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Fake Ratings!

34 Replies

I think your explanation makes sense.
Maybe a good practice to follow is for Owners and Employees of a company to not rate their own teas, or at least not give a numerical rating?
This will help avoid suspicion.

The thing that brought the most suspicion was that a bunch of users who had very similar user names, with no pictures, joined at the same time and rated only one or two teas from the same company. Again, I think people can understand how that could have been perfectly innocent. You were simply being excited about getting the word out and got the help of friends who joined just to rate your tea.

However, I have seen several companies be active on Steepster, even helping users discover their teas, without rating their teas or recruiting friends to rate their teas, trying to make them go higher up on the list. A few great examples I’ve seen in my own experience of this are 52 teas’ owner (Frank), Gingko (Life in Teacup), and The Tea Valley.

If your teas really are so good (maybe they are!), your own customers will speak for you.

Shinobicha,

Hi,
My name is Patrick Tannous, and I am the co-founder of Tiesta Tea Company. I sincerely apologize for the suspicion we have caused on your website. I truly did not intend for my company to insult or break any integrity or trust here on Steepster.
I am a student at UIC and we founded this company in March. We have recently hired a total of 12 employees, all students. As students, we are very familiar with social media, as it is a huge outlet for small companies, and the generation we market to. During all our meeting we serve tea, and the tea I had served last was our Victorian Earl Grey. Part of my communication test to my employees was to make them respond to a team email that required them to rate our tea. This is my first time running a company, and I thought it would be a good way to get my employees more engaged with tea.
I am truly, truly sorry for what we did. I have devoted my life to this tea company as a 22 yr old student. I am begging you to give us another opportunity. Please, find it in your good will to forgive us.
Anyone who was offended by this, please contact me- [email protected]
I can’t seem to find a way to send you all a message personally, but I would like to speak with all of you personally and apologize.
Anyone who emails me will receive my appreciation of gratitude for your forgiveness, and I will send you a free 4oz sample of a tea of your choice, with the purchase of our Victorian Earl Grey @ tiestatea.com

I hope you find this message appropriate.

Thanks,
Patrick

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Dorothy said

Wow, I had no idea this sort of thing happened on Steepster.

I can understand why people at the company and their friends rated the tea so highly. Then again, doesn’t every company feel that their tea is if not the best, incredibly worthy of a high score? I thought there was an unspoken “Steepster etiquette” that those directly profiting from a high score, do not rate teas. Since that motive alone (profit), can bias a score.

It’s pretty clear to see what my opinion on the matter is. My only suggestion is that if a company were to rate teas (which I’m not fond of). They should write one post, and other members of the company can like that post. Instead of writing 16 entries with 90-100 scores. Mentioning that you work for the company or are a friend is a big plus if not must for rating tea.

I think people enjoy Steepster so much because we (the members), trust the integrity of our fellow Steepster users. Otherwise the reviews and tea scores are useless in our quest to find and purchase new tea.

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Brian said

EDIT: In retrospect I guess I should have emailed you in outrage so I could have gotten even more EG! XD

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Hey Brian,
seriously, thanks for the note. Like I said, I am willing to give you a free sample of any tea for your willingness to give us a chance. When you place an order, please email me and I have it added to your package at no additional cost. This Earl Grey will blow you away. Its got tons of floral notes from the rose, and the lavender finish is kind of creamy. However, it stays true to its “earl grey” taste, even with the added herbs.

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Glamorosi said

When it comes to reviews and promotions in any field it is standard procedure for owners, employees, stockholders, interns, friends, associates, etc. of a company to reveal their relationship to the company “in the spirit of full disclosure”.

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I’ll consider placing an order as soon as the dishonest ratings are removed. At the moment, 8 of the 10 “reviewers” of the Victorian EG still don’t disclose their relationship to Tiesta in their profiles, much less the review itself.

And yes, since kjkovac2 seems unclear on this point: it is dishonest for you and your employees to review a product you have a financial interest in without disclosing that interest. It’s also potentially illegal http://www.socialmedialawupdate.com/tags/fake-reviews/

No one is saying you can’t join the community (as Shinobicha pointed out, several companies are publicly active on Steepster and I’d add Harney & Sons to that list) only that you shouldn’t try to take advantage of it.

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Frolic select said

Your offering samples to people only if they make an order from your site which isn’t really apologetic but a marketing technique.

I hope you really do understand how unethical what you did was and work to teach your students this lesson.

Jaime said

Frolic, thanks for saying this.

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I think Patrick pretty much summed up this blunder. This was done by a group of inexperienced students that have never run a business before. While they are “familiar” with social media, they haven’t yet developed the professional finesse required to use it correctly. Unfortunately, they just experienced how incorrect use can result in a true public relations disaster.

The future of their endeavor (at least with this group) now depends on how they handle this situation. We’ve already received what seems to be a sincere apology which is the first step. For me, I’d like to see them remove ALL of their ratings and let real customers try them out.

Stephanie said

I agree wholeheartedly with you, Paul! Very well said!

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DMTea & Frolic’s posts – agreed.

I also don’t see the point in offering free tea for placing an order as an “apology”. The apology letter was fine on its own, in my opinion. No need to go further and promote sales in order to smooth things over.

Cofftea said

Yeah it pretty much nulifies the written apology.

I agree, with frenchvanilla, no need to go further than the apology for now, because the ‘offer’ doesn’t really help.

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This discussion came up once before early this year. I believe the consensus of Steepster at the time was that it’s ok for tea companies and their affiliates to post tasting notes about their teas, including steep time and temperature, but NOT to rate the teas using the numerical system because it creates what could be interpreted as a false rating. It’s a compromise for those companies that wish to get their teas out there, but it allows transparency for steepster users to see who exactly is posting and whether or not there is any bias.

Certainly disclosure of a user’s affiliation to a given company is a must in their individual profiles. Quite frankly if a company themselves is posting about their tea, they should be using a username that reflects this as well. Again, this is a discussion that happened earlier this year. I encourage all new users to Steepster to read through the best practices posts that the steepster admins have tacked at the beginning of the discussion board. It will help to avoid these kinds of PR blunders in the future, at least for another few months…

Sincerely,

Mark
Owner – Cloudwalker Teas

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