FRAUD AND THE INTERNET

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Recently, a New York City jeweler ran into an online dilemma. The retailer had set up a Facebook page and included a function that allowed consumers to grade the store’s quality and service. The jeweler had been chugging along enjoying stellar scores until suddenly, the page was bombarded with negative grades-more than 200 in all- that brought the company’s overall rating down. Eventually, the jeweler just shut the page down.

With the many wonders that the digital age now presents comes the insidious activities of spammers, scammers, and flat-out liars. There are, in fact, freelancers and whole organizations dedicated to providing reviews online. In the case of the jewelry store, the owners discovered that the plethora of negative reviews came from one source working on behalf of the store’s competitor.

As if the rigors of running a customer-service driven business weren’t enough, now retailers and manufacturers have to contend with having their social media profiles sabotaged. In the olden days, when word-of-mouth referrals were still in vogue, it was recognized that a single bad referral could outweigh the value of 10 good ones. Now with the Internet as a mouthpiece, the effects of that single negative review are multiplied.

It doesn’t cost a lot to damage someone’s reputation. For example, there’s a website called Fiverr where folks offer a variety of different services for as little as $5 (hence the name, Fiverr). When The New York Times recently examined the site, the paper found dozens of willing reviewers for hire to do both positive and negative appraisals to Facebook, Google and other such sites (Yelp claims to patrol their posts to ferret out the phonies).

Amazon actually filed a lawsuit against Fiverr and more than 1,100 individuals who posted bogus reviews. But the practice is so prolific that it may never be stopped. In fact, while Fiverr attempted to cooperate with Amazon by taking down the posts offering the service, others have since popped up.

Here are some sobering statistics: According to a Harris Poll completed this year, 85% of adults surveyed said they would not patronize a business with negative reviews, particularly in regard to cleanliness; yet according to tech research firm, Garner, 10%-15% of all social media reviews are frauds.

Obviously, this is a trend that optical retailers need to be aware of and police. In the world of independent vision care, a solid reputation is the most important marketing tool one has. Make sure it isn’t turned against you.

 

email me at fg@visioncareproducts.com

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