Buying Reputation Management

Through sites like, anyone can easily hire a writer (usually based in India, according to the NYT) to post negative or positive reviews on influential consumer review sites like Amazon and Yelp. 

On MechanicalTurk (an "online crowdsourcing marketplace"), a five star review goes for about 25 cents, and experts estimate these types of bottom-feeding writers earn about $2 or $3 per hour.

The name of the site derives from an 18th century machine which was later revealed to be a hoax: 

"A puppet in Turkish attire and with a hookah in its mouth sat before a chessboard placed on a large table. A system of mirrors created the illusion that this table was transparent from all sides. Actually, a little hunchback who was an expert chess player sat inside and guided the puppet’s hand by means of strings."  

A Yelp media representative said its proprietary algorithms are designed to filter out fake reviews but sometimes authentic ones get caught in the net too. “We’re working hard at it. It’s a tough one,” said Vince Sollitto.

On, members post "jobs" they're willing to perform for $5 and under.

"I will play Happy Birthday on the Bagpipes wearing personalized namecard," offers a user named johnnyzip. "I will make an emotional rant [video] for $5," says user mel864.

How to tell real reviews from fake ones? Look for nuance - the good and the bad.

Room definitely exists for more review aggregator websites of the professional and semi-professional variety - what RottenTomatoes does for movies hasn't been done for books, live theatre or other arts.