Gut Check: Making simple sense out of life
By Lenore Skomal Erie Times-News staff blogger
Lenore Skomal is an award-winning author and veteran journalist in all forms of media. She is a weekly columnist and daily blogger for the Erie Times-News. She’s authored 17 published books, including an anthology of her columns, Burnt Toast available on her website www.lenoreskomal.net.   Read more about this blog.
Posted: October 26th, 2012
Are all those customer critiques on review websites honest?

Some would say “not very.” Especially in light of a recent crackdown by Yelp  ferreting out and punishing companies who have been caught paying for positive reviews.

Yelp is a referral site and social media community that pretty much runs on reader reviews. If you need a place to eat, you can go on Yelp and find out what other diners think. Looking for a plumber? Go on Yelp in your local area, and check our his reviews.

Like other such sites, the company has had to amp up its vigilance to make sure that those critiques are independent and not the result of a payoff. Yes, because as hard as it is to believe, companies will pay people to post positive reviews.

In recent months, Yelp set up a sting operation and caught eight businesses, including a moving company and two repair shops, that tried to buy reviews. As of this week, Yelp will feature a “consumer alert” on those company profile pages who were caught. It says something to the effect that they were caught red-handed trying to purchase reviews. This badge of shame, the company hopes, will help curb the practice.

Other sites like TripAdvisor have already been using the warning notices to keep people from gaming the system. Where do they find people who can be had? In the classifieds, of course. The online classifieds, like Craigslist.

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