Websites like Yelp can provide a valuable service to people. By writing up your experiences at a business you’ve visited, you can help others to either enjoy or avoid that same establishment. It may be a restaurant where the food, staff or both were so good that you just can’t help getting online and raving about it. Similarly, you may have had an awful experience and want to warn others away. Brad Reifler agrees that this already uncovers one problem with such reviews; they tend to attract the extremes. People who go out and find a businesses product and service to be ‘good’ won’t be as motivated to get online to write about it as someone who had a terrific or awful experience. There is one more problem with these reviews; they can be flat-out dishonest.
A Chinese restaurant in California was almost the victim of a false bad review on Yelp. A patron claimed that he had some unsatisfactory word with the staff of this restaurant at a particular time and that they would not seat him. The restaurant checked their own dropcam footage at this time and showed the customer had no interaction with any of the staff and simply walked out. This may have just been one disingenuous or peeved person, but it does point to a larger problem. Any competing business could have ‘friends’ put bad reviews for competitors up on review sites like these. I’m afraid that even in our high-tech digital age, there is simply no substitute for a referral from an actual friend for a good place to eat, rent a car, get your dry cleaning done or shop.