Spotting Yelp Review Laundering (Houston’s MGA Garage Door)
The left torsion spring on our garage door broke, so I looked for a replacement part.
I called MGA Garage Door in Houston, and was told that they don’t sell parts, but would send out a service guy to give me an estimate.
It turns out that the companies advertising “garage door parts” don’t sell them. They’re service companies. And they’ve got you over a barrel because if your garage door has broken there’s a 50% chance your car is on the inside, and a greater chance that you want your car on the other side than it’s on.
So $70 to get the part from Amazon, plus a week with the garage door mostly out of commission; or more to pay someone to fix the garage door today.
Fair enough. I made an appointment for an estimate with MGA Garage Door. I asked them how much, and they said “$65 and up for the spring, and $45 and up for the service.” This last made me a bit suspicious—I know what the service is (replace and adjust both torsion springs) and what the parts are (245 X 2 X 29 springs). A reputable garage-door company should be able give an estimate based on that information (and, as it turns out, a reputable garage-door company can—two companies gave me quotes of $250 and $270).
(Note: torsion springs store a great deal of energy, and can do a lot of harm if they release it quickly. Doing it yourself is generally recognized as a Dangerous Bad Idea.)
There’d be a $20 charge from MGA for a quote—reasonable operating procedure for companies offering in-home repairs. I made the appointment.
Then my tingling spidey sense led me to check out MGA‘s Yelp page. Four stars overall, with 21 reviews. Not too bad.
Look at the several one- and two-star reviews first. Overcharging, suspect honesty, poor work quality. Not great, but I don’t expect everyone to be happy.
Now look at the five-star reviews.
“Ray O.” in Costa Mesa, California left the first review, five stars in 2014. Costa Mesa? California? He says it was his mom’s garage door; this begins an interesting pattern in M.G.A.’s Yelp reviews.
Look at Ray O.’s other reviews. They are mostly 5-stars, but not all. (“All 5 stars” would raise a red flag, because that’s not how real people use Yelp. More on that in a bit.) Everything but the M.G.A. review is in the L.A. area. He has an airport-shuttle review (1 star), a surf shop review, two general-contractor reviews, a jeweler, a motorcycle shop, a vet, and a food truck.
Let’s look at those two general-contractor reviews. In January 2016 Ray O. wrote of Inner City Skyline:
Wow! – I love my new patio. Thank you inner city skyline and Rami for your great service, I received this guys name from my realtor and after I met him I knew he will be the right guy for the job, they build me a new patio and painted my house. the job was done beautifully, professionally, fast and @ a fair price. I will recommend inner city skyline [in Huntington Beach] to everyone I know Cheers…
(Other five-star reviewers for Inner City Skyline include Dudi C., Sharon R., Avi N. of Washington, D.C., Tal A., Leah, Matan, Suzanne of Philadelphia, Gal, Ortal, Rami, Chaim of Miami Beach, and Sharona.)
Then three months later Ray O. wrote of Sun American Builders:
These guys are amazing, I’m glad to finally find a contractor in Huntington Beach, Orange County that actually does what they promise. They showed up on time and did perfect job just as agreed. No surprises A-Z, price was totally fair comparing to other estimates. They installed a new paver stones driveway and my wife and me just loving it. Our next project will be replacing our roof and installing solar and we will definitely use this guys for both.
(Jump to Sun American Builders’ Yelp page, just for fun. Some other 5-star commenters: Sona, Elad in Dallas, Nitzan, and Gaili in Scottsdale.)
Back to MGA. Other five-star reviews are from Rom, Yaniv in L.A. (twice), Rotem in L.A., Bentzi in L.A., Adam in Brasilia, and Shlomi.
Pick one. Okay, Rom. Three reviews, all five stars. A moving company and, about a month apart, two garage-door companies.
Let’s hop over to that second garage-door company—not MGA, but Grand Garage Door of Houston.
Hey, look, a five-star review for Grand Garage Door from Adam in Brasilia, who also reviewed MGA. And a five-star review from Yaniv in L.A., who … also reviewed MGA. Huh.
What a bizarre coincidence! Three Houston garage-door companies with five-star reviews from the same three people, two of whom don’t even live in Houston.
What are the odds.
So that’s Rom and Yaniv and Adem. How about Bentzi or Shlomi or Rotem?
Rotem has a couple of less-than-five-star reviews, but nothing jumps out … yet. Bentzi has all five-star reviews, but nothing else jumps out … yet.
Shlomi has all five-star reviews, including one for My Pita restaurant, which also has a five-star review, ten days later from a Jon D. in Houston. And a five-star review from Adam D. of Brasilia (who, remember, reviewed MGA and Grand Garage Doors).
Oh. That’s funny. Jon D. also gave MGA five stars.
Another MGA five-starrer is Natalie C. Natalie has written all five-star reviews. She also reviewed another Houston garage-door company, GDS. Like Rom, she left the second garage-door-company review about a month after her MGA review.
Natalie also reviewed Tony & Friends salon, which—shocker—Jon D. (who is connected to Shlomi via MGA and My Pita) also reviewed.
Likewise, Natalie C. and Jon D. both reviewed Clean Air Houston Pro.
So many strange coincidences.
Let’s look at friends on Yelp. Bentzi B. of Los Angeles, who reviewed M.G.A., has fifty. They include Rotem, another MGA five-star reviewer whose reviews were not obviously fake.
Yeah, Mark, but if these were fraudulent reviews left by one person there would be verbal tics.
I’m not saying they were left by one person, but …
Wild, huh? four reviews for M.G.A. Garage Door Repair with the same punctuation error—a space before a comma.
I’m sure there is much more to dig up, but this is more than enough to convince me that at least half of MGA’s five-star Yelp reviews are fake.
I helpfully called MGA back and told the lady who had helped me make an appointment that I no longer needed it. When she asked why, I helpfully explained to her that someone appeared to be posting fake five-star reviews of her business, and that I didn’t feel I could trust MGA Garage Door Repair.
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