. Similarly, a 5-star review without a description may indicate a happy customer, and while it is more likely to be true than a 1-star review without a description, one can still be sceptical of individual reviews. Possibly they were in a good mood, or received a special discount that may not be available to you on the day you shop?


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