In the past few weeks I have had to book some accomodation and travel for an upcoming overseas holiday. All of it has been done online. I haven’t exchanged one word with another human being, except for a quick online chat with the good people at Eurostar to ask what I thought was a relevant question, it wasn’t. I have since purchased train travel form London to Paris and an apartment at what appears to be a charming location close to the Seine. 

The fact that I didn’t once converse with anyone reminded me just how essential the internet is to consumers and how incredibly different commerce is today, compared to when I would book such things in years gone past. In fact, I don’t even remember how I did it. I think I may have found an overseas telephone book? Looked at what  thought may work and give them a call?  I had a similar memory lapse when I tried to recall how I got through the weekend before EFTOS. Did I go to the bank on a Friday afternoon and draw out what cash I may need from my account? Or did I rely solely on cash that was paid for whatever job I was doing at the time? After all, wages were paid in cash, in little brown envelopes. Cash was king.

Now, I hardly ever carry  notes or coins. There seems to be no need, unless specific circumstances require it. But I digress. Because I am in the business of online reviews and how they frame consumer choices, and substantially enhance a business’ online presence and thus, vibrancy and well-being, I am often reminded of how much they shape me as a consumer and the choices I make.

“Pictures and words can very often be deceptive when the person selling is the one creating them.”

There are many different sites for booking accomodation and they’re all robust, carry all of the information about location, price, facilities and local amenities. They have a number of different search options and are generally easy to use. Many of them also carry the information that I was most interested in – reviews.

Pictures and words can very often be deceptive when the person selling is the one creating them. I looked through lots of listings where the pictures were beautiful – suggesting the accommodation was roomy, and adequate for my requirements. Then I would read the reviews. “Tiny rooms, not big enough to swing a cat! Misleading pictures! I wish I had read reviews first before staying here,” one reviewer said. Well, I’m glad I read your one, I thought. And on and on it went.

“And each location had reviews and a translation feature to transpose them into English – which I wish I had seen earlier as I tried out my third form French with little success.”

I eventually decided that I would use airBnB. I had heard good things from friends’ experiences and the site was incredibly simple to navigate through. There was a wealth of appropriate matches for the days I was looking at as well. And each location had reviews and a translation feature to transpose them into English – which I wish I had seen earlier as I tried out my third form French with little success.

It was reviews that guided my choice. One place looked great and I was tempted – but it had only one review. While it was decidedly positive, I knew that one was not enough and told me very little. I wanted to see consistency in themes in reviews and feel safe that I would be entering my credit card details, and not regret it later.

“I booked somewhere that had 129 review3s. Mainly they were all positive – except for one negative one from someone complaining about the wifi and the pillows.”

I spent about an hour going over about ten different places – weighing up price and location and letting the reviews guide my final choice. I booked somewhere that had 129 review3s. Mainly they were all positive – except for one negative one from someone complaining about the wifi and the pillows. The rest of their lengthy, detailed complaints did not resonate with me  and didn’t put me off. They all screamed – “fussy, unreasonable, person who will never be satisfied” – and we all know people like that.

Time will tell if I will be the next positive reviewer, but I at least feel assured that I made the best choice possible, with all the information that I had at hand. I am also certain that online searching is far more convenient and reliable than just plucking a name out of an overseas phone book and hoping for the best.