Sears reviews - Fake? Meaningless? - Snowblower Forum : Snow Blower Forums
 
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post #1 of 4 Old 08-26-2017, 08:02 PM Thread Starter
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Sears reviews - Fake? Meaningless?

I have sent a message to the Sears moderator asking to check what's going on.
It's only fair to give Sears a chance to explain things.

However... there's something strange about the Sears review system.

I selected 4 models at random just to see how the review system works.
(I don't recommend any of those models.. I was just testing the website to understand how trustworthy the review system might be).

They ALL had way too many positive reviews from an apparent user called "Valued" and/or "Sears_Purchaser"
This got me wondering if they are real or fake or paid-reviewers or just some glitch in their website getting the names wrong.

I did however notice a semi-negative review from "Valued" titled.... "The product is good, but the assembly was never completed."
But that review also gave 5-stars!
So who knows?... maybe they are genuine.. maybe not

If you wish ... take a look at the reviewers and their names at the bottom of this product page
The very first page of reviews shows the problem immediately.
http://www.sears.com/craftsman-24-in...1&blockType=G1

The only reviews on that first page that pass my smoke test are all showing "one star".

Count the reviews from the users called "Valued" and "Sears_Purchaser" as the reviews scroll by.
Notice also that the first few positive reviews all come from "Valued" or "JJ" notice that "JJ" states that he/she has a vested interest in the product.
Can you really trust a 5-star rating from someone who gets freebies?
  • The reviewer indicated they received a sample of this product.
  • The reviewer indicated they are affiliated with this product.
By scrolling through the review pages for that single model, I reached 53 reviews from "Valued" and/or "Sears_Purchaser" without even trying very hard.
I didn't traverse each and every page of reviews.. I stopped when the count reached 53.
I also got similar results on all 4 models that I tried.

There's something potentially wrong (or at least confusing) here.... who or what is the username "Valued"?

If you are the type of customer who glances at the overall number of 5-star ratings then hits "Buy Now" you need to be able to trust those stars to some extent!
Whether you can ever trust a review from someone who has only owned the product for 3 days is a separate issue. Caveat Emptor!
Those reviews go something like this... "I love this machine.. it was red and shiny and the engine started... I didn't try it on snow yet (5-stars)"

I've asked the Sears moderator to perform an analysis of unique account names etc to see what's really going on.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Forensics....

I also decided to submit a review myself just to test how their system works.

First of all.. it forced me to create a Sears account...that's somewhat good news because it puts up a barrier to anonymous review spamming.
However, all you need is an email address to create an account... spammers have access to hundreds of free email accounts if they choose to set them up.
This kind of thing can even be automated with a bit of software knowledge.

When I created an account and added a fake review it forced me to enter a screen-name alias.
I cannot believe that so many people would have chosen the alias "Valued" coincidentally.
I chose something like "TEST IGNORE".

BTW it did NOT offer a pre-filled default name of "Valued Customer" so I can't explain things away so easily.
The field was initially blank and it forced me to enter a name.

There is an inbuilt 72 hour delay with a new review which says it is awaiting moderator approval.
Once again, that's potentially good news assuming that there really is a moderator who is actively doing something useful.
On the other hand, that doesn't help at all if it's just software looking for expletives.
For example, try typing W-T-F on this forum without the dashes... it's just automatic word recognition.
I will do that here so you can see what happens..... *** ... it's not too difficult to see how that works.

I don't know if the 72 hour delay happens with every review or just the first time a new reviewer submits their first review.
If it's the latter, a spammer could easily start off with an innocent-looking review and then spam away to their heart's content.

In this case, my review will probably never show up because the verbiage I used
made it very clear that this was not a genuine review and should be totally ignored.
If there really is a moderator (and not just software word-recognition) my review should not make it through.
I will know the answer to that in about 48 hours or so.

There is another potentially useful feature on the Sears site to see all reviews by a particular reviewer.. however that feature is broken (for me at least).
That's a pity...It would have been handy to let me see if "Valued" has submitted 1,000,000 reviews on the site.
I also wanted to see if "JJ" always gives 5-stars every time he/she gets a free snowblower.

However, Sears really should be checking for things like this themselves to maintain any sense of trust and reliability in the review system.
They could easily check for IP addresses etc to prevent a spammer using 100,000 pseudo accounts. I don't know if they do that.
A dedicated spammer can get past any and all security checks if they are smart enough... however Sears really should be doing the basics themselves.
If the spammers are THAT smart.. they would easily get a job as a software developer and not need to spam just to make a living.

I don't want to say too much more at this point until I hear back from Sears.
However, there's certainly something strange about those reviews from "Valued".

http://www.sears.com/craftsman-24-in...1&blockType=G1

Last edited by unknown1; 08-27-2017 at 01:17 PM. Reason: give Sears a chance
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post #2 of 4 Old 08-28-2017, 03:21 PM Thread Starter
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I still have not heard back from Sears on this.

However, as I was digging deeper...I found this website. It does an equivalent scan for fake reviews on Amazon, Yelp and AppleAppStore
They presumably automated what I was essentially doing by hand.

Just paste in your Amazon link and they tell you what they've deduced. Sweet!

Of course.. it won't protect you from a genuine (but pointless) review saying "I LOVE it.. it's red and shiny! 5-stars"
You'd need a very smart language inference algorithm to weed out those reviews... not likely any time soon.
I'm not sure I would support such a move anyway... censorship of genuine posts (however crazy) sets a dangerous precedent...especially if they are from a bona-fide purchaser.

689,265,712 Amazon Reviews Analyzed
4,700,240 Yelp Reviews Analyzed
68,640 Apple App Store Reviews Analyzed

694,034,592 - Total Reviews Analyzed

Fakespot | Analyze and identify fake reviews

Last edited by unknown1; 08-28-2017 at 06:21 PM.
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post #3 of 4 Old 08-30-2017, 08:35 AM
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I try not to take online reviews to seriously especially when they are all super happy, or super bad reviews.
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post #4 of 4 Old 08-30-2017, 01:18 PM Thread Starter
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Reply from Sears confirms my earlier guess about "Valued Customer".
The review data from "Valued" presumably pre-dates the latest policy that requires an alias name to be entered... (maybe).

We appreciate your interest in our Product Ratings and Reviews on Sears.com. The reviews you mentioned are provided by our customers who’ve chosen not to create a profile/user name on our web properties. After we verify their purchases, we reach out to these customers via email and ask they provide a product review through one of our third party suppliers. We then display them on our sites while not revealing any customer information, hence the label “Valued” or “Sears Purchaser”. Hope that helps.

Regards,
Review Moderation Team

I also suggested that they find some way to show that these are all unique users not a single person named "Valued". I proposed something like using the internal user IDs "User-1234321"
At least that way these reviews would all have unique names instead of 30 reviews from "Valued".
They said they'd change the site to make it easier to spot.

Last edited by unknown1; 08-30-2017 at 11:55 PM.
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