online review

Maybe the biggest shocker I’ve heard this year comes courtesy of NBC News, which recently probed the origin of online reviews found on websites like Yelp. Their startling conclusion? “An NBC News investigation found thousands of questionable reviews on Amazon, Yelp, Facebook and Google.”

I truly am surprised by this. Mostly because I had assumed that all online reviews were written by angry morons, shut-ins and recluses, or close relatives and friends of the business owners. Fake reviews? That had never occurred to me.

As for actually reading online reviews and trusting them when I make consumer and dining decisions, yeah, no thanks.

While I acknowledge that word of mouth is the most valuable form of marketing, I prefer to personally know the brain and human being attached to the words and mouths in question before I use their data.

Or, put another way, I don’t need keen insight from someone named Sally R. to know that Taco Bell will not soon win a James Beard Award for culinary excellence. Sally, however, was a slow learner. And yes, I am quoting her review exactly as written:

“3 times I gave stopped here for nachos supreme pay extra and never get them. Today I actually pulled the item out of the bag and asked are you sure jalapenos are on this I was told yes, got home nope paid extra for nothing. Never coming here again, worst place for service, if I could I would give them zero stars.”

Sally’s sense of optimism is sort of endearing. Me, after I’d been ripped off for a nacho supreme not once, but twice, I would have opted for Filiberto’s. Not our gal. She gave Taco Bell a third chance and even interrogated the chef about her meal before dining. Still, she came away short of jalapenos – but then got sweet revenge with a nasty online review.

Sally, I raise my chalupa to you. Thank you for protecting Arizona from this scourge.

During my NBC News-style investigation, I read literally dozens of reviews. This had two impacts on me.

One, I wanted to go to Yelp and review the Arizona educational system for producing such barely functional illiteracy. And two, I wanted to write to some of the reviewers individually and suggest mental help.

Like Justin P. of Gilbert, who shared his thoughts about the food selection at a Chevron gas station in Apache Junction:

“It Saturday during lunch and this dump still has nothing on its menu ready other than a few pieces of chicken. Everything time I ask for jambalaya or anything else on their menu they don’t have it. So do yourself a favor and take down the menu if you aren’t willing to make it. I totally understand at weird time of the day but at 5pm on weekdays or noon on a Saturday you should be able to fulfill a order poor practice of a business stick to gas and frozen burritos.”

Justin, my friend, I feel like Chevron’s laziness and narrow menu perhaps saved you from a fate far worse than dietary boredom: Death by gas station jambalaya.

 Even on a Saturday afternoon – when the best-reviewed urgent care facilities are less crowded – risking Cajun food at a filling station in AJ strikes me as poor life management. Stick with the chicken, pal. Or get gallon of gas and drive a few minutes to the Creole Cajun Bistro up the road.

I’ve never been and I’m not planning to go anytime soon. But someone named Nisha J. highly recommends the jambalaya. If a stranger recommending a meal on the internet isn’t persuasive, heck, I don’t know what is. 

David Leibowitz has called the Valley home since 1995. Contact david@leibowitzsolo.com.