It is well known that we, the consumers, trust recommendations coming from peers or fellow consumers much more than we trust what businesses are telling us about themselves. Therefore the websites that are selling social proof of other businesses reputations are very powerful and they can easily manipulate our thoughts on any brand.
Yelp even won a court settlement recently, giving them permission to legally manipulate ratings. Both Yelp and Trustpilot claim that they don’t manipulate the truth, but when you take a closer look at the services they are selling, you get a completely different picture.
There are quite a few sites online that allow you to write reviews on any company, but the majority of worthwhile ones are paid services geared towards businesses collecting product reviews on their e-commerce websites, so members of the public cannot just go and write a review about any company, the rest are business directory websites like yelp.com. So when I discovered trustpilot.com a few years ago it seemed like there was finally a useful and transparent review site.
Trustpilot may have started well back in 2012 when it was run by just a couple of guys, maybe they even had honorable intentions to keep the site honest, but sadly the service has definitely gone downhill since they have grown in size and their standards have declined and any good intentions left by the wayside in favor of profit.
Nowadays it is hard to see Trustpilot as anything more than a scam.
The compliance team are unbearable vexatious and push the boundaries of incompetence to the limit. Dealing with them severely tests your fortitude.
From my own dealings with Trustpilot over the years, I can confirm that I have experienced what I would consider biased and unethical practices from their compliance team which has defied logic or common sense.
When they have blocked negative reviews at the request of the recipient, they have then refused to reinstate them unless I have removed literally every negative word from the review, thus making the review meaningless. When the company you review then submits another complain, Trustpilot will then block the review based on the fact it contains no details, even though they are one’s who told you to remove those details.
They will also often request lots of evidence to prove your review, such as orderID’s, account details, receipts etc and if you do manage to provide all the evidence, they will then request more outlandish and unattainable evidence such as court documents, police reports, recordings of phone conversations etc.
They know full well that such evidence does not exist and show complete unwillingness to make any effort to check facts, even if it is something as simple as clicking a link and looking at a web page to verify a companies trading names.
In one instance I actually did provide them with a copy of a legal document as I had taken the company to court and won, in another instance I provided a copy of a recorded phone call. In both cases they just ignored the evidence and left the review in pending state so that nobody could see it.
Most consumers will simply get so frustrated with these vexatious and convoluted time wasting tactics, they will give up, which is clearly the intent and this puts Trustpilot in the position that they can blame the consumer for not following through.
If a company is using Trustpilots free service then the situation is reversed. They will happily allow defamatory or fake reviews to be posted unabated, and will gladly ignore any requests to get them removed, in fact, if you read the feedback on the sites above, business owners are claiming they are being blocked by TrustPilot from reporting defamatory or fake reviews.
The only way around this is by using their paid service, after which you receive the opposite treatment and they happily remove negative reviews using the unehtical tactics mentioned above.
So what does this mean to the consumer?
Unfortunately, since Trustpilot allow reviews to be manipulated, this means that the scores and ratings you see for any company may not be reliable, so in other words, you should not rely solely on this as your only source of information.
They do have processes in place to stop the same person leaving multiple reviews under different names, and knowing how to get around this will be beyond the ability of the average person who is not very computer literate.
One solution to verify a company that seems too good to be true is to check other sources such as google reviews (very hard to get removed), yell.com, yelp.com, freeindex.com etc which they may not be monitoring. Also social media reviews, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. Companies who are in the habit of removing negative reviews will usually not allow posts on their Facebook page without moderation, or will quickly remove anything negative, so this is easy enough to test. No company can remove other people’s tweets though, so check their timeline and do a search for specific phrases.