Property Management Offers Prizes for Good Reviews

Property Management Offers Prizes for Good Reviews

On the upside, $500 worth of heating would go a long way

Last week, an Ōtepoti property manager sent an unsolicited email to all their customers, offering everyone who left a good Google review a chance to win a $500 Prezzy card, while discouraging people from leaving bad reviews.

The email was sent by Bex Harris, who co-owns the Propertyscouts franchise in Ōtepoti, to Propertyscouts’ tenants and landlords. She began by saying that “online reviews can make or break a business,” before adding: “We aren't after just the good [feedback], but feel free to send that through because in reality that is what we are after.” 

Tenants who have had poor experiences were asked to “maybe not post it as a Google review, as it would be great if we had the opportunity to put right anything we aren't doing well before the World (sic) gets to hear about it.” Those posting “good Google reviews,” however, would be put into the draw to win a $500 Prezzy card. No further details were provided on what constituted a “good review” – for example, whether 3-star reviews would count, or 4-star reviews with some negative comments on them. 

Despite the vagueness, Propertyscouts’ prize-dangling strategy appeared to have worked. The last time Critic Te Ārohi checked, 40 reviews were left on Propertyscouts’ Google page, boosting their review numbers by around 50%. Prior to the promotion beginning, the most recent reviews on their page were left two months ago. Some reviewers, seemingly embittered by Propertyscouts’ tactics, left one-star reviews, with one explicitly stating that this was “for the $500 voucher you tried to bribe us to leave good feedback with”. The vast majority of these reviews, though, seemed to be positive. 

Several landlords got in on the action too, including one “M Weir,” who we found was Milton Weir, who started Propertyscouts, and whose son Ryan currently owns the nationwide group (not the Ōtepoti franchise). Milton left a five-star review and said that “I wouldn’t think to use anyone else to manage my rental properties.” He told Critic Te Ārohi that he currently has no financial interest in any Propertyscouts businesses, but says that they “do an excellent job” of managing his rental properties, adding: “As I no longer live in Dunedin, it’s important that they do a good job for me, as my investments provide me with my retirement income.” 

Asked for comment, Bex told Critic Te Ārohi that Propertyscouts wanted to keep the email “light-hearted,” saying that “many happy customers don’t always go out of their way to write positive reviews, so we offered the incentive to encourage them to do so.” Fair enough. She added that asking customers to direct negative feedback to herself, rather than as a Google review, would be “the most constructive way to deal with [them], and in turn… [hopefully] turn negative feedback into what could be a positive outcome.”

A spokesperson for consumer advocacy group Consumer NZ told Critic Te Ārohi that “In our view, companies should not offer incentives in exchange for positive online reviews. In doing so, they are likely to skew the reviews and may be breaching the Fair Trading Act. If a company wants to offer incentives for reviews, they should offer them for any review, not just positive reviews. They should also clearly disclose that an incentive was offered for the review.”

According to Bex, “Our legal advice has indicated there is no breach, however we have now stopped the competition, not because of any admission of legal wrongdoing but because our intent was misinterpreted and through clearer wording, that misinterpretation could have been avoided.” 

Google themselves prohibit “content that has been incentivised by a business in exchange for discounts, free goods and/or services”. According to their policies, such reviews qualify as “fake engagement” and will be removed. A Google spokesperson told Critic Te Ārohi that: “Our policies clearly state reviews must be based on real experiences, and when we find policy violations, we take action — from removing abusive content to disabling user accounts.'' Bex told Critic Te Ārohi that “as a result of this, all positive reviews we received [from the promotion] have since been removed, and so the negative impact on us is substantial.”

She finished by saying that “[Propertyscouts] always strives to be the best we can be and treat all of our customers with the utmost respect, and apologise to those clients that have taken exception to this.”

This article first appeared in Issue 23, 2022.
Posted 7:29pm Sunday 18th September 2022 by Denzel Chung.