Tool of the Trade: When to Trust Online Reviews (Fakespot Review)

when to trust online reviewsI sometimes wonder, “What would I do without online reviews?” because I rely on them so much (for example, as a very frequent Amazon Prime user). When I’m looking for a new bra or shoes or a flash drive or a book (ha, remember when Amazon was about books?), I note the average rating and often read a few of the reviews. At Amazon, I’ll often use “4 stars & up” as a search filter. Recently, I was looking for something for undereye circles, and besides the usual suspects, my search turned up a bunch of products from brands I’ve never heard of — and they had thousands of positive reviews. (Some of the products appeared to be the same ones as others sold under different names, which seemed like a red flag). Around the same time, I came across a site called Fakespot, which proposes to solve the problem of how to spot fake reviews on Amazon and other sites. It quickly analyzes online reviews for Amazon, Yelp, TripAdvisor (especially relevant after its recent controversy), and Apple’s App Store, and grades each one from A–F. A indicates 90%+ reliable reviews and reviewers. After it takes into the account the real vs. questionable reviews for a particular product you enter, Fakespot gives you an “adjusted rating.”

I tested out Fakespot for a few of those eye serums I saw and got some interesting results regarding when to trust online reviews for beauty products:

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  • Pure Biology “Total Eye” – 4.3 rating from 2,997 reviews. Fakespot grade: D — “49.0% of the reviews are reliable.”
  • Organys Rejuvenating Eye Formula — 4.5 rating from 2,475 reviews. Fakespot grade: C — “Our analysis detected
    25.0% low quality reviews.”
  • Baebody Eye Gel – 4.1 rating from 12,860 reviews. Fakespot grade: B. — “Our analysis detected over 80% high quality reviews.”

Compare those results to a review from a more reputable, mainstream brand, Maybelline, whose very popular Instant Age Rewind Concealer has a 4.1 rating on Amazon from 4,124 reviews. Fakespot gave the reviews an A grade and reported, “Our analysis detected over 90% high quality reviews.” (I actually bought the concealer a few months ago and wasn’t a big fan — FWIW, I’ve had better luck with Urban Decay — but it’s hugely popular and people love it, so YMMV.)

As one more experiment, today I checked on the TripAdvisor reviews for a family resort we’ve visited a few times (it has 7,000 reviews) and Fakespot said, “Oh! This is something we haven’t analyzed yet, please wait” and then eventually gave me a server error. The second time, it seemed to be analyzing the reviews for several minutes and … never stopped. Still, as someone who shops online far more than in brick & mortar stores, I’m so glad a tool like this exists.

How do you know how to trust online reviews? Do you use online reviews a lot when you’re making shopping decisions? Do you ever write online reviews yourself? How useful do you find it when a site like Rent the Runway, ModCloth, and Sephora (and Amazon) include customers’ own images on product pages? 

Online shoppers constantly wonder when to trust online reviews--so our editor tried Fakespot, a new tool to spot fake reviews on Amazon, Yelp, Tripadvisor and beyond. Great online shopping advice!


  1. This is why I hate Amazon. Too many fake reviews. I have also received products (health/beauty) that are clearly fake as well-slightly different color bottle, different smell and consistency to product. They’d rather just refund your money than police their site.

    • Lana Del Raygun :

      I’ve gotten some products I’m pretty sure were shoplifted. I tried reporting them to Amazon but accidentally filed a complaint with the seller, and they wrote back to tell me it was obtained legitimately. Which is exactly what a nail polish fence would say, right?

      • Anonymous :

        Curious what makes you think it was shoplifted.

        • Lana Del Raygun :

          There was a security sticker on the box that said “If you purchase this anywhere besides CVS, please contact CVS loss prevention at” with a phone number.

          • Did you contact CVS at the listed number? It seems like that would be the way to go as they probably have employees who can follow up with Amazon in a way buyers can’t.

    • Anonymous :

      Part of why I don’t like shopping at Amazon. I’d rather go to the store and buy the thing in person.

    • Beauty on Amazon is a sh1tshow. I received a lip/cheek stain set that had been opened and used. At least 15% of the product was gone.

  2. I’ve used Fakespot for a while now – love it. I thought I was pretty good at detecting fakes, but even I’ve been fooled a couple of times.

  3. This is great to know about. I almost fell for Birkenstocks on Amazon and luckily caught a couple reviews warning the products were fakes. Not quite the same problem, but helpful to avoid it in the future.

  4. Anonymous :

    Fwiw, Yelp is pretty good about fake reviews. It “filters” a bunch of reviews, mainly reviews by people who have only reviewed a couple of businesses (which means some real reviews get filtered too). Filtered reviews aren’t displayed on the main page and don’t go into the average star rating.

  5. So many clearly fake reviews on yelp for nail salons. Why???

  6. Two Cents :

    Kat, this is a great resource and so easy to use. Thank you for the tip!

  7. Anonymous :

    I rely on reviews also but they sure can be hit or miss. As soon as I get my items I inspect them thoroughly and sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised by the quality of the items material and workmanship. It can be a mixed bag becuase the ratings and reviews are all relative. I’m more suspicious of blogger reviews. Especially when they get the item for free to review and then prompt the product with a link that allows them to earn revenue to “fund” their blog. That’s just too many factors to bias the review. ESP when there are products notorious for sending a free one to bloggers (away luggage, lo&sons, etc.). Luckily return policies are in place and if you get the item and realize it was all just hype you can get your money back.

  8. I love Fakespot – I use it before making any purchases on Amazon; however, I’d never thought to try it on other sites. Recently, I went to a pretty objectively terrible hotel that had mostly great reviews on TripAdvisor. I just ran the TripAdvisor page through Fakespot after the fact only to discover that the hotel has an “adjusted grade” of D (which seems much more appropriate for this place). Definitely using Fakespot for TripAdvisor and Yelp going forward.

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