Why you can’t trust Yelp to find an international mover

Adam Vagley @goodmigrations

If you’re like me, then when you need some sort of service you haven’t used before you go online and look for reviews.
Many people turn to Yelp for help, which is perhaps the biggest review site in the world: it’s in 31 countries; it’s got nearly 150 million monthly unique users; and it’s got nearly 130 million reviews.

But a 2015 Harvard Business School study found that 16% of reviews on Yelp are fake. That’s about 1 in 6 reviews. However, this 16% just covers the reviews that are caught by Yelp’s algorithms and filtered out, so you don’t see them.

Read more…

Fake Reviews 2.0 Yelp’s Algorithm is Broken

Adam Vagley @goodmigrations

Part of me finds all the fake reviews out there amusing. I even started a series called “Funny Review of the Week” (Alas, I haven’t been disciplined enough to keep up). But mostly I just get frustrated. People use reviews to determine which goods and services to buy and fake reviews can lead them astray. This can, in the case of international moving, leave them hundreds if not thousands of dollars in the hole.

A couple years ago I wrote an in-depth article on spotting fake moving reviews. In the article I called out an international mover called I Luv Moving (alternatively spelled as I Love Moving or I Love International Moving) that was posting fake, 5-star reviews of itself on Yelp. I even told Yelp about it. They didn’t do anything. I thought I’d check in on this company and, no surprise, things haven’t gotten better.

When I wrote about I Luv Moving two years ago Yelp user Todd P. had “only” reviewed these guys 4 times during a 3 week span. He’s now had the opportunity to move 9 times within the past few years.

White Glove International Movers fake reviewThe other moving company Todd has reviewed on Yelp, White Glove International Movers, is also scamming Yelp reviews. Their business location is a residential tower in Westwood, Los Angeles. (You can’t fit a lot of moving trucks in a 2 bedroom apartment.) Judging by their websites both I Luv Moving and White Glove are run by the same person.

In addition to Todd P’s review of White Glove, there’s one other review from Christopher R. He just so happens to have given generous reviews to I Luv Moving — five reviews, to be exact, between April 2012 and August 2012. That is a lot of summer moving!

These users have reviewed lots of other businesses, have lots of Yelp friends, and leave each other Yelp compliments. My guess is this activity makes the Yelp algorithm think they are real people interacting with the site in a natural way and so their reviews are legitimate.

This seems obvious enough that I’m surprised Yelp’s filters don’t catch it. It should be easy to flag someone using moving services more than once a year. Yelp’s structure is flawed, in my opinion, since reviews are only tied to a business location and not an overall business brand. But with 61 million reviews they don’t have the capacity to catch it all (which seems to be a problem for all of these big review sites: see our post on TripAdvisor’s problems). It’s why Yelp and other generalist review sites aren’t reliable for many types of businesses, including moving.

This isn’t news to most of the reputable movers out there — fraudulent activity has been widely reported in publications as prominent as the New York Times. A Harvard study estimates that 1 out of 6 restaurant reviews on Yelp are fake.

The issues with I Luv Moving extend past Yelp, however. They also sport membership badges of AMSA and IAM on their website even though they’re not a member of either organization. This is the sort of fraudulent information that leads consumers to trust a company they shouldn’t, and hurts the industry when a customer gets burned by one of these disreputable companies. This isn’t fair to consumers or to the movers who invest in meeting the standards of these moving organizations (and pay the membership fees!).

I luv moving fake website badges

We can’t police what every company puts on their website, but we can police what goes on ours. It’s why we remain committed to keeping spam reviews off of GoodMigrations. Every single review that’s submitted is audited before it’s published on our site. We want to be the place where consumers can trust what they see and movers can trust that we’re providing a fair playing field that won’t be conned by shady actors.

International mover partnership program

Keeping mover reviews honest

Sharon  @GoodMigrations

Just last week Outside magazine fielded this question: Can I trust the reviews on TripAdvisor?

Their answer: Not always.

TripAdvisor was one of the earlier review sites out there. It’s been around for 14 years and has 170 million reviews of 4 million travel properties and businesses. So they must be a venerable institution, right?

As Outside magazine said, this isn’t exactly the case. In fact, TripAdvisor has gotten in trouble for claiming its reviews come from “real people”. Real people, yes; real customers…not so much.

In fact, someone I know at a big city hotel in the U.S. admitted that when the hotel first opened, the marketing guy had some shady marketing firm add hundreds of reviews for the hotel on TripAdvisor. Within six months they were ranked one of the best hotels in the city on the site thanks to this deception.

Obviously, TripAdvisor isn’t trying to trick anyone. I’m sure they put effort into keeping their reviews honest. But when you have 170 million reviews (that’s over 12 million a year!), it’s hard to stop all the scam artists. And the upside of faking it makes faking it worthwhile. A study of Yelp done by Berkeley economists showed that a half-star improvement on Yelp’s 5-star rating system “makes it 30-49% more likely that a restaurant will sell out its evening seats.” I’m sure there is a similar boost for hotels or any other business that relies on reviews.

A review site overrun with fake reviews is like a restaurant that makes bad food: it serves no purpose. So how can one help to keep reviews honest?

 

While fake reviews are a concern at GoodMigrations as well, we don’t have to worry about getting inundated with millions of reviews since we only focus on international movers. Because we’re focused we can take the time to audit every review that comes in to make sure it’s legitimate. If it doesn’t pass the audit, it doesn’t get published on the site. (We review the reviews, so to speak). Our commitment to keeping reviews honest is not just to the people out there using GoodMigrations to find movers, but also to the movers working hard to provide the best service to their customers. You can read more about our review process here.
Keeping reviews honest with goodmigrations

 

Funny International Mover Review of the Week

Adam Vagley @goodmigrations

 
We take our review process very seriously over here at GoodMigrations. However, once in a while we get a review that is just too funny not to share. Here is yet another one for our series on funny mover reviews. What I love about this review:

1) The terrible use of English

2) He says their business location on Devon Avenue is the best place to do business with them. Great tip, otherwise people might go to other places to try to do business with them

3) He signs off “Mr. Abu24”

4) He’s going to recommend them to friends and family…but only gave them 3 out of 5 stars

funny international mover reviewWant to stay connected and hear more of our Funny Mover Reviews? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

Anatomy of a Fake Review: 8 Ways to Identify One

Adam Vagley @goodmigrations

Anatomy of a review
As you may have guessed from previous posts, we care a lot about making sure the reviews here on 
GoodMigrations are legit. There are all kinds of ways to filter out fake reviews, but the best police, in my opinion, are still humans. You develop an eye for fakes. I’ll use this post to illustrate how.

So let’s dissect what I think is an international moving company that posts fake reviews on its company page on Yelp. I’m going to pick on Yelp here for a couple reasons. First, they’re popular so most people know who they are and second, they have pretty sophisticated filtering software for removing suspicious reviews. Most of the reviews for this company have been filtered, so hopefully it’s only a matter of time before the rest get flagged. Note that none of the factors below are incriminating on their own. It’s only when taken as a whole that they raise suspicions.
 
1) Irrational exuberance for the company
I’ll be the first to admit there are some fantastic companies out there that knock customers’ socks off; companies that customers love. Think of Apple fanboys, Harley Davidson enthusiasts, or disciples of Louis Vuitton.  Even in the world of moving, some companies consistently provide good service. But every single review is five out of five stars. No one had anything they wanted to improve? And the written reviews are so adulatory you’d think these guys invented electricity. anatomy of a fake review 
2) Backdating
Steve Jobs isn’t the only person who’s gotten in trouble for this. One review in particular is suspicious because the reviewer backdates his comments, so to speak. He claims he just found out the company had a page on Yelp and was compelled to write a review. No one goes searching for a moving company’s page way after the fact to write a review. I’ve actively sought out expats to come to GoodMigrations to submit reviews, so some of those are bound to be older. But when someone says that they came on their own initiative just to give wonderful feedback? Fishy.Anatomy of a review 
3) Cross contamination
People who get paid to submit fake reviews for one business are generally doing it for others as well. See exhibit A: Midori Sushi has spam reviews from the same people: Bora K, Brian H, Lorna B.
 
4) Use of English
Not everyone is a native English speaker. People who aren’t native English speakers are certainly allowed to submit reviews of companies. But when someone butchers the King’s yet goes on and on with colorful descriptions and big words, you know they’re working from a thesaurus. This business is avoiding the worst of this, but some of the reviews are borderline.
 
5) Choice of profile photo
This one is pure laziness. Steve B has a woman’s face as his profile picture. Good ol’ Lorna B has a picture of the trunk of a car. Seriously, that’s what you want as your profile pic? A car trunk? Is that to show where you toss your kidnapping victims?
Anatomy of a fake review
 
6) Reviews of only one type of company
When someone’s reviewed five different moving companies and nothing else, well, something is rotten in the state of Denmark, to borrow a phrase from the Bard. This rule could be loosened to include lots of reviews of a certain type of company. For instance, lots of reviews of different restaurants from one person isn’t unusual; lots of reviews of moving companies is. How often can someone really need to move? Todd P reviewed I Love Int’l Moving on June 7, May 24, and May 23, and another moving company on May 20. Four moves in a 3 week span. Todd must be pretty worn out.  
   
7) Reviews of random types of companies
Related to #6. Foodies consistently rate restaurants. Dozens of them. Someone really into nightlife tends to rate lots of bars. So when a person’s reviews are all across the board — a moving company, a crafts store, a tavern, and a violin store — it smacks of fraud. Start comparing who else reviewed these places and you’ll probably find a little bit of #3, cross contamination.

8) Reviews of the same business for multiple locations
Why would anyone review two business locations for a moving company? Out of kindness? I don’t think so. Christopher R, who says I Love Int’l Moving moved him from San Franciso to Spain, reviewed them twice over the course of 6 weeks, once for the San Fran location and once for the Los Angeles location. All his other Yelp reviews are of businesses in Los Angeles. If he lived in San Fran, where are all those reviews? Also, look at the guy’s compliments — all garbage.

If I had to bet money, I’d wager that every single review posted for this company is a fake. The real shame is that maybe this company does offer decent service, but because they post fraudulent reviews, I assume the whole operation is shady. Frankly, I’d like to see Yelp take a stronger stance against repeat offenders. But now that you’re armed with this knowledge, you can evaluate businesses with a more discerning eye.

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