Chegg.com Busted For Questionable Student Testimonials

We have all wondered about reading those customer-submitted testimonials online. Anyone can sign up and post, so are those for real… or are they just plants by the company? I had always given companies the benefit of the doubt – hoping that they were keeping their nose out of anything shady. It seems like my benefits may have be misplaced. We here at EGJ have busted Chegg.com for questionable student testimonials.

It all started off with a post about textbook rentals by Katrina. She wrote about several textbook rental companies that she had heard of. In less than a day we had received three testimonials by students for one particular site – Chegg.com. This is a little odd, because we don’t really target students. Or instructors for that matter. Heck, we don’t really even reach that many people that we do target: EdTech professionals (which, of course, may include instructors and possibly even some student grad assistants). So I logged in as the admin and decided to see who these students were. It turns out that Chance Jackson had registered with an email the started out with “abbey.holton“. Kind of odd – why would Abbe pretend to be a different person and gender? So I Google that name and didn’t get much at all. If this was a real student online – wouldn’t there at least be one MySpace page, or FaceBook page, or something? But one search result caught my eye:

http://www.chegg.com/index.php/SaveBig

If you scroll to the bottom, you’ll see that Abbe Holton is one of the testimonials on the site. Weird coincidence? I think not. So I checked the IP addresses on Chance, Stan Liu, and Ana Romero. They all came from the exact same IP address in Fremont, CA – just down the road from Santa Clara, CA – home of Chegg.com. Too weird. So we checked our visitor logs from FeedBurner, and there were NO hits on our site from any search engine results for “Chegg” or “textbook rentals.” However, there were 4 (now 5) hits from “http://mail.chegg.com/zimbra/mail.” All too crazy.

So, I posted all of this as a comment. The next day, surprise, surprise – we magically get one visitor from a search for “has anyone used chegg.com” and another “testimonial” that traced back to Pakistan. According to the Chegg.com website, “Currently, Chegg is only available to U.S. residents”- so that testimonial was just deleted as being suspect. Questionable student testimonials and hiring people from Pakistan to do the same? Tsk, Tsk.

The crazy thing is, we have gotten comments from companies that we have blogged about. They identified themselves as working for that company. And we dialogued with them. That is totally cool with us – if we blog about your site, feel free to plug your stuff in a comment. But don’t do crazy stuff like this. That’s just uncool.

(or at least pick a more popular blog that doesn’t have time to check up on suspect comments :) )

Matt Crosslin

Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

9 thoughts on “Chegg.com Busted For Questionable Student Testimonials

  1. Harriet Watkins

    Yeah! That was very UNCOOL. Talk about deperate for customers!!! No way to do business…. I tell ya.

    Good looking out EGJ!

  2. Hello Matt,

    My name is Martina, and I am the Customer Experience Manager with Chegg.com. We appreciate your post. The beauty of the internet is that it allows anyone to be extremely honest. All of the students that posted on your blog are our customers first, and our interns second. They have been customers since the beginning and are super enthusiastic about what Chegg.com is doing to help the cost of education. The facts are the facts. Students that use our service save up to 80% on textbooks, and to date we have planted over 50 city blocks worth of trees. Our environmental partners are proudly displayed on our ‘Be Green’ page. Thank you so much for keeping us honest.

  3. Matt Crosslin

    Martina – thank you for your comments. While there are still a few holes in this situation, I will leave it at that. I don’t doubt that you are saving money or planting trees – and I think that is great. But I will take issue with me ‘keeping you honest.’ It is not my duty, or anyone elses for that matter, to make any one be honest. It is your duty as a company to keep your employees, interns, and even volunteers honest. Having interns post testimonials of your company, even if they are also satisfied customers, is pretty shaky ground morally, unless they state that they ‘loved Chegg so much that they decided to intern.’ If they did that – there would be no issues here. In fact, we would have welcomed the comments if that as the case (as we have in the past with other companies). Without stating that up front, comments become a little more than slightly questionable.

    Also, I would point out that if the comments were a little more realistic, we probably wouldn’t have noticed. Just know your audience. We don’t get many students surfing our site. So multiple comments from a non-target population all coming from the same IP address is immediately going to raise eyebrows. Even without knowing the IP address, many web surfers are pretty suspisious of multiple positive comments for only one service on a post that describes many services. That is just the way the web is – users are ‘plant-hunters’ and feel pretty insulted when companies plant information. Over-zealous interns still fall in to the ‘plant’ category in many people’s minds – even if they really are telling the truth.

    The issue we had with this whole situation was not the honesty of the claims about your service – plants tend to be true most of the time – it was with the concept that these were just students praising a favorite product.

  4. While Chegg may seem awesome, they have horrible customer service, extremely ridiculous shipping times, and their books are in bad condition.

    Good luck trying to get in touch with them by phone or email if you ever have any problems. And good luck in getting your books within 2 weeks of your order being placed.

    Stay away from Chegg until they improve their customer service and shipping.

  5. Dont believe anything Chegg.com stated. They DO NOT respond to e-mails or phone calls despite stating they have the best customer service ever. I ordered a text two weeks ago with expedited shipping and still have nothing. I don live in the outback. I am in Milwaukee! I have repeatedly tried to contact them to no avail, but they are sure to send a generic e-mail each time to let me know how great they are and that they’ll get back to me within 24-48 hours. YEA RIGHT! NEVER buy from these people. Save your time and plant your own tree.

  6. I agree with Melissa. We have been trying to contact Chegg for over a week via email and the phone. The response on the phone is they are busy and you should email them. We have emailed with no replies. My son rented 2 books from them and has never received them. He ordered well over 2 1/2 weeks ago. This company is a fraud. We want our money back!

  7. I too am a victim of Chegg. Stay away, stay far far away. I have been waiting 3 weeks for books, no way to contact the company, so now my bank is involved.

  8. I am still waiting to receive my textbooks that were ordered Aug 29 with priority shipping set to arrive no later than Sept 9. It is now Sept 14 and I still don’t have all of my textboooks. I’ve left a message on the customer service line, after business hours and received no response. I’ve called the customer service line during business hours and the recording ALWAYS tells me that they’re “experiencing high call volumes”, and then hangs up. I also submitted a ticket online on Sept 9 and was guaranteed a response in 48 hrs. In addition, I emailed their customer service once the 48hrs expired. Still NO RESPONSE. I also cannot track my books, the text says that that feature is not available at this time. What!? I did receive one textbook two weeks ago, but it is the least important of the three, and it was the cheapest. I am highly disgusted with this company, and will be reporting them to the BBB. I do know a person that didn’t have any problems with the company, however she only ordered one book. Preying on college students? Pathetic…

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