Market Street

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I am dumbfounded by the enormous reaction that Gabriel Ross’ article Why I hate Nando’s, published in the last issue of The Saint, received online. At time of print it is the most read article on the website, and many readers have felt compelled to weigh in on the debate. I personally find it ironic that a few people criticise the most read article that has ever been printed in the Money section as being not worthy of inclusion, but that’s for another column.

This leads me on nicely to the subject of my penultimate Market Street column. The furore around Gabriel’s article prompted me to celebrate this section as a forum of informed consumerism. For decades we have all been accustomed to reading reviews trashing books, films, television shows and computer games that we vehemently disagree with. It is a more recent trend, however, for ordinary people to be able to share their thoughts and opinions on restaurants and attractions.

I swear by TripAdvisor. I think it is remarkable that people are able to access a wealth of opinions on a hotel, restaurant or attraction that they have never visited in order to make an in- formed decision. Why ask one person whether that café is any good when you can ask a thousand? If you’ll excuse the cliché, knowledge is very definitely power. I find it remarkable that more people don’t contribute to and make use of this tool. As a side effect of the fact that people are unwilling to allocate one minute of their day to share their opinion is that it tends to be only those who have too much time, too polarized opinions and too little sense who contribute.

What TripAdvisor and other similar forums represent is a grow- ing ability for consumers to make informed decisions about how to spend their money. The internet has created what could be described a giant brain to which everybody has access and can contribute, and perception has never been more important. It is important that we share our experiences with others in the most efficient way possible to allow the best products and services to be recognised and therefore prosper and ensure that those which don’t either change or die out.

And this brings me full circle. The very fact that a person has had a bad experience and wishes to share his or her opinion is surely to be celebrated. Nothing should be above criticism, and certainly not a company. Many seem unable to accept that somebody else may not have the same viewpoint as them. People have different tastes and value different aspects of a dining experience. We are lucky enough to live in a plural society: one that accepts more than one point of view. Normally this phrase is used in reference to tolerance of another person’s belief or religion, but why shouldn’t this also apply to people’s opinions. Respectfully disagreeing is fine. Not wishing to participate in the debate is also fine. Lobbing abuse – well that’s just immature.

I hope that this column has provided some helpful advice to help people make more informed decisions about their spending. Managing your personal finances as a student can be incredibly difficult, particularly in a town as expensive at St Andrews. Rents are simply unaffordable, energy prices are out of control and ball tickets are ludicrously priced. Yet taking an interest and putting in some effort can make a huge difference, so please keep reading, keep sharing and keep saving.

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