The benefits and drawbacks of online reviews

Nearly every site that sells anything has a product review area. That’s not really what I’m talking about here, though that can be an issue too.

Crowd-sourced Review Sites

No, what I’m referring to are sites like Yelp or Google reviews, where a customer (presumably; as far as I can tell there’s no way to actually verify they’re actually a paying customer, or even have ever set foot in the establishment) reviews a restaurant, store, or various service establishment.

I really believe these sites and services set out with the best of intentions. It could be a valuable tool for both customers and proprietors alike. People could see where they should go, when there’s a positive review.

And even when there’s a negative review, it of course shows when someone’s had a negative experience, perhaps. But ideally it gives the business owner/manager an opportunity to reach out via the service, apologize, and hopefully work things out. After all; misunderstandings happen, people have bad days, some things go wrong, etc.

At least, that’s how it should work.

So how does it work?

Unfortunately, it’s often not the case. Sure, there are the times that the “squeaky wheel gets the grease”, and that’s a good thing. Shitty experience is followed by online apology, followed hopefully by resolution, all online for everyone to see.

But sometimes, the squeaky wheel doesn’t want to be greased. They just want to complain. Is the complaint warranted? Sure, sometimes.

But if the person doing the bad review doesn’t give the business a fair shake in solving the problem, that’s kinda crappy. Sure, they may feel as though they already have, before posting the review.

But what they don’t realize, is that no matter how in the right they feel, leaving a negative review can have a lasting effect on a business, particularly a small one.

Maybe some of these businesses deserve to be negative reviewed into oblivion. But many, in my opinion, do not.


Let me give an example, but also preface this with my shop having 4.5 ratings on both Google and Yelp. 🙂 These will be paraphrased, to keep them obscure, but capture the essence of the review.

Last year, a setup was $40. This year it’s $50, and the setup wasn’t very good. They lost a customer.

First, let’s address the price. Yup. The price went up, ten bucks. However, in context, the price for a setup has been $40 for over 20 years. Sometimes, it makes sense to raise the price, when the market for such a service is still generally higher than that.

Does the customer have a right to be mad about a $10 increase year to year? Sure, I guess. But I feel very confident that had they asked why it went up, and given the reason that it hadn’t gone up in two decades, most reasonable people would understand.

Second, let’s address the quality of the setup. Could the setup not been “very good”? Sure! Much of this is subjective, and that’s why it’s important to check out the instrument when it’s received, and raise concerns if there are any.

However, in this particular case, they weren’t. Had they been, we’d have done our best to address them. After all, your idea of low action isn’t my idea of low action. We can work together here!

Don’t be so negative!

I know what you’re thinking: “he’s only going to point out the negative aspect, because that’s what hurts”.

Well, no.

There are obviously benefits too. I’ve left positive reviews for places on quite a few occasions, when I’ve felt it was warranted. Maybe it’s because I’m quite sensitive to the online review thing in the first place, but also because I want to see good businesses succeed, so we all continue to have many choices for whatever it is we’re looking for.

For example, I recently had a great experience at a camera shop, ProCam, that ironically is in the same old building as the company I use to work for, the now defunct Wolf Camera.

What a treat it was, walking in and it looking much like it did in Wolf’s heyday, with pro lighting gear, cases, and of course tons of cameras. The staff were a bunch of seasoned camera shop veterans who really knew their stuff. While I didn’t necessarily need much guidance personally, the expertise and friendly help was awesome nonetheless.

So I plastered the Internet (Facebook, Google, Yelp) with a positive review, because A. I meant it and B. I want them to continue to succeed, so they’re there when I need them to be!

The moral of the story is…..

So what’s my point? What’s the “moral of the story”? Leave reviews. Good reviews. Even negative reviews. But in the case of the latter, PLEASE realize there’s another human being on the end of that review, and make sure you’ve done what you can to rectify the situation by communicating clearly your dissatisfaction. Do the right thing and give them a chance to fix things.

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