My wife and I just returned from a delightful road trip to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia (see below). We stayed at two B&Bs that we loved.
But is that reason enough to give them high rating on Trip Advisor or others sites?
I used Trip Advisor to plan my stays and found their reviews quite helpful. Lots of nice people took the time to honestly report and make life easier for me. Should I reciprocate?
This is a Prisoner's Dilemma. If I report honestly on these lovely B&Bs others will want to go stay there. The future availability of rooms will fall and the price will rise! I'm penalized for fair reporting. In the near term I'd be better off giving them a bad report.
But in the long run lying is bad for me and others. Because of false reports, good B&Bs will go out of business. In addition, as more false reviews get posted, trust in the rating system collapses and fewer people will bother reporting. Hence, I will lose a future source of good information. Based on consequentialist ethics, I should report honestly so as to gain the cooperation of others for mutual long run benefit.
But that consequentialist calculation, while on target, doesn't really explain why people fairly recount their experiences. There's a better and more reliable reason to report honestly—my moral sentiments! I have affinity with the entrepreneurs who buck the odds to start a small business and succeed. My senses of benevolence and justice require me to leave a good report if appropriate. My sense of resentment requires me to report a bad stay, hoping the owner corrects the problems or goes under. Virtue ethics can be a more reliable market partner than consequentialist ethics alone.