There has just been an investigation by the New York Attorney General into whether owners solicit fake online reviews for their New York businesses and whether marketing companies promise to arrange false reviews to boost reputations and thus increase sales.
You will be unsurprised to learn that both these activities do indeed happen and New Yorkers trying to find out where to eat, get a lawyer or have their teeth whitened are the suckers.
Customer reviews are now second only to word of mouth as a source of information for New Yorkers looking to buy a service or product and yet it is estimated that 10-15% of reviews will be fake.
The following sites have been mentioned as ones which marketing companies seek to game by putting fake reviews on them: Yelp, Google Local and CitySearch.com and of course there will be many, many others such as TripAdvisor and Travelocity.
It’s my personal experience that any New Yorker seeking to make a restaurant booking based on customer reviews looks at about 6-10 reviews to see what level of consistency there is in those reviews and it is also true that a site like Yelp works actively to prevent fraudsters from posting.
I guess this investigation suggests it pays to be cautious and if you have a truly good experience or a truly bad one write up a review yourself and help others. LIKE how usefully cynical New Yorkers can be.