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New York Times Reports Internet Reviews Helpful, But Can be Overwhleming

Internet Reviews: When Does It Stop Being Unhelpful?

This era of web 2.0 is awesome for the consumer aspect of our lives; no longer do we have to guess if a restaurant is going to be good (or has violated health codes, yeeesh!), or if the down comforter you want to order online will be fluffy enough. No, we can rely on each other, uh-huh (yes that is an "Islands in the Stream" reference)!

Whether it's a helpful reviewer on Yelp that tips you off to the sushi place in your neighborhood you didn't know existed, or the lady in Philadelphia who can report that the vacuum you're eyeing on Overstock is a waste of money, it's awesome that we can trust each other's reviews. I mean, what did we do before? I know, it was kind of fun flying blind, and you can still do that, but it's nice to know that you have "friends" online that are looking out for you.

But there is one big problem with online reviews. To see what it is just


The only problem is that on Yelp or retail sites that provide reviews, there are so many opinions that it can start to get confusing, the NYTimes notes. Both Yelp and Amazon have experienced scandals over whether people really were impartial parties (gotta love the story of the Amazon book reviewer who anonymously gave his own book a rave review — until the website accidentally revealed his name).

Tell me — what has been your own experience with reviews online? Do people usually steer you in the right direction, or have you had any bad experiences?

master1980 master1980 9 years
You simply can make 100% of your decision based on reviews. Now with that in mind, they can be very useful. - Video Yellow Pages
lexichloe lexichloe 9 years
I view restaurant reviews, b/c I'm a foodie. I already know the best places, but I view the reviews as a "semi-fair warning." I like to know what to expect, where to sit, whom to request, what wines to order, etc, etc... If there are 50 great to good reviews vs. 5 horrible reviews, I will visit the establishment. On any given site there are fans and enemies, you simply have to weigh them out.
shepptacular shepptacular 9 years
I am an avid Yelper (as Morenasobuena) and I really find that all the places that I've been recommended have proven to live up to their average rating. That is what I base the primary decision on and then I read varying reviews to find out what specifically set someone to one spectrum or another.
lindserelli lindserelli 9 years
I work as a Marketing Coordinator for a camera store. We've been trying to turn around our bad customer service rep after getting rid of a very bad egg on the sales floor. Yet every time someone googles us, an old bad review from 1998 comes up. It's frustrating, especially since the person who posted it has since changed their mind and has been big fan of ours for a few years.
kcwebgirl kcwebgirl 9 years
the problem is that many people don't write good reviews and most of them end up being unhelpful. i'm grateful for those who do it well. it really makes a difference.
macgirl macgirl 9 years
We just got our first negative review on yelp this summer. When we tried to figure out which customer it was we actually saw that it was someone who worked for a rival shop in our neighborhood. I also found a sandwich shop in my neighborhood that had vastely different reviews. The first three were amazing and the last 6 were super bad. With a few clicks it was obvious that the first three reviewers had only ever reviewed this restaurant and all signed up the same day- obviously owners/employees. Someone pointed out that the game Spore only got a 1.5 star rating on amazon- this is the biggest game release of the year so it was shocking. On closer look it was a bunch of PC gamers mad about the DRM and not really a review of the game play. So knowing that DRM has never bothered me in any way as I only use my stuff legitimately I don't take that rating to mean much. As far as I go I leave mostly positive reviews. You really have to piss me off on multiple visits to get a bad review from me. I've also heard that chowhound is really the place to go if you are a serious foodie.
silverpenny013 silverpenny013 9 years
I think it depends on the quality of the review. I work at an apartment complex and when I read online reviews for anything, including apartments (which I occasionally do), I'm amazed at several things: - People only write negative reviews. When they're angry and looking for another place to live/go/eat at, they're going to give their two cents and it's not going to be good because they're unhappy. - People are wildly uninformed. For example, few seem to be aware of this little thing we like to refer to as "Fair Housing" and how the eviction process works or how long it takes. The best part is that everyone thinks that they know. It's simultaneously amusing and frustrating. - Rarely will you find a balanced online review. Everyone has an opinion. I would be more likely to use restaurant reviews, but even then, you just have to take it with a grain of salt. I usually take detailed, thoughtful reviews a lot more seriously than one consisting of rambles, rants, one sentence, etc.
bluesarahlou bluesarahlou 9 years
A company I've worked for currently has a pretty negative review on Yelp, because of someone that took incorrect information (from the internet mind you), and believed it to be true. They also had relatives post incorrect information on the site in order to drag down the ratings. It's sad that a GOOD company can be dragged down by websites like Yelp. That's the reason I don't take the really negative reviews on those website too seriously. Many times there's a disgruntled employee or customer that brought on the issue themselves.
Jude-C Jude-C 9 years
I love reading restaurant reviews anyway, because I love reading about food, but I typically don't make a decision based solely on a review unless the review mentioned something truly egregious (rats scurrying about underfoot, hairs in the food, etc.). I've always suspected there are plenty of not-impartial people writing those. Like bitter ex-employees just letting off steam.
Phasekitty Phasekitty 9 years
I generally go with the majority of reviews and it usually turns out well for me. Like, if I'm looking for a good chinese food place I'll read the first 10 reviews and if 7 or 8 are positive then I assume it's pretty good. If it's a big split, I'll move on. I also look for some key words that grab me- for instance, I found an awesome chinese food place because someone described it as "NY/NJ Chinese food." In CA, most people might not like their chinese food that way, but I sure do, and now I go there all the time!
bluepuppybites bluepuppybites 9 years
If a product is on different store sites, I go to the different sites and go from there. I am very thorough when it comes to toys and furniture. I like to pay the best price for the best stuff.
Deidre Deidre 9 years
I guess it's all a matter of going in with an open mind and checking a couple of different sites to weed through the nonsense. There will always be differing opinions, but there are usually people out there who give good stories with actual details about their experiences. Anything with vague emotional-only critiques is something that I usually don't take too seriously -- regardless of if it's about a product, service, or place. Read several good and bad reviews of something, and you'll usually pick up on the actual pros/cons of what's being reviewed.
supercharger5150 supercharger5150 9 years
A bunch of bad reviews kept me from moving into an apartment complex that I already thought was overpriced. The only good reviews were coming from the management! I do try to keep in mind that people write reviews more often when they have something to complain about.
Tech Tech 9 years
Verily--I totally agree with you on people having a natural inclination to leave negative reviews. I mean, when you eat somewhere that's actually pretty good, you don't always remember to review it later, but if you have a bad experience, you're out for blood and post a review immediately. I try to remember that when I see a negative review among a bunch of good reviews, but it always skews things.
verily verily 9 years
For restaurants, I tend to refer to Chowhound. Because it's an interactive forum, contrary reviews on restaurants tend to get ferreted out (i.e. 'that Taco Bell is the best darn Mexican food ever'). Citysearch and Yelp suffer from two things: - People have a natural inclination to take the time to leave negative reviews but not positive ones. - People have agendas. I've seen reviews where it's clear owners and workers were leaving fake comments to raise their score, and some pissed-off customers like to leave multiple negative reviews to lower a restaurant's score. My friend is the editor of our city newspaper's entertainment site and has had to clean up restaurant listings a few times due to that kind of crap. One of them had both kinds of fake reviews, from waiters beefing up the score to counteract a really pissed off group of people.
superduperfantastic superduperfantastic 9 years
What works for Yelp is that it works as a community. You can save your friends or find people whose tastes you have in common, and then when you look up restaurants, you can sort by your favorites and your friends.
steen steen 9 years
Some reviews are helpful but it depends; tastes vary so much, it's hard to accurately gauge what's useful to YOU. Another problem is that, more often than not, people will leave a review to complain, whereas most people who were happy with a product or place don't think to post raves.
itsme3683 itsme3683 9 years
I typically trust the reviews with a little of my own background first. One thing I notice with online reviews is that because all the good ones say the same thing, even if there's only one or two bad ones out of 50, I'll start to gravitate to those which isn't always right. My boyfriend will often rely ONLY on reviews which doesn't always work: he wanted to surprise me with a nice sushi dinner for my birthday and used only the reviews and concluded that this was the place, so we got all dressed up and went. When we got there it was a tiny hole in the wall place in a strip mall in a less-than-desirable neighborhood (my bf's local geography is not so good--he thought that because it was on Beverly Blvd. meant it was in Beverly Hills, so cute lol). It WAS good, but it was a little silly that we were all dressed up expecting it to be posh =D
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