Florists in Local Search
August 7, 2007
Local Search is one of the hottest areas of growth on the web, so naturally it's a prime target for phony local florists. To get top-of-listings placements, deceptive order gatherers use misleading business names, fake addresses, false testimonials, bogus user ratings and black hat negative reviews/ratings against successful real local flower shops. Here's a textbook example from Yahoo Local:
The real name of the company doing the spamming: AAA Flower Mart, Culver City, CA aka mylocalflowershop.com, flowerdeliveryspecialist.com, 800flowerdelivery.com, freeflowerdelivery.com
A sample of their bogus local listings in Yahoo Local:
San Antionio Florist, 500 River Walk St, San Antonio, TX 78205
San Francisco Florist, 600 Van Ness Ave,San Francisco, CA 94102
San Diego Florist, 1100 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
Detroit Florist, 200 W Congress St, Detroit, MI 48226
Chicago Florist, 2100 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60608
Houston Florist, 101 Main St, Houston, TX 77002
New York Florist, 60 Reade St, New York, NY 10007
Boston Florist, 1 Liberty Sq. Boston, MA 02109
Seattle Florist, 899 Madison St, Seattle, WA 98104
Each listing currently appears near the top of the first results page for each city and includes ( FREE DELIVERY TO ALL ZIP CODES) in the title. (Their promise of 'Free Delivery' is utterly false.)
The Florist Detectives have been unable to determine how the listings were added to Yahoo Local or why they appear so prominently for every major city, but we have spotted one source of their glowing ratings, Yahoo user jhcloans.
(More spam reviews, both positive for themselves and negative against competitors, have been added since the screen shots.) See his lovely 'partner', Yahoo user Jessielee for more of the same.
They have been busy spamming rave user reviews and ratings for these fake local florists - and 'anonymously' slamming the reputations of real local flower shops like New York City's Langdon Florist, whose listing appears above AAA's fake flower shop entry.
(One pattern we noticed with AAA's false addresses is that they're on the same street and one or two numbers away from the real addresses of top listed local flower shops.)
The anonymous negative ratings are a serious problem with Yahoo Local and for legitimate local florists. Yahoo allows these defamatory ratings without requring reviews or links to see other entries written by the same perps. The way we spotted this negative rating was by accident - through the jhcloans' and Jessielee's profiles. Their names do not appear anywhere on the one star-rated-without-reviewed companies' pages. Honest, hard-working local business owners are getting zapped by abusive competitors with no way to refute the spam - and Yahoo enables it.
Is Yahoo or one of their marketing partners knowingly selling out their users with these phony local listings? And why does Yahoo allow the continued anonymous spamming and scamming in user reviews?
Dollars intended for real local florists are being diverted and legitimate local companies are left with no way to defend themselves from abuse.
Before you hit the 'buy button' on any florist website or place an order over the phone, please read our tips to avoid fake local florist scams.