Digital masses should beware the faux stars


POSTED: Monday, January 26, 2009

Like many who often put their money where their keyboards are, I'm pretty ticked off at Belkin. An employee at the tech manufacturer was apparently caught red-handed earlier this month paying people to write customer reviews on Amazon.com (hat tip to blogger Arlen Parsa, who broke the story).

A person could get 65 cents for each faux five-star testimonial, even if they'd never laid hands on the item they were raving about.

As a consumer, you've got a right to be mad. As a Digital Slob, I want to say, “;Thanks, Belkin, for officially ruining it for the rest of us.”;

A recent dabbler in Web entrepreneurship, I had just gotten access to its super-secret Golden Rule: Before you shape your snake oil bottle, make sure you first have legions already raving about it in .html format.

But now, thanks to Belkin, the jig is up. I've got no idea what to make, and I wasted $203.73 on hundreds of glowing Reviews to Nowhere (my product's code name was “;Digital Slob Widget”;).

So now, to better help Web consumers identify fake feedback (and also to salvage what I can of that $203.73 as a tax write-off), here are some seemingly authentic, bought and paid-for five-star reviews I had locked and loaded for whatever random form my widget might've taken:

;*;*;*;*;* “;DSW is magic. Over the years, I've tried all the yo-yo diets, only to end up frustrated, confused and—despite several fridges full of cheesecake and strawberry syrup—bitter. After a lifetime of pills, powdered shakes and hypno-therapy, I still found an entire Meatlover's pizza to be about as appetite-satisfying as a piece of hard candy. That is, until I got a bottle of herbal DSW. Within a week, I started seeing visible results.

“;Believe me, this stuff works. It's not a gimmick. It's real science. Once you buy it, you can't help but lose weight. A 60-day supply costs $23,000. Ever try to maintain a 14,000-calorie daily food intake on food stamps?”;

;*;*;*;*;* “;This little DSW device is the closest thing to perfect I've ever seen. The tiny sticker on its side says it all: three HDMI inputs, DTS-HD Master Audio decoding, Intel Core 2 Duo, 4 GB DDR2, up to 1200 x 600 dpi and a 2.76 megapixel effective still resolution. I just love this thing. Love it, love it, love it. The only drawback is I bought mine at a police auction and it came without a manual. I'm posting a photo in the hopes someone can tell me what it's supposed to do.”;

;*;*;*;*;* “;DSW saved my life. I've suffered migraines my whole adult life. I'm ultrasensitive to light and noise. Even MSNBC anchor Alex Witt's blond highlights give me a throbbing headache. My doctor prescribed Vicodin, but after Googling it, I had concerns. Primarily, I was afraid it was a gateway drug to divorcing Heather Locklear.

“;Thank God for DSW!!!! Now I can live pain and drug free, plus save hundreds of dollars because I can now move into that super-cheap studio apartment on the outskirts of town—the one that's next door to a gun range and a 24-hour strobe-light outlet, and sits underneath a dance studio that offers six free lessons in the clogging styles of upper Appalachia.”;