No vendors. No forums. Just pure impact.

The illustrated guide to shilling

April 14, 2011 — R

There are numerous reasons why not to be a member of a shaving forum. Probably the most prominent is people abusing these forums for their not-so-well-hidden sales attempts. The single most annoying group of such vendors is soap makers. Paul recently wrote a great article explaining why artisan soaps are mostly not worth their money. In a nutshell, making high quality soaps or creams is a lot harder than some people would like you to believe. Yet there is money to be made in this area. But how, given that we are talking about a - pardon the pun - cutthroat market?

Shill selling made easy!!!!!!!

Again, we asked our research team to do some dirt digging and dumpster diving, and we proudly present you the winner of this year's edition of "how to abuse a hobby forum for personal profit by turning members into sales droids while poisoning the review section". Enjoy.

During the past year, VENDOR’s Shaving Products has grown mainly due to the generosity of our customers who have spread the word about our products by word of mouth. We also have a very high rate of returning customers. We have decided to acknowledge the loyalty of our customers with our new Rewards Program. This is how it works:

Starting today, every new customer (with a new paypal address) referred by one of our loved customers receives $1 off their Shaving Creams and After Shave Balms with their first order at VENDORs Shaving Products. In addition, the person making the referral also gets $1 off their next order of any Shaving Cream or After Shave Balm. The more people you refer, the more money you save on your PRODUCT. I will send you an email indicating that a referral has been received every time somebody mentions your name. If you refer 16 people, your next tub is FREE. There has not been a better time to recommend VENDOR’s Shaving Products to your friends. This offer does not include taxes or shipping and handling. This offer does not apply to After Shave Splashes. If for any reason, the program is cancelled, I will hold your savings for a full year from the date of the announcement.

So, if you come across a review that claims that the reviewed item is "the best thing ever", "da bomb" or some other superlative, think again. You just might have come across a live example of shilling, induced by the above vendor or one of his conspecifics.

In marketing, shills are often employed to assume the air of satisfied customers and give testimonials to the merits of a given product. This type of shilling is illegal in some jurisdictions but almost impossible to detect. It may be considered a form of unjust enrichment or unfair competition, as in California's Business & Professions Code § 17200, which prohibits any "unfair or fraudulent business act or practice and unfair, deceptive, untrue or misleading advertising". [Source: Wikipedia]

Needless to say that our review policy effectively prohibits this approach through moderation and peer review prior to publication: "[Our] reviews were written by members of this site. They were written to the best of our respective knowledge in the hope that you find them useful. Unless stated otherwise, all reviewed products were bought by the reviewer. We do not review products that are given to us by vendors, as we believe that this will impair our objectivity." If you earned your money hard, you should not settle for less. If in doubt, do not hesitate to ask the reviewer to fully disclose his qualifications, motives, and the source of the reviewed product. Because the shaving scene needs more good reviews, and less marketing scams.