Trust Me.

My husband and I bought our first home less than six months ago.  Since then, I’ve taken it upon myself to be the chief planner and decorator of said home (shocking, right?).   As I find my decorating pickiness increasing and traditional shopping time decreasing, I’ve taken to the web to do a majority of my home goods purchases.

Faced with endless options for everything from curtains to toasters to artwork, I find myself relying time and time again on product reviews.  Not so sure about that Cuisinart toaster’s performance?  Well, check the reviews and find that it’s rated 4.5 stars out of 5.  Good enough for me (and I LOVE my new toaster, in case you’re wondering).   As we finish the basement, I’ve been eyeing some really handsome industrial-style bar stools.  Purchasing furniture online, however, kind of freaks me out.  After scouring the reviews, an average of 4 out of 4 stars is enough for me to seriously consider purchasing away.

Admittedly, it may be slightly foolish to allow reviews to be the tipping point on my purchases, but somehow, reading that a product was good or bad from fellow consumers makes me more confident in my spending decisions.  And I’m not alone.  Recent studies show that roughly 76% of consumers refer to online reviews when making purchases.

Imagine my horror when I recently came across an article by the New York Times, titled,
“For $2 a Star, and Online Retailer Gets 5-Star Product Reviews.”  The article describes how a Kindle fire case manufacturer was recently busted for giving consumers rebates for posting positive product reviews on Amazon.  That’s right.  Some companies are paying customers to give uber-positive reviews.  And guess what?  I bought said Kindle case for my husband for Christmas this year.  I felt cheated!  Betrayed!  While there was always a slight hint of skepticism in online reviews, I never let myself believe it would actually be true.

In a sense, doctored or bribed reviews seem to be the start of an evolution of false advertising.  The FTC has recently brought two deceptive-advertising cases against other companies for fake reviews.  Could it be that we’ll begin to see more suits popping up as more companies are caught totally destroying consumers’ trust? If anything, as advertising deception like this is exposed, we’ll likely find consumers becoming more skeptical than they already are.  The valuable tool of seemingly honest product reviews, which brands often rely on to sell products and cultivate loyal consumers, could fall to the wayside.  A “four-star” rating may mean as little as previously valued qualities such as, “doctor-recommended,” “eco-friendly” and “kid-tested, mother-approved.”

All I know is that I’ll be certainly thinking twice about glowing reviews about products I’m interested in in the future.  Although I really do love those industrial bar stools I’ve been eyeing, so I may just have be swayed a little while longer…