A bloke, possibly called Mark Bayard who, funnily enough, turned out to be a Belkin emplyee, posted the request on Amazon's Mechanical Turk web site. He was rumbled by the Daily Background.
"Write as if you own the product and are using it," he wrote. Obliging punters were then asked to, "Mark any other negative reviews as "not helpful" once you post yours."
The story was confirmed in a statement by Belkin's president Mark Reynoso, who said: "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," wrote Reynoso.
"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."
The firm removed the postings from the web site and said it is working to ensure copies of the dodgy reviews were also taken down. It said it was sorry.
However, the employee responsible doesn't seem to have been sacked and we assume he wasn't paying for these reviews out of his own pocket. So we've asked Belkin to explain itself.
It says it is conducting an investigation.
Something tells us this is just the tip of large, quick-moving iceberg involving thousands of companies in a variety of different fields. We'll keep you posted.
Belkin grovels after paying for positive reviews
By Paul Hales on Jan 20, 2009 6:49AM