How to deal with negative reviews on an e-commerce website?


I'm building an e-commerce website. On this website one can pay a membership to get a profile where he/she can show his/her portfolio.

The website visitors can leave reviews on profiles.

My main idea about reviews is to show only positive reviews on a profile. The negative reviews will only be sent to the profile owner. Why?

1) first, I believe no one will pay for a profile if some negative reviews might be shown on their profile.

2) second, getting negative reviews by email will help the profile owner to improve his work without too much pressure. He will also be able to contact the website visitor who left the review and get more info (or apologize or reply and so on).

However, I realized that this idea might not always be fare to website visitors. What I mean is that if a profile owner gets 10 negative reviews every week and feels too lazy to improve his stuff, then website visitors won't know about it and might get deluded. I haven't found a solution for this problem.

Should I keep going?
Should I forget my idea about the negative reviews and show them on profiles?
Should I not let website visitors leave reviews on profiles?

Thanks very much for your help.


asked Nov 27 '12 at 03:18
11 points
  • I would leave both positive and negative in place. The negative are actually more helpful to the people then positive ones. – Karlson 9 years ago
  • Is your business model based on percentage cut or charging for profiles only? The latter seems a directory site but not an e-commerce site. More details on the model and process would be of help. – Billy Chan 9 years ago
  • @Karlson: right but some people won't register because of the risk bad reviews can be shown on their profile. – Jules 9 years ago
  • @BillyChan: yes you're right, the website looks more like a business directory than an e-commerce website. – Jules 9 years ago
  • How about show negative reviews, but allow a company to rebuttal the review. I.e. you gave a bad review on a restaurant because soneone does not like the typevof food that is served there... An owner can post a response to it. To leave a review it should also be very menial, so a person is more apt to leave a review, don't make a userbhave create a whole account to leave a review. – Matt Clark 9 years ago

8 Answers


I would say that you have to let the negative reviews stand, otherwise your site will lose all credibility. If I give a negative review then check back a few weeks later to see if anyone shared my opinion, I'm not going to be impressed that my review was deleted.

I had a similar experience with a private school reviews website. My daughter was being bullied at school and they didn't do anything about it, so I wrote about it on a school website. The review was seen as negative and removed, while the positive ones remained. Obviously, the website was more interested in the subscription money from the school than the truth. Some weeks later, my daughter was thrown out of that private school and the letter mentioned my bad review as part of their motivation, along with my complaints about the bullying. Rather than deal with the issue, they preferred to remove the victim. The whole system was corrupt.

Anyway, the point is if you want people to state their opinion, you have to tread very carefully if you intend to modify what they say, as it isn't conducive to long-term relationships.

answered Nov 27 '12 at 20:22
Steve Jones
3,239 points


Like most, I think that eliminating the negative reviews are a bad idea - you lose your objectivity. This isn't a new issue: yelp, google et al have this issue, yet allow for people to have their say. They do, however, provide mechanisms to have the comment reviewed - and allow the owner to post a public response.

Hiding the negative review will likely hurt more than showing it - everyone will wonder why the negative review was there in the first place. Example: some people on amazon give negative product reviews because it didn't arrive as quickly as expected. An intelligent person would read that and understand that the review had nothing to do with the product. Without context, the person would wonder what the problem was - food? service? delivery?

There are services out there that monitor company reputation & provide advice (like this ) on how to address negative reviews.

More important is that the directory is curated in a timely fashion to protect against spamming and that the system is robust enough to combat gaming (lots of positive/negative reviews from a single IP, etc.).

answered Dec 1 '12 at 00:40
Jim Galley
9,952 points


I agree negative reviews will bring you credibility - Instead of deleting negative reviews you can clarify the review in comment saying what you tried your best to help customer.

answered Nov 30 '12 at 19:52
Sachin Jadhav
1 point


Have you heard of the quote
“Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to the error that counts.”- Nikki Giovanni

So negative responses are worth as much as the positive ones. Particularly it might encourage the owner to increase their quality and minimize mistakes. The review will give a clear picture of his business and when he gives attention to it, he might start to recieve posiyive reviews,

On the other hand from the customers point of view, they are entitled to know the truth about a product or service without getting them misled. In case if they are misled, it might start to have an impact on your eCommerce store as well.

Therefore, I guess you should leave the reviews as it is. But in case anyone requests you to delete the specific response you can do so.

answered Dec 4 '12 at 03:09
1 point
  • Please stop posting random links to your site. – Zuly Gonzalez 9 years ago


Negative reviews need to be shown. Otherwise you impose a great risk on customers. For instance:

Example business sells 10 chairs. 8 of those chairs only have three legs and are made poorly. 2 of those chairs are high quality. In your example, a customer would come to Example business' profile and see the 2 glowing reviews. They would then purchase a chair and get ripped off. This is bad because not only is it morally unacceptable, but people aren't going to come back to your website and are going to tell others never to trust reviews on your site.

Oh and: If a seller is getting negative reviews then that's a problem with their product not yours. If you transferred this to real life then it would just be silly. IE: I rent space in a mall selling terrible products. Am I going to be frustrated at that mall when people won't buy from me because I'm making bad products?

Why not sell 'promoted' profiles where negative reviews aren't shown by default but can be when a user clicks through

answered Dec 4 '12 at 03:55
155 points


If you feel you "must" remove the negative reviews, then I suggest you at least tell people that there were negative reviews. So the profile would show the ten positive reviews, but it would also show the viewer that there were 10 negative reviews. If someone improves their profile, then the number of negative reviews, as a percentage, would decrease over time. If they continue to perform negatively, the percentage of negative reviews would increase over time.

answered Nov 27 '12 at 07:29
4,692 points
  • Your answer is helpful, thanks. I'll think more about it, it might do it. – Jules 9 years ago


A guiding principle when making a design decision for software should be that it needs to be intuitive.

It wouldn't be intuitive for people to leave negative reviews but not see them anywhere. If there are reviews showing, they would expect theirs too as well.

answered Nov 27 '12 at 13:06
Joel Friedlaender
5,007 points
  • Good point. I could show negative reviews to people who wrote them only (and any reply from the profile owner), without making them public. – Jules 9 years ago
  • Still not intuitive. If I leave a negative review, I expect people to see it. I wouldn't guess that only myself and the owner will see it. – Joel Friedlaender 9 years ago


Based on @Jules clarification, the site is more like a directory than e-commerce site, which will make reviewing a bit more tricky.

There is a theory that unsatisfied people will speak most loudly(I can't recall the source), while satisfied people tend to keep silent.

For example, suppose the case 100 buyers bought the products where 90 buyers feel okay and 10 feels not good. If you let the buyers free to leave reviews, 5 out 90 satisfied buyers will leave good reviews, but 8 out of 10 unsatisfied buyers will leave bad reviews. So a 90% satisfied product looks like a bad product.

In e-commerce site, one common practice is to let people free to review, but if you don't speak after a period, the system will suppose you are satisfied and will leave an "okay" review by default.

The current case is a directory, which will make things a bit complicated. Let's suppose this is a pet selling site. There are many sellers propaganda pets and sell on this site by showcasing their profiles. The site owner have no control over the process because the buyer will contact seller directly and finish the deal face to face.

Then the sellers and site owner will face the problem mentioned above, mainly unsatisfied buyers leave bad reviews. When time passing, sellers feel frustrated because their product/service are really not that bad, they refuse to pay for profiles building.

I suggest to take a similar approach which will help improve the reviews while keep honest.

  • The buyer must be registered to view seller's contact information, you need to mention the review system in term of use when registering.
  • After deal finished, the seller has an option to ask for review, e.g. a form in the site. An email will be sent to both buyer and the system. The seller has full motivation to do that.
  • The buyer has 14 days to leave a review, he's free to leave either good or bad review. But, if he don't leave review, the system will suppose he is satisfied and leave a general good review on behalf of him, which is agreed by him in the term of use.

That's all.

answered Nov 27 '12 at 18:34
Billy Chan
1,179 points

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