Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Reviewboard Magazine is a Scam



Have you been contacted by someone from Reviewboard Magazine? Be careful with what you do next.
Our company was contacted by Philip Ferreira, the Special Features Editor of Reviewboard Magazine in early August of 2015. He told us he was interested in reviewing one of our products and potentially placing it on the cover of the Reviewboard Magazine 2015 Holiday Buyer’s Guide. He said that the magazine has been around for over 18 years, that they have over 1.5 million subscribers and that their Holiday Buyer’s Guide is also available for purchase on Amazon and on Google Play and iTunes. It turns out these are all lies. 
There is no Reviewboard Magazine and they certainly don’t have 1.5 million subscribers. None of their issues or Holiday Buyer’s Guides have even been available on Amazon or anywhere else. We don’t even know if this guy’s name is Philip Ferreira. Buyer beware!
If you or your company has been contacted by anyone from Reviewboard Magazine do not bother with a response. Companies beware! This “Philip Ferreira” will attempt to persuade you to send your product to them so they can publish a review. There will never be a review because this is fraud.
I’ll admit it, we were fooled. At first glance, their website looks like what an above-board publication would have. There are staff pages, privacy policies, and they state they are owned by Random Publishing, LLC. Their Facebook page has over 90,000 likes. After we were initially contacted, we checked out their website and saw a review of one of our competitor’s products.
Getting media coverage in any holiday shopping guide, let alone a print publication with millions of readers, is a great opportunity for any company. But we wish we were more diligent before falling for this scam. Upon closer inspection the Reviewboard Magazine front begins to fall apart.
The reviews of products they have posted are thin. Each review has only a single photo and maybe 100 words. Surely there should be more. There appears to be a paywall where only subscribers can access the content. There is nothing behind the paywall. The only way to pay for a subscription is via PayPal to Philip Ferreira. Surely a publication as old and large as this would have a more robust subscription shopping cart. Why would the Special Features Editor and CFO have his personal name on the PayPal account? The reviews available on their site look like they have been scraped from other review sites. Some of the photos taken look like they used the same background, so some of the reviews could be genuine.
Reviewboard Magazine claims to be owned by Random Publishing, LLC. This may sound convincing, but only because it alludes to Penguin Random House, the largest book publisher in the world. However, Penguin Random House does not publish magazines – they are owned by a conglomerate that also has a European magazine division. The only web presence Random Publishing, LLC has is a LinkedIn profile that lists that they have 11-50 employees.
We sent Reviewboard Magazine our flagship product. They told us everything was going fine, and that they were taking photos to use in their publication. They even posted the cover of the Holiday Buyer’s Guide featuring our product and one other on their website! We were so excited. Now came the time to facilitate the return of our product. For some publications and industries it is standard practice to send a product out for review and let them keep it. This may certainly true for small items like video games, small gadgets, and the like. This is certainly not true for products worth over $3,000.
We regularly send our expensive products out for review at reputable publications. Big household names, and even some smaller industry niche ones. Certainly the ones our customers frequent. We’ve never encountered something like this before. The Reviewboard representative was not upfront about this, even stringing us along telling us that he would return our product soon. This week, he told us.
It was around this time that our customer support department received a call about a user who was having trouble with our flagship product. We don’t sell too many of those, and we could not locate the owner in our warranty database. He told us he purchased the unit in eBay. We do not sell on eBay, and we can’t imagine one of our customers reselling their item less than a year after purchase, but this is not outside the realm of possibility.  Little did we know that this was related to our troubles with Reviewboard.
We found the completed listing for our product on eBay. It was sold out of a pawn shop outside of Chicago, Fast Cash & Pawn USA in Naperville, Il. The eBay username is (or was) fastcashogden630 and from the photos they used in the listing you could see it was a pawn shop. What our flagship product was doing in a pawn shop, we wondered. We also saw an eBay listing for the other expensive product that was featured on the mockup of the cover of the holiday buyers guide next to our product.
We began to fervently search for any mention of Reviewboard Magazine. We found a thread on Amazon Seller Forums that had similar complaints https://sellercentral.amazon.com/forums/message.jspa?messageID=2844865. Other merchants and manufacturers have been approached by Reviewboard and asked to send products. Those that did not received threats of poor reviews. Those that did send their products never saw them, nor a review again. These products were bunk beds and jewelry that cost hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars. In hind sight, it would have been better to have a poor review from some inconsequential no-name fake review publication than to take a loss on our product.
We also found some press releases from other manufacturers that had apparently sent their items to Reviewboard Magazine. In each one the boilerplate text describing the publication varies. In some, Reviewboard claims to have 110 million readers in 54 countries, which is quite different from the 1.5 million we were told. In others the claim was that the Holiday Buyer’s Guide was read by 28 million. None of these are true because neither the Holiday Buyer’s Guide nor the Reviewboard Magazine is actually printed.
Other claims include that Alexa ranking lists Reviewboard Magazine as the third largest consumer product review publication in the world. In the emails we received this metric was listed as #10. However, anyone can perform an Alexa rank check. At the time of this publication, we could see that reviewboard.com is ranked 843,756th in the world, and falling. The website for Reviewboard Magazine is http://www.reviewboard.com/
If you have been contacted by anyone from Reviewboard Magazine, the best thing to do is to ignore them. If you have been contacted by their representatives, or have sent them product, we would love to hear your story. Please email us at reviewboard.is.a.scam@gmail.com.

[UPDATE - June 2016] After this was published the 2015 Reviewboard Magazine Holiday Buyers Guide became available on Amazon. It was available to non-subscribers after Christmas. There is a review of our product there, and it is pretty good. In the past when we've had our product reviewed by organizations like CNET our product was returned to us. That is what we are concerned about. We've also heard from other businesses who have had similar experiences.



4 comments:

  1. A simple search on amazon for reviewboard showed me that their holiday buyers guide is $1.99 and has been available since the day after Christmas (it says something like to get it in Nov you have to subscribe). I have only found 2 bad things about reviewboard, this writing, and the one mentioned in the forums you talk about. This smells a lot like sour grapes to me. Did you get a bad review? I've heard of reviewboard for years and definitely remember reading a few of their articles. I think you are full of shit.

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    1. I'm sure you can see that this blog post was published on December 16th, before their Holiday Buyer's Guide was available on Amazon. There is a review of our product there, and it's a good review. What we are upset about is not receiving our product back. Whenever we've worked with review organizations like CNET, WIRED or others they always return the review unit promptly.

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  2. No I didn't see that, but I do see on every page of their website they have a submission policy that states they don't return the product they review. When I go to the internet archive, I see they have been around for almost 20 years and they have had some form of submission policy on their site for the last 10 or so years saying basically the same thing. It seems to me that you didn't do your homework, you sent them machines, they did what they said they were going to do and you are mad because you thought you should get exposure in their magazine free because "CNET" and "Wired" does that. That's like going to best buy and getting a TV, then being mad that you can't take it back 6 months later because last time you bought a TV at Walmart they let you do it. Each company has their own way of doing things. To me... this entire page makes me not want to buy anything from your company. It looks like you are trying to strong arm a company that did what they said they were going to do into giving you a free ride because you didn't read the fine print. That's pretty unethical to me, and I'd never spend real money like what you are asking for that gaming machine with a company that behaves this way. As a corporate executive I wouldn't do business with you either. Airing your dirty laundry in public makes you look small time and the fact that a company rendered services to you and clearly had a submission policy... which you either disregarded or didn't read (negligence) is a black eye. The idea that you thought it would be a good look to publish it is... revealing.

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  3. You guys are the with the Avalanche computer on the cover of the magazine right? I just want you to know that my son wanted your gaming computer this year for Christmas. When I saw the picture it looked familiar to me and I finally remembered seeing it on the cover of some magazine. Took me a little while but I remembered I saw it on amazon and then recalled this post. Needless to say I am not buying him your gaming machine because of this post. We are getting a falcon NW system for him instead. I would never do business with a company that would post something like this. I'm surprised they haven't sued you.

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