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Long Live the Critic!

Do you trust reviews? We don't, and here's why...

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Absurd 1-star review projected onto The National Gallery, London

Today, we're launching our Long Live the Critic! campaign. Combining industry research alongside a daring stunt (in true Plum Guide fashion) in order to highlight the dangers of today's online review obsession, our message is simple – trust the experts. We want to make travel free of doubt and full of joy… as it always should be.

The problem with today’s online review obsession

Would you go up to a stranger in the street and ask them to choose your holiday this year? We didn’t think so. But that’s exactly what happens online every day, with every holiday booking decision made.

It’s been a challenging time for travel to say the least, so we checked in with travellers around the world to see what they’re planning as the world opens up for 2022. The results were interesting…

We found out that people are going to spend even more on their trips this year – £800 more per person in Britain, which is a 30% increase on last year. This concerned us, because our reliance on anonymous online reviews is also growing. So much so, we think it could be called an obsession.

As we flock online to book holidays this January, this increasing online review obsession poses a big issue, creating unnecessary stress and taking up too much time. It ends up causing more confusion than we started with, especially given the sources we’re reading are unreliable or at worst fake. And the most ridiculous thing of all? We’re already aware of the problem.

So many of the reviews we endlessly scroll through online are unreliable or at worst fake

So many of the reviews we endlessly scroll through online are unreliable or at worst fake

Out of the 4,000 holiday makers we spoke to across the UK and the US it seems that, when it comes to the online review system, what used to be a valuable asset in decision making is now something we’ve come to completely rely on, despite knowing we shouldn’t. 1 in 5 Brits and almost half (46%) of US holiday makers have been let down by reviews on a trip away, but 1 in 3 British travellers admit they would be emotionally distressed if unable to access them. Even more alarmingly, 1 in 3 Americans reveal they would suffer from sleepless nights without them.

Long Live the Critic!

We think it’s time to say enough is enough. That’s why today, we’re launching our Long Live the Critic! campaign to highlight the importance of trusting the experts.

From the very beginning, our mission at Plum Guide has been to deliver exceptional stays without fail through doing exactly that. We’ve perfected the Science Behind the Perfect Stay to separate The Good from The Great, meaning only 3% of vacation homes make it into our collection. We don’t have reviews on our site but instead, we have a team of real, trained Home Critics who rigorously vet each home. From the character of the local neighbourhood to the decibel levels in the bedrooms, these meticulous Home Critics are sticklers for detail. If a home doesn’t pass the 150 criteria points of The Plum Test, it doesn’t become a Plum Award-winner – it really is as simple as that.

“In this era of almost infinite choice, we need a new system to help customers choose the best for them.” – Doron, our founder

We don’t have reviews on our site but instead, we have a team of real, trained Home Critics who rigorously vet each home

We don’t have reviews on our site but instead, we have a team of real, trained Home Critics who rigorously vet each home

Our one-star stunt

Our belief in trusting the experts and our stand against the unconscious obsession with online reviews is so strong that we couldn’t resist stoking debate in a typically Plum Guide way… at an epic scale. That’s why earlier this week in London and New York, we projected real online reviews onto the buildings they were written about to highlight the absurdity of taking a stranger’s subjective opinion as gospel. We’re showcasing that not even some of the landmarks we love the most – Tate Modern, The Tower of London, Brooklyn Bridge and The Guggenheim – can escape the scorn of ludicrous online reviews.

To emphasise the danger of trusting online reviews, we projected ridiculous one-star reviews onto London’s iconic Tate Modern

To emphasise the danger of trusting online reviews, we projected ridiculous one-star reviews onto London’s iconic Tate Modern

Why exactly have we become obsessed?

To help us understand exactly why we, as society, have become so obsessed with the online review system, we enlisted the help of Philip Fernbach, cognitive scientist and author of ‘The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone’. Philip told us that what started out as a useful tool has now taken over our decision making by stealth. Endlessly scrolling through reviews, just like social media’s ‘doom scrolling’, has become a habit we now can’t live without. It’s not our fault though. After all, these reviews are free to read and readily available at our fingertips. They seem helpful and harmless enough and, of course, it’s human-nature to seek safety in numbers. We are essentially hard-wired for this obsession.

Endlessly scrolling through reviews, just like social media’s ‘doom scrolling’, has become a habit we now can’t live without.

Endlessly scrolling through reviews, just like social media’s ‘doom scrolling’, has become a habit we now can’t live without.

“It would be better for consumers if they could supplement their reliance on reviews with more expert or critical evaluations that are not plagued by the myriad limitations of the online review system.” – Philip Fernbach, cognitive scientist

Philip explained that, when it comes to purchasing a new saucepan or phone charger, reviews are helpful. But what about when it comes to a holiday and choosing a place to stay? The stakes become far higher… meaning we need to reconsider who and what we trust.

So, what should we do?

Brave a new way of booking. Because it’s time for a new way of thinking… a new way of travelling.

Travel is one of the most important things we do in our lives. It’s an opportunity to connect with our loved ones and the world around us… and when it comes to those experiences, we all deserve the very best.

We're taking an expert-led approach to travel – vetting every single home on the planet and accepting only the top 3%

We're taking an expert-led approach to travel – vetting every single home on the planet and accepting only the top 3%

Time to let the experts do their work and leave personal opinions out of the picture. Time to make travel free of doubt and full of joy.

Long Live The Critic!

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