Using Online Consumer Reviews

I have to admit that when it comes to finding advice concerning dining, shopping, or specialized services, I definitely do a quick Google search or read some Yelp reviews to help guide my decisions.  Sure, it's nice just to find out what's nearby in the area, what's conveniently located, what the business hours are and whatnot, but I always read through the comments as well.  Last week my wife needed to fix a gold necklace and a silver bracelet, so I scoured through jewelers on the peninsula and finally settled upon the store with the most positive reviews.  After dropping off the items for my wife, she made sure to pick them up when they were finished, but there was a problem: the necklace wasn't quite fixed the way we had asked.  When my wife brought this to their attention the store employees laughed at her and told her she was wrong (then continued speaking about her in Spanish, without realizing she's a first-language Spanish speaker).  My wife left angrily and we had to find another jeweler to finish the job.

Out of the fifty-six total reviews on Yelp, there were only two negative ones – both from women complaining about the same type of belligerent behavior towards them from the owner.  I tend to discount a couple negative reviews, believing that the customers from time to time might be a bit difficult to deal with, but these minority opinions aptly described the experience of my wife as well.  It turns out that, despite the multitude of five-star reviews, this place can definitely rub some people the wrong way. At least, that was our experience.

Despite the attitude of the jeweler, I'm willing to accept that we might have caught him on an off day.  Maybe he was upset that we were questioning his expertise.  I've read some negative reviews about K&L online where customers vent their frustration about an inattentive staff member or crabby cashier and sometimes that's probably an accurate description.  I can't say that I bring my "A" game to work everyday, as much as I hope to.  There are times when I've lost my patience or I've just had a long week and maybe I didn't give a customer the experience they should have received.  However, on an average day in the Redwood City store, I'd say it would be difficult to leave unhappy if you were looking for quality service.  Every now and again people have rough days and that's the reality of being human.  We're not robots, we're not without our own egos or emotions, therefore it's difficult to summarize the overall quality of a particular business through a five-star rating system, especially if it's your first and only visit.  There are times when we perform better than others and that's just life.

I don't plan on leaving a Yelp review for the jeweler because I don't think it's necessary.  There are obviously plenty of other people who have done business there and received great service.  There are probably several different guys who work there as well.  What I want to state is that basing one's decisions on the mass aggregate opinion of the internet is no guarantee of anything.  Not that anyone has ever claimed it should be, either.  It just seems that people are quick to hand out either five stars or one star without taking much time to consider some very basic human elements in the equation.  I wouldn't summarize an athlete's ability after watching him perform in one game.  I wouldn't write a whisky review if I had only tasted the malt once.  Yet, I read reviews where someone stops to pick up a taco, waits five minutes, and hands out one star because they were in a rush.  We need to slow down and think about things before we put information out into the internet that people use to make business decisions.  I'm talking about myself here as well. 

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll