Are TripAdvisor blackmailers the new scourge of the internet?

9 May 2014

You know what it’s like- you’re visiting somewhere new and you want to check out what the places to eat in, or stay at are like. While every hotel and restaurant will likely extol its own virtues, if you want an impartial assessment of the quality of a hostelry or eaterie you’ll check out Trip Advisor, right? After all. All those millions of people can’t be wrong...

However, it seems there is a growing trend for these people to be really very wrong indeed. While people’s own opinions can, by definition, not be incorrect, the actions of the new breed of TripAdvisor blackmailers can be called into question.

Research shows that even half a star’s rating can have a significant impact on the business of some hotels and restaurants, particularly if they are remote, and these unscrupulous sorts are using this to their advantage, demanding free drinks, dessert or even rooms in exchange for a guaranteed good TripAdvisor rating.

Martin Couchman, deputy chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, said that he was in talks with TripAdvisor to improve the service:

“People threatening restaurants and hotels with bad TripAdvisor reviews to extort free things is a problem which has been growing,” he said.

“People will either attempt to blackmail during the meal, or sometimes, more worryingly, people who have not even been to the restaurant will post a bad review to try to get a free meal, or a free stay in a hotel’s case. While it can be difficult to prove that somebody has blackmailed you, we would advise that business owners do not respond – or make free offers – to reviewers they suspect are malicious.”

TripAdvisor urges hoteliers who are being targeted in this way to contact them immediately as they have “procedures” to pre-empt such malicious reviews, although how effective this is in practice is perhaps questionable.

So is a TripAdvisor rating worth anything at all, or is it at least better than going in completely blind? Or are we simply suffering from too much (unreliable) opinion- as restauranteur Alex Proud put it in the Telegraph “Where once we had dozens of critics who knew what they were on about, now we have millions of critics who have no idea what they’re talking about.”

TOPICS:   Travel   Consumer Advice


  • Samantha
  • David
    People power - scoundrel restaurant owners and hoteliers hate it. But we have a right to warn others about shoddy service.
  • Dames J.
    Alex Proud put it in the Telegraph “Where once we had dozens of critics who knew what they were on about, now we have millions of critics who have no idea what they’re talking about.” Sometimes a bad review can be about poor service, which you would not need to be an 'expert' to witness and interpret. Or poorly cooked food, which would also be obvious to anyone with the ability to feel temperature or taste food. I also suspect that any restaurant knowingly serving a critic would bring out the 'A game' that an average punter wouldn't necessarily inspire. Proud's was an easy comment to make on his side of the fence and one that belittles anyone who's ever had an opinion about the state of service/product on offer.
  • JonB
    A simple way to overcome the problem of people who haven't even visited a place posting a bad review is for the restaurant or hotel to issue a code which can be used to submit a review. The reviewer would also have to create an account on TripAdvisor with verified information (e.g. address, email, etc.) before submitting a negative review.
  • David
    We write many reviews for hotels and resorts. We contacted a number of hotels and they told us that they had suffered from reviews before. After talking to the more, they told us that a group of people were writing bad reviews and charging to have them removed. We managed to get reviews as we have a policy to contact the company if the review is negative so they have a chance to correct it and we write another review. Everyone has a bad day, humans are not perfect.

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