As I mentioned, I recently joined Angie's List, where you review contractors. My house is a fixer-upper (as in, within a couple of years, I will probably have replaced everything except the interior walls and the foundation), and there's a general contractor who I've used on many of these jobs over the years, because he rocks.
So of course my impulse upon Angie's List was to be sure to leave a review about him, telling people that he rocks.
The problem is, when I was sniffing over the reviews there, a place with one A-grade review smelled pretty funny to me. This contractor hasn't been reviewed before (it's kind of a side business for him), so by trying to do him a favor, I may be creating a situation where he looks really dodgy.
I hope not, and I don't think it will help him to not leave the review--at least this way the next person who reviews him won't look so much like a shill.
Apparently something similar has been happening now with Amazon, where fans are getting mistaken for sock puppets. It's the larger problem when fake reviews become the norm--the whole reviewing system starts to break down, and all of it gets viewed with suspicion. Or, worse, it doesn't get viewed at all, because it's all seen as a waste of time, and that marketing path is lost.
Of course, as the Amazon case shows, policing this sort of thing is pretty difficult--maybe the Yelp sting approach has more promise, although it's clearly labor intensive. But I'm glad this is at least on the radar as something to police, and I hope it puts an end to reviewers openly soliciting money in exchange for reviews, or at least to sites recommending reviewers who openly solicit money in exchange for reviews.