Who Shall We Trust In Terms of Hotel or Restaurant Reviews?

Last week when I was in New Orleans for the Special Event Show, a friend of mine suggested me to try a restaurant because it has a “five-star” rating. I checked the review myself. It is indeed a “five-star” restaurant, but this “five-star” rating comes from one single reviewer. I asked myself: How can I trust this review? I don’t even know that person who rated the restaurant.

In real life, people usually need to spend substantial amount of time and efforts to build “trust” among coworkers, teammates, and friends. Have Internet and social media changed our lives already? How would my friend trust a straighter without a thought?

According to a news article by Ed Perkins at Hotel-Online.com, there are two sources of hotel reviews. One category contains the reviews of professional travel writers and appeals more to travel agents because it costs $249 a year for subscription. The other category consists of reviews submitted by ordinary travelers and it is free. I checked out the free websites suggested by Perkins, here is what I found by searching hotels in Syracuse, NY:

1. http://www.nileguide.com/: It has expert’s picks, but it has limited properties in popular locations only, nothing in Syracuse.
2. http://www.tripadvisor.com/: It is one of the most popular websites (I use it myself sometimes). It listed reviews of 22 properties, but without expert’s picks. Some listed hotels have over 50 reviews.
3. http://www.hotelshark.com/: It contains very few pictures. Properties are listed by cities and states (limited locations). Syracuse is not listed.
4. http://www.igougo.com/: It has very few reviews. I found 4 properties in Syracuse from this website.
5. http://www.travelmuse.com/: It took me quite a while to find the Syracuse page (about 3 to 4 clicks). In the end, it listed 15 properties, without expert's picks.
6. http://www.travelpost.com/: It listed 24 properties. Some properties have more than 50 reviews.

Overall, it seems to me TripAdvisor and TravelPost are the most useful. I also read the reviews on http://www.expedia.com/, http://www.travelocity.com/, and http://www.kayak.com/ if I book a hotel from these websites. Using the “triangulation technique” in conducting qualitative research, I often compare the reviews from multiple websites before I decide which hotels I want to stay or which restaurant I want to eat. In addition, I will read about 10 comments and see how consistent these comments are.

Definitely, I will not trust the reviews written by one or two strangers. How about you? Has “trust” ever come across your mind when you read the reviews? How do you determine those reviews are trustworthy?

Hotel Online: http://www.hotel-online.com/News/PR2010_1st/Jan10_TrustingReviews.html
Photo was copied from http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/fish/copy_of_images/handshake.jpg/view

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