The Scary Truth About Online Reviews: Negative Trumps Positive in Readers' Minds

Most reviews don't reflect reality. Here's why we believe them anyway.

A data sample from found that less than 5 percent of reviews of a verified purchase were rated one star, while 59 percent had five stars. So why do people seem to pay more attention to the negative reviews?

According to the New York Times, a 2016 Pew Research Center survey found that 82 percent of American adults say they sometimes or always read online reviews when looking to make purchases. And more than two-thirds of those who regularly read reviews believe they’re “generally accurate.”

And that especially applies to negative reviews. In fact, marketing data shows that “negative reviews in particular dramatically influence our buying behaviors,” the Times reports.

Yelp explains how to handle negative restaurant reviews.

The apparent reason: Since positive reviews greatly outnumber the negative reviews, we tend to pay more attention to the relatively scarce naysayers. “The infrequent nature of negative reviews may help to distinguish them from other reviews,” Dr. Duncan Simester, a marketing professor at M.I.T., told the Times.

Some people may be suspicious of an abundance of five-star reviews, the article also states, due to media reports claiming these positive reviews could be fake.

But a 2016 study found that online reviews don’t necessarily jibe with reality. The study, published in The Journal of Consumer Research, “looked at whether online reviews reflected objective quality as rated by Consumer Reports” and found “very little correlation.”

Video: How 786 Degrees Earned Almost 800 Positive Yelp Reviews

Of course, that’s because reviewers aren’t being objective—they’re stating their personal opinions and reflecting on their own experiences with the product or service. Several factors play into those experiences, research finds, including whether they're traveling with significant others, friends or family or traveling alone or for business. The latter group tend to leave the most negative reviews.

Moreover, reviewers aren’t your average consumers, according to the Times. They are “more likely to buy things in unusual sizes, make returns, be married, have more children, be younger and less wealthy, and have graduate degrees than the average consumer,” according to Simester. They buy four times more products and are 50 percent more likely to shop sales.

“Very few people write reviews,” Simester told the Times. “It’s about 1.5 percent or 15 people out of 1,000. Should we be relying on these people if we’re part of the other 985?”

Why pizzerias can't afford to ignore online reviews.


Edit Module

Tell us what you think at or email.

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

Spinelli's Pizzeria Boosts Pies and Cocktails With CBD Oil Infusion

Tempe, Arizona pizzeria is high on the trendy extract derived from hemp.

Bone Sauce Tops off Pizza in Costa Rica

Trench Marketer Rudy Waldner visits the Culinary Trainer School in Costa Rica to share his secrets and take home one of theirs.

Papa John's Will Pay For Employees to Attend College Online

The pizza chain will cover 100 percent of tuition at Purdue University Global for 20,000 corporate employees.

Pizza Guys Pair Two Types of Pepperoni In One Pie

The Cup N' Crisp Pepperoni Duo features classic pepperoni and cup-and-char styles.

Mountain Mike's Redefines Pizza Delivery Model With New Partnerships

The West Coast pizza chain will offer delivery through DoorDash, UberEats and GrubHub.

Blaze Pizza Expands Delivery Option and Sets Sights on IPO

The fast-casual chain plans to take on larger players like Domino's and Pizza Hut.

Alfonso Monaco Takes First at the 4th Pizza d’Autores

Pizza topped with regional Italian ingredients takes first among 18 competitors in Málaga.

Louisville Rock Band Has a New Jam Called Lupo Pizza

The founding members of Murder By Death have become renowned for their Neapolitan-style pizzas.

Grain Craft Supports Wheat Quality Research

A gift to the Kansas Wheat Commission Research Foundation will be directed toward improving wheat quality and yield through proper fertility management.

Aldi Stores Want to Pour Some Gouda on You

That's just one of the chain's six new specialty cheeses named after classic 80s pop songs.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags