What happens if you can’t trust online ratings and reviews?

tl;dr: Amazon can manipulate customer reviews and that’s the tip of the iceberg. Exploring the consequence of an economy based on trusting other people solely and entirely.

Amazon has done many things to revolutionize the customer experience landscape.

I call it the “Amazon-ification of Customer Expectations.”

2-day shipping with Prime is a great example.

Today, no matter from whom you order, your expectation is 2-day delivery…or even less. Longer than that and you start to wonder “what’s wrong with this company?”

Another area that Amazon popularized is the online rating and review system.

They were not the first, to be sure, but they certainly helped scale it.

For years, each of us would look at a product and then scroll down to the Review section to find out what “people like us” said about it.

We’d diligently read the reviews, subconsciously looking out for emails that would feed our confirmation bias.

Then, because we consider ourselves rational, thinking beings, we avoided the perception of irresponsibility by reading a few of the one-star reviews.

If we were struggling to decide, the one-star reviews might prevent the purchase. But, if we were really already pre-sold, we would think “well, nothing is perfect,” or “there are always a few complainers and trolls.”

But the question that many of us, or at least I, didn’t ask was:

is every single review here from a real person and true?

Sure, we knew that for a few things, say book launches, that authors would get friends and family to write 5-star reviews for them. We could weed out the obvious fluff.

But systematic manipulation of the reviews?

Never occurred to me.

Until I developed a crypto-first mentality.

Then, I started to question it across the board.

A few weeks ago, I saw a Wired article entitled What Do Amazon’s Star Ratings Really Mean?

It’s one of those articles where, after you read it, you slap yourself on your forehead and say, “well, that was obvious.”

It’s obvious after the fact.

And it’s obvious to us.

But it’s not obvious to most people who just aren’t paying attention to it.

On the surface, it seems innocuous, manipulate reviews at scale in order to get people to buy more stuff and make more money.

But once someone figures out how to manipulate you for their own benefit, is it more or less likely that the behavior will continue?

You don’t need to be a student of global political science to understand the worldwide confidence of trust that is happening now.

Words from politicians and corporate spokespeople are, most likely, not going to change that.

What is going to change that is something beyond human frailties in which humans, regardless of a viewpoint or opinion, can trust.

God is certainly one option, but difficult to prove to non-believers.

It would be great if there were some way to prove, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that a review of a product was written by a given person at a given time.

You know where this is going.

There is.

“Crypto-first” means making that world a reality and the better and preferred options for those who want to live a life of authenticity.


What happens if you can’t trust online ratings and reviews? was originally published in Data Driven Investor on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.