Do you read online reviews?

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playtothebeat
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Do you read online reviews?

Post by playtothebeat » Mon Dec 29, 2014 9:44 pm

I'm currently searching for a contractor to remodel my kitchen, and this really got me thinking about how much weight we tend to put into online review and overall online presence of companies nowadays. For instance, I received a quote which seems very reasonable to me, but the company has no online reviews and in general not a huge online presence, and this makes me hesitant to take them seriously when compared to someone with a bunch of positive reviews (on yelp, citysearch, houzz, etc). But then again, i think about myself and I have never once left an online review for any service, product, etc. At the same time, I never look at reviews for restaurants, since I would rather just try it myself and decide for myself whether or not I like it, rather than go in with a positive or negative bias; on the other hand, I have a friend who absolutely refuses to eat at a restaurant that doesn't have at least 4 stars on yelp.

I'm curious, how often does everyone else here check online reviews of products/services/etc before making a purchase or engaging someone? Do you give more weight to those with more reviews?

livesoft
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Re: Do you read online reviews?

Post by livesoft » Mon Dec 29, 2014 9:52 pm

I sometimes read reviews after the fact. I apparently don't have the same tastes as others.

For contractors, I would ask for references and call them up. That's the way it was done before online reviews and still works today. As you can imagine, I have no fears calling up strangers and interviewing them.
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cheese_breath
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Re: Do you read online reviews?

Post by cheese_breath » Mon Dec 29, 2014 9:52 pm

I'm more interested in the negative reviews than the positive ones. I read most people who are satisfied don't bother posting reviews, so I don't automatically dismiss someone if he doesn't have a lot of positive reviews. But if there are a lot of negatives I stay away.
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GerryL
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Re: Do you read online reviews?

Post by GerryL » Mon Dec 29, 2014 11:08 pm

I use Angie's List when selecting a contractor. My social circle is rather small, so having a source of reviews is useful. (And I've gotten bad leads when I have gone on the advice of friends.)

When I'm thinking of buying something I may scan reviews online to see what kinds of problems people have reported. That helps me with my research. Online reviews helped me pick out the HE washing machine I bought earlier this year -- and prepared me for the differences to expect. (Many of the negative reviews were people complaining that the machines didn't use enough water and that they had to pour buckets of water into the machine !!!) I also look online for user manuals and read those before making a decision. (I think the people with the buckets never bothered to read the manuals.)

carolinaman
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Re: Do you read online reviews?

Post by carolinaman » Tue Dec 30, 2014 8:27 am

I use online reviews but find they are generally more helpful for products than local services. I use Angieslist and others. However, I find many good contractors do not use Angieslist or similar. My son is a remodeling contractor and feels there are more negatives than positives from his perspective because you can get totally unfair ratings from unreasonable people. I think there is a lot of gamesmanship in these local ratings. Some service providers have figured out how to play this game and the fact they have good ratings does not necessarily mean they are as good as their ratings. Bottomline: these ratings do have some value but should not totally drive your decision to select a service contractor.

kaudrey
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Re: Do you read online reviews?

Post by kaudrey » Tue Dec 30, 2014 9:00 am

I use tripadvisor for researching hotels and things to do. Yelp sometimes. We read reviews and consumer reports before recently buying a Honda CR-V.

jebmke
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Re: Do you read online reviews?

Post by jebmke » Tue Dec 30, 2014 9:02 am

I look at negative reviews but don't pay much attention unless there is something specific described in the review. One person's "bug" is another person's "feature."
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ddurrett896
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Re: Do you read online reviews?

Post by ddurrett896 » Tue Dec 30, 2014 9:21 am

All the time!

From a pair of muck boots to a vacation destination, I always ready reviews and look for a common theme not just a few bad reviews here and there.

NoVa Lurker
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Re: Do you read online reviews?

Post by NoVa Lurker » Tue Dec 30, 2014 9:26 am

We do - quite extensively!

We have a house originally built in 1947, and there have been a bunch of problems where we needed a plumber/electrician/other contractor/etc. We've also done some voluntary improvements. We are in Northern Virginia. For the first three years in our home, we used the yellow pages and free online sites and asked for references. The references were always positive, but our experiences were hit-and-miss.

Two years ago, after a really bad experience with a random landscaping company, we joined Angie's List. My wife wanted to join it; I was very skeptical in paying any money to use an online review site. I have to admit, it has made a huge difference. I think the biggest benefit is that the contractors with high ratings on Angie's List depend on those high ratings to stay super-busy. So if you run into a problem with their work, they are way more likely to work with you, instead of tell you that you are being unreasonable.

We recently did a full kitchen remodel. The company we picked gets great reviews on Angie's List. We were actually really disappointed in the initial work - they were super-fast, but there were lots of little problems (gaps between the cabinets and the walls; cabinet doors installed so that they open the wrong way; pencil marks on tile that they couldn't get rid of, because they had already coated the tile, etc). They ended up fixing everything, with very little complaint and at no extra charge, even though some things definitely created extra cost to them. I don't think we would have had the same experience with a contractor who did not rely on positive online reviews.

DaveNC
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Re: Do you read online reviews?

Post by DaveNC » Tue Dec 30, 2014 9:32 am

For contractors, I try to get recommendations from friends/neighbors/relatives/co-workers, etc. At one point I considered using Angie's List, but a quick search showed a lot of complaints about their business practices with both their users and their service providers that made me reconsider.

I will sometimes read other, free, online reviews of a company when I can find them, but I understand that there will almost always be somebody complaining about something, so I try to look at the overall picture - if there are a lot of positive reviews and a couple really bad ones, I'll usually get a quote from them. I think you can tell a lot about someone by talking with them face to face about the project, but then again, I have a construction background and can usually tell if they are BS'ing me. :)

Dave

my2014
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Re: Do you read online reviews?

Post by my2014 » Tue Dec 30, 2014 9:37 am

DaveNC wrote:For contractors, I try to get recommendations from friends/neighbors/relatives/co-workers, etc. At one point I considered using Angie's List, but a quick search showed a lot of complaints about their business practices with both their users and their service providers that made me reconsider.
I've used Angie's List in the past. In my opinion, it's hit or miss. We had really good luck with some "A" rated contractors. Other "A" rated contractors were nothing special. I've always wondered how sites like Angie's List really keep contractors honest. What stops them from giving 20 of their friends $50 each to set up an account and rate their business an A? Yelp seems to do a better job at this by hiding suspicious reviews, but they don't have a not of reviews on contractors (at least here locally).

davebarnes
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YEs

Post by davebarnes » Tue Dec 30, 2014 10:21 am

Yelp.
And, I dig into the filtered reviews.
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DaftInvestor
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Re: Do you read online reviews?

Post by DaftInvestor » Tue Dec 30, 2014 12:54 pm

I always check the BBB. If they are rated bad there - stay away (since the BBB actually checks into complaints versus a lot of sites where competitors could toss complaints in). If they aren't rated bad there - there could still be issues - I always try to get references from neighbors or others in town I know.

jridger2011
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Re: Do you read online reviews?

Post by jridger2011 » Tue Dec 30, 2014 1:20 pm

Yes, online reviews help for some things and not for others. If the reoccurring theme is there for a type of complaint, you go to the place/service knowing what you will get. Some reviewers will post tips on how to maximize your time or know to make reservations ahead of time. When I find good tips, I will try to post to help others.

The contractor part is difficult since there is a budget involved and outcomes may not always exceed expectations, the company is not selling a pre-made product and a lot of things can go wrong with budget, timing, and overall satisfaction. The best would be to ask around people you know personally and have been inside their homes to see their kitchens/baths to know what quality to expect.

curmudgeon
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Re: Do you read online reviews?

Post by curmudgeon » Tue Dec 30, 2014 2:12 pm

I've had pretty good luck with tripadvisor. I definitely don't just go by star ratings there, but I've learned to read between the lines on reviews (some folks will never be satisfied unless they are fawned on by the staff). If I have a doubt in my mind about a review I see on TA, I look at other reviews by the same person to give perspective (posters with one or two reviews carry less weight with me).

Once in a great while I'll look at yelp, and occasionally I'll look at Amazon reviews. I regard most online reviews with suspicion, as there are too many ways to game the systems. I prefer direct recommendations (which have their own limitations, of course).

lululu
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Re: Do you read online reviews?

Post by lululu » Tue Dec 30, 2014 3:45 pm

I ask around and for contractors and the like I ALWAYS check the BBB. Our state has a section of its website where you can see complaints against contractors, their insurance status, etc.

Mudpuppy
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Re: Do you read online reviews?

Post by Mudpuppy » Tue Dec 30, 2014 4:45 pm

I don't expect a local plumber or roofer to have a web designer on staff, so I don't worry if they have a very basic website presence. Like lululu, for a local contractor I prefer to check things out the old-fashioned way: references, the BBB, and the state contractors' website. We also have a "classifieds" electronic forum at work where one can post "I'm looking for recommendations for" to get feedback from people working at this location.

For other services, like travel or products, I do read the online reviews. But I just don't expect much to be online for local businesses. Edit: And I can't bring myself to pay for AngiesList, so I don't know how useful it is.

chaz
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Re: Do you read online reviews?

Post by chaz » Tue Dec 30, 2014 5:29 pm

IMDB for movies.
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Toons
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Re: Do you read online reviews?

Post by Toons » Tue Dec 30, 2014 5:41 pm

I read reviews for for quite a bit.
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Stonebr
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Re: Do you read online reviews?

Post by Stonebr » Tue Dec 30, 2014 6:26 pm

For contractors I talk to neighbors and keep an eye out for those little trucks they drive. Who does what. Chimney guys, roof people, plumbers. "Nice roof! Did you like they way they treated you?"

When we did our oil to gas conversion last year I went to the Weissmann and Bosch/Buderus websites and found reviews on local installers. Went with the one with the best reviews. Also checked BBB.
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VictoriaF
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Re: Do you read online reviews?

Post by VictoriaF » Tue Dec 30, 2014 6:36 pm

The problem with reviews is that people are more likely to write a negative review if something exceeds their threshold of laziness and to write a positive review if they are explicitly asked by the service provider. In both cases, the reviews are rigged.

When reading negative reviews, I am frequently surprised by the pettiness of some complains and people's sense of entitlement. They don't read the description and then blame a provider; they buy an economy brand and complain that it does not have features of a premium brand. They get dumped by a girlfriend and give one star to a toaster.

The reviews that I find the most helpful are those on Amazon.com. To be sure, many of the Amazon reviews are biases in the worst possible ways. I benefit from other reviews, those written by eloquent, intelligent people, a dying breed that still reads books.

Victoria
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Toons
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Re: Do you read online reviews?

Post by Toons » Tue Dec 30, 2014 6:41 pm

Amazon reviews have been invaluable when I am considering purchasing products from them.Likewise I have posted numerous reviews on products that I have purchased from Amazon and have been amazed at how frequently they have helped others in their purchasing decisions.(Notified via email when someone appreciates the review) :happy
"One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity" –Bruce Lee

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magellan
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Re: Do you read online reviews?

Post by magellan » Tue Dec 30, 2014 6:53 pm

IMO, it makes sense to be very wary of all online reviews. There are trivially easy ways for business owners to make bulk purchases of good reviews for themselves and bad reviews for competitors. Sadly, it's a very widespread problem.

Below is a quote from an article that suggests as many as 20-30% of reviews may be fake. The article gives some tips on how to spot fakes yourself and some links for further reading.
What you may not realize is at lot of consumer reviews on the Internet are bogus. In fact, 20 percent of Yelp reviews are fake, according to a Havard Business School study published last fall. And Bing Liu, a data-mining expert at the University of Illinois, Chicago, puts the overall number of fake reviews closer to 30 percent.

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cfs
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Re: Do you read online reviews?

Post by cfs » Tue Dec 30, 2014 6:57 pm

Good question.

Prior to purchasing an item I check Amazon reviews for a sanity check. After purchasing the product Amazon I take my time to write and post my personal review, and (just like our shipmate Toons) I am notified via email when someone finds the review useful.
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VictoriaF
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Re: Do you read online reviews?

Post by VictoriaF » Tue Dec 30, 2014 6:59 pm

magellan wrote:There are trivially easy ways for business owners to make bulk purchases of good reviews for themselves and bad reviews for competitors.
I see a lot of superficial reviews, but I never thought that they are purchased. But it does make sense; if we have markets for computer exploits, why not for product reviews?

Thank you for pointing this out!
Victoria
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prudent
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Re: Do you read online reviews?

Post by prudent » Tue Dec 30, 2014 7:09 pm

We've had great luck with Angie's List. If I'm getting a quote for some work I always tell them I found them on Angie's List and work into the conversation that I always write reviews myself because I find it so valuable. I've had contractors tell me to hire someone else to do part of the job because the other guy will be cheaper. The landscaping guy we hired did that regarding having a tree trimmed - he said there's a guy real close to us who only does trees, does a great job, and would be cheaper.

When you read enough reviews, you can generally spot a fake. Most of the time they are over-the-top positive and written like an advertisement. ("Our risotto was to die for! Barney, our server, was the best we've had in I don't know how long! The décor was perfect! The cocktails were expertly crafted and worth every penny!") Other times there's just something "off" about it.

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cheese_breath
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Re: Do you read online reviews?

Post by cheese_breath » Tue Dec 30, 2014 7:38 pm

VictoriaF wrote:....They get dumped by a girlfriend and give one star to a toaster....
So somebody reads my reviews after all. :twisted:
The surest way to know the future is when it becomes the past.

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