NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – You can find both good and bad reviews for just about any business online. But first-person testimonials may not always be true.
The Ones for Justice found a surprising secret buried inside one company’s testimonials.
“That’s when I filed the claim with the Better Business Bureau,” said homeowner Bill Scalzo.
Scalzo turned to the BBB after problems with his home warranty provider, Total Home Protection.
So did homeowner Jo Wayts.
“That’s what all the complaints were about, the same situation I’m having,” Wayts said.
Many customers claim Total Home Protection won’t return calls or hire contractors when needed.
“They paid money, they had a contract, and they got some type of service and that was vetted by the BBB,” said Phylissia Clark, the spokeswoman for the Dallas-area Better Business Bureau.
Clark said the BBB verifies every complaint before it’s published. The same cannot be said for testimonials on a number of other sites.
Take Total Home Protection’s “Reviews & Ratings” page.
“Sean” in Delaware said he received “fantastic service.”
But the photo of “Sean” is actually a stock image called “portrait of the man of average years.”
“Juliette” in Indiana is “casual woman,” while Lester in Pennsylvania is “man working at computer in contemporary office.”
“I think it’s just plainly dishonest to show a picture of someone else who didn’t say that,” said Tommy Noonan, the founder of ReviewMeta.com.
Noonan analyzes online testimonials for a living. He said stock photos can undermine a company’s credibility.
“The person whose face is in that picture has never heard of your company, never used your brand, they have no experience with you whatsoever, they don’t even know your picture is used on your website,” he said.
Noonan suggests third-party sites could provide more balanced testimonials or reviews than the product’s actual website.
A spokesperson for Total Home Protection said the company uses stock photos because there’s no way to verify the pictures customers provide with their reviews. the spokesperson went on to add many online companies rely on stock images.