Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sharing the Love (or hate)

Anyone who knows me or who reads this blog at least somewhat regularly knows that I love food. I also am opinionated and like to share my opinion. You might think there is no forum wherein I could combine these two loves, but that's where you would be wrong. It does exist and it's called Yelp.

Have you heard of it? Do you use it? I first heard of it last Fall and signed up, did a couple of reviews then promptly forgot about it until a couple of months ago when a friend of mine from University became the Community Manager for my city*! It motivated me to get back on there and get more serious about it. Once I wrote a few reviews, chatted with a few other Yelpers around town, and read their reviews I grew to really enjoy writing for the site.

Aside from my own writings, the site has come in handy when figuring out whether or not to stay, eat or visit somewhere. On my recent trip to Quebec City, Montreal and Ottawa, I used my BlackBerry app many times to look up bakeries (to find out who makes the best cannoli's in Montreal), places to eat (to see what others really thought of the bars we walked by in the Byward Market in Ottawa), and hotels (is that 3-star really a 3-star on the inside?).

The thing I like about Yelp reviews is they are written by "regular" people, so the opinions are unfiltered and honest (at least you can assume). You can often find out things about an establishment that you would never know unless you had been there yourself (e.g. hidden charges, loopholes, services not offered that you would normally expect, things you should bring that you would not normally think about, etc). Company websites are great, but lets be honest - their entire reason for being is to MAKE you want to visit, which means there may be certain information left in the fine print and/or overhyped.

Now I will say that I am the sort of person who takes reviews with a grain of salt - some people are really picky and will write a bad review about every place they visit because it's impossible to placate their enormously high expectations. Also, I firmly believe that a restaurant or hotel should not be judged based on one bad experience - sometimes you catch a place on a bad day (short-staffed, technical issues, etc) and if you went back another time, your experience might be very different. However, I do think reviews are a good way to at least get a GENERAL idea of the quality of a place. Chances are if a place has 5 reviews and they are all 5 stars, it's likely a pretty awesome place. If reviews are all over the place for something, I will generally ignore them and go see for myself. But, if all or most of the reviews are either really bad or really good, I would be lying if I said this does not inform my decision to go there.

I love food. I love to go out to eat, to events and try new places and things. Yelp is a great way to do keep on top of the new and best places to visit and to connect with others that like the same things. If you like to write, and like to go out and try places like I do then I would definitely recommend creating a Yelp account. The great thing is, there is a Community Manager for most cities so you have a person you can interact with directly, that manages activites on the site and in person (our manager has been hosting some really fun networking events lately, totally sponsored by Yelp!). Like other social media, like blogging, Twitter, etc, it is a great way to develop relationships online, that can then be taken offline. Besides, it's all FREE!

I like free things.

Besides, it's a good excuse to go out to eat, now isn't it? (Oh, I really should visit that new pizza place and order their Ginormo special so that I can write a Yelp review! >this kind of rationalization often runs through my brain now, not gonna lie)

Feel free to visit if you want to read my reviews!

So, what about you: Do you use Yelp or a similar site? What do you think of it, or of review sites in general?

*Note: My friend did not ask me to write this review, nor am I receiving any compensation for it - I am simply writing it because I want to share something that I enjoy!


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Thank you so much for reading!