If you use Yelp regularly, you may have noticed a trend: reviewers have a lot of negative things to say about the businesses they review. When reading through reviews for manicures offered by each of the many nail salons on Charles Street, it appeared that I didn’t have any options, because based on reviews, every single place seemed to have glaring problems and fail to offer a decent manicure. I finally walked into one randomly, since the reviews weren’t helping me much. The manicurist was incredibly thoughtful & friendly, and kept asking me how I liked the manicure and offered to mend any chips for free. While the job wasn’t quite what I was looking for, it was what I expected given the bargain price, and the salon was far from meriting the more scathing one & two-star reviews. Reviews, which in practice, are supposed to help consumers like myself make informed decisions before committing to a service, when read on Yelp, have nearly no value to my decision-making process.
Why? Because Yelp favors really bitter, cranky reviews. For people like myself, with the simple expectation of getting no less than what I pay for, instead of the star treatment that disappointed Yelp reviewers seem to feel entitled to, it’s hard to tell which complaints are legitimate – I obviously don’t want to go to a ‘filthy, cockroach-infested nail salon, where manicurists ignore me for 45 minutes at a time, but when the reality turns out to be an extremely modest, basement manicure parlor with just the basics and an attentive staff – maybe not exuding the crisp clean of a suite at the Waldorf Astoria, but no bug problems – how much does the review actually help me? Not much at all. The point is this: hyperbole is rampant on Yelp, and a 4- or 5-star review is likely to be filtered, simply because Yelp’s skeptical philosophy assumes that most positive reviews are fakes.
Yelp has a stringent policy to weed out any potential fake reviews, but doesn’t seem to have any kind of hedge against consumers whose expectations seem unreasonable given their budget, or perhaps lack any real perspective on the nature of the limitations imposed by a budget. Many Yelp reviewers take a second-or third-rate service or product that is priced accordingly, and distort the downsides so drastically that their account of the product bears no resemblance to the reality. The product’s true benefits, however unglamorous they may compared to what the reviewer might have imagined, are ignored – presumably, if the reviewer could have afforded the first-rate product, their expectations would have been met. The assumption seems to be that there should be no tradeoffs between price and quality, and that’s not economically sound. Wading through Yelp’s negative review bias as a consumer with modest expectations a budget to adhere to can be tricky – personally, I always read filtered reviews. I visit Yelp to get information about businesses, not read a complaint forum, but if you visit Yelp frequently, you have to expect the complaints.
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