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New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has settled a complaint against a cosmetic surgery company who admits that it used its employees to pose as satisfied customers to praise its facelifts online. The company ordered employees to write glowing reviews of its face-lift procedure, Lifestyle Lift, on websites. Lifestyle Lift also created its own sites of face-lift reviews to appear as independent testimonies. In an email, the company instructed employees to “devote the day to doing more postings on the Web as a satisfied client.”

Cuomo announced the $300,000 settlement on July 14 with the plastic surgery firm that created the Lifestyle Lift procedure—a procedure that is performed in doctors’ offices in New York and 21 other states. He believes his office is the first to address a crop of new so-called “Astroturf marketing” techniques, otherwise known as creating bogus grassroots buzz about a product. Lifestyle Lift has also agreed to stop publishing anonymous reviews on websites and to identify any fake reviews that were posted by employees. Cuomo’s office says that Lifestyle Lift violated consumer protection laws.

False reviews have become more of a problem with the advent of sites like Yelp, Epinions, or Amazon. In fact, review sites have grown so powerful that consumer reviews can destroy a new company before it even gets off of the ground. Unfortunately, as the Internet becomes increasingly more popular, readers will more often have to rely on themselves to weed out biased reviews. Indeed, many companies are hopping on the “Astroturf marketing” bandwagon, under the guise of “reputation management”.


  1. Gravatar for Facebook User

    False reviews are the issue of false people. These kinds of trolls tend to hide behind false or no identities on the nets. With review sites, there is a way to learn what the reviewers are like by reading other reviews. A business with 10 shiney reviews that look like troll accounts and don't have any other reviews under their belt are not worth following. Most of the online reviewers I know already know of this. Astroturf marketing as you call it has been going on for quite while. "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV" and other such garbage have been used since I've been seeing commercials and ads everywhere.

    What really stinks in this economy is wasting money on a business that doesn't want to be in the service industry. I'd rather check the reviews on local establishments and see what my own feelings tell me of the reviewers and compare my own finding with the set reviews. I don't want to go into a $200 dinner and find that the restaurant has issues where another one down the street may be $75 and get everyones respect due to superior service and quality. Let the public reviewing process on wonderful sites like Yelp, Epinions and Amazon continue. Their service to the community and the businesses that matter is superior to the neanderthal marketing of yesterday. Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware) is now Caveat venditor (Seller Beware). Thank you Yelp, Epinions and Amazon.

  2. Gravatar for Nick Carroll

    Looks like Yelp, Epinions and Amazon our now Astroturfing themselves ;) Just kidding John, great comment and you couldn't be more correct as to the value of reviews. Sadly, I'm sure you have seen that some doctors are preventing their patients from participating in such communities...

  3. Gravatar for Facebook User

    ;) no worries.

    Thanks for that article link. I didn't know about the doctor senario that the article pointed out. Personally, I would not rate a doctor online because it is way to subjective and depending on the situation, I could be responsible for someone not getting needed treatment. I have no issue taking a chance on whether or not you will get a great oil change or have the near best BBQ in the world (I know where it is btw). I did however Yelp my Vet so perhaps I'm more hypocritical about what I would and would not yelp. I gave my vet a great review as I am estatic with the service and outcome. I hope my review helps someone in need find him.

    As to the plastic surgery doctor in this article that authorized and managed his own positive review hoaxes, I hope he gets all the business he deserves, prison style.

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