The Value in Writing Reviews

When I decided to start a blog, I had to think about what I wanted it to include.  I write a lot of travel reviews, and I find them incredibly important to check when traveling.  It saves a lot of heartache when you read reviews before you chose where to stay, or even where to eat.  However, there are several apps and websites that people write reviews on, so I figured I would leave my reviews on TripAdvisor and use this blog as a way to share our travels and ideas.

While I decided to leave the review writing to my TripAdvisor account, which you can find here, checking reviews has rarely failed me and I wanted to share why they are important and what they should cover when you write them.

There have only been a few places we have visited that have let us feeling let down after reading rave reviews.  I quickly learned that if I was going to get excellent information from reviews, I would also have to write them and be a contributor as well.  It’s a give and take to keep them accurate.  TripAdivsor is my favorite site for writing and reviewing, as one must be a member in order to share reviews, and TripAdvisor has to approve them before they are posted.  I find this reduces errors, such as reviews posted to the wrong properties, and it keeps the language professional and appropriate.

At first when I have had wonderful experiences while traveling, I tended to not be as eager to tell the world about it, basically because the experience was good, I was happy, the end.  However, when I’ve had a bad experience, I tend to want to shout it from the rooftops!  Nobody wants to spend their hard earned money and have a bad experience.  That being said, if we don’t share the good and the bad, those looking at the reviews aren’t getting the whole picture.  This is what made me realize it was just as important to write the good reviews, as it was to write the bad.

I think my reviews have evolved over time. When I first started I would give the proper amount of “stars” that equated to my experience, and then I would write the obligatory few sentences and hit submit.  As things evolved, I realized that details are important.  Tell your readers “what” you loved about the place, “why” you feel that way, and “why” you recommend it.  For instance, did you eat the best crab cake you have ever had in your life?  The reader wants to know this.  Was it the cleanest hotel you have ever been to?  The reader wants to know that too.  Was the service amazing, but it wasn’t the cleanest place you have ever been?  This is good information to share.  Places can’t make improvements if they don’t know what people are feeling about their establishment.

I try really hard not to write horrible reviews without first trying to reach out to the establishment/company and letting them know that my experience was less than stellar. If they can give me a good explanation, or offer some kind of remedy, I make sure to include that in my reviews, or if there were extenuating circumstances, I may chose to not review it at all. If my email or phone call is totally ignored, I will then write my review, keeping to the facts.  It is best to wait a few days to let any emotion tied to the experience kind of settle down.

As I stated above, I like to reach out directly to companies when I have bad experiences.  Last year I ended up with two airline vouchers for an awful travel experience that was no fault of my own, and that was not handled properly by the gate agents.  I reached out to the airline detailing what had happened and they offered up two vouchers that covered most of the costs of that leg of our trip.  I have been very dedicated to using this airline over the years, and it made me feel good that they took my bad experience seriously and offered to make it right.  It makes me feel as if that relationship is one worth keeping.  I now want to continue using this airline because they made me feel like they were listening and wanted to right a wrong.

On the other end of that, are places that I have reached out to and they don’t acknowledge my email or phone call at all.  These are the times I make sure to write my review and include as many details as possible.  I also like to include in my review that I attempted to reach out but to no avail.  One thing I would caution you about is, if an establishment/company doesn’t know there is a problem, they cannot fix it.  It is best to let them know at the time the experience has gone bad. 

Just the other night my husband and I were at a resort in the San Juan Islands.  Because it is the end of the season for most of these resorts in this area, much of their services have been paired down.  This left us with fewer choices for eating establishments.  We chose to eat in the lounge at the resort the first night, and the experience was good.  The place was horribly busy, but the food & drinks came out in a timely fashion and were very good.  The second night we decided to eat in the same lounge, and the experience was the exact opposite.  It was extremely busy again, and we waited at our table for a very long time before we were acknowledged. Our food took forever to arrive, and my drink was downright awful.  When I suggested to the waitress, who then relayed to the bartender, that my $14 drink was awful, I was met with attitude from BOTH of them.  They offered to make another drink, and while hesitant, I decided to order the same drink I had ordered the night before, knowing it had been delicious.  Sadly, when the new drink arrived at the table, it was not good.  I did relay this to the waitress, and she took it off our bill, but the attitude made the experience feel bad. 

After pondering the situation for the evening, I reached out to the manager of the resort via email. He got back to me a few days later. He apologized that we received less than stellar service, and offered up that they were short handed due to sick calls.  He also reported that he would be talking to his staff about how attitude affects the customer’s experience.  Had I not explained what had happened, the manager would not have known that he needed to relay to his crew what they could have done differently to make this experience better. 

Another thing that I am starting to do more of is taking pictures of my experiences! I love taking pictures of food or drinks that has been beautifully presented. I also love taking pictures of the beauty I see in my surroundings. What better way to promote or rave about a place then to support it with photos. You do not have to be a photographer, or have a fancy camera to do this. Often times my best photos are taken with my older iPhone.

Now that you know the “why” of writing reviews, it’s your turn!

Happy Travels!

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