Why Online Reviews in SL Suck!

In the six months I’ve been living in Sri Lanka I have become wary of online reviews on Tripadvisor and Google. After my blog post, I started looking for new places to eat and discovered that so many places that I have visited have raked up a 5-star rating. While I’m sure that some of them are very deserving, I know that most are not.

So I got to thinking about online reviews… The internet (what a wonderful thing) has provided us with endless options for dinner, and I imagine has started countless fights over culinary indecision. With so many options, wouldn’t it be nice if someone would help us decide? Enter Tripadvisor, Google Reviews, Yamu, Tasty.lk, Zomato, and countless blogs. There are so many review sites it’s impossible to know where to start, so you just do a quick Google and check out any restaurant with 5 stars.

The premise of online reviews is great, it gives a voice to the everyday customer, not a food critic. After having an amazing (or horrible) meal and you feel the need to let others know how great (or not) it is. If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of the people who are honest in their reviews. But this isn’t always the case – especially in Sri Lanka, and it isn’t exclusive to food outlets either.

There seem to be a lot of reviews around with just a 5-star rating, no review or comments. What I have found by simply asking around is that people who work at the company/department/restaurant/bar and all their friends will give a place 5-star ratings as a way to drum up business. What I’ve learnt here is not to just pick places on ratings, but to actually read the quality reviews.

If any of you have been to the Central Mail Exchange, you will know how horrendous an experience it is to have to pick up your mail (more about that in a later post!). So you will understand how ridiculous it is that the CME has a 4-star rating. What’s the bet all the guys below work in the department?

 

CME Reviews
What you’ll see on Google Reviews (even if the place it utter rubbish)

 

Every now and then you’ll read an honest review among these. Not only are the actually helpful in the quest to find actual information but sometimes they are also hilarious (as you can see below).

 

CME Reviews 3
Someone writes an actual review – hilarity ensues

 

So what about Yamu’s Kamu? Check out the website, sometimes there are interesting articles on there, but mostly it seems like Sri Lanka’s answer to Buzzfeed. While the reviews are curated, instead of a user based, they often recount of what the staff ate while visiting and review very little. Also, I feel like they never give bad reviews – surely some of the places they visit don’t measure up? I visited a Thai spot after reading a really positive review on Yamu and it wasn’t great, my friend explained that because the reviewers are local and local taste they look for something different in the food. It’s not Thai food, it’s the Sri Lankan version of Thai food or Thai food modified for the Sri Lankan market.

So how do I decide where to eat, party and shop? Word of mouth. Whenever you meet another expat, your conversation is guaranteed to turn to food at some point. “I know a place…” is the expat equivalent to Sri Lanka’s “I know a guy…” (which you’ll read about soon enough).

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