myTukar Calls Out Carsome For Gaming 5-Star Online Reviews

The practice of financially incentivising positive reviews is the bone myTukar is picking with Carsome currently. 

There appears to have been a little bit of a kerfuffle happening between the two largest online local used car sites recently, as myTukar has, in an open letter posted to Facebook, called out Carsome for incentivising and rewarding 5-star online reviews.  

In the open letter addressed to Carsome CEO Eric Cheng, myTukar has urged Carsome that its review mechanism involving monetary incentives go against ethical advertising and review practices. More specifically, myTukar has further highlighted that Carsome is actually going against Google’s policies of financially rewarding reviewers for positive reviews. 

Now what apparently kick-started this appeal from myTukar was Carsome’s upcoming marketing campaign for boosted 5-star reviews to stand a chance in winning ‘attractive prizes’, such as an iPhone 15 Pro. This nevertheless appears to only be the straw that broke the camel’s back, as myTukar alleges for this unsavoury business tactic have long been practiced by its main competitor, with myTukar claiming that similar reviews-for-prizes promotions dating back as early as 2020. 

The full open letter from myTukar to Carsome reads as follows: 

Dear Mr Cheng:

Our customers’ voices matter. Which is why we believe they should have a final say in their experiences with us – whether good or bad or lukewarm. 5-star reviews spurs us to keep up the good work, and any negative reviews help us pinpoint any blind spots in our processes in services, allowing us to further improve.

We have noticed Carsome’s long practice of rewarding and incentivising reviews as part of marketing campaigns, with prizes for 5-star reviews and most-liked 5-star reviews.

Rewarding and incentivising 5-star reviews will not only erode trust and reliability in the long run, but also create an environment of mistrust across the used car industry in Malaysia. We have long tolerated this and strongly urge Carsome to cease such activities.

Carsome’s Chief Marketing Officer Ravi Shankar wrote in a LinkedIn update on 29 February: Most brands & businesses aim to be perceived as “trusted”. Yet most don’t provide consumers with a distinctive reason to trust them in a way that’s any different to the competition. Stand out by telling a unique story that goes beyond just shouting, ‘Trust us.”

While we highly agree with this, we’re also baffled by his statement since incentivising 5-star reviews goes directly against what he’s saying. People should be able to trust customer reviews without second guessing if they were paid reviews.

Competition within the industry is essential – that’s what spurs us on to improve our products, services and innovation. However, as role models and leaders in Malaysia’s used car industry, we strongly urge you to set the playing field right again, and to support our commitment in creating a transparent, honest environment for all used car buyers and sellers.

Sincerely, myTukar

Just being the cynic here, this callout of Carsome by myTukar could well be construed as myTukar using this opportunity to knock its main competitor down a peg. 

What more is for this to technically be a case of the pot calling the kettle black too, for myTukar has indeed previously conducted similar reviews-for-prizes promotional campaigns in the past, as pointed out by commenters in the aforementioned open letter post on Facebook. Though the company claims that this was performed under a different marketing team, and is ashamed of its past actions. 

To be entirely fair to Carsome here as well, there is possibly the argument to be made here for them to technically be perfectly within their rights in incentivising customers to leave reviews. The leaving of reviews could be thought of just another avenue of marketing, and an admittedly effective one at that too, as the general public tends to place more trust in these reviews. 

That though is the crux of the problem here, as while incentivising customers to leave reviews is harmless in the grand scheme of things, financially motivating only wholly positive reviews however is not. And not especially when said wholly positive reviews are literally scripted with a set starting phrase, as what Carsome has done… 

Reviews, by right, should be an honest evaluation of the product or service, with any strings attached to what is said ideally to be clearly indicated, such that the other party looking at said review knows of a present conflict of interest. There is (or at least should be) a distinction between an honest review, and what is essentially paid promotion. 

As rather concisely put by myTukar in the aforementioned open letter, ’Rewarding and incentivising 5-star reviews will not only erode trust and reliability in the long run, but also create an environment of mistrust across the used car industry in Malaysia.’

Joshua Chin

Automotive journalist. Professional work on and Personal writing found at Instagram: @driveeveryday

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