February 23, 2018

Fake it Like You Make It

Fake It Illustration

We overheard someone say to their employee that the review found online by their company was fake. But how did he know it was fake? He made it himself.

He was the owner.

This got us thinking — of course we hear all about fake news, now, but how rampant are fake reviews?  

In the world of online research, word of mouth, and 5-star thumbs up ratings; it’s pretty damn rampant.

And worse — someone recently created and reviewed a spot that didn’t even exist.  Yup — just ask the unnamed man that was paid 10 Euros to write up fake reviews on Tripadvisor.

The unnamed man lived in a shed. One day he had a stunning revelation:  if actual restaurants can have fake reviews, he can too….For a fake restaurant.

And that’s when “The Shed at Dulwich” began.

This guy started off with the basics. In April 2017, he got a domain name, he took photos of his “entrees” (made of household products for an extra special touch — soap masquerading as mozzarella anyone?)

Of course, given his day job, he made a tripadvisor profile and started in on what he does best: the reviews.

At spot number 18,149 on Tripadvisor, “The Shed at Dulwich” secured it’s slot on the list and was ready to start climbing the chain from the bottom.

Then he had his friends and acquaintances make reviews for “The Shed” and in no time the restaurant started making its way up in the rankings.

He started to get phone calls from people wanting to make reservations — some people wanted to make reservations for up to four months in advance.  Note: all photos posted on “location”, food, etc., were totally staged.  There wasn’t even a listed address listed for the restaurant — which plays JUST perfectly for rampant review rip-offs — and hard-core foodies.

A few short months later, “The Shed” hit #156 in the rankings, without having served a single real customer.

As Autumn comes “The Shed at Dulwich” hits #30. In come the free samples sent to the still unnamed owner, calls from competing villages reaching out wanting “The Shed” to relocate, and even perfectly ironic pitches for Skype meetings from various PR agencies.  

Cue Drake’s “Started from the Bottom” song.   

And then it happened. On November 1st, 2017, “The Shed at Dulwich” reached  #1 on Tripadvisor — London’s top rated restaurant. Still staged photos, fake reviews, no customers, and not one single item served.

So what did Tripadvisor have to say about the fake restaurant that recently became top rated in London without even being a real restaurant?

“Generally, the only people who create fake restaurant listings are journalists in misguided attempts to test us, as there is no incentive for anyone in the real world to create a fake restaurant.  It is not a problem we experience with our regular community – therefore this ‘test’ is not a real world example.” said Tripadvisor’s representative via email.

We’re going to have to disagree with Tripadvisor on this one. This is real world.  And people fake review all the time.  

And while those who fake their reviews to get more customers may hear the same fate we all heard, about cheating on tests, “You’ll only hurt yourself in the long-run!”, maybe that long-run will end up banking cash galore in these early, wild and wooly times on the internet.

Well — it’s not like cash can be faked online — right cyber-currency?