In the Places forums today, Google Employee noted the following about the many reports of lost reviews:
Thanks for bringing this issue to our attention and sorry for the slow response.
We suffered a temporary indexing outage beginning of October that prevented us from correctly serving reviews for some listings. The reviews should now be restored. Very sorry for the trouble this has caused for some of you!
Please let me know if you are experiencing further problems. If you are, please provide me with the following information to help us get to the bottom of the issue:
* URL of the affected listing (you can find it by clicking on “Link” in the top right bar of your listing’s Place Page)
* are reviews missing from the “Reviews by Google users” or “Reviews from around the web” section
* date reviews went missing
* number of reviews missing
It is valuable to have Google publicly acknowledge the reason for these lost reviews but it appears that there are multiple causes that they become lost. Of the many that were lost in early October, most but not all seem to have returned. In my own case, reviews have been missing for almost 4 months and are lost for reasons other than this most current outage.
As I have noted previously, Google’s buggy handling of reviews is both a poor reflection of Google’s technical expertise and an issue that causes extreme pain amongst SMBs.
While they are taking the time to fix this very obvious, public problem they should provide additional resources in the forums, like Google Employee Stephan S. It would be the obvious customer service approach to take. Although it does appear that Google often misses the obvious in situations like this as they have a long history of ignoring these types of complaints.