Writing Those Reviews


Having spent the last twelve days in six different lodgings, I am full of reviews…reviews on yoga studios, mom and pop roadside stands, Irish pubs, handmade soaps, coffee beans, boat lines, and beachside motels.

Our recent vacation for my family of four was plotted carefully - by me. In the pursuit to secure a perfect and seamless trip, I read all reviews on yelp, google, airbnb and tripadvisor prior to booking lodging, and then again, for restaurants on the road as we travelled about 950 miles. 

The whole idea of “reviewing” aka reporting one’s personal experience is sort of bizarre. I mean, how subjective! The general rule of thumb in customer service is that business owners only hear from disgruntled customers. 
But, the recent shifts towards Power-To-The-Keyboard consumer is that our peers are trustworthy, like-minded and without agenda, in recommending or discouraging a particular establishment.  For sustained wage-earning, the customer really has become enemy number one.

In this recent adventure of mine, inching up the California coastline, stopping at elephant seal rookery’s, motels, fine shops and decades old eateries, I ran into a few less-than-perfect experiences, but, were they worth mention permanently, online, with the possible outcome that a future patron avoids that shop?

Case in point: One super cute motel that came highly recommended on tripadvisor, seemed good enough at first glance. With only four options in this small seaside town, on a busy holiday week, we knew our options were not extensive or fancy. The price was great for a large studio suite, two blocks from the water. But, within minutes of walking into the room, the toilet backed up. Nothing horrendous like raw sewage spilling over, but, it backed up. We sought out a plunger from the front office and plunged the toilet. It happened a second time later that day; again, we plunged. We learned that the toilet handle liked to be held down for a full minute…voila!

All fixed, end of story. Resolving our “backed up toilet” took all of 5 minutes. In a perfect world, toilets would never back up. Shall I review this motel with “good price for the large space and beautiful bedding. When the toilet backed up the management offered us a lovely plunger. Problem easily solved. Stay here!” 
If I were deciding between three hotels via reviews and I read that, I would swiftly eliminate it from my options - I’m skittish like that. I’m just not sure that’s giving a fair shake to the business owner who may work hard, day after day, to provide a safe, clean room at an affordable price, for years on end. 

In consumer satisfaction indices, anything less than a perfect score can cost a large business dollars – an actual financial penalty.  But, small businesses are just made up of small people. I recently had a bad massage. I know it seems impossible but it’s true. I’m not sure what was wrong with my masseuse, but, I’d hate to write a poor review of our hour together only to find out that she’s going through chemo and this was her first day back at work. Or, the burden of knowing that my negative review cost her the job that supported two kids and an out of work spouse. Maybe she is incompetent. I don’t think I’m being a bleeding heart here – I’m just weighing the importance of how terrific my massage should be compared to maybe catching someone on an “off” day and branding them subpar on the global infobahn.
While I'm softer on the individual business owner, even the housekeeper working for a large corporation has a day-to-day job on the line. My compassion stops when issues of fraud, safety, or malice are apparent, as that's surely a pattern and not a random event.
But, every experience of ours needn’t be a home run, for God’s sake. How important is it that I divert business from one storefront to another? For my money, there is little adventure in that flawless but glossy vacation. 

Danielle Green

A college basketball star turned wounded Army veteran received the Pat Tillman Award for Service at the ESPY Awards ceremony.
Danielle Green, Army Specialist, and a former Notre Dame women's basketball player who lost part of her left arm from a rocket-propelled grenade attack while serving in Iraq, was honored with the Pat Tillman Award at the ESPYs on Wednesday night - and, going forward, words of wisdom for each of us. Read about Danielle here