Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Bait-and-Switch Amazon Reviews

Timothy B. Lee:

So I went to, searched for “children’s drone,” and sorted by “average customer review,” figuring the best-reviewed drones were likely to be high quality. They weren’t.


When I sorted the reviews by date, I saw that the most recent reviewers actually had bought a drone and they were overwhelmingly not giving it five stars. “Bought this for my Grandson,” a customer wrote on December 26. “He played with it for 2 hours before it broke and is no longer working.” He gave the drone one star.

But the older reviews were for honey. Apparently, the manufacturer had tricked Amazon into displaying thousands of reviews for an unrelated product below its drone, helping the drone to unfairly rise to the top of Amazon’s search results.


2 Comments RSS · Twitter

That's why I look at 2* and 3* reviews. Fake reviews aren't going to be lukewarm. 1* reviews are trolls and people with dumb complaints. 2* and 3* are probably genuine thoughtful reviews, but the claimed flaws are possibly within the range of things I could tolerate, so it might still be worth buying the item.

Steps for buying a product you know nothing about:

1. Find the community that obsesses over that product category
2. Buy the thing they recommend as an entry-level option

For product categories like RC drones in particular, there are hobby grade drones that use standard parts and are repairable, and there are toy drones that don't, usually die quickly, and end up in the trash after a few dozen minutes of play (since drones are supposed to fly, they tend to fall down a lot, so if they can't be repaired, they won't last long).

If you just look at reviews, you probably won't figure that out, so you'll most likely end up as a hapless middleman in the factory-to-trash chain.

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