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Operator of restaurant rating website Tabelog says paid posters manipulated rankings

23 Comments

The operator of the popular Tabelog website which carries reviews and ratings of restaurants and bars said this week that some posters had been paid by restaurants to write favorable reviews in order to move up higher in the rankings.

After receiving a complaint from a restaurant, site operator Kakaku.com said on its website that it had found 39 restaurants which paid writers to praise them. This, in turn, boosted the number of page views. The site, which has listings for nearly 670,000 restaurants and bars, got about 32 million hits in November, Kakaku.com said. Users rate and review restaurants and bars on a scale of 1 to 5.

The company said that writers would visit certain restaurants, saying they were from IT companies or investment advisers. They would tell the owners that they could enhance the restaurants' reputation by writing favorable reviews five times a month on Tabelog. The writers pocketed 100,000 yen a month for their "services," Kakaku.com said.

Kakaku.com said it is difficult to spot bogus posters and that it will consider taking legal action against the fake posters.

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23 Comments
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Nothing new here. The manager of a restaurant I once worked in, changed the homepage every day a tiny bit because that would give higher ratings. And we were top spot most of the time for the neighborhood!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Typical business practice, lies and misrepresentations flows from the top down. When there are no penalties why both with facts.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

consider taking legal action against the fake posters

How about legal action against the restaurants that hire them? The morning news I watched had the restaurant names blurred. Kakaku.com obviously doesn't want a short-term disruption of business with its valued clients, even though transparency would benefit them in the long run.

Another example of journalists bowing to business pressure.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

100.000 yen a month for 5 postings. That is damn GOOD business.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I should be in that business

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Kakaku are fools to think that they will ever stop creative thinkers from "gaming" the system...

It's a huge problem stateside and in EU at numerous famous ratings sites and those sites employ VERY smart people who are paid solely to spot and circumnavigate those people seeking to profit from these activities...

Threatening prosecution has NEVER worked so they have to figure out a way to stop /interrupt them pre-infraction not punish them post-infraction...

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Man, that is a good business. 20,000 yen just to write a review? Of course I suppose they are out of a job now that they have been exposed.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hits means NOTHING, it's like saying my car is red so it goes faster, release your unique user session numbers.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Think I'll make a career change!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This will never end. The only way to beat the gamers is to outgame them. When all is said and done, if your restaurant has crap food, people will discover that on their own. This is just like marketing, a part of doing business. Any restaurant should have three or four "writers" on staff to pump up its ratings on various websites.

For example, Mechanical Turks, a service in the states that outsources people to do any kind of online function (write reviews, visit sites, click on "five stars"), is owned by Amazon.com, a site largely driven by ratings. Think that's a coincidence?

And you think the Chinese GOVERNMENT doesn't hire thousands of pro communist hacks to infiltrate the message boards of the world and promote their vision?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

MaboDofuIsSpicy:

I should be in that business

You wouldn't even have to change your username. You are already a restaurant review!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

This is a very bad thing to see how a nice chance of having us the internet is misused. Not just in this case but all over the world.

I see almost all ratings , stars or thumb ups/downs are manipulated. A standard and useful feature that is rendered useless. I very often see this everywhere especially on software download sites, adding the lots of payed written post.

Stealth advertisements and guerrilla marketing has grown into a leading industry for its is being cheap and effective. They make dirty use of the site owners efforts to run their sites which is not a cheap thing at all. Actually I have difficulties drawing a line between guerrilla marketing and crime.

The only solution I see is to make it a criminal case as Kakaku intends and readers learn to read the smart way and one more thing that probably no one will like, but I think is a step away, the abolition of anonymity on the net. UK has officially initiated and Russia's Kaspersky made some steps into that direction as well. Time to create a new world, though losing anonymity we will lose many valuable contribution too.

That's about the freedom of speech and how we used it.

Until it happens we enjoy the freedom toying with rating, thumbs for fun or for some people for money until all nice achievements of freedom and democracy will gone.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

some posters had been paid by restaurants to write favorable reviews in order to move up higher in the rankings.

Astroturfing is inevitable and a plague...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The manager of a restaurant I once worked in, changed the homepage every day a tiny bit because that would give higher ratings. And we were top spot most of the time for the neighborhood!

Um, that will not get the spiders picking you up. There must have been a lot of links in the text that were always being hit on.

@theeastisred

Good Point

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Threatening prosecution has NEVER worked so they have to figure out a way to stop /interrupt them pre-infraction not punish them post-infraction..

That's gonna be the best but how? Making it a criminal case as mentioned might entitle site owners to interfere but how could they technically prevent?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Why pay attention to what anyone says on the Net? It's a liar's and fraud artist's at the least, and a silly excuse for research on truthful opinions at the worst. Depend on it and your self-respect sucks.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

As someone said above, hit the violators with demoted rankings for say a few months. If they wanted to, they, kakaku, could invest in talent to weed out these paid posters. But unless it hurts their profits, they'll live with the subsurface scamming.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I don't see what is legally wrong with this, businesses the world over pay for advertising, and in a sense that is all that this is.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Regardless of whether it's a restaurant ranking website, a guide book, Micheline's, or whatever else, you need to take these reviews with a grain of salt. If Micheline's ranks more Japanese restaurants in their restaurant guides, the guides will sell more in Japan, bottom line. That's just an example of how even though the reviews may not necessarily be bogus, the motivation for playing things up is there.

And even when you know for a fact it's not bogus, and the person doing the reviews is a respected gourmet (or gourmand) and reviewer who can make or break your restaurant, unless your tastes are EXACTLY the same as his or hers, you can't expect the same experience. I know HEAPS of Japanese people who go to a restaurant featured on some variety show (where all the talento say 'Umai! Meccha Umai!'), only to go themselves, brave the massive lineups that result from the show, and say it was mediocre.

If you go to a restaurant based on a review, fine. I have, but more because I didn't know about the place beforehand than I expected the reviewer to be spot on. But don't expect the same experience, and if you do, try not to be disappointed (or even better if you think it's better than the review stated!).

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Well, I just went into Denny's but they aren't hiring.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Samantha Zoe Aso: "Well, I just went into Denny's but they aren't hiring."

So post a review subtly suggesting their Grand Slam Breakfast was lacking. Then go back and tell them that for a certain price you can rewrite the review in their favour, or sink them! haha.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

smitjinjapan - But a certain other restaurant chain has hired my services with gusto!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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