If you haven’t heard of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, they bill it as a “scalable workforce.” To put it plainly, you post relatively mundane repetitive tasks and pay people to do it.

Zappos looked at a study that showed that better review quality resulted in better sales. Customers trusted what they were buying when they felt reassured by the reviews.

Panos Ipeirotis, a professor at NYU Stern discovered that Zappos used Mechanical Turk to find, fix, and verify good reviews on Zappos. The results? Supposedly positive:

An online retailer noticed that, indeed, products with high-quality reviews are selling well. So, they decided to take action. The retailer used Amazon Mechanical Turk to improve the quality of the reviews posted on its own website. Using the Find-Fix-Verify pattern, the retailed used Mechanical Turk to examine millions of product reviews…For the reviews with mistakes, they fixed the spelling and grammar errors! Thus they effectively improved the quality of the reviews on their website. And, correspondingly, they improved the demand for their products.

While I do not know the exact revenue improvement, I was told that it was substantial. Given that Zappos spent at least 10 cents per review, and that they examined approximately 5 million reviews, this is an expense of a few hundred thousand dollars. (My archive on MTurk-Tracker kind of confirms these numbers.) So, the expected revenue improvement should have been at least a few million dollars for this exercise to make sense.