Report: Brokerage Offered Bribe to Staff for 5-Star Reviews

January 24, 2020

Real estate brokerage Purplebricks Canada has issued an apology after an internal company memo was publicized this week, offering its employees paid days off in return for potentially fake but glowing online reviews of the firm.

Forbes, which received exclusive access to the email sent to the brokerage’s 200 staff members, reported that the memo instructed employees to ask their family and friends to leave positive reviews of the company on Facebook or five-star ratings on Google Reviews, regardless of whether the reviewers were Purplebricks Canada clients. “No need to fabricate stories, just an ‘I think Purplebricks is great,’ or ‘Purplebricks is the future of real estate’ would be fantastic!” read the March 2019 email from one of the company’s marketing directors.

Purplebricks Canada reportedly offered its employees a contest of sorts: The staff member who accumulated the most reviews from family and friends would win a paid day off. Employees were instructed to take screenshots of the reviews and send them back to the company’s marketing department as proof. The email discouraged agents from leaving a review themselves since “fake reviews” would violate the websites’ terms and conditions “and could get us into hot water!” the email read. Instead, employees were instructed to use accounts under names other than their own and to ask clients for reviews.

The email claimed that the company’s motivation for getting more reviews related to difficulty it had migrating its “stellar Facebook and Google reviews” when the firm switched to a new real estate platform in recent years.

Purplebricks Canada issued the following statement to Forbes: “[This] was an isolated and misguided initiative. It followed the name change from Comfree to Purplebricks and the refusal of Google and Facebook to transfer the reviews that were already on their sites; it will never happen again. Purplebricks Canada recognizes that it’s vital for all reviews to be genuine and authentic—and we work hard to earn positive feedback from our customers through our expertise and great service.”

Purplebricks Canada said the incentive was offered once in March 2019 and generated only a handful of reviews. It was “an error in judgment,” a company spokesperson added.