Hotel reviews can't be trusted, TripAdvisor won't say how many
It's not a revalation that'll shake the foundations of your web usage - apparently, customer reviews of products are sometimes made up by the companies responsible for them. Woah. Occasionally the dozier offenders have been caught in the act, but sometimes they're difficult to spot. The question is how many reviews on any one site are gamed, and what is the site doing about it.
TripAdvisor lives and dies by customer recommendations of hotels - the site carries over 20 million reviews for over 400,000 hotels, indexed and rated by nit-picking guests. But there's been talk recently of the warnings that TripAdvisor is attaching to some listings, stating the reviews of particular hotels are being fixed - either by individuals associated with the hotel (staff, PR companies) publishing overly positive reviews the hotel, or overly negative reviews of the competitors. They read:
"TripAdvisor has reasonable cause to believe that either this property or individuals associated with the property may have attempted to manipulate our popularity index by interfering with the unbiased nature of our reviews. Please take this into consideration when researching your travel plans."
Move along, nothing to see here, say TripAdvisor - they state these disclaimers are nothing unusual, and have been appearing since 2006 - although plenty of folks, including travel guide publishers Frommers believe they're a recent occurance. What's concerning other travel writers are the number of warnings appearing - there are reportedly hundreds of hotels that TripAdvisor are warning people off because the reviews can't be trusted. And since attention has been focussed on the amount of warnings, there are claims that TripAdvisor are removing them. As an example, compare the screengrab in the previous link to the review as it is today. In their defense, TripAdvisor say the disclaimers have an expiration date that varies with each hotel, although they refuse to say how many warnings are currently active on the site.
For most people with half an ounce of sense it's not earth-shattering news, and TripAdvisor will remain something to refer to while shopping around, rather than a definitive resource. And with over 20 million reviews under its belt, attaching warnings to a small percentage of its reviews is unlikely to cause a significant concern, even if they represent a more widespread problem.