Burned: Why Trusting Shopping Reviews On FocalPrice.com Is a Bad Idea

“Absolutely terrible,” I wrote, proceeding to explain exactly what was wrong with the LED light I bought from FocalPrice.com and protect future buyers against making the same mistake. Only the review was never published: When I signed back on a couple of days later to check on it, I discovered it had been inexplicably marked as Rejected:

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The Story

I first found out about FocalPrice after I wrote about 3 Interesting Shopping Websites Offering Free International Shipping. One of the sites I mentioned was DealExtreme, and FocalPrice was mentioned in the comments as an alternative.

While the review’s title may seem scathing, the rest of the review was reasoned and specific: I explained exactly why this LED light bulb was so terrible. When you turned it on, it started changing colors; the light was incredibly dim, so much so that you couldn’t even read with it. Not to mention the garish colors. A truly crappy product. You’ll have to take my word as for the contents of my review, however, because FocalPrice wouldn’t let me access it after the fact. You would think that clicking the review heading above (“Absolutely terrible.”) would lead me to a review draft — but you’d be wrong. Instead, clicking takes you to the product’s existing reviews:

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Yes, I fell for it. I know I should have seen it coming — these are incredibly obvious fake reviews, just like the ones we’ve previously shown you how to spot. But while I was ready to face fake reviews, what truly surprised me is what happened when I tried to post an honest review describing how truly atrocious FocalPrice’s wares are. Baffled by the unexplained rejection, I emailed their customer support. Here’s a transcript:

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Me:

Hello,

On 9/13/2013 02:23:12 I wrote a review about the item in question, titled “Absolutely terrible.” My review was accurate and descriptive – I explained exactly what is the problem with the product. And yet, it was marked as “rejected” without any information sent to me. Do you have a policy of publishing only positive reviews? May I please know why the review was not published?

FocalPrice:

Dear Erez,

hello dear our system select the review automatically.

Kind regards

Natasha.Qi

While I’m touched “Natasha.Qi” called me “dear,” you can see how seriously FocalPrice are taking this. Just to make sure, I sent them another email:

Me:

Hello Natasha,

So my negative review was not published due to “automatic selection”? I’d like to verify this one last time, just to be really sure I understand this.

Thank you, Erez

FocalPrice:

Dear Erez,

yes I think if there is little stars maybe the system does ot select it.

Kind regards

Natasha

How refreshingly honest! Well, just as long as we’re clear on everything here. FocalPrice not only post fake-looking reviews, but they actually reject honest reviews if they’re negative. And they don’t mind telling you about it, either! Truly fantastic.

Hindsight Is 20:20

Following this enlightening exchange, I did what I should have done in the first place: I did a Google Search about FocalPrice. Among the gems I found was the following video, which features a man miming paper cranes (yes, really):

I then dug some more, with the help of fellow MakeUseOf editor Saikat, and found this interesting Scambook entry about FocalPrice, featuring no less than 31 complaints about FocalPrice:

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How You Can Avoid My Mistake

We’ve discussed how manufacturers sometimes manipulate online reviews even on reputable websites, so realizing how dodgy FocalPrice really is should not come as a shock. Still, I’ve managed to make this mistake. To avoid it, I suggest the following tips:

  • Carefully research any new website you’re ordering physical goods from.
  • Stick to buying cheap, small products first, if at all possible. I’ve taken this advice myself – the LED light was my third FocalPrice order. The first two were rare-earth magnets, which very little can go wrong with.
  • Review the first product as soon as you get it, just to make sure your review actually gets posted.

Oh, and by all means, absolutely avoid FocalPrice.com — unless you enjoy getting broken products and having your negative reviews censored, that is.

Now, go ahead and tell us about your own negative online shopping experiences? Have you faced a situation where your complaint and reviews were ignored? Pour it out in the comments.

Image Credits: Portrait Of A Girl Via Shutterstock

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