You find yourself in a city or village you are not familiar with and you have not really carried out any research so you take out your phone or tablet and try to look up reviews on a website like TripAdvisor or Yelp. You look for restaurants close to where you are and find that the best restaurant in the village is just 200 metres away. It has recently opened, has great reviews and people are raving about it.
You walk to the address only to find that the restaurant does not exist. This is what might have happened to you if you were searching for La Scaletta in Moniga del Garda, Italy recently.
Italia a Tavola carried out an experiment to verify the reliability of the most visited review portal, TripAdvisor. The restaurant did not exist, though they write that it has been open since the end of April. They put in a false address and telephone number and the reviews started to come in. The restaurant received ten excellent, but obviously false, reviews which led it to the first place in TripAdvisor rankings for the village. The problem is that the restaurant never existed and all the reviews were false.
We have written many times about guides and lists and how you need to use them with a pinch of salt. But we have never really touched upon the issue of ‘independent’ review guides.
While many rely on the so called ‘wisdom of the crowds’ it is becoming harder to verify what is reliable and what is not.
We have heard cases where competing restaurants or hotels write false reviews badmouthing their competition. We have also heard instances where false reviews have been created to counter negative criticism.
While we have no problem with fair criticism, we find that such systems are not only ripe for major abuse but also can be rigged easily by people with bad intentions. Many may be discerning but others can end up being disappointed if they trust what they read blindly. Nowadays when everyone can be a critic, no matter whether the subject is food, wine, arts, sport or politics, you really need to find the sources that you can really trust.
We are all bombarded with never ending information and this makes it very difficult to research for a place to eat or which hotel to book, particularly when you are in a new city.
If you do not have time to research information from people or sources that you really trust, we find that nothing beats a local’s recommendation. What’s wrong with stopping someone in the street and asking where he or she would recommend?
We have come to rely on the internet so much that sometimes we tend to forget that not everything might be what it seems.