Answering my own questions since 2001

Belkin, Astroturfing and Fully Owning Your Mistakes

As CrunchGear reports (courtesy of Mathew Ingram), an employee at Belkin was caught using Amazon’s crowd-sourcing tool Mechanical Turk to spam positive reviews of their routers on Amazon and other sites. The evidence was pretty damning, and Belkin’s President Mark Reynoso copped to the fake reviews pretty quickly. Here’s an excerpt from his apology letter:

So, it was with great surprise and dismay when we discovered that one of our employees may have posted a number of queries on the Amazon Mechanical Turk website inviting users to post positive reviews of Belkin products in exchange for payment.

Belkin does not participate in, nor does it endorse, unethical practices like this. We know that people look to online user reviews for unbiased opinions from fellow users and instances like this challenge the implicit trust that is placed in this interaction.

This is the standard corporate line:

  • We had no idea this was going on.
  • It was the act of a single (often ‘low-level’) employee (the Lone Gunmen Theory of Corporate Deflection).
  • It is, in no way, a reflection of our organization.

The letter itself is pretty goofy. First, why say “may have posted”? If there was any ambiguity, the company’s president wouldn’t be writing a letter on Sunday afternoon. Additionally, the guy worked for Belkin. So to say that “Belkin does not participate in…unethical practices” is inaccurate. If a Belkin employee promotes Belkin unethically, in the course of his work day, with Belkin’s money, then there’s no question that Belkin does participate in those practices. And “great surprise and dismay” is protesting a bit too much, isn’t it?

In the so-called age of conversation, surely we’re all tired of companies acting unethically, and then deploying waffling, corporate language to deflect or evade blame.

2 Responses to “Belkin, Astroturfing and Fully Owning Your Mistakes”

  1. Jordan Behan

    Thank you for this fittingly scathing analysis.

    When will people learn? The internet’s bullshit-detectors are impenetrable. Any dishonest practice will backfire, in time.

    And there’s nothing cool about half-assedly apologizing, as you point out.

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