Monthly Archives: July 2014

Feeling pressured to write a review…and not liking it one bit.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I decided it was finally time to buy a new car.  For a long time, we had loved our reliable 2007 Corolla, which had served us well up to 120,000+ miles.  But, as a 1-car family that does a lot of commuting, we felt it was time to get a car that was newer and that would last us for another 7 or 8 years.  So we found a nearby dealership with an excellent inventory of “previously owned vehicles” (love that euphemism!).

Do you remember how, back in the day, shopping for cars used to be one of the most stressful experiences ever?  All that haggling, and feeling like you were totally at the mercy of the dealer in negotiating price and financing, and all that?  Today, it is completely different, with so much car information available online…you can even get detailed info about THE SPECIFIC car that you plan to buy! This really helps put the consumer in the “driver’s seat” (so to speak) where price negotiations are concerned.

Which is why we were absolutely delighted that, this time around, buying a car was a pretty positive experience. We felt well-informed, confident, and in control of the process.  Even our salesman was low-key and pleasant.

With one exception.  Although our salesman did not try to get us to consider an upgraded model, or even push the extended warranty issue too much…he DID (very oddly, in my opinion) “hard sell” us on posting a favorable review of him online.  Or several, to be more accurate.

For over 2 hours, he had been modest, down-to-earth, and completely likeable.   But suddenly, all that shifted, as he began to inform us that he was the most highly-rated and reviewed salesman at the dealership.  And then he brought out this big white binder filled with printouts of dozens of reviews written about him.  He told us to go ahead and browse through them, so that we could use them as models for how to write our own glowing review for him.  He then navigated to the dealership’s webpage with links to several auto dealer review sites, and he told us that (once we got home) we could write our review based on what we had learned from the examples in the binder, adding that we could of course just “copy + paste” that same review text into multiple sites. Uh-huh.

I found this super annoying.  I mean, of all people, *I totally get it* that reviews impact sales.  But perhaps a more low-key suggestion like “If, after a couple of days, you feel satisfied with the service you’ve received, it’d be great if you could go ahead and post a review on one of the sites linked to our dealer page”  would have been sufficient.  I don’t know what bugged me more… the hard-sell approach, or the feeling that I was having the whole online review process mansplained to me.

Fortunately for our salesdude, my husband is kindness incarnate, so a couple hours ago, he went ahead and posted a review  of our car-buying experience.   (I need to remember to ask him if he “copied + pasted” it into multiple review sites, as we had been coached to do, lol.)

What do you people think?  Have you ever felt super pressured to write a review?  If so, how did you react to it?

Can Businesses Sue Online Reviewers if They Don’t Like What a Review Says?

A friend of mine recently sent me a link to a news story from ABC, which raises the issue of businesses suing individuals who post negative reviews.  Although this brief clip mentions TripAdvisor and Yelp, the main story really centers around one man who posts a negative online review on Angie’s List about his contractor, and who later finds himself with a letter from the contractor threatening legal action.  What seems even more outrageous is that, after reading the man’s review, the contractor withdrew the 10-year warranty on the remodeling work that he had done on the man’s kitchen!

(Just in case you don’t feel like watching the 2-minute clip, here’s the spoiler alert: In the end, the contractor does reinstate the warranty.)

ABC offers three bits of advice for reviewers, for avoiding similar problems with businesses they may wish to critique online:

1)      Before entering into a relationship with business, make sure to read the fine print in the contract, to ensure that there is nothing preventing you from writing about them online.

2)      Write only about your opinions, and include phrases such as “I think” or “In my experience.”  (This one is my favorite, of course, since it seems to imply that without these linguistic “subjectivizers,” the status of a claim made on a review site might be something OTHER than one’s opinion…???)

3)      When possible, include evidence to support your claims.  (for example, a photo of the bad meat in your sandwich.)

What is evident from this story is that businesses are definitely feeling the impact of online reviews. (Probably smaller businesses are feeling this even more than larger corporations.) And what’s more, they are trying to do as much as they can to not only manage their reputations, but also – in some cases – to defend themselves and to fight back when they feel they have been characterized unfairly.

I also think that this is fantastic example of what is undoubtedly a huge grey area in the legal realm: when it comes to posting opinions about others online, there’s a fine line between free speech and libel.

Whether it’s right or wrong, I predict that we will be seeing more responses like this from businesses in the future!

TripAdvisor and Class

I was recently in Prague.  Walking around the city, I noticed the usual TripAdvisor window decals, certificates, and plaques.   But my favorite was this DIY version of the now-iconic TripAdvisor logo:


As a traveler, I am grateful to get to experience businesses of all types – from the cheapest of the local joints, to some of the poshest places in the city.  One of things I noticed on this trip is that prominent displays of TripAdvisor creds in businesses seem to be linked to class.  That is, there are more of them in businesses catering to the middle-classes…and they are either not as visible or not displayed at all in businesses that cater to the elites.