Advice for looking at online reviews

After word-of-mouth recommendations, online reviews are the go-to source for us to find restaurants, mechanics you name it. But, should you trust everything you read online?

Tim Kotter has been working under Volkswagens for more than 30 years. And Kotter VW Repair has lots of repeat customers. But Tim knows one or two bad reviews online can cripple his reputation.

"A plus member of better business bureau and I’ve always done really good work, so when something negative online shows up, it's very damaging to me," says mechanic Tim Kotter.

Tim says the online review site Yelp seems to promote his two or three negative reviews but hides his dozen or more positive ones.

"Now I understand everybody is going to get a negative review, I don't care who you are you're going to get a negative review or two or three, but if you filter out all the positive reviews, it looks like you're just negative," says Tim.

Today online reviews from Yelp to Google to City Search are a basic part of marketing, and consumers are quick to trust them.

So can you believe what you read? One recent report claims that between 10 and 15 percent of online reviews are fake.

"Many people refer to the internet as the web of deceit, and truly it is," says marketing professor Michael Belch.

San Diego State marketing professor Michael Belch says the idea is good, but there are some serious flaws with those reviews.

New York's Attorney General is trying to dismantle what he calls a system of creating false online reviews.

"Sometimes people write their own reviews, other times they ask you to write reviews, and it's gotten to the point where you have to be very skeptical about anything that you see on there," explains Michael.

And that may be the best answer for people turning to online reviews. Look for trends, avoid reviews that seem overly positive or negative. Simply, do not believe everything you read.

"People are putting a lot of confidence in them and unfortunately, that confidence is often misplaced," says Michael.


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