By Sean Captain | Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 11:03 am
While trust in the pro media falls, faith in the views of regular folk keeps growing. In an April survey by PowerReviews, for example, over half of consumers said that they trust user reviews of products, and they are reading more of them.
But the more they read, the more confused they can get. According to users of Rotten Tomatoes, for example, the new movie Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is either a “Kick Ass, well research, solid story” or “an embarrassment.” It just depends on what review you read. (And the overall average rating of 56 percent doesn’t clarify.)
To remedy the user-review confusion, a new company called Bundle is committing the social-media blasphemy of rejecting what people say. Instead, it looks at what they do–mainly by analyzing credit card data to see how much money people spend, and where. (They also look at government statistics and third-party surveys.) Through a deal with Citibank, Bundle culls anonymous credit card info from 20 million shoppers to analyze spending habits. “So what if five people swear really wildly that this restaurant is lousy, if 95 percent [of the customers] go back,” says the company’s founder, Jaidev Shergill.
Launched in January, Bundle started by providing financial advice–a lot like Intuit’s Mint.com money-management site, for example, you enable access to all of your banking and credit card accounts in order to monitor spending, savings and debt. But Bundle also lets your gage your thrift or profligacy, or learn money-saving tips, by seeing the spending habits of other people just like you–that is, in the same age range, income bracket, family situation and zip code.
So what about those user reviews? That’s the next project. By mid-October, Bundle plans to officially launch its Restaurant Recommender site, starting with 4,000 of New York City’s local eateries (excluding known-quantity chains like McDonalds). Seeing where people eat, how often they eat there and how much they spend, Bundle promises to pinpoint the hot spots. And by filtering for folks just like you, it aims to better match your taste, style, and budget.
A rough version of the site is already online. The setup is clean and simple, but the metaphor is odd. Instead of starting with a location or type of food, as on Yelp, Bundle asks for the name of a restaurant you already like, and recommends similar ones that should please. Never been to New York and don’t know the names of any restaurants? You’re stuck, for now. Shergill plans to later build the site out with filters based on location and other (for now, unspecified) criteria. It will also link to restaurant sites or possibly–and ironically–reviews sites, even crowd-sourced Yelp. Personally, I’d like to take action by go straight to sites like Menupages or OpenTable.
One longstanding glitch, however, is that Bundle knows nothing about how people spend in restaurants where they pay in cash or with Amex. In Manhattan, that rules out much of the city below 14th street – a virtual cash-only (or maybe Amex) zone.
One remedy to the problem is incorporating that mendacious social media. Bundle does plan to ultimately parse user reviews, but only after grinding them through algorithms that filter out the crazies and narrow results to the foodies who visit a lot of restaurants and are better able to compare.
The company hopes to go national in the future. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry and outside New York, get ready to page through Yelp reviews.