Customer reviews: how a fake London restaurant became number 1 on TripAdvisor

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A British journalist wanted to demonstrate how superficial and meaningless customer reviews can be, his experience is edifying.

Initially, on TripAdvisor’s list of London restaurants, it was ranked 18,149. In six months, Le Shed, a fake restaurant set up from scratch, will rise to the top rank.

This is the challenge that Oobah Butler, British journalist for Vice, set himself in 2017. Echoing one of his former jobs: editor of fake reviews on TripAdvisor, he wanted to see how it was possible to deceive people. consumers.

After buying a prepaid phone and setting up a website, he started to climb the ranks thanks to fake reviews written by different people and on several computers. From photos of mouth-watering dishes – but which actually showed a sponge covered in paint, shaving foam, or even his own ankle as a piece of pork – he made many Londoners want to come and discover The Shed .

Things quickly take unexpected proportions when he receives hundreds of calls. Feeling that it is necessary all the same to answer the request, not to engage the credibility of the false restaurant, it organizes the reception of some customers.

Surrounded by actors and friends of the journalist, the customers fall into the trap. As they savor prepared meals decorated with a few edible flowers or warmed powdered soup, they share their appreciation of the place and the cuisine. But they will not have the opportunity to return anyway because it was the one and only opening night of the Shed.

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