The dummy camera interview has triggered a fairly passionate discussion about the role and accuracy of online reviews.
I trust Amazon and Yelp reviews a lot. I use them all the time (bought more than 50 things from Amazon in the last year, a few dozen restaurants, etc.). The experience is almost always in line with the reviews I read. With Yelp, the only issue I have is that reviewers there weigh price / portion size more heavily than I do. That's not the results being rigged, it is simply American culture.
I get that there are services that try to manipulate these rankings but in my regular use of these sites, I find that the reviews are overwhelmingly free of tricks and are incredibly useful in making decisions.
Inaxsys Security Systems
For travel, Trip Advisor is excellent (you have to spend a bit of time reading a lot of reviews and filter out the obvious biased reviews, both good and bad).
Urbanspoon is excellent for restaurant reviews- very helpful when you're travelling and don't know any good restaurants in the area.
Trafficware, a CUBIC Company
I use online reviews for almost everything I buy. Yes, you sometime find ringers out there, but thats why you sook up several reviews from several sources.
We don't yet have yelp in my area, but I have heard from friends with businesses in Yelp infested areas that they are having to pay high fees (3K/mo). The fees give you prompt customer service response to either push bad reviews off the first pages or get bogus reviews (eg. from competitors) removed. To them, they feel the service is like extortion??
Not mentioned yet, I like BBB for seeing a company's track record. Just being a member and for how long tells you they are a notch above the rest. They have a fair process in how they deal with complaints.
Angie's List is quite good for contractors, handymen and the like. I also find healthgrades.com's reviews of healthcare providers are pretty accurate. Best Buy and some other electronics etailers' sites reviews are mixed. But then again, most of the etailer sites cater to the lowest common denominator so the reviewers often don't have enough experience or training to give accurate reviews of electronics.
More technical sites like CDW and newegg are fairly good for computer-related parts and equipment.
Sorry, Baxter but I've found BBB to be worse than useless. Among the most common criticisms of them (which I agree with) are that they are more interested in getting businesses to join and pay their membership fees than actually protecting the public. There are numerous documented complaints regarding BBB's strongarm tactics. And hey, when we remodeled our house we chose a contractor with an A+ BBB rating. We call him the "contractor from hell" since he or his subs not only half-assed most of the work, they violated code in some cases (electrical splices outside of boxes, a bathroom fan venting into the attic, etc.).
Sorry to hear. did you make a complaint?
The NYT recently published a couple pieces on paid reviews and efforts to crack down on them. An attorney general investigation found that companies were often paying well-known reviewers for good reviews. Apparently you can be fined for this now.
The main problem I find with consumer reviews, at least when it comes to technology products, is that "consumers" tend to be easily wowed when they THINK something is high-tech and advanced. Just look at some of the glowing reviews products like Lorex, AVTECH, Coolcam et al get from people who buy them at Costco and DealExtreme...
My 2 cents.
We have to review all sources of information used to make decisions. Performing due diligence in identifying the value, variety and sources of the information is important. What is the risk and outcome of a poor decision made from these reviews? A lousy meal, a poor quality product or financial losses. People that use the first reviews they read as gospel may be in for trouble. Others that think, process and compare the information they compiled have a better chance in making better decision. I have used Trip Advisor and CNet and specific forums extensively with good results. The bigger the sampling and the more content the better. The “this product is good” review response doesn’t cut it.
What we read may definitely be skewed. Be aware. Example… this thread poll open to all on the internet asks “ How Much Do You Trust Online Consumer Reviews” and gives results from the masses. Is it accurate? I suggest not and wouldn’t use this info for making decisions. I was able to clear my web history cache and voted many times therefore increasing the “Significantly” side of the vote. Easy to do for reviews.
Funny that you'd put so much trust in yelp"
20% of Yelp Reviews are Shills.
I use online review data as one of many decision criteria, and I think it depends someone on the number of reviews, and the diversity of the reviews. I sort of assume that a lot of products/places will have at least 5 shill reviews, so the number of reviews posted, divided by 5 is how I start to weight things. If there are only a couple of reviews, and they are overwhelmingly positive or negative, I tend to ignore unless they have descriptive data. I've seen junk on Amazon with 4 1-star reviews, and in reading the reviews and looking at the "too good to be true" product, you get the feeling these are probably legit.
Here's one way to get positive reviews. I just got this from a car shop that I visited once for an oil change almost two years ago.
IPVMU Certified | 10/03/13 04:41pm
sometimes reviews are good for their comedic value... if you don't know what i mean search "three wolves shirt" on amazon and read some reviews... apart from the comedy their tends to be some really helpful information that is contributed by users...