It’s one of my most addictive habits or hobbies, depending on how you look at it. Indeed, I have often found it hard to relax while getting a massage because I’m mentally writing my review on the spa to submit later. The fact is, I love writing reviews and I love reading them.
I review on TripAdvisor for things like spas, hotels and anything relating to tourism and Zomato (previously Urbanspoon) for restaurants. I related way too much to Dev of Master of None’s reliance on review sites for finding a spot to eat and I have a hard time trusting any place when I haven’t had a change to read the reviews. Here’s why I love writing reviews, and a few things to look out for!
You get real opinions
Reading reviews is essential for trip planning, especially for hotels. The star system really means nothing if your 5 star hotel consistently gets poor reviews. I have found that Trip Central‘s star rating is often far off from what people really think of it, so when I’m planning an all-inclusive vacation, I keep two windows open and check out the Trip Advisor rating before even looking further into any hotel. You can discover a few gems this way – so don’t ignore resorts with a lower number of stars right away!
There’s a sense of accountability
Most people have, at least once, written a bad review in a rage after a bad experience. Trust me, I may or may not have done this in the last month. But here’s why you should wait a few hours (and calm down a bit) before doing so. First – your complaints are likely very valid. But TYPING IN ALL CAPS in a review will likely just piss off the owners rather than give critique and feedback that they might actually consider. I think reviews should cover the complete experience – the good and the bad. For example, if I went to a restaurant and received uncooked chicken, and the waitress replaced it without question and comped my bill, I will say so. I won’t leave out the experience, but I will stress how the restaurant completely went over the top to rectify the situation – a HUGE plus in my books. And maybe it won’t happen again.
And in some (rare) cases, you will see first hand how the business responds to criticism. In most of my experiences, businesses thank those who give (non-raging) critique and may or may not implement change. And then there are those who go off on anyone who doesn’t give them a 5 star. Small rant time. You guys remember how I didn’t exactly love Bubba’s House in Bocas del Toro. I clearly listed why, noting that some of the annoyances may have been amplified by bad weather and other uncontrollable circumstances. Bubba’s House did not like my review, and actually went off on me a little bit on TripAdvisor. I was shocked to see these types of responses on nearly every review that had anything negative in it. It made them look really bad. Really, really bad.
You can help promote businesses you love
Maybe it’s because I work in marketing, but I get great pleasure out of helping out a business that I love. Some people only write reviews when they are pissed off or have had a bad experience, but that helps no one. The whole point of reviews is to help others make choices – so be sure to also take the time to write reviews for the places you have enjoyed. I particularly like giving kudos the individual (waitress, or tour guide) who made my experience great.
You can make the best of your time
Part of why I’m so obsessed with writing and reading reviews is because I want to make the most of my time and money. If I’m looking at something in a store, I won’t even consider buying it until I read some reviews online and crosscheck prices. I do this with makeup, electronics, housewares, you name it! It is especially important when booking anything for a vacation. It’s so easy to get sucked into an excursion sold by your hotel or resort, but looking online will likely yield a much-higher rated tour of the same thing for lower prices!
Just remember, everyone has a different opinion (duh)
Of course there are some cons for review sites as well. The first is when people only write reviews when they are angry. These are typically easy to spot. If someone has only one review under their account and are in a screaming rage, my red flags go up and I might not pay as much attention (especially if it is not consistent with the other reviews). For example, you will often see reviews on restaurants that claim food poisoning, but if there are 1000 other positive reviews, I probably won’t worry about it too much. If there was a majority of reviews saying people were getting sick, I would certainly avoid the restaurant.
So what happens if someone with a good track record leaves a scathing review? Well, like anything, always take it with a grain of salt, especially if it is in the minority a page of great reviews. Sometimes you just can’t decipher difference of opinion. For example, my friend was shocked at my recent review of Bocas del Toro, stating that she had a completely different (and more positive) experience. Sometimes, you just have to make a decision on your own, or else risk missing out on something great. Also consider other people’s point of view. I wrote a blog over at Wonder Forest on the pros and cons of staying at a hostel that cover the idea of being aware of where a reviewer is coming from.
Lastly, there is also the fact that places can change for the better. I am always impressed when someone from the company responds to bad reviews in an effort to make things right or at least acknowledge the complaints. When I see this and notice reviews getting better over time, I feel confident that the establishment is improving and will definitely give it a chance, and even a second chance.