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 try to give 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? That does happen, so just out of curiosity 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:
Student Testimonial Page at Chegg.com (link to Archive.org capture)
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. Not anywhere near Washington State or Florida State for sure. 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 suspicious.
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 thing is, we have gotten comments from companies that we have blogged about. They identified themselves as working for that company. And we dialogue 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 suspicious 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 :)
[Note: after this post made it into some student groups, I had to close the comments section due to an overwhelming amount of spam. I did vet the comments we got and approved the ones that seemed the most authentic.]
Update: I edited this post on February 8, 2021 to update some dead links, as well as remove some ablest language.
Matt is currently an Instructional Designer II at Orbis Education and a Part-Time Instructor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Previously he worked as a Learning Innovation Researcher with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His work focuses on learning theory, Heutagogy, and learner agency. 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.