Compare bed and breakfasts, quickly.

Gold Stars:

    One of the first things you notice in search engine results, are the gold stars. You may notice that most businesses tend to have a relatively high number of stars. This is because many customers tend not to bother to give a negative review. They think it’s wasting more of their time, a second time, forced to re-live the negative experience. Its easy for an individuals to let it now be someone else’s problem.

    On the other hand, there are people who revel in being hyper critical, even sadistic, where spilling a drop of tea on the table cloth becomes a hanging offense. Such people often attempt to talk others into organising an international tribunal for crimes against humanity over chardonnay not being served at 50 °F, which is appearantly a real thing.

    There are clearly various forms of systematic bias at play in the gold star system. This is especially true when there are relatively few reviews.

How many reviews?

When there are very few reviews, the gold star system alone is one of the worst ways to compare bed and breakfasts or other lodging providers.

The next thing is to compare the actual number of reviews. Warning: when there are relatively few reviews: it is true that every business owner will ask all their friends and family, especially those which he or she expects to only say good things, and more importantly to say them well, if not in an excellent way! However, eventually those opportunities do run out. And the quality of writing skills of friends and family do eventually run out as well. Fewer than 5 reviews may very well be the limit of the more educated friends and family, willing to be bothered with the exorcise of emotional blackmail. However, this doesnt mean the quality of services and location are bad, it just means that these reviews dont provide any actuall meaningful information upon which to base any guesses on.

Perhaps that's a bit too much of a generalization. For example, it is also affected by how many customers or guests are actually members of a particular social network system. And if you're not already a member, how difficult is it to join a new network just to be able to leave a review. At the time this was written, Google seamed to suffer from this problem, reporting 12, 5, and 1 for the number of total reviews left by prior guests for their top 3 search results for actual bed and breakfasts in Madison Indiana (click here to see for yourself).

Compare this to Trip Advisor, on their page for Madison Indiana, lists 2 bed and breakfasts, with the number of reviews as 50 and 24, respectively at the time this article was written. You might also consider how many different social networks with the ability to leave reviews, actually show any reviews for a particular bed and breakfast, as well as how many don't. Some lodging providers might get reviews on one network, while another might receive reviews on a different network. Depending on which network one looks at, it might lead to a very quick opinion. The first network might make business B appear to have just started. While the second network might make business A appear to have just started, refering to the long standing, historical, and never ending battle between businesses A and B.

For a large number of reviews, at least you know many others have at least tried and tested the service, good or bad. And at least many have thought highly enough to go there in the first place.

When the number of reviews are small, one should beware of possible huge variation in the quality of the reviews, and that a particular gold star value may not reflect a true average. That is to say, although 5 data points are statistically significant, it’s just barely the minimum number of data point to be considered statistically. And the addition of just 1 more data point could wildly shift the average gold star value.

A large number of reviews, like a large number of data points are hardly affected by the inclusion or exclusion of a single data point. The gold star system is likely to be more reliable for a business with a large number of actual reviews!

Looking not just for the highest number of reviews, which could be 8 for example, is not enough. To have any measure of certainty, you need to find a business with an actual high number for the total number of reviews in addition to a high gold star rating. Without the large data set, the gold star system is meaningless.

Actually reading:

This of course is the best chance of determining, in advance, if a shop actually provides what you hope to find. However if you spend 5 minutes on each of 10 reviews for each of 5 businesses, that will take you about 5x10x5 = 250 minutes or 4 hours 10 minutes! If you have that kind of time on your hands, good for you! But for the rest of us still slaving in the salt mines, praying for that winning power ball ticket, 4 hours x $10/hr x overtime 1.5 = $60 bucks! Consider the opportunity cost of how one might otherwise spend their time.

A better use of your time:

Seriously if you're a man, I would suggest working hard to get all relationshipy talk out of the way, before you get to a bed and breakfast, that way, you can enjoy the simple peace, quiet, beauty and surroundings when you get here. If she does not allow that, I'm so sorry. Good luck with that!

However if you're a woman, I still suggest working hard to at least try to get all relationshipy talk, or at least small talk, out of the way. So that way, when you're at a bed and breakfast, you can, hopefully, at least focus on the more meaningful talk, if not simply relax and enjoy the peace, quiete, harmony of just being together. Or perhaps limit discussion to things more important than the usual daily rattle. It really will make the entire experience more enjoyable for you and significant other.

The Point:

Any shop that does not have a high number of reviews, you cant even be sure about a negative review or low gold stars. Because it’s meaningless. Don't waste your time on gold stars alone. It is pointless. If there's few reviews, dont use reviews to make a guess. Look for other sources of information, like a web site or pictures. And I strongly recomend calling and asking some questions to see how comfortable you feel after talking to them.

If there is a high number of reviews,
then and only then consider gold stars!


And if your still looking for a place to visit, remember Madison.


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