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What does five stars actually mean? Reviewing online reviews


Heading to the review section before you purchase a new printer, set of headphones or a customised bird table has become almost second nature to many of us; how else will you ensure that the printer is quiet, the headphones are loud and the bird table is strong enough to hold all of your feathered friends? However, in the wake of a recent Amazon discovery, we’ve decided to take a closer look at those reviews, and find out what five stars actually means. 

Wait, what happened with Amazon?

If you’re familiar with Amazon, you may also be familiar with ‘Amazon’s Choice’ products. These are products that Amazon promotes due to, ‘highly rated, well-priced products available to ship immediately’. Exactly how you become an Amazon’s Choice product over the other highly rated, well-priced products with fast shipping is deliberately vague. 

However, recently people have been noting that at least a couple of Amazon’s Choice products have been delivered along with a ‘bribe’ - ultimately asking purchasers to provide a five star review in return for an Amazon voucher (this voucher usually covers the cost of the item purchased). How these sellers are making their money is unclear, but it seems that reviews, just like everything else on Amazon, are up for sale. This has been reported by The Guardian, aswell as BuzzFeed News.

Transcendit’s top tips for finding reviews you can trust

Does that mean you have to write off the reviews? Not necessarily, but it does mean being a little more savvy when you’re reading them could pay off (unless of course, you’re happy to post the positive review for your knock-off product, and pocket the Amazon voucher). 

  1. Don’t trust the reviews because they have photos, are ‘Amazon’s Choice’ or they’re a verified purchase

    If these news stories have taught us anything, it’s that the words, ‘Amazon’s Choice’ aren’t worth the products they’re written on. Similarly, photos and verified purchases doesn’t mean that the poster isn’t receiving some kind of benefit in exchange. If you are convinced by a label like ‘Amazon’s Choice’, take the time to find out what the label means; it might be fairly easily attainable. 

  2. Search the reviews across a few different sites

    One of the best ways to ensure the product you’re looking at is legitimate is to check it across a few different sites. Whilst Amazon does work with third party sellers more often (and more visibly) than other websites, it might be that the same product is being sold on another platform. Checking the reviews from there might give you a bit more information about your purchase.

  3. Review the reviewer

    When someone posts a review on Amazon, you can click their name to view their account. You should be able to find every item that they’ve publicly reviewed, which is useful in determining how valid their reviews are. If they’re reviewing hundreds of products and awarding them all five stars, it might be that they’re working with sellers for compensation. 

  4. Consider third-party sellers carefully

    Third-party sellers, Amazon Marketplace seller or those that are ‘Fulfilled by Amazon’ are independent sellers using the website to sell their products. Their products are often a lot cheaper than their competition, particularly if they’re manufactured in countries like China - but the quality tends to suffer when the price is low. Also look out for duplicate posts, where the same images are used by separate sellers.

  5. Get to know reviews companies you can trust

    A lot of websites are now using external companies to handle their reviews; applications like TrustPilot and CustomerSure are often paid services by the companies using them. Transcendit uses CustomerSure, and cannot edit the reviews, and through CustomerSure clients are prompted immediately to give their feedback after a remote connection. When looking at negative reviews, it’s worth seeing how a company responds; it can tell you a lot about the seller.

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Based on 8393 reviews our customers rate us 9.8/10. Reviews and ratings by Customersure. 23-December-2019

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