Darwin: Warts and all

George reviews Darwin for Virtual TouristThere is something that strikes fear into the hearts of business people contemplating involvement in Social Media – the voice of the consumer.

I have heard it described this way. In the past, advertising allowed businesses to shout at consumers. Social Media and Social Networking sites now allow consumers to shout back.

In the midst of this is the emergence of consumer reviews.

A number of sites have appeared in recent years in which ordinary consumers can publicly share their feedback on products and services.

Let’s take just one example and see what people are saying about Darwin as a holiday destination on the Virtual Tourist website.

Pros and cons

The current headline comments on Virtual Tourist for Darwin are these:

  • Pros – Casual, friendly locals. Laid back atmosphere. Plenty of beer. Gateway to wild Australian outback country, National Parks, Waterfalls, Gorges, Rock pools, Aboriginal culture, washouts, 4×4 driving…
  • Cons – Hot and humid- Don’t visit in the wet season,don’t swim in the ocean or rivers- dangerous saltwater crocodiles

As someone who stays in Darwin and parts of the Territory regularly, these comments don’t surprise me.

However, as you dig through the 700 tips and reviews of various places, venues and businesses, you can pick up a lot of street-level knowledge that gives you are more genuine sense of the town.

Some examples

Mindil Beach Markets. The reviews for these markets are overwhelmingly positive but still a sense comes through that it is best to get in and out early if you don’t like crowds and that the NIghtcliff markets are better. I’ve been to both and enjoyed both so I won’t get embroiled into a local market war because I still want access to good Laksa when in town!

Uncle Sams. This establishment has been around a while and I learn from a 2004 review that locals tried to support Uncle Sams out of principle when a competitor 24-hour diner opened up next door. But just as my heart swelled with passion, a review from this month, August 2011, covered the NT News story about a latex glove being served up in a late night dish. In classic Top End style though, the final comment was given to NT News reporter Conor Byrne, who said, “the glove was an indication the restaurant had made attempts to be hygienic.”

George aka tiabunna. George is a regular on this website and seems to have a local’s insight. He has written more than 700 reviews or tips for the site all around the world and, closer to home, has produced 38 tips and 151 photos (today’s photo was from tiabunna) around Darwin. The think about his stories is that he has a light style of writing and sets things up well like for this story, in the Warnings and Dangers section, about the Park Rangers at Berry Springs. Here it is in full:

This ‘warning’ is so unlikely that it almost belongs in ‘local customs’! Our host for the VT meeting was Zig (1+1) who has lived for many years in the Darwin area and who is himself a Park Ranger in the Kakadu National Park controlled by the Australian Government. So it’s fair to say that he looked more than slightly bemused when, as we arrived in our mini-bus for our catered picnic lunch at Berry Springs Nature Reserve, he found himself confronted by two Northern Territory Park Rangers!

They explained to us that some obscure law required a permit for catered lunches in their Nature Reserve! So Zig explained patiently that nobody had ever heard of this rule, there were no signs to indicate it existed, we weren’t proposing to sell food to the public, we were entirely a private group etc. Zig even pointed out that there were many other private groups having lunch there, the only difference was that they were preparing their own meals. Finally they relented and we were allowed to have our lunch on the proviso “as long as it doesn’t happen again”.

Isn’t a little power a marvellous thing! It would be churlish, I’m sure, were I to comment that some effort to clean and freshen the toilet/change rooms, which were the least savoury we saw on our entire trip, would be more useful to the community than this puffing about some obscure regulation! So I shan’t say that.

I hope this visit to the Virtual Tourist has shown you that while openly leaving your reputation in the hands of strangers can be nerve-wracking, readers sense quickly that they are getting the ‘warts and all’ version of your product/service and as such can put more faith in the positive claims as opposed to your advertising messages which they have learned to dismiss as one-sided and distorted.

Have you left online reviews before? Have you made decisions based on them? Have you had experience of being reviewed online, for better or worse? Share your stories below.

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