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back to article TripAdvisor: OK, not all our reviews are trustworthy or real

Online travel review site TripAdvisor has been forced to admit that not all of the reviews posted on its site are trustworthy or real. The Advertising Standards Agency has asked TripAdvisor to take down the claims that it offers "trusted advice from real travellers" and features "more than 50 million honest travel reviews and …

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Bronze badge
Coat

Claude Rains speaks out

I'm shocked -- SHOCKED -- to discover that posts at a reviews site are not all real or trustworthy.

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Anonymous Coward

RULE FOR COMMENTS...

if the hotel won't give you a free mini bar,

Claim the room had bed bugs,

Claim you got food poisoning

Claim they were rude

Claim you caught west Nile fever

Claim you......

Oh thank you, no charge for the mini bar, you'll get a good review off me :-)

What a lovely hotel.

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More entertainment

I rarely use Trip Advisor to look at hotels, restaurants, etc, more to get a general feel for a new area and see if there are things to see/do we might have missed. We find booking.com better for hotels, at least you know the reviewers have actually stayed there. I also like their policy of not publishing reviews until they have at least 5. Mind you, Trip Advisor reviews are quite entertaining sometimes - trustworthy, perhaps not so much.

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"such as getting hotel owners to confirm the names of guests before allowing them review their hotel"

Brilliant idea, with just two minor flaws...

Scenario 1:

TripAdvisor: please can you verify that Mr A.N.Other stayed at your hotel last month

Hotel Owner: *thinks* oh yeah, I remember him, moany git always complaining about this, that or the other... *replies* Sorry, we have no record of anyone by that name staying with us

Scenario 2:

TripAdvisor: please can you verify that Ms I.P.Freeley stayed at your hotel last month

Hotel Owner: *thinks* wasn't that the name we used to post the fake glowing review of our cesspit of a hotel... *replies* certainly, I'm happy to verify their stay with us

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A better idea...

Have reviewers leave contact details (verified the same way Google Business verifies real data) and make them aware that these details can be released to (authenticated) businesses that they have reviewed. Those that agree to this can have a 'Trust' icon placed next to their reviews.

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Silver badge
Devil

In other words - welcome to Booking.com

That is why I use predominantly booking.com nowdays. You are guaranteed that the reviews are from someone who has stayed at the hotel and has paid for it leaving their name, address and credit card details in the process.

In fact Trip Advisor business model is dead - most people use reviews in conjunction with purchasing so in the long term only sites which are affiliated (or part of) a particular shop will survive.

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Gold badge

I NEVER lie on the internet!

My name genuinely ISN'T Spartacus, and I can confirm that The Savoy Shepton Mallett is the finest 17 star hotel I have ever stayed at.

However, KwikChex, a "Reputation, Reassurance and Resolution service", are probably experts on fake reviews of their clients services on t'internets.*

*I probably ought to add the word 'allegedly' at this point...

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Anonymous Coward

2nd favourite site!

You just need a perception filter. Ignore any reviews that have clearelly been "signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to public enquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighters." - D.A., and those in txt spk init!

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Caveat emptor

Even if Trip Advisor introduced some mechanism to confirm reviewers actually went to a particular establishment (and the getting the hotel to confirm idea sounds massively flawed), there's still no guarantee the review is actually true. Also, hotels already have a right to reply, so if they think a review is fake, say so.

Anyone with half a brain using TA or similar not only reads the reviews, but also "reviews the reviewer". I've discounted plenty of reviews on the grounds of serial pickiness, obviously written by the PR department, or foaming-at-the-mouth lunacy.

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Anonymous Coward

Great!

"Online travel review site TripAdvisor has been forced to admit that not all of the reviews posted on its site are trustworthy or real."

I only got that far before I started laughing :)

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Devil

trip advisor

This mob were on You and Yours on BBC Radio 4 about 3/4 weeks ago you should have heard him verbally squirm and swear black and white that every posted comment on his site was gospel truth,while some of the hotels and assorted businesses were saying that they were being almost blackmailed into either upgrading or deep discouting the price of their services.Might still be available on the programme web site.

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Terminator

I heard that

I also heard hoteliers who had some legitimate complaints about blackmail, but mostly just hated the idea of customers being able to review them at all, for fear of getting anything less than a glowing report.

It's a review site, some people will go on there with an agenda, hopefully other people realise that. Some people are never, ever, ever happy with a hotel. My mother is one of them, and these picky people that give terrible reviews over a single speck of dust are useful to her. I'm a lot easier to please so I'll take more of an overview. We can both spot the fakes though.

I think if trip advisor stop marketing themselves as infallible, then where's the issue? It's a forum for collecting reviews from the public.

The real problem is that there are so many hotels in the world, particularly the UK and Australia IMHO, that are terrible quality, were last updated in the 1960s, and are charging the same price (and claiming the same rating) as genuinely good, modern and pleasant hotels. And don't get me started on the kinds of place that think they're worth 3.5 or 4 stars over here in Oz, it's ludicrous!

This is one thing the US has right. Their motels are overwhelmingly clean, modern, functional and cheap. Other places if you go for anything but luxury you're playing a game of chance, and this is where tripadvisor really comes into its own. IMHO, YMMV, etc etc

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The customer IS king (for once)

Personally, I have found TA to be the most reliable user generated review system of any sort.

Before it came along, you had to rely on the holday brochure and bitter experience to figure out if a hotel was any good. Using TA , you stand a much higher chance of ending up in a hotel that lives up to the hype (or is as bad as reviewers say it is).

Surely the ASA ought to be welcoming a service that makes sure people are getting what they are promised, rather than a half-finished building site?

Of course there's astroturf on there (positive and negative), but it's pretty easy to spot.

The most vocal bunch against TA (and presumably the people KwikChex and their ilk are targeting) seem to be the small B&B and 1 to two start owner-proprietors. They don't get loads of glowing reviews because their product is not that good in the first place. When they finally tip someone over the edge with their "eccentric" (being charitable about it) idea of customer service, they get a stinking review and go on a crusade because TA is destroying their business.

Customers will share good service experiences with others if asked, but they'll make a determined effort to tell people about bad service without prompting. Nobody says anything about average service that meets minimum expectations. Honest oopions about rough edges do not put travellers off, and in fact they increase the level of trust in the positive stuff alongside, but you have to be good enough to get that positive feedback in the first place.

Mediocrity is the pit in to which a lot of hotels and B&Bs are falling. In the old days they could get away with it, since you accepted what was on offer when you arrived, or you slept in the street. Now you can avoid turning up in the first place. If it forces them to improve their offering or go out of business, that is the market at work, and isn't that what we as customers should want?

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"if they think a review is fake, say so"

I can see it now.

Reviewer: A magnificent place, fantastic staff, I enjoyed every minute of it.

Hotelier: You couldn't possibly have been staying at *our* hotel then.

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Anonymous Coward

Like any other site...

... Trip Advisor always requires you discard the outliers, lunatics and people who would find fault with the moon on a stick. The important thing is the consensus, the average opinion... The Mrs and I have always gone to hotels that get a 4* or more average on TA, and we are yet to be disappointed so IMHO it had merits...

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Exactly right, if 20 out of 30 people say the food is nice, 5 say it's bloody fantastic and 5 say it's absolutely horrible, I tend to assume that 5 people are very easily pleased, just happened to really enjoy the food, or the owner and his family posted reviews. I would also assume that 5 people got really unlucky the night they visited or just tried the wrong food, or that they the kind of people that nothing would please them. In the above example, I would go with the consensus and be willing to try it out.

I have left several reviews on trip advisor myself, so I know there are definitely genuine reviews, and probably many (if not most) of them are genuine reviews, but as said any review sites should only be used to AID in a decision about something and not the definitive truth about something.

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Facepalm

But surely some of you are clearly missing the point...

...and that is not whether TA offers a viable service but more that they state in their adverts that their reviewers / reviews are all reliable (without their being able to necessarily validate said claim).

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Anonymous Coward

From a trade perspective

In my experience the majority of TA reviews are genuine, however, the false ones from the hoteliers themselves (or agents) or niggling clients (or Lovely-Guests as we call them), tend to cluster around certain establishments; and are easy to spot.

A couple of years ago I was approached by a dodgy company who for £10-15K pa would post reviews for our establishment from "all over the place", obviously I kicked them into touch.

I still use TA to judge an establishment, mix it in with Booking.com as the ones on Booking.com have to be derived from a real booking through their own site first.

So my advice is do three things before booking:

• Check on TA for reviews.

• Check on Bkg.com (as their reviews are verified)

• Ring the establishment; if after 30 seconds you don’t feel comfortable with the person, it is likely you will not when you get there. (Try and speak to the people at the hotel not a central reservations site in some distant place, you can often wangle extras with a bit of chat)

Booking direct with the establishment can save, most agents charge 20-30% commission to the establishment, so establishments are keen to avoid this cost, if we can’t match the price we will often offer a free room upgrade or such to compensate.

Overall though before you leave a review get someone to read it first, so that it is relevant to the hotel and your stay.

With B&B people remember it is themselves directly you are effectively reviewing so please be constructive and fair as many take unfair criticism to heart in a bad way.

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Anonymous Coward

I admire your blind optimism...

You're expecting people to; seek a second opinion before jumping to conclusions, be fair and honest and proof-read before posting?

Wow! —first time on the internet, is it?

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Go

Authenticating Reviewers

Why not partner with, buy, or replicate TripIt's mail gateway that accepts incoming order confirmations from airlines and hotels? Of course confirmation numbers can be faked; have a "fake?" link next to each review. Reviews with the largest # of "fake?" upvotes get the conf#'s vetted against the hotel, then "confirmed".

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I had used it once to find a hotel and the reviews were spot on.

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Anonymous Coward

I saw a cat once - it was black. From this, I infer that all cats are black.

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Paris Hilton

Simple solution?

Surely one solution is integration with other services - it doesn't even have to be the agents websites. For example, I use Tripit to keep track of my flight and hotel schedules. How simple would it be to use their API to verify me as a genuine guest.

Most bookings are online now anyway, so TA could easily have a list of booking ref conventions and ask people to enter their booking ref. They could even ask hotels to submit their updated lists of booking refs for that week, and then if a review comes in, simply check it against the latest list to see if it's a genuine guest or not. The hotel doesn't even have to verify, negating the risk of them disassociating from an unsatisfied guest.

Paris, because quiet a few people have been in the Hilton.

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Paris Hilton

They might have been in a Hilton once...

...but do they keepon coming?

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Anonymous Coward

A few simple rules

1) Don't trust any property's rating if there's only a handful of reviews

2) Look at the bad reviews; is there a pattern or are they combination of bridezillas, people who only came for lunch, or other people with an agenda

3) Look at the number of reviews from the bad reviewers; if only a few, discard. If quite a lot, go look at some of their other reviews to see if this is a pattern for them, or if they truly seem to have had a real issue with a place.

4) Look to see if the recent reviews are better or worse than the averages for the property; changes happen all the time and the older reviews may be no longer valid (new owners, refurbishment, etc.)

5) Look at the pictures. Is this the kind of place you're interested in?

Bottom line #1: it's a tool. Used with care it can give you more information than anywhere else I can think of.

Bottom line #2: regardless of what TA owners (or Opentable or Yelp or...) say, anybody who thinks this is all 100% accurate data obviously needs to go buy a bridge over the East River.

I just finished booking 8 properties across Ireland and Scotland for an upcoming Spring trip; used TA heavily, as I have in the past, to locate properties in the right geographical location, with an eye on what their ratings are, but also in concert with other sources.

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Paris Hilton

I stayed at the Paris Hilton. Never again.

Seriously - what I thought would be a luxury experience turned out to be the tawdriest disappointment - upstairs there was nothing, and it seemed the world and it's dog had been through the front entrance it was so shabby and worn out. The carpet was sticky, and the curtains didn't match the rug. The back entrance seemed little better, but I didn't use it.

I was shocked and disappointed.

The only redeeming feature was the in-house movie.

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Anonymous Coward

Declaration.

"The ASA added that asking reviewers to tick a declaration stating that their review was "genuine" was not enough of an incentive to ensure that the truth was told."

Only a misanthrope would find anything wrong with this!

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Anonymous Coward

you can say that again

"... the ASA will have its work cut out if wants to take on people for talking crap on the internet"

Christ! FB and Witter would be F cked if the ASA had teeth. Of course, like all UK regs bodies, they talk just as much c ap as they try to invesitgate.

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Silver badge

Its fighting past the reviews to find the real story.

You have to ignore the hotel written ones. The one where the world is perfect.

And ignore the idiot ones. The kind who would have them marked down because a mouse farted three streets away when they were trying to sleep.

You may as well not bother with the site.

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Have used trip advisor many times when booking hotels and have always found it to be very reliable. Obviously use an ounce of common sense and read several reviews before judging but its usually pretty clear where there is a pattern emerging.

10 reviews all complaining about the same thing usually indicate a pretty real problem.

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zb

I use TA

It is a useful site but you have to read between the lines. I tend to ignore the very best and the very worst reviews and look at the middle ones. If there are not at least ten reviews they are not reliable.

It is like eBay and Wikipedia: you have to think a bit while you click. That does not invalidate them.

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Silver badge
WTF?

Tripadvisor is at least trying ...

For some years now, TA has been marking dubious high ratings so readers can ramp up their scepticism levels.

Every so often when I want a break, and fancy living on expenses, I volunteer to join my employer's travel checking service where we go around to hotels and check them: moving furniture to check for bugs and dust , spraying toilets and bedding with test chemicals that change colour if the objects are unclean (duvets and pillows are the worst), etc.

Sitting in Boston, TA moderators have no knowledge of the destinations they moderate but they do 'get a feel' for trends.

Verified guest comments are useless because any hotel can claim their ;plant' stayed there if the hotel wants a boost.

One TA listing had a lousy hotel in Ha Noi listed 7 times! Unless you know the area, how can you tell a corner property is using addresses of both streets, adding 'A' to the street number, etc?

TA is owned by Expedia, that on-line seat filler that sells 'dog' seats (the odd shaped one against a toilet) or routes you on multiple carriers and segments that are not the best routing. TA is a great advertising tool for Expedia, and they are the ones that need investigating.

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Bronze badge
Coat

May I thoroughly recommend the Fawlty Towers...

My room had a breathtaking panoramic view of the English Riviera, we appreciated the attentive Spanish waiter, and we loved the live entertainment in the bar: that tall, silly-walking improvisational comic -- what was his name, Basil Something -- and his one-man show, "Don't Mention The War".

Five stars!

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