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How to Decipher TripAdvisor & Yelp Reviews

 Professional travel reviewers can often end up like prickly old movie critics - once they've got enough experience under their belt, they can be prone to becoming entitled and weary, taking the joys of unlimited bread sticks or nightly turn-down service completely for granted. It's for this reason that user reviews on websites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google+ have become so useful and popular in the last decade or so. However, relying solely on user-based reviewing sites doesn't come without its own list of perils and shortcomings. 
Below, we've listed the five main kinds of user reviews that you can expect to find on such sites, to help you better understand the way in which they work, thereby allowing you to make more solid choices when traveling or dining, abroad or in your own country.
1. Wrath

Whether it's an expression of rage over disappointing service or a faulty product, a disgruntled former employee, or even an attack by a conniving competitor, anger-filled reviews should be considered to be written by vigilantes more than by genuine reviewers.

Signs of such a review:

Having nothing good to say.

No matter how terrible something is, there's always something good that can be said about it, no matter how minor or seemingly insignificant. Any reviewer who can't think of a single positive aspect of any part of an experience is probably best ignored.

Having complaints that the business has no control over.

Having legitimate complaints about area safety or environmental noise can actually be helpful, but complaining about the behavior of other customers or the weather usually isn't.

Making commandments.

If a review starts off with "AVOID AVOID AVOID!!!" or "Save your hard-earned cash!" then you can pretty safely disregard it. Nobody is the boss of the internet, so don't let such people tell you what you can and can't do without any real reasons.

Being overly-defensive.

People who are excessively sensitive can often get offended or find condescension from the smallest of things. Writing something like "our waiter smirked when we thanked him for going to fetch us another serving of tartar sauce" can be taken to mean that the reviewer doesn't need a meal, they need professional help!

Being elitist.

Anyone who believes themselves to be a VIP or superior to others can easily make a mountain out of a molehill. One-star reviews due to caviar being too salty or complementary iPads not being the latest model should be avoided like the plague.

2. Euphoria

These people lie at the other end of the reviewing spectrum, and seem to get excited about the most insignificant things. I mean, it's great to have a positive outlook on life, but free peanuts are hardly a reason for a five-star review.

Signs of such a review:

Having nothing bad to say.

While there's always going to be something good to say about practically everything, if you look hard enough, you're bound to find a couple of negative points as well. If you can't, then it may mean that your analytical skills are a little lacking, thereby reducing your own credibility.

Writing about highly personal experiences.

It's really awesome that you happened to go to high school with the hotel's general manager, and got your room upgraded for free. However, this probably won't happen to the rest of us, and your super-positive review really doesn't represent reality.

Dishing out irrelevant praise.

Be very wary of trusting reviewers who are so full of gratitude that they're willing to give businesses credit for benefits that they had absolutely nothing to do with. Giving a classy restaurant a five-star review simply because your future husband proposed to you there isn't really helpful for the rest of us now, is it?

3. Profit

According to a study carried out by Harvard University, around 16% of all Yelp reviews are fake, and many of them are created simply to generate additional revenue for individuals or businesses.

Signs of such a review:

The author doesn't have any other reviews.

Beside each review on TripAdvisor or Yelp, you'll find each reviewer's total number of contributions. This will easily help you determine whether or not each user is being genuine or is just trying to hype up their own business.

They use words that most of us don't.

In their efforts to stand out from the typical garden-variety contributions of genuine reviewers, writers of fake reviews often end up borrowing words from the marketing industry, such as 'sumptuous,' 'unparalleled,' 'bespoke,' and even 'fahrvergnügen.'

Telling you their life story.

A Cornell study revealed that a good portion of fake reviews make use of the first-person narrative, including their reasons for going on a trip or details of their travel companions. Genuine reviews tend to focus on the facts (as boring as they might be), such as pricing and bathroom size.

They may actually admit to being fraudulent.

In order to promote the profitable trade of fake reviewing, some reviewers actually start off by advertising where they're coming from. It's usually something along the lines of: "Hi guys, I'm getting a load of free stuff from _____, simply for writing a couple of reviews a day on this site! You should try it!" Needless to say, such reviews aren't to be trusted.

4. Status

There are quite a number of users who write ridiculous amounts of reviews simply because they relish in the perceived celebrity status that it gives them. Since they seem to only be writing for the sake of it, their reviews can often be far from enlightening.

Signs of such a review:

They're self-absorbed.

Some people really do seem to believe that the world revolves around them, and their reviews are a pure reflection of such a mentality. After raining down a tremendous amount of praise on the food at Gordon Ramsey's high-class restaurant in London, one reviewer wrote that "seats in this august room are only given to guests who can speak. Gordon... Its either the babies or me." [sic] A one-star review for a fantastic restaurant that only caters for adults - the mind boggles...

The author has over 10,000 reviews.

Even professional writers don't write so much, and they're generally paid by the word! Talk about having nothing better to do!

They're full of forced humor.

Everyone likes to think that they're comedians, except that most of us actually aren't. Unfortunately, these types of reviewers don't quite realize that, and their reviews are generally loaded with plenty of lame one-liners, while supplying very little criticism of the establishment in question.

5. Duty

Here's what you've been waiting for all along! Finally, we get to the reviewers that you can actually trust. These are the people who, without any kind of agenda, work thoughtfully and tirelessly for the betterment of mankind.

Signs of such a review:

Making concessions.

A reviewer who is conscientious will understand the importance of polarity - that there are positive and negative aspects to everything. Just because you had a bad meal once, it doesn't mean that the restaurant in question has been ruined for eternity. Similarly, just because you go to the same restaurant every month or so, you don't have to automatically give it five stars.

They give out of context clues.

While many might overlook it, nothing in this world truly is one-size-fits-all. That's why it's extremely useful when a reviewer puts certain aspects of their trip into perspective. Writing "At just over 260 pounds, I found the bathrooms at the Cosmo Canyon Hotel to be a little too cozy for my tastes," is hardly the same as writing "THE BATHROOM IS TOOOOOOO SMALL!!!"

That's actually all it takes.

In spite of what you may have heard, being impartial when writing a review is actually remarkably straightforward.


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