Can You Trust Online Reviews?


For Mandana Yousefi, the road to becoming an online critic started with chicken fried rice. Yousefi had ordered takeout from a Chinese restaurant in Washington, D.C., and was about to dig in when she noticed four long strands of hair in her food. She called to complain and demand a refund, but the restaurant insisted that she order something else—and tried to charge her $1 more for the food she selected. As a “creepy side note,” Yousefi says, she was asked to return the fried rice.

Outraged, she headed to review site Yelp.com and slapped the place with one star out of five. “They had gotten away with being bad, and I wanted to give other people a heads-up,” says Yousefi, 29, an analyst for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Since then, she has written more than 320 reviews on Yelp, covering everything from a local jewelry store (“I adore this business”) to a nightclub in Santa Rosa, Calif. (“rudest door staff and incredibly grimy crowd”).

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