Posts Tagged ‘tripadvisor’
An Internet wag has fooled diners by posting 5 star reviews of a brilliant restaurant on TripAdvisor. Unfortunately though, when enthusiastic foodies they turned up with their forks twitching, they found…an alleyway full of bins in Devon.
Bookings flooded in after countless different comments pronounced the food at non-existent Oscars in Brixham, Devon as ‘divine’ and ‘mind blowing’. Using different profiles and writing styles, the internet prankster said that Oscars served Michelin starred food which was so good ‘it bordered on sorcery’.
‘The staff will swim to get whatever fish you want’ said one of the bizarrely detailed reviews of the made-up restaurant, which was apparently in a hull of a boat and run by a couple called Colette and Alfredo.
It’s pretty elaborate stuff. But why bother? Well, the creator was moved to set up the fake accounts after a friend’s hotel was smeared on TripAdvisor by a rival, and they wanted to show how easy the site was to misuse.
In fact, it was so easy that TripAdvisor didn’t even notice it was a hoax for two months. Oops.
Few of us go further than the local chippy these days without first consulting Tripadvisor to try and gauge what sort of perils might lie in store for us. But the best bits on the hotel and resort review site are the ones where the reviewer is clearly nuts. For example..
And now some helpful sort is in the process of collating the finest ones and archiving them on one blog. Make yourself a cup of tea/coffee/juice/milk/water/lager/vodka and sit down for ten minutes with TripAdvisaargh…
Love it or hate it, you simply can’t ignore it. Unless you, erm ignore it. We speak, of course, of TripAdvisor, the website that is filled to the brim with holiday reviews by keen-eyed amateurs and the pathologically disgruntled.
But the site has ran into problems over its marketing, after the Advertising Standards Authority took issue with TripAdvisor’s claims that its reviews could be ‘trusted’. As the majority of the site’s content is user-generated, and isn’t verified, the ASA came to the conclusion that ‘trusted’ is a powerful word that had been misused by the site’s operators.
Two hotels and and an ‘online reputation firm’ called Kwikchex complained about the manner of TrustAdvisor, sorry TripAdvisor’s marketing spiel, which is probably fair enough when a hotel’s reputation and profitability can be hampered by the online witterings of some keyboard warrior who had a dripping tap in his room.
We’re not sure how the site is supposed to pimp its services from now on. Might we suggest: ‘TripAdvisor: You DO realise that most of this stuff is written by headcases don’t you?’
TripAdvisor? FibAdvisor more like. See, thousands of hotels are claiming that the travel website isn’t checking its reviews, leaving up articles that are misleading or defamatory.
As such, they’re being investigated by advertising watchdog ASA after receiving a complaint from KwikChex.com on behalf of thousands of hotels that is essentially saying that reviews aren’t above board.
KwikChex.com – a company that helps companies manage their online reputations – has been gunning for TripAdvisor for a while over fake reviews, and now the ASA have launched a formal investigation into the very thing that underpins its business.
The company claims that, with them, “you’ll find real hotel reviews you can trust”. If this transpires to not be the case, they’re in trouble.
Kwikchex’s complaint is that TripAdvisor are not verify any of the 50m reviews, and the travel company will have to somehow prove that the reviews are the real deal to the ASA. No easy task.
As a consumer, you have to take customer reviews with a pinch of salt anyway, so could this be the first in a line of companies suing sites for the reviews of non-paid customers?
So it’s holiday time again, and those pesky statisticians are telling us that more and more people have left it late to book a holiday this year, after uncertainty over job security and having the money to go. So if you are looking at booking a break now, perhaps you will be turning to the trusty TripAdvisor to help you find the best places to go?
Back in January we reported on the increasing number of hotelier complaints over false or misleading reviews, including Dragon Duncan Bannatyne, but now, thanks to The Times, there is more murkiness to be found. Not only can you leave a review if you are not a real person, but are merely in PR*, but you can also get paid in kind for leaving bogusly lovely reviews following reports that some hotels are offering bribes to customers.
TripAdvisor is sold as an independent source of advice on accommodation and restaurants all over the world, receiving 25 contributions, including reviews, photos and forum posts, every minute. Its own website boasts “More than 40 million honest travel reviews and opinions from real travelers around the world”. Putting aside the cynic who wonders how a hotel review site owned by a company that sells hotel rooms (Expedia Inc.) can possibly be independent, the hospitality industry is struggling with ‘honest’ reviews from ‘real travelers’. American ones, obviously.
TripAdvisor prides itself on ease of contribution- anyone can do it, all you need is an e-mail address and username, which can be entirely anonymous. Unlike reviews on sites like Laterooms.com, there is no need to have actually booked a hotel through the website, which critics say is what leaves the site open to abuse.
Adam Raphael, editor of The Good Hotel Guide, told The Times that he believes as many as half of all reviews on TripAdvisor are ‘collusive’, written by hotel owners or their friends and family, and that reviews are not checked in the way TripAdvisor protests. “I have posted several obviously bogus reviews to test the site. I picked the worst hotel I could imagine and wrote a totally over-the-top review of how brilliant it was, using a bogus name, bogus e-mail address and bogus postal address. It was so obviously bogus that if we received it at our Guide we would have thrown it straight in the bin. TripAdvisor posted it on the site within 12 hours.”
But aside from suggestions of PRs ‘doing their job’ for hotel clients, by leaving great reviews for their own clients as well as bad reviews for competitors, a new way of skewing the system has emerged. According to reports, some hotels are now offering guests bribes in exchange for good reviews on the site.
One such hotel allegedly using this practice is the Cove Hotel in Cornwall who are accused of offering meal discounts and free room upgrades to guests who left “honest but positive” reviews on the site. Lee Magner, the owner of the Cove Hotel, denied misusing the website, saying “in no way are we paying people to put positive reviews on TripAdvisor.” However, he then spoiled his indignant denial by adding “We are merely rewarding their loyalty.”
Our January poll showed that almost 65% of you, our lovely readers, confessed to regularly using TripAdvisor, along with a dash of common sense. I wonder whether common sense would now suggest taking a seriously large pinch of salt with those reviews…
*OK, people working in PR are technically still people. Just.
Looking for a hostel in Amsterdam? No need to read up about the Hans Brinker Budget Hotel on TripAdvisor – the hotel’s website will leave you in no doubt what to expect when you check-in:
Hans Brinker Budget Hotel, Amsterdam services and amenities include:
• A basement bar with limited light and no fresh air.
• A concrete courtyard where you can relax and enjoy whatever sunshine is able to pass the high buildings on either side on the extremely infrequent days when it’s actually sunny.
• An elevator that almost never breaks down between floors.
• A bar serving slightly watered down beer.
• Amusing witticisms and speculations about former guests’ sexual preferences scrawled on most surfaces.
• The Hans Brinker Budget Hotel, Amsterdam Luxury Ambassadorial Suite (featuring the Hans Brinker’s one and only bath-tub).
• Doors that lock.
All of which goes to explain why a bed will cost you as little as £20 per night. As for Hans Brinker’s TripAdvisor rating, in case you’re still interested – it scores 58% overall, with reviews ranging in typical TripAdvisor style from “the best hotel in the world” to “this is the worst hotel ever”.
Another day, another massive security breach by a large online organisation. Yesterday it was play.com and today it’s travel review behemoth TripAdvisor. They’ve told their registered members that a ‘portion’ of their email list has been pilfered. How ‘large’ a ‘portion’ this is we do not know as there are 20 million email addresses in their database.
TripAdvisor are being fairly vague about most of the fine details and have only said that the theft of the addresses happened ‘recently’ – although they have confirmed that it was email addresses only and that no credit card numbers or other financial info has been plundered.
They have warned members that they may receive some ‘unsolicited emails’ as a result of the incident – we don’t know whether or not those emails might come from BangCD or even someone pretending to be BangCD.
That the email addresses have gone missing hasn’t come as a surprise to some people – according to a tnooz report, most technical staff at TripAdvisor used to have access to all files, making their system a datastealer’s paradise.
Tut tut, TripAdvisor. Tut tut tut.
There’s a lot of stuff and nonsense about TripAdvisor flying around today, after the Guardian published an extensive article that said much the same thing three times over. At the nub of it was the fact that hoteliers still aren’t happy with the hotel review site and are still considering legal action, while TripAdvisor are still holding their ground.
There is a little more to it than that; there’s the commentator who points out that some people are never happy – even when offered the opulence of five star accommodation, they will piss and moan about the ripeness of their breakfast watermelon and leave a one star review as a result. The point is that the views of the ludicrous carry as much weight as the views and the reasonable and sane, and it’s left to consumers to figure out which are which.
Other issues are more difficult to deal with; the fact that PR agencies can be employed to astroturf the site – not only planting positive reviews about their client’s hotels, but leaving negative reviews about competitors. Perhaps the more interesting claim came from TripAdvisor themselves with regards to Duncan Bannatyne; that “in the case of Bannatyne’s hotels we have had several worrying examples of individuals being intimidated by Bannatyne and his hotel representatives.”
Ultimately, the article doesn’t answer the question that matters – for all its faults, are consumers ultimately better off with or without TripAdvisor? We’re fans of the site, but then we’re also able to prevent ourselves plunging our hand in boiling pots of water and stepping out in front of moving traffic. In other words, we don’t live our lives by it – it’s just one source of information alongside many others.
So over to you, the avid Bitterwallet reader and occasional traveller. What do you make of TripAdvisor? Place your vote and comments below.
According to their review on TripAdvisor, this person wasn’t a fan of their stay at Halswell House in Somerset. But who is it that’s moaning like your nana?
It’s a review by none other than tuneless dullard Chris de Burgh, venting his spleen about his £180-a-night stop in a stately home. He appears to have registered on TripAdvisor solely to complain, as well as sounding off on Twitter, describing Haswell House as having the worst guest rooms he’s encountered in 25 years.
Not that the hotel owner cowered in the face of millionaire mediocrity. In fact Glenn Bond stuck it to the little man in his response on TripAdvisor, pointing out that yes, there’ll be mud due to the house being in the middle of the country, and if you’re kept awake by an all-night party, it can only be your own family responsible for it, since the whole estate can only be rented out in its entirety. For the wedding of de Burgh’s niece, for example.
Ever posted a bad review on TripAdvisor? It’s a pretty satisfying way to blow off steam after a rotten experience, but, while carefully crafting your missive about unidentified stains on the bedding and £25-a-night Wi-Fi, did you consider the possible consequences?
Online reviews now carry such weight that just one negative comment can go a long way towards ruining a business. There are plenty of hotels that deserve a good shoeing, but in some cases bad reviews are exaggerated, inaccurate, or just plain untrue. Now reviewers who post malicious or fraudulent reviews are being threatened with legal action.
We’ve previously reported that online reputation management company KwikChex is taking action against TripAdvisor and similar sites on behalf of around 800 disgruntled hoteliers. Now KwikChex is preparing to issue lists of thousands of reviewers that it says could face libel action and possible criminal prosecution. “We anticipate the first list being published in two to three weeks time,” KwikChex founder and CEO Chris Emmins told Bitterwallet.
Individuals on the lists will be given 14 days to either substantiate or remove offending posts. So could you be in trouble? We think probably not, unless you’ve made some pretty serious allegations against a hotel, or made a deliberate attempt to damage its business.
Human nature means we’re far more likely to take the time to post about negative experiences than positive ones. And the anonymous aspect means it’s easy to embellish the facts – or even completely make them up. There are likely to be many bad reviews that are pure fiction, posted by conniving rivals, bitter ex-employees and other disgruntled parties.
(On the flip side, there’s little to stop unscrupulous Basil Fawlty-types posting glowing reviews to big up their properties – something that the KwikChex action doesn’t aim to, although TripAdivsor themselves can and do reprimand guilty parties)
So how does KwikChex differentiate between malicious or fraudulent postings and genuine bad reviews? “Our focus is on comments that allege criminal behaviour or negligence, or that bear the hallmarks of originating from a competitor or a person with a specific grudge,” said Emmins. “We’ve seen attacks on new businesses that are characteristic of competitor attacks. There are many trigger indicators that cause comments to be suspect.”
As for TripAdvisor, it already allows hoteliers to post management responses and dispute contentious reviews, and also takes undisclosed steps to combat fraud. (“Unfortunately, we can’t tell you exactly how we do it, since that might offer potential offenders a roadmap to subvert our system.”) The website has stated that it won’t release, publish or endorse any list of reviewers accused of posting fraudulent reviews unless compelled to do so by a court of law.
“I think it is fair to say that no site will be compelled to contact users that are listed,” Chris Emmins told us, suggesting it’s unlikely that TripAdvisor reviewers will end up having their collars felt. In which case, why go to the trouble of issuing the lists in the first place?
Well, KwikChex stands to make a pretty penny. In order to be involved in the court action, hoteliers must join its “Promote & Protect” scheme, which costs £195 per property per year. The add-on “True Review” scheme, which deals with review site ratings, costs an additional £89. With 800 hoteliers signed up, the financial rewards for pursuing this cause stretch into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
That’s before any legal action that may be taken against the individuals involved, should the disputed reviews remain online. And with 40 million hotel reviews on TripAdivsor, there’s plenty of scope for Kwikchex to represent many more irate hoteliers.
Kwikchex is adamant this action is about protecting their clients from the harm caused by unfair reviews. “The sole concern for KwikChex in the context of online reviews is to help establish whether they are false,” Emmins said. “Freedom of speech and the truth are paramount.”
Hoteliers have been getting quite the arse concerning TripAdvisor lately. Now, according to the Blackpool Gazette, one owner appears to have taking matters further, by apparently evicting two guests for penning a bad review while he was still staying there – even though the guest denies ever writing it. To be fair, the Golden Beach Hotel already had a lousy score as far as TripAdvisor is concerned, and given that it’s over a mile from the sea, you’ll probably require reasonable eyesight to see a beach, golden or otherwise.
In this instance, the proprietor clearly felt the timing and detail in the review identified the occupants, who was two days into a three day booking:
But what can a hotel manager do about a poor review? Apparently, they can phone the police – Blackpool’s finest turned up at the Golden Beach Hotel and asked the occupant to leave. Guests ejected, the hotel manager then jumped onto TripAdvisor himself:
So a bad review equates to “bad behavior” and the need for police involvement, even when the guest denies writing it? The story will no doubt go viral in the next day or two, meaning a knee-jerk reaction to criticism may cost the Golden Beach in Hotel more than a lost booking.
If you’re planning a trip away, the TripAdvisor website acts as a good guide as to whether you’ll be holidaying in luxury or a rat-addled hell-hole. But where there’s a hit, there’s a writ and it was only a matter of time before legal action was threatened against TripAdvisor and that time is now.
Over 300 hotels are preparing themselves to take on TripAdvisor, unhappy at comments left on the site by disgruntled customers. They’re saying that some comments are untrue and damaging to their business or “legally unsubstantiated”.
The hotels, believed to be located mostly in the UK and US, have enlisted the help of KwikChex a British ‘reputation management service’ and their CEO Chris Emmins says: “We have decided to present TripAdvisor with a list of the worst specific cases, plus a general call to correct certain aspects next week, together with a formal notice of action which means that we will add to the list as we clear them.”
Looks like TripAdvisor might have to take on a couple of extra members of staff over the next few weeks…
Most people I know will glance at TripAdvisor before booking a hotel, but they won’t treat it as gospel. That said, if TripAdvisor goes so far as to promote a guide to the filthiest hotels in the world, travellers are going to sit up and take notice. And it won’t just be those checking in who are curious.
So it’s unsurprising to learn there’s already talk of hotels suing TripAdvisor for its 2010 Dirtiest Hotels list, which gives the lowdown on the shoddiest shacks around the the world. According to the Independent:
“At least one of the hotels named on the list said it was considering legal action against TripAdvisor, claiming the comments were based on out-dated observations made before a major refurbishment. Another London hotelier included on the list, who asked not to be identified, said he had received cancellations since being named.”
It’s not as if TripAdvisor could have feigned surprise when hoteliers took exception; there have been numerous claims that fake reviews are passing by both their automated and manuals checks and balances – not only are some companies offering a paid service to to post fake reviews, but TripAdivisor has flagged the issue themselves.
If you’re needing some pocket money in these cash-strapped times, why not form a covert business that offers to post positive reviews on travel websites? Industry know-it-alls Travolution report that hotel chains and managers are receiving constant offers to have fake reviews posted on TripAdvisor and other sites in return for a monthly fee. The companies claim that the content will be posted from around the world to ensure it doesn’t appear suspicious.
Senior management at TripAdvisor said the integrity of its reviews was protected through a screening process, in-house technology and the community reporting suspicious activity. The website also pointed out its staff are aware of several companies engaged in posting false reviews and has already penalised the hotels involved.
That said, one hotel owner quoted mentions a particular hotel he knew of received several reviews before it had even opened to the public. And it seems the TripAdvisor members can spot an alleged fake even if the management can’t – one recent commenter in the forums points to this hotel review, noting that nearly all the five star ratings have been the result of a first review by newly registered individuals. The fiends.
You! Yes, you! You’re a penny-pinching traveller who wants the moon on a stick! Not the real moon, that would be disastrous – not only for you and stick but for marine life, tectonic stability and the planet in general. It’s only a figure of speech, see. Anyway, if you like to travel and stay in marvellous hotels for a lot less, here’s another guest post from Emma on how to get the best out of Priceline.co.uk:
Are you interested in staying in posh hotels for a fraction of their normal cost? This is a guide on how to do just that, by taking advantage of hotel bidding strategies on Priceline.co.uk. Additionally, we’ll show you all the secret tips and tricks to getting your swanky hotel rooms even cheaper.
How does Priceline.co.uk “Name Your Own Price” work?
The Name Your Own Price feature on Priceline.co.uk is simply an auction style process which lets you bid for cheap hotel rates. Priceline break it down as follows:
- Choose town and dates
- Select the area where you want to stay
- Select the star rating and name your price
- Find out which hotel you’ll be staying at
The hotels are able to offer great discounts on their unsold hotel rooms, enabling you to bag a bargain. These are all reputable hotels, and you can be assured you are getting a good deal. You make a bid stating your chosen city, the area, the minimum star rating, and the maximum price you are willing to pay. Price Line may either reject your bid, or accept it and allocate you a hotel room that fulfils your wishes.
Where can you use it?
Priceline’s “Name Your Price” hotel bidding feature is best for major cities around the world, and is particularly good for hot deals on American hotels. I have used it in Toronto, Paris, Barcelona… to name a few locations. It is really best suited for people travelling alone or in couples. It’s not ideal for families, or any group outside the norm. You can really only book standard rooms with this feature, not suites or any sort of deluxe rooms. If you win a room, it will accommodate two adults.
What Star Rating should I choose?
Remember that European star ratings might not be quite up to the same standards as North American standards. If you’re doing a bit of research, check TripAdvisor to see the quality of hotels of your chosen rating in your chosen area.
How low should I start my Priceline bidding?
Priceline recommend that you look at the leading online travel sites and take 40% off for an indication of how much to bid on your cheap hotel rooms. I recommend that you start lower. You might be declined, but it will give you a general idea of how much you should be bidding. On the other hand, you could get lucky and your low-ball bid will be accepted! You can research how much people are paying for what you are interested in – check out the betterbidding forums. Read the rest of this entry »