I am, by no means, the first person to have this concern. (I am a bit surprised at myself though, for not addressing it earlier.) The issue here is the fact that, today, I learned that an otherwise completely reputable wedding vendor is providing incentives to their clients if they will write an online review for the business. I will admit that it is a clever tactic. You can’t be accused of actually paying for the review if you are simply adding to their wedding package. That being said, to me, this flies in the face of what is my understanding to be everything an online review is supposed to be! For example, Yelp’s slogan is “Real People. Real Reviews.”
Don’t get me wrong, I like positive reviews as much as the next person, but online reviews were created as a way for a client, consumer, or end-user of a product to be able to, without bias, give their honest opinion as to the product or service they have used or experienced. I personally do not have a large number of online reviews. It is not because I haven’t worked at over 1000 weddings, or because my clients don’t say the very same, positive things that are on those supposed ‘pay-for-review’ sites. The difference is, I am proud to say that every review I have ever received was given to me by someone that was so excited about their wedding that they took it upon themselves to write a positive review of my performance, and I am completely thankful and humbled for each and every one. In fact, I have gone so far as to tell people that have asked me if I want them to leave me a review that I would appreciate it, but that it is completely up to them.
Online reviews should be an “organic” means for someone that is so excited, so disappointed, or so interested in sharing their opinion with others to do so in a public forum with the hope that their opinion will be to someone else’s benefit, whether it is to use that product or service to share the same great experience, or to help keep someone from making the same mistake they did.
When I read the initial discussion, I kept an open mind. I wanted to hear their justification. I wanted to know how a company that seems to otherwise be a successful wedding vendor would think that incentivizing reviews is a good thing, other than to give a potential client a more positive impression of their company than someone else’s. The responses seemed rational, but still were not convincing. Their main point was that they did not tell people to write “positive” reviews, and that people were free to review them in any way they see fit. The problem with this, though, as was alliterated in the conversation, and a point to which I strongly agree, is that when you give someone something that they see as a benefit to them, it is not too much of a stretch to assume that they will reciprocate in kind. It is understood by nearly every party involved that positive reviews have a positive effect on a business, and negative reviews do the opposite. I would argue that if someone is, directly or otherwise, “incentivized” to write a positive review, they might actually REFRAIN from leaving a bad review because they received something of benefit to them or their wedding or event, which I would argue COULD be construed as having been paid in a way, for helping to further that company’s success, whether is was with a positive review, or not being so forthcoming if the experience was not all that remarkable.
***Geoff Maddox has been a professional wedding and event DJ and Emcee in the Los Angeles and Orange County areas for over 15 years and has been featured on Fox News to discuss wedding planning and tips and tricks to hiring vendors. He is the author of the book, Wedding Planning Explained: A Guy’s Take on Who to Hire, How to Save Money, and How to Simplify the Wedding Planning Process. For more information, media inquiries, and booking, please visit GMEdj.com.