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Online Reviews Spark Shopping Revolution

This screengrab from a YouTube video shows Australian small businessman Teg Sethi who gave a negative review of his Jeep in a funny, musical video.

Australian small businessman Teg Sethi thought he was buying his dream car, a $44,000 [$60,000 Australian] Jeep Grand Cherokee. His dream car became a nightmare when the vehicle had 15 problems, including trouble with the steering.

His harshly negative review of the car gathered more than 2 million views on YouTube alone, and is part of a revolution in relations between customers and companies brought about by surging online commerce and the rise of social media critiques.

The rap video is called, “I Made A Mistake. I Bought A Lemon Jeep”.

Many business experts say social media gives customers, including this angry man from Australia, a global platform to air their opinions, which could boost well-run firms and threaten the existence of others.

The lemon Jeep’s author uses a rap song with funny lyrics and a catchy tune, attractive dancers, and skillful production to assert his opinion that the car is a “lemon” — slang for a piece of junk that is unreliable and unsafe.

Large lemons are pictured throughout the video, including an actor dressed in a lemon costume. Other actors are wearing lemons or shirts with lemons on them, and the car has a yellow license plate that reads “lemon.”

The video leaves no doubt about Teggy’s opinion of the product.

Social media 'changes everything'

A Chrysler spokesman says the company reached out to the obviously unhappy customer, corrected some problems and was unable to find some others.

Chrysler's Ed Garsten said, “We value each and every customer” and “remain open to constructive dialogue.”

According to Sethi, an initial settlement offer would have prohibited him or any member of his family, including his infant son, from commenting on the car or revealing the content of the agreement. In an email to VOA, he now said he and the company have reached a resolution that leaves him and his associates free to campaign for stronger laws to protect consumers.

According to Sethi, social media “changes everything” but must be “clever” to have a significant impact.

The impact appears likely to grow in the United States where the volume of e-commerce has hit a record high for the sixth year in a row.

Chris Moloney, CEO of Gremln, a digital marketing and social media technology company, said the accompanying increase in social media reviews is sparking a fundamental change in the way most purchases are made.

Moloney said prospective customers of both online and traditional stores now take time to get online information, including social media reviews, before they pull out their credit cards or cash.

Gets quick response

Professor Keith Quesenberry researches digital marketing at Messiah College in Pennsylvania. He said social media reviews are important to companies because prospective customers trust them far more than information from paid advertising.

In an email, he writes that social media have become so important that companies no longer have a choice on whether to provide social media customer service. Quesenberry said, however, that such service can be cheaper for companies than traditional methods.

Alexander Ruggie runs a service company that repairs water damage to homes caused by leaks, sewage backups, firefighting efforts and other problems. The head of 911 Restoration said social media options are “quickly supplementing existing customer service operations.”

He said they are ”a rapid and conscientious response from the company.”

Ruggie said social media have a particularly strong impact on firms like his that provide services.

The Better Business Bureau’s Katherine Hutt said her organization has been monitoring customer concerns for many years, and it has added a social media area on its website for consumer reviews of the millions of companies monitored by the BBB.

She said her group checks online reviews to make sure they come from valid customers, and then shares complaints with the relevant companies so they have a chance to respond and resolve the issues.

In the meantime, Sethi and his family have bought a new car. It is not a Jeep.

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