WASHINGTON — Searching online for the best restaurant, business or hotel can be difficult, but an even bigger challenge is wading through online reviews to decipher which one to trust.
Many businesses are realizing their online identities can have a huge impact on patronage, says consumer expert, Clark Howard. When a bad review can lead to bad business, many have turned to pumping up their reviews with fake, overly complimentary posts. Others attack competitors, posting extremely negative reviews.
So how do customers know what to trust?
Howard has some tips for negotiating the sea of information in online reviews and determining which reviews are authentic.
The numbers, however, don’t tell the whole story, Howard says.
“If somebody has pumped them up with false ratings, false reviews, you’re not getting a true indication just by look at the stars and circles,” he says.
Howard recommends reading about 25 reviews to sort the good from the bad. The more you read, the easier it is to tell the real reviews from the fake reviews.
“If something is too glowing in praise, you pretty much can tell it’s bogus, and if something is mean, mean, mean, it may very well be a competitor,” he says.
For example, if a restaurant customer gets a waiter or waitress with a bad attitude, it could make the customer feel like the experience was not worth the money, thus devaluing the food.
There will always be someone who had a terrible experience, Howard says.
“That’s why as you read through the reviews, you will see a trend about whether or not it was an odd experience or truly a real indicator.”
A business that may have once suffered, could have changed its tune — or vice versa.
“It could be a hotel or restaurant that really had it together, may have changed owners or managers, and starts to deteriorate — you can see that if the recent reviews are really, really rotten,” Howard says.