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Great expectations - the art of online reviewing

June 12, 2013
by | guides

Or you could 'like' instead...Since we’ve upped our review prize to a monthly £250 Amazon voucher from our previous £100 (we’re generous like that), we’ve been inundated with your musings on your Pitchup.com campsite or holiday park stay.

And, as we like to do this on the bus like a slack-jawed idjut, it got us to thinking. What are the bestest – and worst – types of reviews for campsites, tourism, shops and hair removal 'creme' made especially for men? We’ve had a look at some of the main contenders and categories of reviews:

Great expectations

As we get older and (occasionally) have some money left at the end of the month instead of spending the week before payday a gibbering, hungry and beerless wreck, so too do our expectations of holiday facilities and service rise.

But one must always be realistic. While we would certainly applaud a disgruntled camper tersely pointing out in a review that they didn’t think ‘family-friendly entertainment’ meant ‘oiled-up male strippers’ or ‘first-class restaurant’ meant ‘frozen chips’, this does not apply to complaining that a budget room doesn’t look like Buckingham Palace, that the local shop doesn’t sell ‘proper biscuits like custard creams or ginger nuts’ or that an elephant made you feel ‘inadequate’ on your honeymoon. Similarly, a site advertised as being without electric hookup cannot be lambasted for the fact that the reviewer couldn’t plug in their karaoke machine.

(You may also not, in any fora, review or official complaint, accuse a leading supermarket chain of religious discrimination for not allowing you to wear your Jedi hood, although kudos to Tesco for pointing out that Jedis with hoods up will ‘miss lots of special offers’.)

Concentration camp comparisons

We’re sure we don’t need to evoke our damn librul sensibilities to realise this is a well dodgy way of making one’s point in a review, and that this is in our ‘not recommended’ category. Yet reviewers do indeed go there. Travel review sites abound with these jaw-droppingly un-PC comparisons, and we’ve had a couple of reviews at Pitchup.com too comparing a disappointing campsite experience to a stay in a concentration camp which we just…can’t even. Handy tip: if you’re wondering whether comparing your camping trip to Auschwitz is OK because your electric hookup failed or the campsite owner was rude*, it’s really not. Like, really really not.

*We are aware that a handful of campsite owners, just like some hotel owners, retail staff or check-in staff at a certain budget airline, could give Basil Fawlty a run for his money in the customer service stakes. We also know that some campsite owners are well justified in getting annoyed at campers who go to a ‘quiet, family-friendly site’ and decide this means ‘Please play I’m Sexy and I Know It loudly at 2am, with accompanying grind gestures’. Still, we recommend not going there with the Auschwitz comparisons.

Liar liar pants on fire

Ah, libel laws. How we love them. We fully understand the temptation to declaim that an establishment is the worst in western Europe (‘I won’t have that!’ the Major indignantly declared when a disgruntled guest said this about Fawlty Towers. ‘There’s a place in Eastbourne!’). But alas, unless this Can Be Proved in a Court of Law, your eloquent (and even if mostly reasonable) review sadly can’t be released to the truth-hungry public. (This also applies to sharing your little thoughts if you’re a public figure and wish to avoid a media storm, viz., ‘mad swivel-eyed loons’.)

Negative reviews are not of course automatically libellous, but for reviews to stay up on any site it’s best to err on the side of caution and not say things like ‘The manager’s a criminal’, ‘The kitchen staff were trained in botulism’ or ‘The burger was made of horsemeat’. We’d quote some of the best libels here, but, well, it’d be libellous.

Quill: sharpenedActs of Og

We’re happy to report that Pitchup.com types do not seem to have a habit of blaming campsite owners for the British weather. And it is of course reasonable to complain if you’ve paid for accommodation that then leaks, falls down or otherwise isn’t fit for purpose. But in Blighty, we suspect you won’t get far having a go at a campsite, attraction or hotel owner for the skies opening above you every day of your hol. (Attraction owners can always try and sue the Met Office though.) Pack a brolly, wet weather gear and spend hours before your break making a carefully extensive list of all indoor and rainy day attractions within a fifty-mile radius. That’ll bring the sun out for sure.

Lip-smacking enthusiasm

85 year old Marilyn Hagerty’s review of her local restaurant went viral last year for its enthusiastic endorsement of a North Dakota establishment looked down on by hipster types. In what’s been called the greatest restaurant review ever written, Ms Hagerty reviewed her visit to the Olive Garden, lavishing praise on it for its salad with ‘several black olives’ and accompanying ‘plate with two long, warm breadsticks’, the ‘vases and planters with permanent flower displays on the ledges’ and ‘the waiters in white shirts, ties, black trousers and aprons adorned with gold-colored towels.’ To which we say, good on you, ma’am. Good on you. There ain’t enough unrestrained enthusiasm in online reviews. Five stars – and we now want to go to the Olive Garden.

Special mention: reviews of general hilarity

We’ll read reviews of anything if they make us chuckle, and so we’re giving special mention to the Amazon reviews of Bic For Her for the happy afternoon spent weeping with laughter at some of the best reviews we’ve ever read. These pink and purple pens were made especially for ladies and ‘designed to fit comfortably in a womans [sic] hand’ – yes, that’s an actual quote from the official product description. For the boys, and for another afternoon spent crying with laughter at Amazon product reviews, there’s Veet for Men Hair Removal Gel Creme; we invite/implore you to have a look at both for yourself.

We’ll have to finish here, partly because we’re running out of space and partly because we’re crying at the Veet for Men reviews. If you’ve seen a classic review online, let us know below – and don’t forget to add your own when you stay at a Pitchup.com site!

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