Word-of-Mouth Cherry Blossom Scandal” Spreading at Big Motor, a Major Used Car Dealer, “Systematic and Normative | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Word-of-Mouth Cherry Blossom Scandal” Spreading at Big Motor, a Major Used Car Dealer, “Systematic and Normative

So far, this magazine has reported on "allegations of fraudulent insurance claims" and "allegations of a cover-up of a car fire. However, there are other allegations as well. Automotive journalist Kumiko Kato delves into the facts

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The Kumamoto Hamasen branch was found to have committed fraud in vehicle inspections and was punished by the Kyushu District Transport Bureau, including the cancellation of its designated vehicle maintenance business. As reported in this magazine, the Kumamoto Hamasen branch was also suspected of setting a customer’s car on fire and covering it up.

Big Motor” is a major used car sales company that has been involved in a number of troubles. The magazine has so far pursued various allegations, such as the fact that the company was making fraudulent insurance claims by puncturing the tires of customers’ cars and covering up accidents in which customers’ cars burst into flames. In the midst of all this, a new allegation has surfaced. It is the “suspicion of cherry-picking on word-of-mouth sites.

A used car can cost several hundred thousand yen for a cheap one, and several million yen for an expensive one. Everyone wants to know about the reputation of the store. In such cases, “reviews on Google Maps” are often used as a reference. To take advantage of this mentality, Big Motor is reportedly constantly engaging in “cherry-picking,” in which employees themselves post information posing as users of the company’s services.

It should be noted that there are many cases in which not all of the reviews on Google are purely the voices of customers. However, what if this kind of cherry-picking was “systematic” and “quota-oriented”?

Take a look at the following exchange. This is part of an actual exchange posted by the head of Big Motor’s sales division to a group LINE in which store managers from all over Japan participate. The sales general manager himself pointed out the stores with low ratings by name. A former employee who worked at a store in the Kanto region reveals the inside story.

The general manager’s instructions were simply to ‘increase the number of good reviews,’ but basically, not many customers would write reviews even if you talked to them. So this is implicitly an order from the head office, ‘Do something about it with the store staff!’ ‘ That’s an order from headquarters.”

A LINE exchange in which store managers from all over the country participate. The person posting the message is the general manager of the sales division. The former employee is indignant, saying, “Headquarters is taking the stance that it is not mandatory, but if that is the case, why is it necessary to expose it to the entire company?
In the exchange, the general manager (the poster of the above comment) pointed out the situation by name. Shortly thereafter, the manager of the Utsunomiya store apologizes

Google allows individuals to create an unlimited number of accounts. If you write a good review on your account and give it a “*5” rating, the average score will naturally rise. Furthermore, there is a penalty for stores with low average review scores.

The president and vice president of Big Motor actually visit all stores nationwide once a month to conduct a rigorous check. This will affect the salaries of the store’s staff as well.

What is the latest evaluation of the store in Utsunomiya, which was actually exposed as one of the lowest in the country with a rating of “*3.1”? Looking at its contents, we found that the number of “★5” reviews had increased by nearly 50 in one fell swoop 10 months ago, and the latest rating had increased significantly to “★3.9.

Instructions from headquarters to improve reviews are not limited to Google. In fact, in the past, there have been exchanges encouraging the strengthening of reviews on major used car review sites

There is a possibility that Big Motor’s cherry-picking activities are not limited to Google. For example, the reviews on used car information sites have high ratings across the board, but there are pitfalls there as well. In fact, the major sites screen the content of comments and do not publish “lousy,” “worst,” or other offensive words. In addition, the sites may ask the restaurant in advance whether or not it will post low-ranked reviews. An editor who has experience managing a similar review site said, “I have been involved in five review sites.

The review site I was involved with would not publish reviews that received a score of 3 or less on a 5-point scale. We don’t publish reviews that are unfavorable to our clients from the very beginning. I was not directly involved with the Big Motor review site, so I can only speculate, but even if a word-of-mouth report was actually posted alleging serious damage, if the Big Motor side says, ‘There is no such fact,’ there is no way to confirm it. For the used car information media, Big Motor is probably a major customer with a huge annual listing fee.

We contacted Big Motor to confirm these allegations, but the inquiry form was closed the day after the questionnaire was sent, and we did not receive a response by the deadline.

How can one find a correct evaluation among the vast number of reviews? The most effective way is to go to review sites such as Google, where ordinary users can post reviews directly and freely, and refer to a wide range of reviews, even those with low ratings. It is also effective to look at an account’s posting history when you find a rating you are interested in. In most cases, accounts that are engaged in cherry-picking activities have a single review. It is important to make a comprehensive judgment, rather than just relying on high ratings.

Because this is an expensive purchase, it is not wrong to gather a variety of information and use it to make a decision. The important thing is not to believe that all information is correct. Because anyone can post information on a review site, there may be some false voices among the users.

  • Interview and text by Kumiko Kato

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