Brewer's Droop #216

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Well, the ad industry has managed to steer our collective eyes off the important stories in the past week hasn’t it?

I mean, how important is it that an agency made an unfortunate mistake in submitting an unqualified entry to the Loerie Awards? Isn’t eTolling, the Nkandla investigation, the chopping of politicians official spending limits and the horrific spate of child murders more important?


I’m planning a holiday in Europe with some friends and we’re discussing what hotels, bars, restaurants and sights we should see. So of course we’re all studying Trip Advisor.

But there’s something about “reviews” that make me a little wary. I mean, it’s okay to read what Peter Malherbe says in the Sunday Times every week because I know he’s an expert. But who are these other okes telling me that a hotel I like the look of in Split is actually a dump?

I’m also going to confess something that’s been bothering me for months now. It was when I was staying in the Hotel des Grand Palmes in Palermo earlier this year. Something (quite trivial I expect) made me angry so I wrote a scathing report about them on Trip Advisor – I was really cruel. It’s true that it took a couple of days to fix the air conditioner and it’s true that the cost of a cup of tea brought to your room is extortionate, but generally speaking it’s a magnificent hotel.

[As an aside, our friendly taxi driver told me, after I’d posted my review, that this hotel was the finest in Sicily because it had been the favourite of Lucky Luciano, Al Capone and a whole Familia of mafiosi. In fact it was still highly thought of by the current bosses of organised crime. None of this friendly banter did anything to ease the fear for my life as you can imagine…. But I digress]

The point is, how can you be sure that the review you’re reading was written by someone of like-mind to yourself and also that he/she simply wasn’t in a bad mood at the time?

I saw one reviewer of Venice Airport call it a filthy place with broken lavatories, surly staff and unbearable chaos. Well, the last time I was there it was an oasis of elegance. Everything was pristine, it was cool, the shops were sophisticated and I had the most delicious bruschetta I’ve ever had in the world there. All the staff were smiling and as for “chaos” well, the entire country of Italy is chaotic – that’s what makes it such a wonderful country – full of passion and energy!

My only problem with Venice airport is that you can’t check-in more than two hours before take off which spoils it for me – you see, I actually like airports and enjoy exploring them and chatting to other travelers in the bar. (Come to think of it, that may have just been British Airways on that day, in which case, I apologise to any Venitian who may be reading this.)

Anonymous postings are suspect to begin with. If someone calls himself “World Traveler” and refuses to give his name then he should be ignored immediately. In fact, it would make sense for all serious reviewers be forced to to publish their email addresses too. (I know they do on the site, but readers can’t see it.)

And, generally, only those with something to complain about are going to write (they’ll certainly be in the majority anyway) and those who post nice things are from those people who believe themselves qualified to announce publicly what I will, or will not, enjoy. Well, who appointed them team leader skipper?

I was reading rather a pleasant one the other day about a couple visiting churches while cruising. Towards the end she said that her and her husband didn’t drink alcohol and that they held prayer meetings on board every evening and avoided the noisy bars. Somehow I think those aren’t the people I’m going to seek out for advice.

We all have different tastes which is what makes the human race so entertaining. In this case she likes being a teetotaller and finding a place of worship (and good for her) whereas I want to know where the best cocktails are made, where the sexiest barmaids are and who can carry me back to my hotel without lifting my wallet, when I’m so far over the limit even a SA Cabinet Minister would be impressed.

But what makes someone post a “review” anyway? They’re probably not in the least qualified to do so and maybe they even have a hidden agenda?

I know a guy with a restaurant who’s being “attacked” by reviewers at the moment (actually only one reviewer really – and it’s not even a “reviewer”). His competitor is posting, under assumed (and fake) accounts, real horror stories about his place. His bookings are down.

Just like anyone else, there’s very little he can do to protect himself – and he’s quickly realised that internet postings are a two-edged sword.

So who do you trust?

Well, your friends on Facebook, or any of those other things, might be a good place to start. Presumably you know what kind of people they are and what their tastes are. But trusting a review by “disgruntled” from Wisconsin doesn’t inspire a lot of faith I’m afraid.

I’ve realised that if you base your holiday on Trip Advisor (or any review forum for that matter), then you won’t go anywhere.


Muslims do not recognize Jews as God’s chosen nation.
Jews do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah.
Protestants do not recognize the Pope as the leader of Christianity.
NG Kerk members do not recognize one another at Teazers.


The weather’s so good now that I’ve officially changed over to shorts, T-shirts and sandals. Just thought I’d mention it.

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  1. To be honest Chris you have to take all reviews with a pinch of salt – I’ve found good (helpful) and bad (not helpful). Who’s that guy with a gun behind you? hahahahaha

  2. Totally true, just go on holiday and enjoy what life throws at you. Who will ever meet up to the standards of the hundreds of reviewers out there? We’ll miss out on a whole lot of great things because some old bat found a fly in her soup (which was probably a herb anyway).

  3. Hey Chris, the biggest flaw with Trip Advisor is that once you have made your comment the owner of that establishment can reply, BUT it ends there, so if they give a cock & bull reply, you as the original complainant can’t comment further.

    • Ah, I didn’t know that. Thanks

      • I find it very useful if approached with a bit of cynicism. If a place has 50 5-star reviews and 3 less flattering ones, those averages are a solid indicator. And you can spot ‘Disgusted from Tunbridge Wells’ a mile off. Saw one yesterday while researching Prince Albert. “The cats watch you eat breakfast which is not a nice site (sic) and also think they have first option on the pool loungers.” I’m definitely staying there!

        • Me too!

  4. As my wife Bev ( bless her ) says , the only thing you can fully trust is YOURSELF ! I know this sounds rather cynical but think about it carefully and most of us will likely agree with her :)

    • Only problem is, I don’t even trust myself. Then again, who would?

  5. It was a nice article to read after a long day in the office.
    Thank you for your article. I will definately nbe coming back here again.

    As an additional point my wife and I like “chum-up” to the locals to find the best, ears on the ground so to speak. Posted articles always come with a pinch of salt, holidays, trips, movies and even cars will always be influenced by the writers dispositions.

  6. I do my own reviews. Went to an excellent Indian restaurant on Koh Samui on Saturday night and afterwards wtote a glowing report in TripAdvisor which I read yesterday when looking for a good restaurant and chose the same one we frequented on Saturday. I foundthe review spot on. By the way its wonderfully warm and sunny in Thailand right now just in case you were wondering

    • Good to know Chris. Might take the family there over the weekend then.

  7. I never read restaurants reviews. I just go to destinations and wander about to find the best restaurants. France is a favourite destination (include La Reunion) – you have to be a real idiot (or English) to eat badly in Frogland. Yet, ears to the local ground do pay gastronomic dividends..

  8. Chris, can we trust your final review on the Cape Town weather – as I’ve, today, moved back to long sleeves and jeans, I suspect not? Just thought I’d mention it……..

    • Ha Ha! My legs probably look more attractive than yours – so I’m staying in shorts until next Easter.

  9. You are right! One needs to review the reviews cautiously.

  10. Read all the reviews you want – then go somewhere else – you can only blame yourself – oh, and summer is here – keep the shorts on and the beer cold !

    • I thought that was a good idea. So, ignoring all reviews, I put a map up on my dartboard and took a shot.

      I am now going to Montenegro for my holiday:-)


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