Are TripAdvisor blackmailers the new scourge of the internet?
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.”