Are lowcostholidays.com paying punters to post positive reviews?

13 September 2011

Before we head off on holiday, many of us consult one or more of the many travel review sites that are filled with praise or gripes from delighted or disgusted holidaymakers. One of the ones you might like to avoid is reviewcentre.com – that’s because it could be filled with false positive reviews courtesy of lowcostholidays.com.

Avid reader Tom tells us…

I got back from a holiday last week that I booked with lowcostholidays.com.

Over the weekend they sent me the below email which I thought might interest/amuse you. They are offering me £25 off of my next holiday to write a POSITIVE review. I think this is a bit of a joke. Fortunately, we had a great holiday and I would have written a positive review, but I don't like that they are encouraging people to publish positives where there might not be any! My girlfriend and I spent hours trawling through review sites, looking for the best holiday (based on reviews and value for money) that we could find and I would have been massively pissed off if the holiday had been worse that the reviews that we read.

Here’s a screengrab of the email in question…

Screen shot 2011-09-13 at 12.21.01

Astroturfing at its murkiest. So don’t forget to take those online reviews with a large pinch of salt from now on, eh readers?

TOPICS:   Travel   Consumer Advice

24 comments

  • Review C.
    Hi Andy and Bitter Wallet readers, As avid followers of your site we're really thankful for this post. We had gotten wind of something happening on this page of our site a few weeks back but had been unable to get a reviewer to pass on to us the necessary information for us to take some positive action. As your reader has been kind enough to allow you to post the email that they received from Low Cost Holidays the problem of evidence is now solved! We have already placed a prominent note on the Low Cost Holiday page advising our readers that all might not be as it seems with their reviews, and in the next few days we will set about moderating the posts. Thanks again guys and keep up the good work. The Review Centre Team
  • Noghar
    Not sure why this is such a big deal. They are not writing their own reviews or offering money to astroturfers for good reviews, but offering vouchers off their own product. Seems to me a perfectly legitimate way of encouraging satisfied customers to post and say they are satisfied, to make up for miseriguts (like me) who usually only post if they want to moan about something. If I hated a holiday I'd had with these people I wouldn't post a good review just in the hope I'd get £25 off using them again. You'd have to be a cretinous cheapskate to do that, and who wants a review from one of them?
  • jess
    I don't really see the problem I think people should be encouraged to leave positive reviews otherwise review centres are just as deceptive as they're full of people whining-how often have you had a brilliant time on holiday and actually given it a good review after? It's a lot easier to be negative than positive unfortunately.
  • BettyBoo
    I totally agree with 'jess'. Surely if you had been on a really rubbish holiday, you would not be 'encouraged' to write a positive view and push people to have the same awful experience as you!!!! Where as if you have been on a great holiday, why not let other people know about it and get some money off your next one too! Everyone in this country is so quick to complain all the time, so I think it is nice to have something posivitive to read for a change!
  • Andy
    Jess and BettyBoo, missing the point much? The incentive to write a 'positive' review is the £25 discount on your next booking. In the current economy, this marketing tactic is clearly taking advantage of the majority demographic - people trying to save money any which way possible. I don't think you can argue that when Lowcostholidays have the opportunity to offer a discount if the customer submits 'a review' - and instead choose to purposefully mislead the customer into believing this review must regard the company in a good light - is a dirty tactic to take advantage of the significant impact reviewcentre scores have on the search engine results pages. Whether or not the review submitted is a positive one should bare no relevance - unless Lowcostholidays are also handing out £25 compensation coupons for customers who've returned from a bad experience - which I highly doubt.
  • oliverreed
    Write a shitty review, then edit the confirmation mail?
  • No b.
    Why would people lie about a holiday they went on to receive a voucher that they can only redeem with the same holiday company?   I disagree Andy, I think it is a clever way of increasing the brand rating on review sites and its fair. All lowcostholidays are doing is asking customers that had a great time to tell others on these review sites - There are no rules that say you can’t do this. The voucher given is a great incentive for both parties, there is no foul play going on here and if you think people who don’t have a good time would leave positive feed-back then you are as mad as this narrow minded blog.
  • Steven
    Sorry to see this, have used lowcosthollidays.com in the past and found the service good, am less keen to use a company using shady practices like this. And its not like its going to fool anyone as you only have to Google hotels and destinations to find proper review sites anyway. Reminds me of that old bestof franchise thing, I've never met anyone who has used that to find a place to go to eat or drink yet its always quite funny to read all the glowing reviews to places you know bare little or no resemblance to whats been said.
  • Phil76
    Just wish there was a way to filter inane complaints from review websites. I use Expedia a fair bit to book holidays and one review for a hotel I was looking at marked it down because they didn't supply tongs to put bread in/take toast out of the toaster at breakfast. Muppets.
  • Tom
    Totally disagree with Jess and BettyBoo. We have always left reviews, good or bad depending on our experience. (most recent here http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g652121-d568832-r118067179-Aparthotel_Cay_Beach_Sun-Playa_Blanca_Lanzarote_Canary_Islands.html#CHECK_RATES_CONT) But when we choose a holdiay, we always always check review sites. We do take a lot of comments with a pinch of salt as you would expect, but I resent the face that they are encouraging people to submit positive reviews.
  • Jess
    'No beating round the marketing bush' makes an incredibly valid point -> if someone had a terrible holiday the last thing they would want to do would be to gain a voucher to use the company again...unless the holiday wasn't actually THAT bad and maybe they would give the company another chance if they had to pay even less, in which case hands down to lowcostholidays for trying to get a second chance. British people love nothing more than to moan and complain. I'd love to know the statistics on people that mean to leave a review after a great holiday, but forget. I am certainly one of those people. A little reminder along with a small incentive to write a quick few words saying - actually, this company was pretty great...is this really such a bad thing?
  • Andy
    "Why would people lie about a holiday they went on to receive a voucher that they can only redeem with the same holiday company?" - Because they can go somewhere else.
  • Turquoise
    I've booked many holidays with Lowcost and other similar consolidators and never had cause to complain, so I wish they would offer me the £25 to post a review. I too can't see why anyone would want £25 off a holiday from a company which had given them a bad time. I always post reviews, but on the Holiday Truths site, which is totally independent and will not accept reviews written from the country reviewed, to avoid the possibility of infiltration by hoteliers themselves, unlike Trip Advisor, which I understand is being investigated for misleading reviews.
  • Sock m.
    Jes, bettyboo and no beating still aren't getting the point. No-one is saying that it would turn a bad review into a good one (not for £25), but Jess's own point "how often have you had a brilliant time on holiday and actually given it a good review after?" is actually the problem here. In a comparison with other companies, this will give an artificially high average to LCH. (As other companies satisfied but lazy customers won't boost their 5 star reviews) I would also say (given the few 4 or 3 star reviews) that a £25 bribe would mean a 4 star would migrate to 5 star. But cut it as you like it. If you can't see what's wrong here, can I offer you 50p to change your mind?
  • Murky T.
    [...] reader of consumer blog BitterWallet forwarded an email sent from LowcostHolidays after they returned from a trip to Lanzarote in [...]
  • Adam
    I see this happening more and more, incentives like that do remind people to give a middling to positive review as opposed to none at all (which is better?). If you were going to give a crap review in the first place you would anyway though, whatshisface has a point. Perhaps they ought to have said 'give us a review which reflects how much you enjoyed your holiday'?
  • WWTraveller
    Sorry but this isn't a 'dodgy' practice? All tour operators encourage positive feedback - and not at such a tiny incentive of £25??? Come on, get real... if someone has a bad experience would £25 be a serious offer of compensation??? What about when you are onboard Thomson or Virgin and they hand round customer feedback forms with the promise that you will be entered into a draw when you could win a fantastic holiday worth thousands??? Isn't that the same?? Of course it is!! Wise up people!! Lowcost are the way forward..too many tour operators have relied on their brand name or previous status to get bookings, now its time for another company with a new approach to pull the carpet from under them and make people realise that they are getting great deals. The name Lowcost gives the impression that their holidays are always budget, cheapo deals. If you look at a lot of the hotels they offer - other 'prestige' holiday companies such as Hayes and Jarvis, Sovereign etc offer the same at massive price differences because they rely on people booking with them because they have a 'posher' luggage tag on their cases. Lets get real,who cares who you book with? Its the experience and the price you pay that matters!!
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