When searching for a reliable auto transport company, you’ll probably go to a few review sites to look at previous customer experiences. In general, this is a good idea because customer testimonials can tell you a lot about how a company will treat your car. However, be aware that some auto transport companies will do whatever it takes to get a good rating on these sites — including paying people, even their own employees, to submit fake positive reviews.
So the obvious challenge is how to sort between real reviews and fake ones. As it turns out, it’s harder than you might think! In this post, we dig deep into the ins and outs of fake online reviews and share foolproof strategies for identifying fake reviews so you can benefit from the real ones.
Why online reviews don’t paint a perfect picture
A lot of people post reviews online, but most only do so if they really love or really hate a service or a product. When you’re looking for an auto transport company, chances are good that you’ll see more 1-star and 5-star reviews than 3-star reviews because simple satisfaction or a good experience typically won’t inspire anyone to fire up Yelp or Angie’s List.
On top of that, most online reviews aren’t very detailed. You’ll see a lot of extremely short 4- and 5-star reviews like “arrived on time” and “good service” that won’t tell you a lot about what the customer actually experienced, along with 1-star reviews that are equally terse and mysterious. And to make matters more confusing, many review sites (including Yelp) use algorithms to sort and even hide legitimate reviews so you may never see the majority of reviews people have left for a company.
Why companies post fake reviews
The short answer is that some auto transport companies see fake reviews as a harmless way to attract new business. And more companies are doing it than you might think. According to a popular study, conducted a few years back and published by Business Insider, about 20% — that’s 1 out of 5 — reviews on Yelp were written by fake customers.
The reason that companies are paying for these fake reviews is that a four- or five-star rating will make a company look more appealing. The problem is that it’s not actually harmless. The FTC deemed the practice of soliciting fake reviews (for pay or otherwise) illegal in 2009. Running afoul of the law has consequences! Not too long ago, 19 businesses were fined a total of $350,000 for posting fake reviews on sites like Yelp and Google Places.
Spotting fake reviews is harder than you think
You might assume that you won’t fall for fake reviews because they’re easy to spot, but you’d be wrong. A team from Cornell University was building a computer capable of spotting fake reviews and wanted to test how good people would be at the same task. To do this, they had student volunteers sort through reviews that were confirmed real or fake, and the results were telling. The volunteers were right about which reviews were fake less than 50% of the time, which suggests that most of us are fooled by fake reviews more often than we think.
So now that we’ve shown you that fake reviews are common and can be difficult to identify, we want to share our comprehensive guide to spotting fake auto transport reviews on any website so you can sort through them like a pro. These are the questions you need to ask yourself whenever you read online reviews of auto transport companies:
Does the review website require validation?
If you’re unfamiliar with the platform, a good way to gauge how easy it would be to submit a fake review is to try it yourself. If all you need to do is submit a star rating or a couple of sentences without even creating a login, then the website is more susceptible to false reviews. If a website requires verification that you are a customer, such as an order ID number, you can be relatively certain that the reviews there will be legitimate. Check out Montway Auto Transport reviews on TransportReviews.com as an example; this website requires that you submit details specific to your order, such as the ID number and the price.
Did the company receive a large number of reviews all at once?
If most of the positive reviews for a company all came in around the same time, you should be skeptical. Usually, reviews will be posted at a steady pace, and they will not all be concentrated on one day or one week. If an auto transport company’s review history shows a varied number of reviews over a lengthy period of time, they’re more likely to be genuine.
Do the reviews include the words ‘I’ and ‘me’?
According to research from Cornell University, online reviews that include frequent use of I and me — and a lot of verbs — are more likely to be fake. That might be because writers of fake reviews try to make their reviews seem more credible by including more personal pronouns.
Are most of the reviews anonymous?
If a review website allows you to set up a profile, but most of the reviews are submitted anonymously, be wary of what you read there. There will always be some anonymous reviews on sites that allow them, but most of the reviews will have a name attached.
Is the reviewer’s profile suspicious?
Just because a profile has a name attached doesn’t mean it’s real. A lot of fake reviews are generated by companies that hire people to set up and then post reviews under hundreds of fictitious accounts. You can be reasonably sure that a profile is fake if it has an anonymous sounding name like John Smith, an obviously fake name, or a “name” that’s just a string of random numbers and letters that were obviously generated by a computer. Another telling sign is that the profile has no photo and/or has only one review.
Is the review full of glowing praise and exclamation points?
Beware of reviews with an exaggerated or overly positive tone, and those which overuse words like “great” and “awesome.” Genuine reviewers are more likely to be objective and reserved with their positive remarks. If every review for an auto transport company is nothing but praise, you may be dealing with fake reviews. Look for reviews which list pros and cons, use varied words other than “amazing” or “fantastic,” and seem to be evaluating the company from a neutral standpoint. Look out for industry or marketing jargon in reviews, as most customers won’t use it.
Is there a lot of repetition across reviews?
If you’re seeing a lot of repeated words and phrases or similar sounding praise in different reviews for a single company, that may be because that company hired someone to write fake reviews.
Do any of the reviews contain grammar and spelling mistakes?
Oftentimes, a company looking to pad their positive reviews will hire cheap freelancers online to write their fake reviews, and those people may not be writing in their native languages, or they may be trying to churn out as many reviews as possible in the shortest amount of time. They may also forget to include important information that provides legitimacy to reviews, like dates or specific details about their experience. Obviously, not every legitimate review will have perfect grammar or be free from mistakes, but you should be careful if you notice that most of an auto transport company’s reviews have odd errors or leave out important information.
Do the reviews contain broad statements rather than focused details?
A fake review is more likely to contain generalized information, such as how happy they were with the service, rather than specifics regarding the transport of their car. This is because they didn’t actually use that company, and they’re trying to sound authentic without going into too much detail. Look for reviews that mention actual experiences. For example, “The driver was fifteen minutes late but was friendly and responsive to my messages” sounds much more authentic than “They were on time and everything went great!”.
Is reading reviews still worth it?
Even with all the fake online reviews out there, you can still learn a lot about a company by reading testimonials. You just need to keep the above questions in mind as you read and consider that as much as you want to use the most extreme reviews to help you make your choice, the middle of the road reviews may give you a more accurate picture of the type of service you’ll receive.
While the “Asymmetric effects of online consumer reviews” scientific research suggest that most of us feel that 1- and 5-star reviews are the most trustworthy, 3-star reviews tend to be not only more detailed but also more honest. But don’t rely on star ratings alone. One person’s 5-star experience may be another person’s 3-star experience, so read the text of reviews. People have very different rating standards, and the text of reviews will tell you a lot more about the experience someone had.
Look for reviews that were written by people whose circumstances most closely match your own. For example, if you’re looking for a shipper to transport a valuable antique car in an enclosed carrier over a long-distance, reading reviews from customers who were moving their sedans from city to city on open carriers won’t give you the information you need.
And finally, although a company’s customers are a great starting point when you’re researching an auto transport company, they should only be one set of data that factors into your final decision. However, now that you know what to look for, you should feel much more confident when reading reviews for transport companies online.
Read what our customers say about their experience with Montway at Montway Auto Transport reviews.