A businessman labeled one of TripAdvisor’s ‘Top Reviewers’ found himself in trouble when he was accused of blackmail. The businessman, who wrote 512 reviews in the review site in 2013 allegedly blackmailed a restaurant into providing him with free food, drinks and discounts so as not to give the restaurant negative reviews. This is a perfect example of why reviews posted on the internet anonymously should be read with a dose of skepticism. Internet review sites such as Yelp, Google+, Facebook, and TripAdvisor have become the go to places for people researching on restaurants and lodging when planning a trip.
However, review sites are being used by disgruntled customers and competing businesses to write negative reviews, most of which are unfounded, beating the original purpose of the review sites. In some cases, friends, as well as families of the business owner, are called upon to write good but untrue reviews. Restaurants and start up businesses depend on guest satisfaction and repeat customers to gain a competitive edge. For this reason, honest and positive reviews are vital. In a 2011 study by Harvard Business School, there was found to be a link between Yelp uptick and an increased revenue for restaurants. The research found a 5 – 9 % revenue increase for a one-star increase on Yelp.
If a vindictive customer or competitor seeks to damage the reputation of the business mainly out of spite, their actions could be illegal and defamatory. This could serve as a basis for a lawsuit. Businesses should seek legal advice in the event that a bad review leads to a catastrophic financial loss or damaged reputation in the community. Some businesses have chosen another route other than the legal one. They have embarked on creating false positive reviews. This service is offered by other sites that post positive reviews at a fee.
According to a survey by Google Consumer Surveys of 1,000 consumers, online reviews are enough to impact the purchasing decisions of 67.7% of the respondents. 54.7% of the respondents also admitted that online reviews are important when it comes to making decisions on the products or services to buy. This serves as the determination of Bury Bad Articles, a group of professionals that seek to remedy the problem of false negative reviews and bury bad news. They provide the resources that a business in this world where online reviews could build or tear down a business.
The original article was reported by LinkedIn and can be found here.