A friend is constantly annoyed by seeing help wanted postings on Craigslist where business people are looking for common folks to write and post favorable reviews about their products and services in return for compensation.
Since so many shoppers read and rely on product reviews written by actual purchasers when deciding whether to buy a particular product, no wonder sellers are eager to display positive reviews. The problem, of course, is that the reader cannot tell whether the review is genuine, fake, or possibly tainted because the reviewer has been paid for his or her comments.
Enter the Federal Trade Commission.
Under their revised testimonial guidelines, even bloggers are required to disclose in their reviews if they have been compensated for their review or received the product free that they are reviewing:
“When there exists a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product that might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement (i.e., the connection is not reasonably expected by the audience), such connection must be fully disclosed.” — 16 CFR 255.5
Now how often have you seen a blogger make such a disclosure?
Last week, I received an email from the company that sells the bidet that I recently purchased from Amazon. (This bidet is an attachment you install on an existing toilet to rinse your heinie with a narrow jet of water.) They asked if I would write an “honest review” of the product and post it on Amazon. (Seriously, I was NOT asked to write a positive review, but rather an honest one.) In return, they would send me a second bidet free.
Since I was intending to write a review anyway (I love the product), this was the prompt I needed to actually do it. And of course, who wouldn’t want another bidet for nothing?
I wrote the review “So Long Toilet Paper”, and included the following disclosure that I dare to say no other poster has ever included in their review:
“NOTE: As required by Federal Trade Commission guidelines, I am disclosing that I was promised compensation for posting an honest review. And the review is just that — my honest opinion — something I would have written exactly as you see it irrespective of any future compensation that I might receive.”
Upon hitting the submit button, Amazon flashed up a notice that it may be up to 48 hours before the review is posted because they have to examine it first. Well, I said to myself, they will never approve this. Funny thing, later that night, they did.
I then notified the bidet company of its posting. Well, I said to myself, they will never send me the free bidet. Funny thing, almost immediately, they thanked me for my “wonderful review.”
I guess no one reads anything thoroughly anymore. In any event, at least shoppers who read the review will be put on notice, as required, that I was promised compensation in return for the review.