They even use “software” to hide that the reviews came from India.
By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.
The pile of apparently fake 5-star reviews has led me years ago to be leery of them. I just never knew how cheap they were.
I was approached via email by an outfit in India whose name I won’t disclose because I don’t want to give them a free promo. They offered to sell me 5-star reviews of some service they thought Wolf Street might be selling. So I followed up.
I mean, I might want to buy some 5-star reviews for my WOLF STREET beer mugs that aren’t even for sale; I send them out as thank-you gifts for donations of $100 or more. But hit hard by the beer mug shortage, I’ve been out of mugs since November 2021. So I had a reason to inquire about their 5-star reviews.
And fake reviews from India face the problem of their IP address being from India — reviews from India of the Wolf Street beer mugs that I don’t even ship to India? I was hooked: How would they get around that?
This is from their initial email, typos and all:
“Our Team has significant Experience to add 5 star Reviews on Google, Face book, rip-off, yelp, trip adviser, scam book etc. to enhance your online reputation with Positive comments, reviews and posts. Enhancing the impression created by your search results, will help you achieve a HIGHER Sales Conversion rate (both Online and Offline).
“We have expertise in following functional domains for Businesses and Individual level:–
- Positive 5 Star Facebook Reviews
- Positive 5 Star Google Reviews
- Positive 5 Star Trip Advisor Reviews
- Positive 5 Star Yelp Reviews
“Please let us know if you are interested in Online Reputation Management. We have 100% Success Rate and ready to sign Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA)
“Please feel free to reach us for more information on pricing and references.”
I replied to them to get pricing information and asked about discounts for a larger quantity of reviews. And this is what they said a few days later:
“Thanks for your Response!!!
“We are India based freelancers working with clients in Australia, USA and Canada right now.
“I WOULD LIKE TO TELL YOU WHAT WE CAN DO?
“We can write some quality reviews for your business and post on your Business Page with our software which will use different locations near your company location to post reviews which will create trust and endorse your business.
“We charge 100 USD for 10 Google and 10 Facebook reviews
“We can give you guarantees for our reviews.
“If you have any queries, please let me know. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.”
That’s either $5 per review or $10 per review, depending on what they meant. Either way, it’s a deal: 20 beautiful 5-star reviews, for $100 or $200, to help you sell root canals or cars or whatever, for years to come. And it’s great if you need to drown out some legitimate 1-star reviews.
Their tech solution to the IP address issue.
These good folks in India even have a tech solution (“software”) to make the fake reviews seem un-fake by using a fake location, “which will create trust and endorse your business.” To repeat that paragraph above:
“We can write some quality reviews for your business and post on your Business Page with our software which will use different locations near your company location to post reviews which will create trust and endorse your business.”
This “software” allows them to post the reviews from India, but they seemingly appear to be posted at locations near my Wolf Street media mogul empire headquarters in San Francisco.
Here is the problem that fake reviews can face: The people who post the fake reviews, their address on the internet is an IP address, a unique number that belongs to their internet service provider and is associated with their geographical location.
For example, Wolf Street receives a lot of spam comments (that are blocked). Each one has an IP address that allows me to check the geographic area where the spam got on the internet. For example, one of them had an IP address (22.214.171.124) that belongs to internet service provider Mobilink Mobile Internet in Pakistan, and the IP address is from its group of IP addresses in Lahore:
So, the gorgeous 5-star reviews of the Wolf Street beer mugs would obviously have been posted in India by the good folks selling this service. And that needs to be fixed.
I don’t know what “software” the good folks in India would be using to make their IP addresses appear to be from San Francisco. I can think of two potential solutions, and there could be other solutions.
Maybe they’re using IP address spoofing. But there are defenses against it, and I doubt it would work on Google.
Or maybe they’re using a VPN, a perfectly legal service that makes communication on the internet more secure. A VPN service provider uses internet access servers around the globe, and their clients can often choose what region the IP address should be associated with. The folks in India might use a VPN service that allows them to choose IP addresses in the San Francisco Bay Area.
So next time you see those innumerable slightly bizarre 5-star reviews that you’ve been taking with a grain of salt for years, you can put a dollar-figure on them.
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When evaluating an unfamiliar product or service, I read the negative reviews more. I look at the average but if it’s 4 or better, the individual reviews don’t tell me as much.
Actually, turns out that detailed individual negative reviews tell you much more than the average. Precisely because it is so cost efficient to drown out one legitimate negative review with ten 5 star reviews.
@Wolf You are right, it is trivial to disguise yoir IP location. Install proton VPN (free of cost), and you can choose IPs from any country in Western Europe or US. Want to randomize locations, TOR will be useful. Economics is also not surprising, $10 or approx 750 Indian Rs goes a long way in India. Especially considering that with pre fabricated template reviews and multiple accounts (possibly multiple devices, which is also quiet cheap with cheap smartphones in India) , I estimate it is 15 -30 minute work to give 10 glowing reviews. For Rs. 750 per day (not per 30 minutes) you can hire software engineers in India. Then it is just a matter of scaling the operations, which you have experienced.
It’s a whole industry based on BS. It seems we’ve figured out most of the big problems so now our industries and efforts are more and more about nonsense.
I hope the Solid project works somehow and destroys the advertising model of the internet.
Agree with sentence one. However the “bigger problems” are just ignored. Too many people getting rich off things as they ARE.
We needed a COMPREHENSIVE and MASSIVE Green New Industry and complimentary efficient LIFESTYLES over 50 years ago, but it never happened.
Never to late to start…and obviously there is NOTHING to lose.
I looked up “solid project” but don’t know enough about all the software already written to understand jack about it…who does? Except for email, posting/reading here and poking around for good info to learn about, I don’t do anything on the net….I use the bank branch (when open, lately…covid seems a good excuse to drop services and increase profits) or ATM and I pay my few bills by snail mail check, including Wolf’s small cut.
I skip all the 5 star and all the 1 star reviews. Because of what is stated in this article. You can be sure there are outfits that will sell you 1 star reviews to leave against your competitors.
i know colleagues who are very good with terrible reviews
now i know why
I always look for reviews that have both good and bad things to say. Who will pay for those? Nobody.
Every store I go to all has the same rating: between 4 and 5 stars. These reviews are pointless now. If you read through 100 of them, you get the strengths and weaknesses of the service. However, it is easier just to buy/return the product or go try the service on time yourself than read all the reviews. Reviews are a Victim of their own Success.
Meh. This isn’t nearly as prolific as it used to be. These sites (Google, trip advisor, amazon) know that their reviews need to be legit for people to have faith in them and have invested in much better detection software and filters than they used to. If they don’t block these reviews initially they are generally detected after being live for a short time and deleted.
Frankly if you’d paid they may have gotten 10 reviews live as promised, but soon enough you’d likely see them deleted and/or your business’ listing suppressed in whatever marketplace the reviews were posted in.
I work in ecommerce, have seen the changes firsthand, and am very grateful for the fact that these types of scammers are losing their ability to mislead people.
sorry, you’re just wrong. i recently gave a talk on online ratings and reviews, and had no trouble finding fake restaurant reviews in google maps which were clearly fake. reviewing the quality of the waitstaff in a take out place, not mentioning any specific dishes, and the same group of logins coincidentally was reviewing take out restaurants and all you can eat buffets all over the US. google has hundreds of machine learning engineers who apparently can’t be bothered to write code detect clusters of phony reviews that were obvious. even sites that ship goods and collect funds for them (so better know their customers) can be manipulated by simply placing orders through them and eating the transaction cost. search for “the shed at dulwich” for a hilarious talk on this subject.
I haven’t noticed a problem with fake reviews, but over the last year, I’ve noticed a problem with fake comments on Youtube. There are two types of fake comments I’ve noticed on pretty much every single video that is in any way related to finance or economics. First, you have the account that uses a screenname similar to the author of the video. For example, if the author is FINiUS then the fake commenter will call himself “Pinned by FINiUS” and post replies to a lot of people and provide some form of direct contact information, so you can get back to him about whatever opportunity he has for you.
The second type is the crypto ad. They use some automated way to create a lot of upvotes, so by default the comment will appear at the very top. To make the comment look more genuine, it will contain 5-15 fake replies from other accounts. The dead giveaway that it’s all fake is that the replies to the reply will all be posted at the exact same time. Genuine replies are spaced at least several minutes apart. You don’t get 10 replies all at once.
Youtube has no trouble censoring comments on sensitive subjects like 9/11 because they’re afraid of misinformation, but for whatever reason, they let these fake commenters do as they like.
Youtube have never been afraid of misinformation. But they only want the misinformation that they like. That suits whatever narrative they are pushing. Classic Crony Capitalism.
Exactly true Youtube and all the rest wouldn’t know the truth if it bit them in the keister
Three hundred bucks and I could be one of America’s Best Dentists. Just sick that I walked into my faher’s dentist’s office and saw the trophy he bought announcing he was one of America’s Best…
Are you sure about Googles reasons ? Because I’m sure NOT
“scammers are losing their ability to mislead people.”
Hmm…I know we are talking phonied up product/service *reviews* here, but…considering that a *ton* of internet revenue is tied to advertising (vs. sales), every time I see some insanely unlikely subscriber/like/retweet count on Twitter, FB, Insta, etc. I am reminded of just how relatively easy it is to game internet metrics (particularly if Twitter/FB/etc. get a cut of the loot generated by such false…impressions).
A *lot* of sites do an intentional sh*tty job of policing their own and their users’ metrics.
Hell, there is an entire 3rd party auditing industry built around trying to carve through their BS.
Unfortunately, they are still prolific. These companies are usually called “click farms” and are usually far cheaper than the above rates.
They are extremely commonly used on sites such as Amazon, click farms most commonly are paid to review your items and stores on sites such as Amazon. There has been a token effort by Amazon, to remove some.
Click farms do many other things as well, such as using your referral links or watching your videos to boost the view count and clicking like. Many major companies use them to boost their subscriber and view counts on social media sites like Twitter. These fake accounts are called “bot accounts”; this is only 1 type of bot accounts.
There are actual efforts by most tech companies (Not Amazon) to remove these fake reviews. However, companies like Google, who make most of their money by ads, are unlikely to prevent most fake clicks by large companies. Google also notably disabled viewing the dislike count on YouTube, to prevent companies from being embarrassed by high dislike counts.
There are also sites like Rotten Tomatoes, which is almost entirely rigged by the site itself and companies using click farms and AI bot accounts. Disney notably for the most recent star wars movie, bought up the 2 seats on the end of each aisle in theatres across the country, to boost the box office totals, and then used the purchased movie tickets to post fake reviews.
Sites like trip advisor are among the most incentived to remove fake reviews.
I rechecked, Disney messed with all the reviews and bought seats for Captain Marvel, not a star wars movie. For certain movie releases, the movie companies can take upto 100% of the opening box office weekend. So Disney only really had to pay the “convenience fee” and sales tax for buying the tickets online; assuming that Disney got 100% of the box office opening for captain marvel.
They only did this the opening weekend. Across the country, movie theater employees and owners posted about sold out auditoriums for captain marvel, that had massive numbers of pre bought ticket buyers not showing up. In the lead up to the release of captain marvel, many people online showed videos and screenshots of the ticket purchasing selection window for theatres across the country, with exactly the 2 end seats on each side of each row bought up and few others taken.
You couldn’t be more wrong.
Companies like Google understand one important thing: the number businesses reviewed and the number of reviews per business matter a lot to users, even more than the legitimacy and quality of the reviews themselves. Most users don’t even read more than a couple of reviews, if any at all. (I have seen identical reviews for a movie on Google from different users. How hasn’t Google do something about that. It’s very easy to detect.) This is one of the reasons why Google is crushing Yelp: a given restaurant typically has ten times more ratings on Google Maps than on Yelp.
Also, one inherent nature of restaurants and movies and TV shows offer the perfect “alibi” for fake reviews: YMMV. Unlike something you buy on Amazon, you can’t really argue about food and entertainment tastes. That’s why Google is much much less willing to do something about fake reviews than Amazon is. (I have been offered free gizmos — in the form of a refund — by Amazon sellers in exchange of 5-star reviews. There is no way Amazon can prevent this scheme.)
Reviews is life and death to a business these days. A new restaurant will not stand a chance without a significant number of good reviews. Most can’t afford to build that high average rating naturally over time. So the pressure to use fake reviews to kickstart is immense, even for new businesses that offer outstanding service.
kickstarting a new restaurant by having friends and family reviewing is entirely expected by the restaurant sites. (also slam reviews by their competition, alas.). it’s the hundred 5 star reviews-as-a-service that i have a problem with, and google should also since these empty suits should accrue no reputation. all of their reviews are manifestly phony.
Goggle is more than happy to bask in the lies and fake reviews if it turns more $$$$ for them.
“Section 230” shields Amazon Google et al from liability due to harm/damage caused by user posted content, including reviews. We’ll experience some minimal levels of honesty only when platforms will be held liable for fraudulent reviews. Otherwise the scams will persist….
Make you wonder why you would pay the high prices Google and Yelp ask for advertising when you can get recommendations so cheap.
You can tell their salesmen are on commission.
I really don’t know exactly how accurate it is, but I use fakespot.com to review the reviews. It grades them using AI somewhere between an ‘A’ (quality reviews) and an ‘F’ (deceptive reviews).
I have no affiliation with them, it seems to work but who the F knows :)
INFORMATIVE, GOOD STATS, NO B.S.
I visited this web site with a few friends the other day and we all agree we would come back. The moderator is super smart and responds to comments quickly. All in one place for info on the fed, inflation and fake stock market valuations.
There are some strange ads sometimes – meh. And I’m not a beer drinker so the promo beer mug thing doesn’t work for me. Waaah.
I would recommend you learn to like beer – the foundation of civilization.
IMHO the “beer mugs” are too small for beer anyway. Coffee size. If he did an Oktoberfest MAS mug I would get another one.
And I don’t always agree with Wolf, but I respect him – he does the work.
The site’s author clearly knows things but the true gems are the 21 regular commenters who consistently spew out the classics: fed, rentiers, boomers bad; wolf, my point of view, cars good. If you follow their never-ending forecasts you’ll soon be destitute.
I was a Moderator on highly popular retirement blog for a couple of years. I was amazed at the tools available for identifying and stopping incoming spam/hackers/bad guys, etc and also figuring out, like Wolf shows above, all the location and other details of the incoming stuff.
It’s clearly getting harder for the bad guys to make hay with blogs and big business site.
You know what I don’t get? If these bad guys are so good and clever at developing tools to hack sites or create other mischief, why not use that effort in a paying job and do some good? Nuts!
Seems like there is a lot of talent or highly skilled tech people in India. Maybe most of the small-time scammers are second tier. What Wolf describes seems like a crude operation, starting with the poor scammy facial look of its sales pitch, grammar.
The big boys making megabucks selling fake reviews are outfits like Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, and Fitch,
who gave AAA ratings to subprime securities that were a root of the 2008 financial crisis. Now even I would give 5-stars all day long for that kind of jack.
Really a good point. I had to laugh.
What amazed me about that was that none of them went out of business, given that their analysis was worthless.
Then I realized that their analysis was paid for by (= being sold to) the issuers, not the buyers, of those bonds…
Basically, if you’re not paying for the reviews, they’re not trustworthy.
Even Consumer Reports has had some hairballs lately…
LOL, I’d rate your comment 5 Stars!
I heard that moody’s and fitch finally downgraded the Chinese developers that defaulted.
I read Fitch Rating Action Commentary from 1/5/22 yesterday, and was baffled.
In the first paragraph this: “Fitch Ratings has affirmed Chinese property developer Modern Land (China) Co., Limited’s Long-Term Foreign-Currency and Local- Currency Issuer Default Ratings…”
Followed by this in the third paragraph: “At the same time, Fitch has affirmed Modern Land’s senior unsecured rating and the ratings on its US dollar bonds at ‘C’ with a Recovery Rating of ‘RR6’.”
And then this inexplicable last line: “ Fitch is withdrawing the ratings as Modern Land has chosen to stop participating in the rating process. Therefore, Fitch will no longer have sufficient information to maintain the ratings. Accordingly, Fitch will no longer provide ratings or analytical coverage for Modern Land.”
Talk about a brutal review!
Similar conflict of interest described in other posts. The rating agencies get paid by the issuer.
It’s my understanding that this practice changed around 1974 (at the end of a bear market “after the horses had bolted” as usual just as with SOX and Dodd-Frank) when the SEC designated certain firms as “National Recognized Statistical Rating Organizations” (NRSRO). Prior to that, the buyers paid the rating agencies.
It’s only used for financial firms, but I’d rely on the Safe Wealth Group’s Institutional Survivability Indicator (ISI) for credit worthiness under actual adverse economic conditions. The scale is from 1 to 5 and the last time I had access to the list (about 10 years ago), none of the major banks were better than a 4.
India is a classic example of a whole lot of educated people with no opportunities. Eastern Europe and a lot of Africa are the same. They go to work every morning to a multitude of scam sites, and go home every evening. There are no other chances in life for these people.
In India there are 4 programming schools on every street intersection, in two weeks you can get a first class “Programmer” certificate. US is full of those programmists
My experience as an expat software teach lead in Bangalore:
– Everybody is trying to hire developers and salaries are shooting through the roof. It’s cheaper to hire people in eastern Europe now – if you can find anyone there.
– Devs here are used to micromanagement. We have to re-train new hires to be problem solvers / free thinkers.
On $50K/year you can live like a king here, and that’s the low bar for a good developer with some experience.
Bangalore has great climate, great food and many breweries. Traffic still sucks though, haha.
man… i’ve got nothing left to scream / i’m all screamed out.
suffice it to say:
i’m so glad you’re on our side, Wolf.
While IP of Tor exit node or IP of VPN server can be identified as such – one Indian guy located in India can connect to the computer of another Indian guy located in the US via Remote Desktop app and have perfectly innocent residential IP ☺
There is nothing new or original in this procedure.If you want your letter to get stamped with Liberty Bell you put your letter in another envelope and send it to the Postmaster,Philadelphia main USPS office (forgot the address)
I did it as a kid just for fun.Received my letter in 2 weeks.
right. There are free proxy servers as well, though not all might support HTTPS
Most of the paid proxy server providers have the option of choosing what exit country you want the IP address to appear to be from. They also hold blocks of IP addresses in many countries.
I use them not for fraud, but to get around regional censorship and official narratives. Creates arbitrage opportunities as well, as financial prices reported in one place often differ from prices reported in another place. Literally, shares selling on one exchange for one price and selling at another prices on a different exchange, AT THE SAME TIME! Sure beats working! Although I do miss doing actual productive work.
100 USD for 10 Google and 10 Facebook reviews? That’s 5 bucks a throw. Gotta wonder what their gross profit is on each review. Given labor costs in India the owner of the service must be doing very well. Wonder if he gives himself good reviews to impress prospects.
A review might be three sentence, done in 5 minutes.
Wolf how about a article on fed corruption another one had to resign ,no consequences,inmates are running the prison ,this country is f*****d up whole wonder J Powell is worth 80 million he stood it legally
I really don’t care to spend my time writing about that kind of low-level unethical self-dealing. It stinks, but it’s not illegal, and it might not even have broken any rules, and it’s everywhere. Members of Congress can do the same thing. It’s just one of the privileges of being in that elite group of people.
What riled me back in the day of the financial crisis was the big stuff. For example Immelt, then CEO of GE, was sitting on the Board of the New York Fed (GE Financial, being a huge financial firm in NY, owned a stake of the NY Fed) during the Financial Crisis, when the New York Fed decided and implemented the huge bailouts of financial firms, including GE Financial. In other words, he was part of the group of people who decided behind closed doors how to bail out his company. Many billions of dollars. Nothing happened to him.
When Goldman Sachs was converted to a bank holding company in September 2008 the bank then came under the regulatory authority of the New York Fed, which made S F, a partner of G Sax, in position as a member of G Sax’s’ board, a violation of Federal Reserve policy. But then he got a waiver.
When Geithner bailed AIG and thus G Sax, S F bought some G Sax stock and made $3 million according to a Rolling Stone article in July of 2009. Then he resigned.
Paulson & Co, Dimon’s and Buffet,s “heroism”, etc, etc….BLAH!
I like the South Park version of the GFC MUCH better, at least it’s funny.
US$60 an hour, not bad wages. Could be even better using a bot to cut and paste the text.
Writing 5 min reviews beats selling a kidney anyday, especially if you’re down to one.
Wolf I’ll give you 5 star reviews for free!!
You and your site are the best!
In today’s upside down world gone mad I need the sanity check of Wolf Street to ensure it’s not just me witnessing the craziness.
I just can’t believe he exists tbh. I love the community as well. I did my economics phd here reading Wolf and the comments section.
I’m still in first year of Econ here. But do a lot of my own sociology and have discovered a TON of things to go look up.
This article/comments is quite interesting. I totally understand all the hardware and most of the physics from tubes on up, but this REALLY beats reading software documentation.
When we had a problem where it just couldn’t be avoided, we’d all chip in a buck until someone said, “Ok, I’ll go read the damn thing for that much”. Then we picked up a lady ET who loved it, as she was an ex-clerk who had no prior electronics experience. Everyone needs their spot on a team.
They’re almost assuredly using a VPN to fake their IP location. Spoofing won’t work for a complex transaction like posting a review. They could also have developed their own proxy software geared towards review posting and loaded it on virtual machines in data centers all over the place. But, that seems like a lot of extra work to accomplish what a VPN service can already do.
Call backs from Indian support centers have been routed through local phone numbers for many years, especially after VoIP took off. The internet is a grand apparatus of misdirection.
One more and simpler solution would be using a proxy server. There are a lot of free ones even. They might also post via real persons using any screens sharing software.
I don’t need any fake bot Indian software company to get me blocked or moderated on Wolfstreet. I can do it the good ol fashioned way, thank you very much. But, I’ve managed to make it 10 days into the new year so far without getting moderated so I must be doing something wrong.
First of all, when it comes to Amazon Reviews I only read the ones labeled “Verified Purchase”. That’s still not foolproof however since there are people in the STATES getting paid for writing those reviews. Don’t trust me Do some Googling. This has even been reported in mainstream media. So in the end I usually just read 3 stars “Verified Purchase” reviews for a product.
I think it is necessary to provide a historical perspective
Astroturfing, Cheerleading, Laugh track, Payola, Professional mourning, Shilling at the casinos,Socaljimming (RE will only go up !!!)… all heads of the Hydra of Fake Paid Enthusiasm.
Hiring people to applaud dramatic performances was common in Ancient Rome. For example, when the Emperor Nero acted, he had his performance greeted by an encomium chanted by five thousand of his soldiers.
In XIX century France it became a well-paid occupation.
A Claque was an organized body of professional applauders in French theatres and opera houses. Members of a Claque were called Claqueurs.
By 1830 Claque had become an institution. The Manager of a theatre or opera house was able to send an order for any number of claqueurs. These were usually under a:
-Chef de Claque (leader of applause), who judged where the efforts of the Claqueurs were needed and to initiate the demonstration of approval. This could take several forms. There would be:
-Commissaires (“officers/commissioner”) who learned the piece by heart and called the attention of their neighbors to its good points between the acts.
-Rieurs (laughers) laughed loudly at the jokes.
-Pleureurs (criers), generally women, feigned tears, by holding their handkerchiefs to their eyes.
-Chatouilleurs (ticklers) kept the audience in a good humor, while
-Bisseurs (encore-ers) simply clapped and cried “Bis! Bis!” to request encores
“Is there a case where one can say, “Look, this is new”?
It has already existed in the ages before us”
Brent, thanks for that summary. Conclude that any “review” situation creates demand for positive reviews. And supply rises to meet demand.
BTW, this may also explain the current business models of CNN, CNBC and various other
MSMmarketer-funded media outlets…
One ultra-smart Harvard educated cat Edward Jay Epstein wrote a book “News from Nowhere: Television and the News” in 1973.It was his Ph.D thesis actually which he parlayed into a book.
Not much has changed since 1973.Google analyses the statistics of the most popular searches and news are generated based on this statistics.Positive reinforcement if you wish.
Here’s another example of positive reinforcement:
Youtube started doing that recently. Makes sense when the business model of the whole industry is about eyeballs, clicks and attention.
Soon, they’ll discard all 1-star and 2-star ratings before computing the average rating.
I believe SoCalJim to be a real person. He may have certain business interests, but i do not detect anything fake or scammy about him.
Maybe you are right.
Chalk it up to my irrational exuberance ☺
When you mentioned cheerleaders it reminded me of school “pep spirit” events on a day before a football game at my high school back circa 1967.
For me those events were hypocritical, intolerable and nauseating, in comparison to the interesting world of getting high (on a very weak version of today’s marijuana).
Hypocritical, because students were force-marched out of classrooms under guard, to sit in the bleachers and watch some kind of freaky prancing around and shouting by cheerleaders. And we were also prodded to do inane peppy cheering, which the more cooperative type teens took part in.
Across an expanse of field, six foot chain-linked fences topped by barbwire were a disincentive to try to escape. However, I had a brazen streak and did sidle off one time with some buddies, making a run for it and successfully getting over the fence.
I hear you…
Our small HS clique of 3 musqueteers considered all extra-curricular activities a colossal waste of time and we were quite successful at finding ways to avoid this BS.
I am still watching only sports where prancing scantily clad girls are totally out of place-like Olympic weightlifting.
I would have joined the Drifter and Brent HS gangs, or they would have joined mine. My gang even had a lot of Pomo Indians in it, who had a REAL bone to pick with “proper behavior”, as dictated by the “authorities”.
Excellent history lesson on “Claqueurs” Brent.
Perhaps related to the slang term “clacker” for the anus of a chicken?
Yes,I had this toy-mechanical wind-up chicken.You stick the key inside his a$$,wind it up and it starts flapping wings and pecking away, while emitting horrible noises.Then it abruptly stops moving and keels over.Just like paid Internet influencers.
Never heard the term “clacker”, and don’t want to step on another of Brent’s excellent posts, but a chicken has a “cloaca”….#1 and #2 out the same hole….many reptile based animals do.
Australian Slang Dictionary. ‘Clacker’. noun. Arsehole, The anus. From Latin ‘cloaca’ = sewer
That was a good read. Thanks.
Thank you Brent !
Wisdom dispensed daily.
🌟️ 🌟️ 🌟️ 🌟️ 🌟️
I support the Wolf Street media mogul empire!
Wolf, there are more sophisticated ways to appear to have been posted from near your HQ.
Look into residential IP proxy networks. They are used by hedge funds to perform information gathering by hugely scaled scraping of big ecommerce.
For example, blackstone might want to know how walmart’s inventory is changing and by how quickly or often an item is marked sold out. It would scrape every single available product once per day.
The only way to do this without getting blocked is to spread them across many devices that are actual consumer internet connections. But how do you get consumers to allow their cable modem connection to be used to scrape Walmart (or provide a 5 star review of your beer mugs in this case?)
You don’t. People write “free” software or mobile apps and get people to install them and then use these products to route web requests through.
There are some above-the-board services that let people opt in and get paid to let _some_ requests flow through their connection, but most are done illicitly. It is at best a grey market, but afaik everyone is scraping each other this way and trying to block any patterns that don’t appear to be actual consumers.
One more thing, it isn’t as simple as them getting the reviews placed. If they make a single mistake that identifies them across multiple reviews, all vendors that used this service will have their products and accounts shut down.
It has also happened that these groups have been hacked and the leaked internal records show the client lists. I believe marketplaces have taken action based on this evidence as well.
So, don’t worry too much about this being a major problem as its risky at best. Healthy marketplaces combat this stuff or risk damage.
The other day I was talking with my old college roommate. He is a university professor and author these days and just recently published his second book. He was telling me that these fake reviews are a huge problem in the publishing industry because they have become so widespread that no-one believes any review anymore. So if can’t make it in to the NYT review of books or some talk show you are toast.
My friend the author would send out free copies if you would read his new book and review it on Amazon. He is a boutique novelist, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. His publisher is an old school patron of the arts and requires something. They outsource print jobs to China and they spend the profits on writers they want to support. I am reminded of how Bukowski gained an audience, when an office furniture executive put together Black Sparrow press. What do reviews mean? In the university system its “publish or perish”, and politicians routinely publish ghost written books which are conduits for campaign donations, and the books go straight to the land fill, if they are printed at all. The problem with all knowledge that is acquired through print, is that it is commonly available to all. It’s like driving a car, you can’t go anywhere that everyone else hasn’t already been there.
Having a general dislike for PR, advertising, marketing, and salesmen, and the social damage they have caused, I always default to the old Dick Gregory line;
“If you have something really good, you don’t have to sell it to people, they will steal it from you.”
If I used Google, Facebook, Tripadvisor, or Yelp, I’d give Wolf Street a five star review for free. And I’d mention the easy to read charts too.
While using the internet since 1996, I have never read reviews of any product because I have no idea who wrote the review, and if the writer can be trusted. I also buy products locally whenever they are available locally.
Too many good reviews though, can lead to the wasteland of overcrowding, a leading indicator for dilution and collapse. Hence the legendary “crowded trade,” describing pretty much Western Civilization in its current condition, any formerly nice and charming place, ruinous tourism, etc. As a college prof I look for a sweet spot of not too much popularity, so I have privacy and freedom. Yin and yang.
Capitalism in its current incarnation sold us everything popular, everything connected, etc. No barriers. Pure hogwash, snake oil, the ruin of anything good in the world. Blight and crowding and accumulating negative externalities out the yinyang. Masses of idiots being propagating and deploying for fake adventures. The ultimate bridge to nowhere and nihilism. I.e., no real balance. Instead, churn, disruption for its own sake. Not a new concept either but understandably discarded by the cheerleaders of today’s shell games.
Digitization and Internet commerce turn out to open spaces allowing actors to distance themselves from responsibilities — to allow one to maximally escape the frictions of actual community, of the past. As we see here, it needs constant patching to maintain enough integrity. (Maybe a backlash to analog in some form some day?) So, like shoplifting, it is a continuous management problem.
Any real scholar might see this escaping aspect as a very oblique sort of rehash of Marx (declaiming capitalism’s “alienation”). This has, though, been so crudely shouted down (for social reward points) (like Keynes) by people who never read it much less thought about it with any criticality, one dare not speak its name. And I say all that as a form of Adam Smith conservative, just not one sold out to making cheap bumper-sticker crowd appeals. But I guess we are all playing some form of this social and survival game, fake emoting for money and so forth, just hopefully a critical mass of us doing it at at respectable levels. Wolf leads the integrity parade.
Yeah…..what phleep said.
Yeah, well said, pleep!
Off-topic for this thread, but inspiration (?) struck and I have to get it out there:
J-Pow: inflation is transitory.
Inflation: J-Pow’s job is transitory.
rabble rabble rabble
The circle of finance completed.
A banker is mugged in a back alley!
I don’t like the whole reviews thing, especially when you get pages full of “review” sites before you can find a company website. However, some of the businesses that I have dealt with for years here in Livermore are really very good – as good as can be. So, in the past year, I have given the best Google reviews and write ups I can to those I feel deserve this. I hate to think that some a$$hole, from, wherever, is doing what you have here uncovered. I’m old, and I don’t live to be ‘nice,’ I’d like to have a knife fight with some of these guys.
Let’s get back to moar Powell inflation rabble rabble rabble
Too bad we can’t write reviews on Powell’s work.
Oh yes we can — and we do. All the time. Many commenters here do. To get a blast of it, read the comments by historicus. If there were negative 5-star reviews, a lot of comments here would be adorned with -***** (negative 5-star). And I’ve been calling this Fed “the most reckless Fed ever” for about a month or so. But they’re finally trying to get off their butt.
Just for the record, I was a fan of Powell in 2018.
Based on the educational comments above, I would guess they’re not even selling real-looking, undetectably fake, reviews. The scam is mass emailing and getting a few hundred one time dollars from every business that doesn’t know better.
These firms don’t just sell reviews, they sell views as well. They will go to your web page or view your videos thousands of times for a fee.
They sell both positive and negative reviews. Whatever you want from wherever you want. I remember when I used to use Google Ads I would have ‘Click Monkeys’ – hired by competitors – descend upon my Ad and click the hell out of it using proxies to produce a different IP address each time (Note: the market for proxies is about $.75/IP address). Google Ads would indicate I was receiving all kinds of action from the Ad except little to no business was being generated.
It’s a nasty world out there.
All the big fashion labels use “influencers” to promote their products as well. These people are getting paid to shop the stores and promote the products. These influencers are making millions because marketing has left msm and has moved to the social media platforms.
I actually prefer the longer form product reveal because I have chosen to view it and it wasn’t forced fed to me on tv. Of course, I know they have to love everything they show. The over exposure of some brands is off the charts.
I for one am getting tired of the crapification of internet commerce. If I could find a good honest brick and mortar hardware store, electronics store, pharmacy and bike store run by an old fashioned proprietor that curates and stands behind their products I would abandon all online shopping for good. I thinks todays scammy internet ( present site excepted) is sowing the seeds of a return to old fashioned retail by honest people of reputation and integrity in an environment where hucksters and scammers can be delivered negative reviews the old fashioned way , in the wood shed.
Out in rural towns, you can still find a few good stores. I have excellent hardware/building supplies, white goods, computers, and tools. The problem is that the market is too small for specialist stuff like electronics, which have always had to be mail-ordered.
Also worth remembering that wherever you are, you can only get two of cheap, fast, and good. Rural usually means you get cheap and good, so plan ahead. Cities usually get fast and good, so earn lots. Online shopping gets fast and cheap.
Sounds great except for driving in traffic which sucks all the time near where I live. No, not in a position to move now.
p.s. what is “traffic”? ;)
I’m 100% brick and mortar…..my secret…..I don’t NEED much…..the net is only for more info, like the robot in that funny movie….forgot name…..my cognitive dissonance is getting worse, I guess. Completed my retirement “bucket list” by age 60 or so…and most of it way earlier when I could really DO it. Seemed wiser at the time. Maybe I got it backwards, but too late now.
Reviews are meaningless marketing. Once in awhile someone posts photos and describes, in detail, what did not work, ie; faucet inserts come to mind. Those reviews are believable, the rest just noise. I would give Mr. Wolfe 5 stars because I like the articles !
Way forward folks
A 5 star review for the head honcho at WS might bump up the Heck Mug donation price to lofty levels and thus out of reach for cheapskates like me.
Right, shushhh, you do ten gud’uns, an I’ll do same.
Let’s see who gets a mug first.
But, shussh like, keepit under ur ‘at.
Don’t want ‘im ‘earing.
Wolf, as has been demonstrated, with enough well crafted fake reviews you can be #1 in your feild of business, even when your business dosen’t exist:
Google: How to Become TripAdvisor’s #1 Fake Restaurant
Why buy adds for just you out of stock beer mugs? If you really want to get ahead in this day and age of scams and fakery, you should start buying reviews for your products that have never existed at all.
I heard Clarida, Kaplan, and Rosengren are all looking for some positive press.
This is the future. Fake and digusting.
99% of the world won’t do the homework required to find out it’s fake.
Civil War is coming when it infiltrates politics completely.
Maybe this is why Elon is headed to Mars.
Who will be the first rich guy to give his life for making possible luxury space travel?
There’s not gonna be a civil war cause nobody knows who they are supposed to be fighting. The ads will show different enemies to different demographics. It’s a mess. Lol.
Worst kept secret in tech. Ratings on Google are the worst. The majority of restaurant ratings on Goole Maps are more than 4 stars. The same thing with movie and TV show ratings. Not even a week-old movie or TV show would get hundreds, if not thousands, of reviews and ratings.
So how many did you purchase Wolf? They are offering one heck of a deal!!!
Scumbag Richard Clarida decided to take the easy way out & resign early rather than face an investigation over his insider trading.
Chances are he’ll land a cushy multi-million dollar “consulting” gig in the private sector shortly.
There needs to be a blind trust ethics standard for all FOMC members, Congresscritters and federal judges. The US is not Nigeria & this type of corruption is unacceptable.
What phrase will Powell use today if the topic is breached…
1. We’ll make sure this doesnt happen again
2. We must look forward, not back
3. At this point, what does it matter?
Anyone remember the “policy leak” in the Yellen Fed?
They ran an internal investigation, which is code for…”we will delay until everyone forgets”.
Too much power, too much latitude. There must be better and more definitive policy guidelines. Something formulamatic like the Taylor rule.
That way everyone knows, theortetically, at the same time … if X happens then rates go to Y.
I wonder if the FOMC and all of their comm security is handled at a milspec Top Secret (TS) Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) level and if they hold meetings in a SCIF.
If not, then some of the most valuable information in the world is not being properly protected.
Considering that a Secretary of State had a private email server in her house to handle official comms, I have my doubts.
Richard Clarida saw Pelosi making 50 million in stock options trading, using inside information that she had, and decided to bail out early to start cashing in big time.
Anyone with a website that gets any real traffic already has seen all the scams…. You guys are all over complicating the creating fake reviews from legit ip’s thing. Just use public computers at the library, Need 10, go to 3 different libraries, do a few at each skip a week or two between each review added….. Use friends, Find reviewers on fiverr, much cheaper, you can get them in any country. I have seen sooooo many faked reviews on google my business sites it’s hard to actually find one that might be real…. Some of the professional (paid for) reviewers can be spotted, They are suppose to be local, but they go to so many places each day with so many miles in between that it’s impossible…. LOL … If it’s an online store, or product than seeing lots of + reviews does help cause some people just look at the large number of good reviews and decide it’s good. Not a lot of people go deep into research on stuff like that. I know of a guy that sells dehumidifiers on amazon and has at least 2 websites just on reviewing and rating the machines, complete with tons of reviews on amazon and his sites…. Only 1 machine is always rated tops in every comparison, he must live near a fulfillment center and only has to stock 1 item… Pretty cool…… Better than electronics, and with less competition…
I watched a great video about how Amazon is actually finally kicking many Chinese (and other) sellers off their site for buying fake reviews. For a long time they were all talk and no action, so it’s nice to see. Apparently it’s been hitting Chinese sellers hard, to have these rules finally enforced. If Amazon follows through, maybe Amazon will become less like a flea market again. (Don’t get me wrong, I like flea markets but in an actual flea market you can see the item in person!!)
Boy that was quite a video to watch. What a bunch of scam artists in China. I have to hand it to them, they are real creative. I really got a charge out of watching the filling of Cognac bottles and perfume bottles with colored water. LOL!
Well VPN’s are useful and a static IP is worth gold….they allow me access to various banks/credit bureaus/finance companies as I work remotely on 3 continents from some very flakey wi-fi’s.
You can pick your city of origin and your IP address to match Seattle or San Fran…..etc so being in India or Bangladesh is really meaningless.
Amazon reviews need to be scrutinized….especially when 50 glowing reviews all done in the same 5 days on a brand new product??? REALLY???
Sad thing is for everyone…..Nothing is as it seems. Nobody can be trusted… not Amazon and now I doubt the very Governments Inflation estimates…
It is the end of the world as we know it. :-(
Buyer beware – the responsibility is ours
Be careful Wolf. If you criticize them enough, they might start handing you 1-star reviews as freely as the Fed is printing money!
Hahahaha, right. I’m criticizing the companies and entities in the US that buy those reviews to fool their potential customers; I’m not criticizing the people that provide this service.
I stayed in a Marriot Hotel near Boston a few years back. The reviews on Hotels.com were all excellent. When I got there I found out that all the reviews were lies. The hotel was a complete disaster. I will never trust on-line reviews and never stay in a Mariott Hotel again.
Thanks to Capitalism, Wolf can simply buy a bunch of 5 star ones to offset the 1 star reviews.
Just to change the subject for future subjects
I imagine Wolf will soon do another WTF chart about inflation as Brent Crude climbs back to $82.22
WTI over $80 today….so much for the SPR release, although the jawboning did see some gasoline prices drop for a while. US rig count is still not moving.
I’m always envious of the sheer well and unfettered determination spammers and scammers have. If only it was positively directed.
Besides an apparent fake review problem, Yelp must have a mechanism for removal of negative reviews, even accurate ones. I once made the mistake of staying ONE night at a Super 8 near Cheyenne, WY that I failed to notice had a set of railroad tracks a too-short distance away. WY has a LOT of coal mining or, at least, did then. In the middle of the night instead of during the day, I assume to avoid having the miles-long trains block traffic at railroad crossings, ultra-heavy coal trains would loudly rumble by, shaking the ground. I gave them a politely humorous negative review for that and it was removed.
To be fair, almost all the motels in Cheyenne are right next to the railroad tracks. So are half the motels in Laramie and the only one in Pine Bluffs.
Looks like ALL the railroads in Wyoming are next to main highways, which is also where the motels are. Same on the Canadian Prairies.
It’s called Flyover Country for a reason ;)
Here ends the politely humorous negative review of your politely humorous negative review story.
In central US and Canada ( not on ocean or access to it) the railroad was there before the cities. The city ( sometimes at first a town) is there because of the RR.
In Canada as the CPR began to build out across the country an orgy of land speculation began in front of its projected route. One time a CPR head guy (Van Horne?) was negotiating with a farmer who would not budge on his huge price. After 2 hours the RR guy said ‘F*ck it’ and they swung the RR route 2 miles on the flat prairie. Today everyone in Canada knows the city of Brampton
and few have heard of the tiny hamlet 2 miles away.
Typically that is due to the business requesting that a review be removed. I have also had a similar case and I found out that the business made the request and Yelp granted for the review to be removed.
Remember that Yelp makes money of their businesses, so on their platform even though they serve both customers and businesses, ultimately they are pro-business.
Oddly enough though, I feel that the Yelp platform has definitely shifted the power dynamic in the restaurant business. I feel like diners have so much more sway now that they can review online.
My Chinese supplier of LED lights offers a free set if you give a five star review. This works out to about the same value as the offer Wolf was given, however it has several advantages.
Firstly, the customer gets the value, not some dishonest Pakistanis.
Secondly, you wouldn’t bother applying for the extra set unless you liked the products.
Lastly, the review gets written by a genuinely satisfied customer.
It might well persuade people who might otherwise have given 4 stars to give 5, but it doesn’t turn a 1 into a 5. And everyone buying the products who reads the comments knows about the offer, so it’s upfront. And that’s a lot more honest than the vast majority of advertising.
And, as it happens, they are quality lights ;)
Because of my technical reviews of RC aircraft in a RC hobby forum, I got email from various Chinese companies asking if I wanted free stuff for review. I politely said I wasn’t interested.
Now, I consider promoting anything made in China as aiding the enemy, FAR more so than promoting Soviet stuff would have been if they’d ever made anything worth having because they were always DOOMED to eventually fail due to their economic system. China is creeping tyranny injected with capitalist steroids.
An excellent point, and I agree, especially about the general quality, but there are no US, or any other western, manufacturers of the type of lights I needed. I buy ‘local’ when at all possible. I’ve even got a bunch of tools that were made here 50 years ago, bought used and refurbished, rather than buy new from China. That isn’t possible with some LED lights, however.
China just followed the age old wisdom, “A capitalist will sell you the rope to hang him with”……unfortunately our country got hung, and the capitalists had laws written that spared them.
On the Internet, I get what I pay for (or less). Often, “users” pay more in privacy than what they get. “Premium” though can be another head-fake.
Online advertising is a hive of villainy.
There are a couple major methods used:
1) The fake person. Thanks to Google’s innovation of browser cookies fingerprints substituting for ID of real people, it is an extremely lucrative and widespread practice to create bots, which visit various websites accumulating cookies, to create fake people.
Once created, these bots can be used for anything.
2) The MLM. Due to the real value represented by fake reviews, there are also the standard “multi-level marketing” systems where people are paid for their reviews. This ranges from packages sent to random people (confirmed), with reviews submitted by someone else online to outright fake review implants. IP addresses are largely meaningless because it is the “reviewer ID” that matters – but yes, it is trivial to use VPNs to obscure IP addresses.
Watching today’s confirmation hearing for Powell is so disheartening – just a bunch of grandstanding on the part of senators and little to no substance from Powell. We’re in a bad place as a country when we can’t even forthrightly discuss the problems. Meanwhile the “free markets” whipsaw up or down depending on what comments are made by the officials. I just had to vent…
And what is up with these geriatric fucks. Term limits, now!
LOL. Where are the millennials when you need them?
Hell, I’d settle for a Gen X or your average Joe (any age) over these career politicians who grow old in their seats.
Send them a text.
Jackery, a very popular Silicon Valley company that sells portable lithium chargers, offered me a free one if I would post a 5 star review. This was after I bought one of their batteries. They are very highly rated on Amazon. I found it disgusting and told them so, not that it made any difference to them. This is supposedly illegal on Amazon.
The best way to avoid all this BS is to buy nothing, cook your own food, and use only local recommends for services.
My Jackery battery (which was highly rated on more than one popular website that recommends products) didn’t last all that long. I was very disappointed in it.
Just looked up Jackery on Amazon. The cheapest product I found was the “Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 240, 240Wh Backup Lithium Battery”($199). 12,751 reviews which 86% are “5 Star”. If, as you experienced, Jackery is buying 5-star reviews, Amazon will know this as it is very blatant. Amazon has a review anti-manipulation policy. I wonder what actions have been taken against Jackery because this is an “Amazon Choice” product, meaning Amazon endorses this product as a good value. I can think of two possibilities, Amazon forces Jackery to stop review manipulation or Amazon turns a blind-eye and is complicit in allowing review fraud.
I’m using a VPN right now. Where am I located ? Maybe I should change my screen name as well….ahahahhaaaa
Marketing is BS 101.
Marketing is the black magic sell-out of corporama.
Most of these talking heads are dumber than real estate agents.
And the real estate agents I know cannot spell the words of the business they are in (e.g., “accomodation” “stories”)
I find it hilarious the e-mail says rip off and scam on it.
Fake review writers earn cents of a dollar so of course is cheap. The Guardian and other sites had articles about that last year.
One way to figure out if the review is fake is to check other reviews from the same reviewer. That is what I used to do on the biggest, and pretty much the only, price comparison site in my country. Then they disabled the option see other reviews from the same people for store reviews. You can still see other reviews for product reviews, but not for store reviews. The only reason to do it if they want people to be unable to figure out which reviews are fake. So not only do they not fight against fake reviews, they actually encourage and protect them. This makes sense considering they are paid by stores to be listed, and stores will not pay them if they get bad reviews.
Another thing I used to to do is to look at negative reviews. That too however seems to be abused. I often saw reviews for some product, claiming it was fake, yet when I bought it, it was perfectly fine and genuine. So they even write bad reviews about competitors.
Simply put, only read reviews that are four stars and under. Is what I do, for me five stars equals fake
I stayed in a Marriot Hotel near Boston a few years back. The reviews on Hotels.com were all excellent. When I got there I found out that all the reviews were lies. The hotel was a complete disaster. I will never trust on-line reviews and never stay in a Mariott Hotel again.
Got news for ya. Most people are way ahead of this stupid game and dismiss “ratings” as junk or manufactured in wholesale lots.
Could I have that company’s contact?
I want them to put five star reviews on something but put on the review: “This is a fake review”
I was wondering if that would have any impact on how people viewed my product, considering the level of honesty off the bat.