If you've ever wondered why user reviews should be taken with a grain of salt, it's because of incidents like this. Amazon operates a site called Mechanical Turk, which Amazon describes as "a marketplace for work that requires human intelligence." Thousands of low paying tasks are available for registered users to complete, such as transcribing audio, identifying objects in a photo or video, and other chores humans are still better at than computers. But it was never intended as an outlet for companies to solicit positive user reviews, and that's what a Belkin employee was caught doing.
According to an ad posted on the site, Michael Bayard, Business Development Representative at Belkin, offered to pay users 65 cents for each positive 5/5 review they posted, instructing them to "write as if you own the product and are using it." The ad even asks users to look for negative reviews and mark them as "not helpful."
It didn't take long for Belkin to catch wind of the situation and offer a statement denying knowledge of what was going on.
"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," wrote Mark Reynoso, Belkin President. "Belkin does not participate in, nor does it endorse, unethical practices like this."
Reynoso goes on to say that this is an isolated incident and has worked with Amazon to remove all associated postings.