by Mick Rhodes | [email protected]
At the top of the Rooter Hero webpage, at https://rooterhero.com/ceo-message, consumers will find the boasting “4.8 / 5 ratings based on 6,584 reviews … Great service, great reviews â.
And yes, on Google Reviews, under “Rooter Hero Plumbing of Inland Empire,” the company, incorporated in Nevada with 10 locations in California and Arizona (but none in Silver State), has a rating of 4.8 (out of five ), with 510 reviews as of June 21. It had a four-star Yelp rating from 435 customers as of the same date.
But on Yelp, Google and elsewhere, the experiences of customers leaving bad reviews are clearly similar to those of Claremont residents, the Roberts, who were surprised in May when a technician from Rooter Hero billed them $ 2,082 for one. six-hour job in his own company. COO called it “a minor repair”.
On the Better Business Bureau’s website, Rooter Hero’s ratings drop sharply, to 1.93 out of five stars, with 29 complaints filed against the company in the past three years.
“If I hadn’t had the time to do a little research and get a second opinion, I would have paid the $ 22,000 unnecessarily and, as a result, I would have been ripped off,” reads one BBB review. “I would avoid Rooter Hero under any circumstance, and I hope their founder, John Akhoian, will know what his team is doing to customers.”
The complaints continue at Trustlink, where a consumer, Christopher McGuiness, under the headline âAbsolutely Miserable Experience,â wrote there and on Facebook (we left the punctuation and spelling as we found it): âThere is a trend and a terrible scam by Ygrene and Rooter – DO NOT use any service with Rooter that is worth more than $ 100. We started with a relief line, which turned into a $ 3,000 project, which we could fund, into $ 18,000 project funding through Ygrene. The total will be $ 36-40,000 over 20 years … Finally, another plumbing company (recommended by Ygrene) reviewed the work and took pictures. Work is not up to code, Rooter left all of his trash under our house, and what is not up to code was done poorly.
Read Part I: “How Much Is Too Much?”
Read part II: The scam
Podcast: part I
Podcast: part II
Podcast: part III
“We really don’t know why this happened”
On Facebook, 399 people had left reviews of Rooter Hero as of June 15, earning it a five-star rating.
But a closer look at the company’s Facebook reviews reveals a strange anomaly: On January 16, 2020, Rooter Hero received 46 ârecommendations,â all without comment.
About a month earlier, on November 24, 2019, the pattern repeated itself, with 35 recommendations without comment. The day before, November 23, 2019, there were 60 recommendations without comment, and on November 22, there were nine.
This is unusual for two reasons:
1. The highest number of ârecommendationsâ received by Rooter Hero on any other day in its entire history on the platform was three.
2. Removing the 150 ârecommendationsâ with no comments out of the company’s 399 total leaves 248 presumably legitimate opinions. All but three include comments.
Asked about the anomaly on his Facebook reviews, Rooter Hero COO John Bergeron was unequivocal: âWe don’t pay people to create likes or reviews for us in any way. “, did he declare. “And most people just hit the recommendation [on Facebook], you know, the thumbs-up button, and never leave a comment. “
But this is not true.
As noted, all but three of Rooter Hero’s Facebook reviews that weren’t posted on his page for four days in late 2019 and early 2020 included comments.
âAt the end of the day, we really don’t know why this happened,â Bergeron said.
These people don’t exist
The COURIER then dug into Rooter Hero’s 46 “recommendations” as of January 16, 2020. All but a handful turned out to be from Facebook users located thousands of miles from Rooter’s service area. Hero in California and Arizona: four were from Brooklyn, New York; five from New Orleans; five from Las Vegas; four from Chicago; five from Tampa, Florida; two from Miami; as well as individual “recommendations” from Rochester, New York; Richmond, Virginia; North Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; San Antonio, Texas; and Dallas.
The COURIER contacted, via Facebook Messenger, the 46 profiles who recommended Rooter Hero on January 16, 2020.
And it wasn’t because they were avoiding us.
None of Rooter Hero’s 46 January 16, 2020 ârecommendationsâ came from a real person. The fake reviews were either created by or paid for by Rooter Hero in order to increase the company’s ratings online.
How does the COURIER know that the reviews are fraudulent? Consider this:
On March 12, 2020, several of the 46 Facebook profiles who left a ârecommendationâ for Rooter Hero a few months earlier left messages similar to these on their Facebook pages (we left the punctuation and spelling that we have found):
âExcellent transportation service from Cabo airport to hotel.â
“Virginia Walker”, Chicago
âBest shuttle from Cabo airport to hotel.â
“Linda Banks”, Rochester, New York
âExcellent limousine service from Cabo airport or the Cabo San Lucas hotel.â
“Shaun Jackson”, New Orleans
What are the odds of âMs. Walker,â âMs. Banksâ and âMr. Jacksonâ all being in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico on the same day? Nil, because they are not real people.
As if that wasn’t enough, many of the 46 fake Rooter Hero reviews on January 16, 2020 were apparently all at the same nail salon in Taipei, Taiwan two weeks later on January 30, 2020, as they all checked in there. -based on Facebook.
âHere’s the trick: [Rooter Hero doesnât] you just have to have fake Facebook reviews, âsaid Jason Brown, online reviewer and consumer advocate, who runs www.reviewfraud.org. âI was also able to choose only one location at random and found a fake profile that also left Google reviews. It’s going to be on multiple platforms, not just one. “
Mr. Brown âscratchedâ Rooter Hero’s online reviews for the COURIER and found he was working with Atlanta-based marketing firm iBoost. He found several profiles who reviewed iBoost itself and three from the same other companies. One of these profiles belonged to “Barbara Jenkins”.
Google removed some of the âMs. Jenkinsâ left reviews in 2017 because it deemed them to be fraudulent. But “Mrs. Jenkins” was persistent. She has managed to review many other Rooter Hero locations after Google already cleared her previous reviews.
It turns out there is no “Barbara Jenkins”. Her profile photo is that of another person, Gloria De Piero, a 48-year-old British journalist and former Labor politician who currently hosts a show on GB News, a London-based television news channel.
âThis is more than enough to say that these reviews are not legitimate and that they are from iBoost, because iBoost is also reviewed by these same profiles,â Mr. Brown said.
Further exploration of Rooter Hero revealed a host of irregularities and suspicious reviews generated by iBoost for several Rooter Hero locations, not just in Montclair, but also in Los Angeles, Gardena, Orange County, San Diego, and San Fernando Valley. .
An iBoost employee, who declined to provide his name despite multiple requests, responded to the COURIER’s questions via email. We left the punctuation, spelling and syntax intact:
“False advice? This is not possible at all because we are against fake reviews, âthe iBoost representative wrote. “It is best that you contact Rooter Hero as we do NOT offer FALSE reviews and Rooter Hero does NOT receive fake reviews.”
âIt all comes from iBoost,â Mr. Brown said. âIBoost can sit there and say ‘No, this is this whole other company, these are real customers, nothing scam is happening, everything is good and kosher.’ But it’s not.”