Browser Extensions 

tone-header

An In-Depth Review Analysis of Muscle Pharm on Bodybuilding.com: Silencing Honesty and Blatant Astroturfing

August 4th, 2016

Here at ReviewMeta.com, we collect and analyze reviews from around the web, so we have a lot of data to give us insights about when reviewers aren’t exactly honest.  You can run an review analysis for any product on Amazon or Bodybuilding.com simply by copying & pasting the product URL into the search bar.

Currently ranking #3 on our Worst Reviews list, the reviews for Fitmiss Tone by Muscle Pharm on Bodybuilding.com is the subject of our in-depth investigation today.  

There’s two main factors at play here.  The first is that a seemingly honest, yet negative review mysteriously disappeared, and the second is a cluster of very obviously fake reviews are NOT the ones disappearing.

First: A disappearing honest review.

As I was reviewing the FitMiss Tone report, I noticed that the “Most Trustworthy” review gave the product a 1/10 rating, so I clicked to read the full thing.

To my surprise, the review had mysteriously vanished.  This appeared to be one of the most honest reviews: it was a verified purchase, the reviewer had several reviews for different brands,  and didn’t just give everything a 10/10 rating.

I reached out to user Babs2574 to see if she could give us any info.  I sent her a PM and she responded the next day.  Here’s what she said:

…I don’t go in and check on reviews I had posted in the past so I didn’t know it was deleted. I didn’t say anything harsh, just that it didn’t work for me, so I am not sure why it would have been deleted by BB…

…I don’t remember ever taking down my comments, I had not been contacted by the company or by Bodybuilding to either take down the review or that they requested it to be taken down, or in fact did take it down to my knowledge..

…The comments on products are there to help people make an informed decision to purchase a product that may or may not work for them. I don’t get paid or gain anything from putting out a false review. I have seen them out there, and its upsetting that they do it…

So obviously Babs2574 didn’t change her mind about the product, but BB.com decided that her opinion wasn’t suitable for some reason.  Why?  We may never know.

Second: Here’s the reviews that should be disappearing, but for some reason are not.

The first test that Fitmiss Tone fails is the “Rating Trend” test.  Here, we see a list of days that had an abnormally high volume of reviews.  If you click on any of those days, you can see a list of reviews which were submitted on that day:

rating_trend

So, let’s take a deeper look at the 22 reviews which were posted on July 11, 2014. Every single review submitted on this day (yes, ALL 22 of them):

  • Rated the product 10/10.
  • Were NOT verified purchasers.
  • Were from reviewers that had ONLY reviewed Muscle Pharm products.
  • Were from reviewers that had ONLY given out 10/10 ratings.
  • Were from reviewers that had NEVER had a verified purchase.

So that’s over 15% of the reviews for this product – all posted on one day, none of which are verified, none of which have ever reviewed anything other than Muscle Pharm products, all of which happen to only give out 10/10 ratings.  It would be extremely difficult to argue that these are honest or unbiased reviewers at any level.

I sent a private message to every single one of the 22 users who posted a review that day

Well, it wouldn’t be fair to call these reviews out as fake without getting their side of the story, so I sent a private message to every single one of the 22 users who posted a review that day.  I also requested a read receipt for each message to see if they have even been read.  Zero of the 22 messages that I sent had even been viewed 2 months after sending.  

The screenshot was taken on 8/4/2016:

unread

Compare this to the one PM I sent to Babs2574 (the one whose negative review mysteriously deleted) who actually responded within a few days.  This is highly telling of which accounts are real and which are fake.

Last: Bodybuilding.com doesn’t seem to care.

I went ahead and contacted customer service about the fake reviews for Fitmiss Tone.  Here’s what I said:

I was just looking at the reviews on Fitmiss Tone: http://reviews.bodybuilding.com/FitMiss/Tone/ and it seems the fast majority are fake, especially the unverified ones.  Verified buyer rating shows 6.3/10, but total rating shows 9.0/10.  What’s going on here?  Is BB.com doing anything to combat this issue?

They replied promptly, but clearly with a canned response:

Thank you for contacting Bodybuilding.com today regarding the product reviews on Tone. I’m sorry for the concern with the authenticity on some of the reviews, but I’m happy to help.

All reviews must be left using a BodySpace account, and although they may not all show as verified doesn’t necessarily mean that the person didn’t try the product after ordering it after checking out as a guest or in some other way not using their normal BodySpace account.

I assure you that all reviews are monitored to make sure they conform with regulations, but if you feel that any are fake (written by competitors or the manufacturer, etcetera) you are more than welcome to click the red “report” button under each review you would like, and it will put it up for review.

We strive to keep our reviews honest and thorough. Please keep in mind that everyone’s body reacts to products differently, so it is quite common that one person might rate something a 6 while someone else might rate it a 10.

This is a bit contradictory.  They say “I assure you that all reviews are monitored” but also “click the red report button under each review you would like, and it will put it up for review”.  Which is it?  Are they all monitored or just the ones that someone manually digs up and reports?

How can you know who to trust?

Obviously, Bodybuilding.com isn’t very proactive about preventing or removing the blatant astroturfing that takes place in their reviews, so its up to the consumer to do their own research to sort out the fact from fiction.  ReviewMeta.com helps with this research.  Simply copy & paste any product URL from Bodybuilding.com or Amazon to see a report on the reviews – or you can check out our free browser extensions!