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Can You Trust Online Review Sites like ResellerRatings?

In the vast world of online shopping, how can consumers know who to trust with their money? Many turn to third party review sites to guide purchasing decisions, but some sites contain misleading information that may damage or inflate the merchant’s reputation. We’re here to help you sort out the difference by comparing four popular review sites: ResellerRatings, Trustpilot, Google Trusted Stores, and BizRate.

ResellerRatings - Misleading

ResellerRatings is an Answers.com service that allows users to write reviews for online retailers. Any merchant can be added by any customer to ResellerRatings, no verification process occurs. This site offers an optional paid service for merchants that benefits them by soliciting reviews from their customers. The cost of this service is not transparent, and merchants complain of frequent and steep price hikes on a regular basis. If the merchant cannot afford to keep paying and cancels the service, ResellerRatings removes their solicited reviews, leaving the merchant worse off than when they started.

Pros

Cons

Any merchant can join
Lack of transparency with paid merchant service prices
Offers an Elite status badge to paid merchants that meet certain standards
Deletes reviews if merchant stops paying
Detects when merchants try to review themselves to boost ratings and warns consumers about it
Only paying merchants can reach Elite status
 
Elite status is revoked if merchant stops paying
 
Service starts at one price and is raised without warning or reason
 
Overall rating out of 5 stars does not match up with the number of 5-star ratings
 
Paying merchants can respond to negative reviews and non-paying members can’t
ResellerRatings WebstaurantStore

Trustpilot - Misleading

Trustpilot is a merchant review site that offers a paid service that any retailer can use without going through a review process. Paying merchants receive benefits including solicited reviews, the option to integrate reviews with merchant social media accounts, and the ability to respond to customer reviews. When merchants or users flag a review for evaluation, the review disappears from the site for an unspecified amount of time, and may be permanently deleted from the site. While waiting for Trustpilot to approve or delete the review in question, the star rating from that review still gets factored into the merchant’s overall score. This could lead to wildly fluctuating overall star ratings, which can be damaging to the merchant and misleading to the consumer. They also have a reputation as a site that is littered with fake reviews, as explained in this story by the BBC.

Pros

Cons

Any merchant can join
Spam reviews still negatively affect the overall star rating until they are permanently deleted
Trustpilot solicits reviews for paying merchants
Fraudulent reviews are often left on the site
Merchant can integrate reviews with their social media accounts
Non-paying merchants don’t earn the same benefits as paying merchants, and it is impossible for shoppers to discern between the two
Merchant can respond to customer reviews
 

Google Trusted Stores - Trustworthy

The Trusted Store program is Google’s way of letting consumers know that a merchant’s site is safe to shop on. They are very selective about what merchants they will list, and they only consider merchants that have applied to the program. To become a Trusted Store, the merchant has to comply with stringent quality standards, and must maintain that high level of service to stay in the program. There is no paid option, so merchants cannot manipulate their reviews in any way.

Pros

Cons

No paid option, so all merchants in the program are treated equally
Merchants must have at least 600 orders every 90 rolling days, so smaller merchants may not meet the admission standards
Merchant must have at least a 4-star average rating to remain in the program
Fraudulent reviews may slip through the detection technology
Merchant must deliver at least 80% of packages on time
 
Site offers to refund up to $1,000 to customers who could not work out problems with the merchant *although the merchant is removed from the program if they reach the $5,000 cap set by Google in 365 rolling days
 
Google revokes Trusted Store status if the merchant does not meet rigid quality standards, but they do not delete any reviews, positive or negative, from Google Shopping
 
Monitors for fraudulent reviews
 

BizRate - Trustworthy

BizRate is designed primarily for price comparison, but also has a section for merchant reviews. BizRate’s reviews are written by customers voluntarily, but they also give merchants the opportunity to participate in their free Customer Certified program. Merchants must sign up for the program, which allows BizRate to survey customers at checkout and again after their purchase is delivered to ensure satisfaction. When merchants meet BizRate’s standards of customer fulfillment, they are designated as Customer Certified stores.

Pros

Cons

Price comparison tool
Fraudulent reviews may slip through the detection technology
Customer Certified program is unpaid
Merchants must pay to be listed in the comparative shopping tool
Customer Certified merchants must adhere to certain quality standards
 
Solicited reviews are not deleted if the merchant is dropped from Customer Certified program
 
Overall rating will not appear if the merchant has less than 20 reviews within the last 90 days
 

Conclusion

When using reviews to guide purchasing decisions, it is important to consider the source of the reviews and the merchant’s influence on those reviews. It is a good practice to always be skeptical of review sites that allow merchants to pay for special services, and merchants should watch out for sites that lock them into paying by threatening to delete solicited reviews. By viewing multiple reviews from different sources and using your best judgement, some of these sites can be valuable.

  WebstaurantStore Google Trusted Store ResellerRatings WebstaurantStore BizRate WebstaurantStore TrustPilot WebstaurantStore
Paid Services
Merchant Review Site
Price Comparison Site
Solicited Reviews
Monitors for Fraudulent Reviews
Merchants Can Flag Reviews for Removal
Merchant Can Respond to Reviews
Minimum Rating Level
Verified Timely Shipping
By WebstaurantStore
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