Updated: Apr 13
Reviews. A powerful tool, loved by travellers, detested by many hoteliers. The hospitality industry has certainly changed a lot since the invent of online review systems. Some for the better, some for the worse...
Reviewing the Reviews..
As a traveller, and working in a hotel, ecotourism, volunteer tourism and restaurant scene my entire life, I think I have a pretty good grasp of both sides of the reviews system. Reviews have the power to lift a business, showcase how amazing they are, and if you're passionate for them to do well. It can also warn other travellers to potential pitfalls. In this, there is a huge power with reviews- of which is not necessarily ethical, or valid.
When I look for a new place, I always check reviews. BUT I never ever just check the worst. Those are the reviews that are often written by bored, angry, arseholes. They're rarely right. Maybe they had a bad flight- were rude to staff on check in and weren't being rational. If somebody is polite in their complaint in a restaurant, staff will normally willingly replace and be extremely apologetic of a fault. If somebody is irrational, rude and demanding, they will of course try to help their best but cannot meet crazy demands (a completely free bill is rare, and not necessary for minor complaints).
I know that there is a problem when most of the reviews are bad.
I check more of the positives (who wouldn't want to fill themselves with the positives anyway!?). Bear in mind, lots of people won't leave a review if they've enjoyed themselves. They might if the had the most spectacular mind blowing time- but if it was satisfactory- or they were busy, or traveling(!) but still had a comfy night and delicious breakfast, they won't leave a review. It sucks.
Its skews the process. And this is something you should always take into account. Reviews are not necessarily accurate.
Running an Air BnB, I also picked up on people who ooze a false sense of serene power of some people- the underlying threat of- I can, and I will leave you a review... I.E. I am a critique and so make my time here immaculate. Obviously not everybody is like this, but some are, and honestly- it's unethical.
So, from experience on both side of the review system, I thought I'd set out some tips of ethical reviewing. Lets clear some things up first. Some people will only leave reviews when they are really really angry, so to avoid this, here's some ethical thoughts for reviewing...
1) Never leave a review when you're really really angry. Calm down. Your bad review, of an experience that might be select to you- has the power to ruin a business or cause somebody to loose their job. Remember that in every review you leave.
2) If you love reviewing and assessing the places you choose to book, be balanced. Review the OKAY. I check the 3 & 4* reviews more. They are likely to be the ones that are most balanced. Do not just review the good or bad.
3) But do review the good. Don't forget, if you leave in a hazy romantic glow from your experience, to let other people know that. If the next guest leaves a bad one, that is unjust, your review will help level the playing field.
4) Concentrate. I have seen lots of reviews for entirely the wrong place. This does extreme harm to business, and they do not have the power to remove these reviews.
5) Be considerate. Don't get a power trip. At the other side of your review is a human being, with a business or a job or both. Bad reviews are impactive. If you name somebody by name, they can loose their job. Did you book the cheapest place, when you wanted something a bit snazzier? Check the general price range for the area that you're in. You can see this even on AirBNB. If you normally pay £20 for a hostel room, and in your host nation the average price is £30, and you stick to £20- expect a lesser quality to what you're used to. Its the same for visiting the cheapest restaurant. Base your expectations on local norms- not on your normal terms. Unless you're a trained critique, you're not a critique. Being ETHICAL and not purely tripping on your power to destroy a business is important.
6) Talk about it. Talk to your hotel, B&B or restaurant etc if you have a problem. Don't bottle it up, talk to them calmly and politely, and resolve it before it becomes a real problem. If you were really unhappy, most places with decent customer service will be very upset that you didn't 100% enjoy yourself and will try and rectify. If you don't give them the opportunity to redeem themselves and sort the problem- then you are part of the problem not the solution. Being calm is also important- don't forget hospitality workers are real humans too!! They aren't lesser humans, worth less just because they are your server or receptionist. Lots will be working part time, on degrees or courses or blogs. Be nice. You never know what somebody else is going through.
Remember, the customer is not ALWAYS right. Sometimes the customer is a rude arsehole. I know, I have been on both sides, some people want a free dinner. Some times service is also appalling. Most of the time if the establishment is to blame- they will rectify. Remain ethical in your reviews, although they hold a lot of power- don't let it get to your head ;)