Keeping our teams' identities anonymous is clearly at odds with our commitment to radical transparency but we strongly believe that this exception ultimately serves the greater good of producing the highest quality and most honest digital service reviews in the world.
To help understand why, think of our reviewers a bit like mystery shoppers. You might know them by the name Secret Shoppers™ but no matter what you call them, the idea is the same.
If you're not familiar with mystery shopping, don't worry, the concept is simple. Mystery shoppers are average people hired by companies to anonymously shop or dine at one of the company's retail locations and then report back on the experience. In many ways it's like a review but of a physical store and for the benefit of the store owners.
For example, the corporate arm of a fast food restaurant chain might hire a mystery shopper to visit six of their restaurants in a small city over the course of a week and, at each one, purchase specific items at the counter, ask for more information on a menu item, dine in, and use the restroom before leaving. The mystery shopper then fills out a lengthy survey and provides that information to their contact. The mystery shopper usually earns a small fee in addition to the free meal. This whole process is repeated every so often as a way for corporate to ensure their franchisees are providing the quality of service they agreed to.
Now imagine for a moment that the mystery shopper wears a "Hi, I'm a Mystery Shopper" t-shirt. We can probably all agree that the burger would be perfectly crafted, the most knowledgeable employee would be answering questions, and the bathrooms would get a thorough clean while the shopper enjoyed their meal.
Like some of our better competitors, we handle our version of this potential issue by signing up for the digital services we review using pseudonyms, anonymous email addresses, temporary addresses, virtual phone numbers, and single-use credit card numbers. This is an effective way to be treated like any other customer online.
Heading back to our analogy, imagine instead that the mystery shopper leaves their t-shirt at home, has a less-than-amazing experience, but then gives the restaurant owner their business card. The owner, knowing full well the financial consequences to the franchise of a negative review, offers the mystery shopper several thousand dollars under-the-table to instead give a glowing report to corporate. This is a win-win situation: the mystery shopper makes a lot more money and the franchisee avoids being required to make much more costly improvements. Unfortunately, thousands upon thousands of customers lose out, continuing to experience poor quality food or service.
The online review equivalents of this scenario are referred to as paid placements and advertorials. We talk about these more in our Advertising Policy but the key thing to understand is that both involve under-the-table payments for special treatment made by the companies behind the products or services being reviewed. It's a shockingly common practice and creating a review process that prevents this from happening was a major reason for creating The New Review.
All that said, anonymity isn't a fool proof strategy to prevent abuse. While more difficult, we understand that it's not impossible for one of the digital service companies we review to find a way to have a covert conversation with one of our team members and offer a "pay for play" deal.
So, beyond anonymity, we do the most obvious thing to ensure our team members act with integrity: we treat them with respect and that includes paying them properly. Aside from simply being the right thing to do, this is smart business. We also use a matrixed review structure and have strict checks and balances throughout our review workflow. All of these processes help assure you that you're reading the most honest information possible so you can make the right decision.
Bottom Line: Like with mystery shopping, anonymity is an often overlooked component to trustworthy, high-quality reviews. However, we have a number of additional processes that help ensure our reviews are free from outside influence.