The Kindness of TripAdvisor Reviews

It’s a little thing with a massive impact.

Yangon — Chaotic SE Asia at its finest.

I sat in a foot spa in Yangon, Burma (Myanmar), a place I was seeking shelter from the intense heat and a respite from the miles of ground I covered in flip flops. Aside from enduring rising temperatures, Yangon can be chaotic and smelly (thank you Jackfruit), and as much as I loved it, I wanted to take an hour of pampering. Sapel Burmese Foot Spa was lovely, with comfortable chairs, clean facilities and attentive staff. My masseuse named “Shine” was smiley and had great hands, and I smiled at my friend sitting next to me who was being attended on by a woman named “Gold.”

At the end, Shine asked me to please review on TripAdvisor, and to please remember her name. While wrapping up, she said this no less than three times. I smiled and said of course; I really meant it. I had read that the average Burmese woman makes less than $3 a day and I looked around at the empty spa and hoped the $14 each my friend and I were about to hand over wasn’t the only money they made that day.

I don’t normally go to TripAdvisor for advice. I find that it’s tourists talking to other tourists and that kind of trip and experience isn’t what I’m after. But it is what plenty of travelers want — a neat idea of the can’t miss stops , restaurants where they definitely won’t get sick, and hotels that have English speaking staff. Yet, it still pops up for me once-in-a-while: when my friend googled a place to get a massage, this foot spa had come up #1 in the search, thanks to it’s firm place as #1 on TripAdvisor.

Making a note in my phone to remember to review the spa and mention Shine, I remembered my friend Ben in Argentina telling me how crucial it was to his business — Rental Bike Argentina — to have a high rating on TripAdvisor. It’s where people mostly went to check out bike tours in the city and he had a few competitors. My first TripAdvisor review was for his business. Since then, I’ve tried to be better about writing reviews for the places I really loved. People mostly want to write reviews when a business pissed them off, but I’ve now come to understand the positive ones are crucial for tourism.

I bet you can think of a deserving hotel, guide or shop that could use a rating, and hopefully, a business boost.