I never buy anything without reading a couple of reviews first but not all write-ups are the same – here are my top sites for the best ones.
I don’t care what the adverts say – whether I’m buying a £5 spatula or a £1,000 holiday, or a meal out, I want to know if it’s worth the money. But which reviews should you rely on, and which should you take with a pinch of salt?
Here are my top tips on how to sort out the wheat from the chaff when it comes to reviews.
1. Only check independent reviews
There’s no such a thing as a truly independent review site. They’re often open forums, which can be manipulated by businesses. That said, reviews on ‘independent’ sites that don’t just sell or promote the specific product you’re after tend to be more reliable.
I’m currently passing the book Quit Smoking with Allen Carr around my friends and family. It’s sold millions of copies around the world.
If you look on its website, there are thousands of great reviews from people who have all stopped smoking after reading it.
But I find these reviews hard to trust. I can’t imagine its marketing team sticking in reviews from people who are still puffing away despite reading it from cover to cover.
So I had a look at Amazon reviews, where it had 4.5 stars and 270 reviews, where it worked for most and didn’t for some. For me, it was helpful to see a more rounded set of reviews.
2. Know how to spot a fake review
Even when checking ‘independent’ reviews, you shouldn’t believe everything you read.
Some businesses have boosted their ratings by giving themselves five-star reviews that slate their competitors.
Here are a few things you can do to make sure you’re not being duped.
– Check out the reviewer. Have a look at other things they have reviewed on the site. Do they seem reasonable/fair? Are they ever pleased? Is it their only review? If so, be careful. That could mean they’ve created an account just to boost ratings of a business.
– Make sure you read enough reviews. It’s tempting, especially if it’s a good deal, to just read one or two reviews. Read as many as possible, from different sites, to make a fair assessment.
– Notice the same patterns/wording in a few reviews? Bring out your inner Sherlock and see if it’s likely they are the same person. You never know, they may have been paid to write those reviews.
– Worried about that terrible review among the outstanding ones? Don’t be. I automatically discount them. Frankly, not everyone is going to love everything and sometimes review sites are sabotaged by competitors. If the general gist is overwhelmingly positive, go with that.
– Look for reviews with photos. If you can see reviewers enjoying cocktails at the hotel pool, it’s less likely to be fabricated.
4. My top sites for reviews
My favourite place to find reviews for restaurants is TripAdvisor. If I’m new to an area or don’t know where to eat, I’ll find the top-rated places in the area and pick the one with the best reviews that matches the price I want to pay.
Other sites I like (remember, it’s always useful to check out more than one) are Squaremeal.co.uk and Urbanspoon.com.
I typically stick to sites where you can make a booking, as it means reviewers need to stay at a hotel to rate it (so businesses can’t just post a review to inflate their reputation). I generally use Hotels.com, but also check Expedia and LateRooms.com for honest reviews.
I love shopping online. But although I’m an expert in spending cash, I’m certainly no expert when it comes to buying some things such as tech gadgets. There are people out there who know far more than me, so if I want to buy a computer, I look at hundreds of reviews.
For tech, I don’t mind if the reviews aren’t fully independent as I don’t want advice to only come from people like me and you (unlike restaurants and hotels) – I want reviews from a pro. So I’m a big fan of TechRadar and TrustedReviews.
Overall, one of my favourite places to find reviews is Amazon. I’m not saying it’s where you should buy that product. But more often than not, Amazon has more independent reviews on items than anywhere else.