A situation that everyone is familiar with: you want to visit a restaurant, but you don’t know which one. There is a good chance that you will then pick up the reviews, for example on Google Maps. But who make them? Allard and Evert have already written thousands of them.
Google Maps is teeming with reviews for restaurants, sights, museums and other places. While some people like to share the experience, especially after a very nice – or very unpleasant – experience, others see it as a daily activity.
For example, Allard Bijlsma from Ede has already written about 1,800 reviews on Google Maps. “I eat out a lot, for example with my daughter who lives in Groningen. She can always choose the restaurant, provided it is one I’ve never been to. Then I can write a review.”
Allard doesn’t just leave reviews on Google Maps at restaurants. He often also comments on shops or places of interest. He also includes a self-made photo. “As a visual aid.”
With the photos he wants to show what something looks like. Handy for users, he says. But the users are by no means the only reason why he is such a big contributor to Google Maps.
He thinks that the quality of the reviews is often lacking. “Most, especially for restaurants, are vulgar. A bit along the lines of: ‘The food was jerky’. That is not useful for the people who want to learn more about it, but also not fun for the business itself. “
Did you really not like something? Then he often leaves a review of 3 stars. “But then I do have the necessary comments in the text. I just don’t want to participate in that vulgar. I want to support the entrepreneurs.”
His children think he is crazy, he says. “They find it all too burdensome, writing all those reviews. They are too busy for it. But I really enjoy doing it.”
And it takes him little extra time. “I often do it in between. At commercial breaks when I watch TV, for example.” Then he receives a notification from Google where he has been that day, asking if he wants to let you know what he thought of it. That’s because he has the ‘location service’ option turned on on his phone.
Not only Google knows where to find him, the entrepreneurs in the neighborhood also know him by now. “I once left a nice review at a restaurant. Then I got a call that a bottle of wine was waiting for me.”
He already had this urge to write in his youth. “I wrote diaries until I was 18. Through the photos I take and the reviews I leave, I can see exactly where I’ve been up to 11 years ago. A kind of visual diary, that’s what I do it for.”
But it also makes him reflect on the day, he says. “It makes me think: what did I really think of it? That’s nice.”
Thinking back to the day
Evert Niemeijer is just as fanatical as Allard with writing reviews. He has already left more than 1,200 on Google Maps. He also likes to go through the day like this. “It’s nice to think back to the day and how you experienced it.”
Evert is involved in the export of agricultural machinery and therefore travels a lot. “That means I come to many places where I can write reviews.” He often does this when he is waiting for his flight or when he is in his hotel in the evening.
Like Allard, Evert mainly writes positive reviews. “Or it must have been really terrible. But I think above all: those entrepreneurs are doing their best. Let me give them something positive.”
He calls it his sense of responsibility, not only to entrepreneurs, but also to Google Maps users who want to know what something is like. “My wife does too, she reads the reviews, but doesn’t write any. While it’s so easy to leave something behind. Although she says I’m crazy that I spend so much time on it.”
Interaction with entrepreneurs
Evert does it all voluntarily, but he does get something in return. Interaction with the entrepreneurs, for example. “Last year I wrote something about a hotel of nothing. Then I received a very detailed explanation from the owner why the service was not satisfactory. That is nice.”
A good review, on the other hand, helps entrepreneurs to get more visitors, he knows. “Recently I was in such a great hotel, with very enthusiastic entrepreneurs. I give them a nice review.”
It sometimes happens to him that people in his environment accidentally come across his reviews. “2 years ago I wrote something about a restaurant in the middle of nowhere in Sweden. Turned out 3 weeks ago my niece had been there. She had read my review. I think it’s funny to hear that.”
Allard sometimes experiences something like this. “A friend was recently on Zakynthos and was looking for a restaurant there. He suddenly came across reviews from me, because I’ve been there before.”
Allard is a historian and geographer and has not only posted hundreds of reviews in recent years, but also put tens of thousands of photos at the locations on Google Maps. “Sometimes a point of interest doesn’t even exist yet. Then I create it right away.”
In this way he contributes to the archive location that Google Maps is. And that is appreciated by users. All of his submitted photos have been viewed more than 100 million times. “I like it best for the Dutch who have emigrated, looking back on Google Maps at a nostalgic moment and then coming across my contributions.”