Is Yelping helpful or harmful?
Me, I love Consumer Reports reviews. Items, from cars, stoves and lawnmowers to pharmacies and power bars tested and dissected. Results corralled into colorful graphs, easy to read or even tear out and carry in purse or pocket when I brave the Best Buy or Staples printer aisle. Those reviews appeal to the logical, objective, practical side of me.
But Consumer Reports does not review local shops and restaurants or that lamp or blouse I am considering online. So I reluctantly scroll down to reviews, comments, ratings. Occasionally they are helpful. Fifteen in a row, for example, about Chipotle’s Montezuma Revenge Burrito. Or a dozen ALL writing that the cheap table is made of cardboard and falls apart as soon as you set down a drink.
However, most reviews are a mixed collection of rambling, opposing opinions and reactions. At first they amuse me, then they annoy me, then they tire me, and finally they make me lose hope for humanity. I mean, if we cannot find some civil common ground on the neighborhood bakery, how can we debate clean water, good schools, and other policies?
How can several different people walk into that same bakery and see it so differently? One calls the owner “The Donut Nazi” and another refers to her as “a snobby bitch who ignored me.” The pastries are like rocks. To another reviewer, the owner was a cross between Mary Poppins and an Italian grandmother. The biscotti is the best she’s tasted since living in Tuscany.
Comments about restaurants are even more subjective. Terrible service, great food. Great service, terrible food. Loud, uncomfortable setting. Hip and friendly place. “Stacie our waitress forgot to write four separate checks.” “Stacie our waitress spilled wine on my husband but was so cute and bubbly we gave her a big tip anyway.” Suddenly everyone reviewing online is a food and wine expert – and most have never worked in restaurants, you can tell.
Clothing items are also confusingly rated. Too small, had to send back. Ran large so I gave it to my aunt. Itchy material and the buttons popped off. Nice for the price, extremely comfortable and I loved the buttons. Would I recommend to a friend? No, never. Yes, in fact I ordered two more in different colors. With such mixed reviews, it’s hard to know where the truth lies and whether to charge ahead or pass.
I refrain from writing nasty reviews. Only once did I complain online – about a florist. I had ordered a floral bouquet for my sister’s birthday and was picking it up on my way to Los Angeles. When I stopped to pick it up, my car loaded with clothes and other getaway items, the owner was not there and the clerks had no record of the order. They kindly offered to assemble an arrangement. It was beautiful. I was annoyed at having to wait before getting on the freeway, but no big deal. I thought the owner would call me to apologize, but she never did. So I logged into Yelp! and complained. She then called me, saying she had neglected to write down my order and my phone number and had no way of contacting me until I posted online. She offered me free flowers and I took down the comment.
It IS tempting when someone in a store or restaurant is rude to rant and yelp. The equivalent of tattling when we were kids. Does it accomplish anything? Maybe the clerk was having a hard day, maybe his rent check bounced or his hours got cut or a girlfriend dumped him. Not that bad behavior should be tolerated forever, but I honestly believe most clerks are doing the best they can (see my blog post, These Clerks, They are A-Tryin’).
So as fascinating as it is to delve into the world of retail trolling, I look forward to my next issue of Consumer Reports.