There it is again, you hear it? That’s the sound of consumer trust clinking against the sides of the shaft as it falls, down, down, down. Belkin is just the latest company to drop trust equity down the sewer.
A Belkin employee was recently busted offering payment for positive reviews of a Belkin network router—whether or not the reviewer had even seen one—and asking reviewers to vote down negative comments. This offer was, using some swift stategery, posted on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk website.
Outrage, backlash, sneers and jeers ensued, forcing Belkin president Mark Reynoso to issue a press release, part of which reads as follows:
Belkin has always held itself to the highest standards of corporate ethics and its employees to the highest standards of personal integrity. Similarly, we support our online user community in discussion and reviews of our products, whether the commentary is good or bad. 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.
Though Reynoso insisted this was an isolated incident, he likely wasn’t privy to leaks and investigations that would later appear. The Daily Background, which broke the original story, followed up and discovered a second Belkin employee—this time Belkin’s National Account Manager—at the helm of the Astroturfing review-scamming as far back as 2006.
In addition to that, Gizmodo piled on with an anonymous employee tipster who offered these damning details about the inner workings at Belkin:
While never mentioned in an "official" policy, for years it has been pressed upon ALL Belkin employees to do whatever is needed to get good product reviews and good press. Everything from sending blog writers a device with custom firmware that hides known bugs yet claiming it to be official release firmware, faking hardware logo certifications (specifically Apple and MSFT), releasing blatantly inaccurate data from test results making our devices look superior to others, to placing "tailored" reviews of our products into places visible to consumers (as reported Amazon, etc), as well as writing poor reviews of competitors products. . .
We have paid magazines for positive reviews, made custom devices or fixtures for use at trade shows to ensure quality demos. One such example would be a fixture that runs hidden cable to a TV or audio receiver, yet claiming the broadcast is coming from a wireless transmitter, or through a USB hub.
This has been going on for years.
This is starting to sound like a case for the feds. And it’s also a real blow to the trust and transparency needed for the user-generated Web 2.0 concept to truly succeed.