ONLINE reviews have a growing influence on where we eat, sleep and shop – but can we really trust them?
Many Australian and international tourists now look to online reviews by members of the public on restaurants, products and attractions, referring to popular peer-review websites like Tripadvisor, Yelp, Urbanspoon and Beanhunter.
But Devonport admin worker Reharn Morris said she would never trust online reviews again, after accepting a job writing reviews for restaurants and products she had never tried.
Ms Morris said she responded to an online advertisement for freelancer南京夜网, asking people to write reviews.
“In the initial brief it indicated that I would be directed to a website and then receive info for the review – I then started to realise that I was being asked to complete fake reviews,” she said.
“I was asked to join a company and write one article per day as a minimum – and I was to be paid $1 per 500 words.
“The jobs ranged from product reviews, company service reviews, and information pages for websites.”
Ms Morris said she ended up turning down the work, as it paid little and was playing on her conscience.
“I don’t like writing stories, customers read these product reviews in good faith . . . as an online consumer I rely on customer reviews when I purchase products, but now I know those reviews cannot be believed,” she said.
Aaj India restaurant manager Ajay Kumar said the peer-review website Tripadvisor had become hugely important to his Launceston business, with many tourists using the website to make decisions on where they ate.
“We get so many customers from it, we have a lot of tourists coming into town look it up and come to us – a lot of people say they came in after reading about us on Tripadvisor,” he said.
“Our high rating is very important to us because we worked really very, very hard to get it.”
However, Mr Kumar said peer-review websites could also have their downsides for businesses, with rivals and competitors known to post negative reviews on their Tripadvisor page.
Amelia Espresso owner Amelia Padgett said she too had noticed an impact after becoming the highest rated Launceston restaurant on Tripadvisor.
“It makes a difference in terms of attracting tourists – I maybe get five to 10 people a day who come in because they heard about me on Tripadvisor . . . and it’s search engine optimised, so when people search `best coffee in Launceston’ it pops up because some customers have said it in Tripadvisor reviews,” she said.
However, Ms Padgett said she was hesitant to embrace or encourage the use of peer-review websites, as she was fearful of the downsides.
“I’ve only had 12 reviews, it’s just that all of them are good – if I get one negative review I’ll go right down the list,” she said.
“Also, people can get others to write reviews for them . . . even if somebody’s never been to my shop they can write a review.”
Aaj India restaurant manager Ajay Kumar hands out Tripadvisor cards to his customers. Mr Kumar says the peer-review website has brought plenty of business to his restaurant. Picture: NEIL RICHARDSON
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