Stay away from Belkin?

If you’ve owned a computer for any length of time, you’ve probably heard of Belkin, a company that makes peripherials and accessories like USB hubs, KVMs, cables, and wireless networking devices. Due to the company’s ruthless marketing, Belkin accessories are sometimes be the only brand available at many big-box stores like Best Buy and Circuit City. Like Monster Cable, Belkin products always felt like robust and quality products (which is no doubt why the company was able to get in the door of corporate giants like Best Buy). But us geeks never really warmed to them. It always seemed as if something was wrong with their products, as if they didn’t quite work as advertised.

Well, we now know why. Sort of. Last week, news hit the Internet that the company was paying people to post good reviews of their products at sites like Amazon.com and Newegg.com. That in itself is bad, but it’s hardly the crime of the century. That is, until people alleging to be current and former Belkin employees opened the floodgates with tales about the company’s sordid business practices.

The allegations include:

– Not just paying for positive Belkin reviews, but also paying for negative reviews of competitor’s products.

– Sending hardware with custom firmware (operating systems) to reviewers, in order to hide bugs in their production hardware.

– Putting Microsoft and Apple hardware certification logos on products that had not earned them.

– Releasing “blatantly inaccurate” test results to make their products look better against the competition.

– Giving bonuses to business units with the most positive reviews per quarter, regardless of the rate of return of the product (the theory here being that even if a product sucks, the number of consumers that actually return a $25 product would be vanishingly small).

– Rigging demos hardware at trade shows. While I’m sure Belkin isn’t the only company to do this, the example given – running cables underneath (or behind) furniture so that a “wireless” media server is actually “wired” – is pretty damn awful.

You can read the whole sad tale here. In the meantime, I suggest you stay away from Belkin products until all this shakes out!

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