What percentage of online reviews are legit?
Sep 14, 2007 11:18 AM
Foam Nerd
Location: USA
Joined: Aug 30, 2007
Points: 605
I have been reading some mattress reviews this morning, including some on our own website. A remarkable number of them do not sound "authentic" to my ears. It's something I have been thinking about for awhile - people come to the Internet to get information and that includes reviews from presumably "real people" who own that particular product. But I just wonder how may of these reviews are on the level? Many of the "slam reviews" sound just as fake as the "this mattress changed my life" reviews.

My question is rhetorical, because it's simply impossible to know. And I don't have a solution to the problem, if online reviews really are as unreliable as I suspect they are. As consumers, we just have to make a personal judgment as to the credibility of each review, and not just count the positive reviews and the negative reviews.

I read yesterday that 25 million mattresses are sold each year in the U.S. and that there are 537 domestic mattress manufacturers (1), with 4 accounting for more than 60% of them. That consumers have so few reliable sources of information is pretty scary.


(1) I do not have a citation for this. Supposedly this is "according to the CPSC - U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, but I haven't been able to find it on their website.
Re: What percentage of online reviews are legit?
Reply #1 Sep 14, 2007 12:04 PM
WhatsTheBest-Mattress.com
Joined: Aug 28, 2007
Points: 222
That is a great question.  Indeed a $64,000 one.

Reviews are subjective by nature.  When they are written they inherently have the bias of the person doing the review.  A person will have a different viewpoint based on their age, gender, nationality, experience with product group, health condition, etc, etc....  A reasonably savvy internet surfer is able to read through a bunch of reviews and account for the aforementioned biases/perspectives.  Our problem is really not bias, it is fraud.

At WTB we understand that there will be faked reviews and we do try to sniff them out.  We watch writing style, ip addresses and email addresses among other things.  Unfortunately, these measures are inadequate to ensure that there are no faked reviews.

There is a more sinister beast lurking out there however.  We have run into companies that exist to enhance the reputation of their clients on the internet.  One of the tactics they use is creating positive reviews of their client's products all over the net.  Because they tend to be well funded they are able to use strategies that make it difficult to detect their practices.

Again, great question.  I would love to hear any ideas you folks have for discerning illegitimate/legitimate reviews.
This message was modified Feb 19, 2019 by admin
Re: What percentage of online reviews are legit?
Reply #2 Sep 14, 2007 12:41 PM
Foam Nerd
Location: USA
Joined: Aug 30, 2007
Points: 605
You have gone right to the heart of what I meant. I want to read the honest opinions of people who have lived with a product. It's the dishonest opinions I'm concerned about.

I am pleased to hear that WTB-Mattress takes steps to weed out fake reviews. The credibility of the website depends, in part, on the credibility of the reviews.

I am not a fan of Select Comfort mattresses, but when all the reviews are either 5-stars or 1-star, I really have to question how legitimate any of them are. Tempur-Pedic reviews are also that way - 100% positive or 100% negative.

The bottom line, really, is that the credibility of the entire industry is very very low, from the infomercials to the websites to the reviews. I am pleased to note that, thank God, there are some notable exceptions to the rule.
Re: What percentage of online reviews are legit?
Reply #3 Sep 14, 2007 3:02 PM
Joined: Aug 31, 2007
Points: 132
Well I do think there are a number of products out there in every industry that bring about a 'love-it-or-hate-it' attitude. So I don't think that reviews should necessarily be considered fraudulent simply because they are all 5 or 1. I would make an exception of course if there were a large number of them and literally all were 5 or 1.

I hate the way a Chevy Blazer handles (handles less like a truck than an Explorer); I find them to be small and under-powered as well. Jane Doe loves hers though because it handles less like a truck (her last car was a Honda Civic); it has a lot more power and space than her Civic so she's pleased with thsoe areas as well. There's always going to be bias of some sort.

The stigmata that some give to the internet (when compared to other mediums) isn't really deserved. Every single commercial on TV and most magazine reviews are following an agenda. We can't even be sure that Consumer Reviews has no agenda - we only believe it primarily because they tell us so. There is also the issue of 'cherry picked' products delivered free to reviewers. These items are almost never representative of an item picked off the shelf. (CPUs are a prime example) At least on the internet, you have a chance of finding legit feedback from actual consumers using products that came through standard retail channels. As you both said though, you need to sift through those and decide what is credible and what is not.

1 of the clues that gives people away is denial of the facts in their reviews or replies. For example, let's take a hypothetical Simmons salesman who states that body impressions and sagging almost never occur in Simmons mattresses. Well this is obviously contrary to thousands upon thousands of reviews and to many of our personal experiences, as well as being contrary to the very nature of cheap PU foam. We don't think cheap PU foam leaves impressions over relatively short periods of time - it does. (putting aside varying environmental/user factors) If someone is denying fact rather than debating opinion, anything and everything they say from there on is useless as far as I am concerned. Insisting that every negative review is a competitor out to destroy his business might be another way he destroys his own credibility.

Use various resources and if you know how, follow the breadcrumb trail (whois, BBB, etc.) to make sure the different sites you're visiting actually are different. I honestly am still not 100% sure this site isn't full of Flobeds employees writing rave reviews. Regardless, they have a clean record with the BBB, no major complaints anywhere I could find and thus far my personal experience with them has been a pretty good one. You also have to think how easy it would be for a few irate customers to run around the web slamming them and destroy their reputation just as easy as their rep was built up - but they haven't. The same goes for any product or business. Lack of negative reviews isn't quite as good as positive reviews, but if you know where to look and what questions to ask it is usually a good sign.
Re: What percentage of online reviews are legit?
Reply #4 Sep 18, 2007 12:43 PM
Joined: Sep 13, 2007
Points: 9
You can sort of pick out the fakes *and* fanatics by their language used, very broad sweeping statements, generally.  I try to weed both of those out, when comparing products.  That's a good point about freebies given reviewers, too, PC Mag raved about a company who we bought a computer from and they had ZERO customer service, then robbed us, by forcing us to pay for a sound system we never received.   When reported to the credit card company (Amex) they lied and we ended up paying for it.  Never used that card again, either, or bought another PC Mag. 

We also should keep in mind that people who are disgruntled with a product tend to leave more reviews than those happy campers who are too busy to go online and say something positive about their experiences.   Another thing I found shocking is that even if a fraudulent reviewer is discovered, the users of that product will stick up for them, even if they aren't connected!  That happened with some cosmetic lines in several areas on the internet.  Get a life, girls.  :)  

Also, some of those products are the "love them or hate them" kind and I figure Select Comfort and Temperpedic fit in that category. 
This message was modified Sep 18, 2007 by obxgal

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