The Danger of Online Reviews

With the emergence of social media, it brought out the ability of anyone to express themselves easily. However, it came to a point that people forget that there is a fine line between expressing your opinion and from simply ranting without thinking. For my first blog entry, I would like to point out how everyone is free to share their thoughts but they should do so in a constructive and justified manner.

I cannot deny that I’m not the first one who came up with the idea of creating a food blog. Heck, I may be one of the millions who created one and will soon struggle with bringing in traffic to my site. But I don’t care much about views and traffic, as I simply want an outlet to share my thoughts on food and anything related to the culinary world. Speaking of which, even without a food blog people have numerous outlets to rant– I mean, to create a review of their favorite restaurant or product. Facebook actually lets its users create a review for an establishment (or any fan page for that matter) and rate it from 1-5 stars, with 1 being the lowest and 5 the highest. Similarly, there’s also websites and apps such as Yelp and Zomato that collates reviews and ratings for food establishments worldwide.

I , for one, am an avid user of Zomato. It helps me search for a restaurant or even a food cart near my location that sells whatever cuisine or dish I feel like having. Have a vegetarian boyfriend and don’t want him to be stuck watching you consume a heap of minced grilled animal carcass? Check the menu of the nearest vegetarian-friendly hub. Feel like having a bowl of ramen to celebrate your negative HIV result? Enter the mall or area you’re at and you can see the recommendations. Want to know if the pad thai from this restaurant is any good? Check the reviews. It made my impromptu food trips easier rather than it ending up as a one-woman gastronomic pilgrimage. I also like sharing my thoughts after visiting a restaurant and offer suggestions on what they can improve on as well. However, it grinds my gears whenever I’d check out reviews of a restaurant and see that most low-star reviews are for the shittiest reasons.

The first time I noticed this was when someone commented on how he hated Zark’s blue cheese burger. He admitted himself that he only ordered one item from this restaurant but still gave a one-and-a-half-star rating. I wasn’t able to hold back on my comment challenging his review. His response was that it is “his opinion” and it’s about his “personal standards”. Yes, I agree that it is his opinion but I don’t think his focus points deserve the score he provided.

review-2

This review was for a Thai restaurant I came across with back when I was looking up a place that offers Pad Thai with no shrimp (read: vegetarian boyfriend). Reading this comment made me feel bad for the establishment. They obviously offer this specific cuisine and yet they earned two stars just because someone who ate there was “not so into Thai cuisines”.

review-1

The reason why this is an issue for me is that I sometimes base my decision on where to eat next on the rating they earned. I browse the reviews and see if the low ratings indeed have a valid reason such as incredibly poor service that was not acted on, everything they had on the menu was a disappointment, or that their toilet is reeking from the entrance up to the second floor function room. People do have different preferences on food– that I can easily agree to– but there exist this preconception that whatever they have to say is should be the general truth. Call them out on it, and they will retort the ever-so-used “this is my opinion” bullshit.

More than a month ago, I came across this article from Esquire called About the Lack of Legit Food Critics in the PhilippinesThese passages pretty much explain all this more eloquently:

First of all, we do have a lot of comments from the peanut gallery. That’s just the way of the world, circa-2017. Every one has a say, even those who’re not quite well-versed in their subject matter, but for some reason insist on joining the fray. Well and good for free speech, but often it’s really just noise. Filtering through that is another story altogether.

In the midst of it all, haters abound as well. Because the Internet is the digital free world, it’s easy to tear a place down with choice words that have zero substance and yet will still sway opinion. And while it really is impossible to please everyone, can you imagine the pressure a restaurant has nowadays to do so anyway? Because sometimes these voices can stop the cash register from singing. Silence can kill a restaurant.

The article also mentioned that healthy (note: HEALTHY) criticism is good. If people do talk about your establishment, it means you made enough of an impact on their dining experience to the point they are willing spend time and to share their thoughts on it. It could include what went well with the service, ambiance, and the overall quality of the food, to what should be removed or even be improved on as a whole.

To those retailers who started the “customer is always right” campaign, I want to partially put the blame on them. Anyone who has worked in retail, in customer service, or in any operation that has customer interaction can give you a long list of instances that their customers were never in the right. So please, whenever you’re about to write something up or rate that new burger joint next to your office, try to check if what you’re going to say is fair  and reasonable rather than just letting your mouth run because that blue cheese dressing didn’t taste like that moldy milk protein you only had a few times in your life.

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