One of the (many) great things about the internet age is the staggering ease with which you can research all about a planned purchase before you part with your hard earned cash. And a great part of that, perhaps the most influential part, is customer reviews.
Now I’m not a great writer of reviews myself but like most people I do take a lot of note of what other people have to say about the company or product I’m interested in. Amazon reviews for electronic products for instance are a prime example. Another would be Tripadvisor for hotels and restaurants, which again I refer to regularly.
But a recent experience got me thinking.
I was viewing a property and needed to stay overnight in the local area. As it was close to the end of the school summer holidays and I’d left it late to book something, literally all I could find available was a room in a very expensive hotel or a room in a fairly modest B&B. The cost difference was more than £100 for the night so I thought I’d plump for the B&B. Its website was a bit minimal and no photos, only a couple of Tripadvisor reviews, but they were 3 and 4 star so I felt it would probably be all right.
My wife and I turned up mid evening, sun still shining, it looked OK from the outside, nice and central to the town and we were greeted pleasantly by the owner and shown to our room.
It was stunning – but not in a good way.
Being charitable, it probably needed a complete refurbishment 20 years ago. I’ve never seen let alone stayed in such a dismally tired room. Clean I guess, but hard to tell because it was so tatty – and musty. Not so much retro-chic as your grandmother’s sadly neglected and unloved spare bedroom. We left our bags in the room and went into town to get something to eat, taking our time as neither of us were looking forward to going back to the room. Just thinking about it made us miserable for the whole evening.
Anyway, we spent the night, not a very comfortable one, had a pretty decent breakfast, paid and left. Nice owners, terrible room and not good value.
Which brings me to my point. The experience was so bad that it was enough to spur me to write a Tripadviser review – something I’d never done before. Except that I didn’t. Because, frankly, if I’d left a review spelling out the awfulness of the place, that would sit there with their other two reviews and would probably severely harm their business and hence their living. And I couldn’t do that to them. Had they deceived me by saying it was luxurious when it wasn’t, or cheated me in some other way then I probably would have left a review. But they hadn’t. How they had achieved two fairly positive reviews in the past I don’t know but we did hear two other guests talking together over breakfast who seemed very happy with the place. Just us then or just our room? Who knows.