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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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Texas TV news station investigation: "Are Local Dealership's Rave Reviews Fake?"

A news story that was 100% bound to break, and now has...


A dealership in San Antonio, TX in hot water because (it appears quite strongly) of the review-posting practices of the Reputation Management company Review Boost they hired. Read on (and watch the TV news clip) to see how the investigation uncovers these suspicious 'reviewers' bouncing around the ENTIRE nation writing 5-star reviews about all kinds of businesses and dealerships ON THE SAME DAY!

It's not the dealership's fault - they were probably told the company would be gathering and POSTING reviews of their real customers...This is really a SERIOUS, emerging issue, as more companies/dealerships, understandably, need help with the heavy-lifting of Online Reputation Management/Social Media.

Authenticity is KEY and it's going to get more CRUCIAL - and when it comes to Reputation Management/Social Media solutions there are NO 'magic wands' - there are good tools and good 'wands.' 

These kind of consumer backlashes against dealerships' inauthentic reviews have been brewing online for quite some time - and now the news media is running with it....

The Story: Longtime BMW Owner Calls For Defenders Investigation Of 5-Star Reviews


April Molina, KSAT 12 News Reporter - POSTED: Thursday, October 14, 2010


SAN ANTONIO -- A consumer is questioning the online ratings of a local auto dealership.


Watch April Molina's Report:


"They're just five-star ratings, five-star ratings -- five-star after five-star," said BMW owner, Greg Kinney of some dealership reviews he found posted online.


Kinney said he was a little surprised, as his own experience with BMW of San Antonio fell short of the exceptional reviews he found online Though he is quick to note, no dealership is perfect, Kinney said he questions the number of great reviews and the suspicious pattern.


"It's really very thinly veiled," said Kinney.


Skimming through some online posts, Kinney clicked on the profile of a person who'd given BMW of San Antonio a glowing review on City Search, and soon found all the other reviews posted by the same person on the same day referring to different businesses in different cities.


"(There are) 20 reviews by him. Here's one for backpackers Vacation Inn and Plantation Village. Nob Hill Hotel was posted on the sixth, so I guess he was there too. The Bridal Superstar by Posie Patch got five stars on the same date," said Kinney.


Wondering whether the profile was actually a paid service, Kinney contacted the KSAT Defenders.


Reporters contacted BMW General Manger John Bruns, who confirmed they did hire a service through Review Boost. Bruns said he was under the impression Review Boost would be in contact with their customers, generating actual reviews, but they too questioned the authenticity once they viewed them online.


"Obviously, there's a business out there that's decided to make money by writing five-star reviews," said Kinney.


BMW has since canceled the service and is working to remove questionable reviews taken from the various websites. The dealership also said they do conduct interviews with actual customers and that those reviews are the real deal. They attributed suspicious reviews to other companies.


Copyright 2010 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

Richard Valenta
Three dealers show up on Google Maps. First one has 18 reviews with 3 1/2 stars. Second one has 127 reviews with 5 stars. Third one has 9 reviews with 1 1/2 stars. Which one do you think the public will trust the most?
Stacy Mueller
It'll be a battle that will continue to percolate until there's a more stringent screening process in place for reviews. Thanks for sharing the story!
Beth McGroarty
I agree with you, Missy! (Although it seems impossible that the millions (upon millions) of online reviews could ever be formally validated by review sites.) But I think this news story reveals how it works. Ultimately, consumers are the ones that figure it out. Online shoppers are not fools. Review sites/social media emerged as a consumer-controlled alternative to centuries of top-down, company-driven marketing (…a place (finally) where real people can air their real opinions about products. So review-site users simply/fiercely don’t like when businesses game the ratings. Once a consumer (like this perfectly calm, reasonable car buyer in San Antonio did) uncovers that the reviews have been gamed, they take huge pleasure in figuring out how it was done and then broadcasting to the whole world the business' shady processes. And once a business gets 'outed' online - more consumers jump on the bandwagon and comment, and things go viral. (At eXteresAUTO we have seen this happening all over the reviews sites with dealerships in the last few months.) No dealership - no business - can afford to put themselves in that position. No business should not outsource their precious “reputation” to another company, wholesale, no questions asked. They need to completely understand what all of their vendors actually "do," and have their review-gathering processes explained clearly. In an nutshell: never game the review system, because the risks are potentially catastrophic. When you're being authentic there's nothing but upside and the dividends of real, authentic, positive reviews are tremendous. Thanks for your comment!
Gary Sanders
If you are that worried about reviews, you have a sales process that is broken. You can not control a bad review online, but you can control what happens in your store. Take care of the customers and the reviews will fall into place.
Brian Pasch
Review Boost is all over the country convincing car dealers to sign-up for their false review posts. I can "out" many dealers that are scamming the system using Review Boost. It's a shame because they will all be banned from Google Maps because Review Boost unethical practices.

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