Buyer beware: Online reviews aren't perfect
Posted November 12, 2013
Hiring the right plumber, painter or handyman can be hit or miss.
If a trusted friend doesn't have a recommendation, the Internet is probably your next stop.
But how reliable are those online reviews?
To find out, Consumer Reports took a look at some of the more popular free customer rating services, such as Angie's List.
"We've found that businesses with A or B ratings that also pay for advertising rise to the top of default search results on Angie's List," said Consumer Reports money adviser Margot Gilman. "It's a big advantage."
"Google Plus Local didn't respond when we asked how it verifies that its reviews are from real customers," Gilman said. "Yelp told us that they have a way to identify and delete bogus reviews but admitted that the system has not been objectively tested."
Consumer Reports found 66 percent of Yelp's reviews in the first part of the year were four- or five-star ratings.
Yelp allows businesses to buy their way to the top of the pack in search results. But unlike Angie's List, Yelp clearly labels the ad.
"Bottom line: Ratings services aren't perfect, and we saw ratings for the same business can vary significantly from site to site," Gilman said. "But if you can't get a recommendation from someone you know, it may be worth it to look up a business on several sites."
Another free service worth checking out is the Better Business Bureau, which deals with complaints against companies and rates them on how well they resolve the problems.