tavare tripadvisor
495 days ago
 

Accor executive posted dozens of anonymous TripAdvisor reviews

Peter Hook, a Sydney-based general manager of communications for Accor Hotels, has posted at least 105 of reviews on TripAdvisor in the past few years — but has done so anonymously, in apparent violation of the site’s rules.

Tavare is the anonymous name of a user who was generally positive when reviewing Accor properties and occasionally critical when reviewing rivals’ properties.

For instance, one review for Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra in February 2012 begins with this typical sentence:

“As a first time visitor to Phnom Penh I didn’t know much about the hotel scene so booked a brand I knew well. It turned out to be a good choice”

A review of the Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa includes this sentence:

“It was noticeable that families from the adjacent Hilton and Sheraton hotels were sneaking in to use the Sofitel pool.”

tavare tripadvisor

He was identified as Hook by Kwikchex, a company that sells online reputation management software.

Kwikchex says that Travare’s identity was revealed after the roll out of TripAdvisor’s Facebook app, which displays a name, photograph and location, taken from each user’s Facebook account.

Travare had incautiously linked his anonymous account to his Facebook account, where his photo would appear next to reviews as seen by Facebook friends. His Facebook page was also visible in public search, until last night.

tripadvisor reviews accor hotels anonymous

Kwikchex claims they matched up the face on the photo with the face on his LinkedIn profile.

But how they managed to go through the names of all the people on LinkedIn to find a matching photo remains mysterious, to say the least.

This public pillorying, or random targeting of one individual for shaming, is part of a public relations stunt to get attention for Kwikchex’s services. The company argues that “authentication is the most effective way to help prevent reviews site abuses.”

Peter Hook made the following comments to Tnooz last night:

The reviews were not sanctioned or condoned in any way by Accor management. It was purely a personal thing.

Just looking at my contributions, the overwhelming majority of reviews are for non-hotel tourism activities, which is why I started the account.

But no excuses for not disclosing my professional association.

As a regular traveller I review restaurants, attractions, destinations and hotels.

Every review I have written has resulted from personally experiencing the product.

There have been 5-star reviews of competitors – most recently Four Seasons’ excellent Sydney restaurant The Woods – as well as less-than-favourable comments about our own properties. In terms of forums I have contributed where I thought my comments were constructive and useful to the conversation.

I think that anyone who reads my posts and looks at the breadth of my reviews will appreciate that they are very reasoned opinions.

Because I cover such a wide range of travel experiences, it would not be appropriate to review them as a company representative, hence the pseudonym (as with the vast majority of other TripAdvisor reviewers).

However, it is a fair criticism to say that my professional position should have been mentioned in any reviews of hotels. I will no longer review any hotel-related product under the pseudonym, but will continue to review destinations, attractions, restaurants and other non-hotel product.

I am a great believer in TripAdvisor and its value to the travelling public. I think it is usually fairly clear from each review as to whether it is “reasonable” and I believe that in all my reviews.

I’ve been “reasonable”. That should be fairly evident from reading the reviews posted over many years.

TripAdvisor’s rules say:

No reviews written by ownership or management; including past employees or anyone associated with/related to employees of the property in question. No reviews written by vendors employed by the property.

Individuals affiliated with a property may not review other properties of the same type (accommodation, restaurant, or attraction) within the same city or town, or within 10 miles of that property.

UPDATE: May 30
Because some readers posted comments below raising questions about the language of TripAdvisor’s rules, we sought clarification from TripAdvisor’s Angus Struthers, Senior Director, Global Communications. Here’s what he says:

“It would clearly be inappropriate for a senior executive of a hotel company to review hotels within their own company.

Additionally, it is in violation of our policies as every person submitting a review on TripAdvisor ticks a box to confirm that they have ‘no personal or business relationship with (the) establishment’ being reviewed.”

“Sleeper cells” of shills

This story will undoubtedly add fuel to the debate about the legitimacy of TripAdvisor’s anonymous reviews, a topic pursued by many writers and watchdogs, including Edward Hasbrouck and Christopher Elliott.

In March, the user review giant said it is doing more to verify reviews of hotels via its internal computing system.

 
 
Sean O'Neill

About the Writer :: Sean O'Neill

Sean O’Neill is a New Jersey-based reporter for Tnooz. He's also a regular contributor to BBC Travel.

Follow him on Twitter, Google+, and his personal site .

 

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  1. Kevin May

    Kevin May

    @All

    From the editor’s backbench here, just pointing to the heart-warming/sinking irony in how some people are posting their comments anonymously.

    Just don’t forget that your IP address is revealed to us behind the scenes!

    Anyway, as you were…

     
  2. Torremolinos

    I totally agree on that Tripadvisor is open to all kinds of abuse. Many competitors or just people filled with hatred to one or another business will place negative reviews, at the same time business owners look for the ways they can praise their venues..
    So the right way to review is what Booking.com does, only accepting reviews after people spent some nights as guests in the property.

     
  3. Miramon

    And the only difference between this guy and the others is he was found out. Does anyone believe that any and all properties don’t do this? I wouldn’t be surprised if a large percentage of the total posted reviews were shills or from competition, positive and negative respectively.

     
  4. Poor bloke

    Hmm, he seems like someone who loves to travel and has been writing about his experiences – obviously the guy shouldn’t have reviewed any Accor properties, but this just doesn’t seem like the terrible behaviour that’s been reported.

     
  5. Kayla Preston

    We read your story with interest.

    It points to a larger problem in the industry, which is the prevalence of,
    and problems caused by, unauthenticated reviews – which as your article
    shows, can end up hurting not just consumers, but hotels/hotel brands as
    well.

    At HotelMe, we have a solution, which is our process for authenticating
    reviews. More information can be found at http://www.hotelme.com or by contacting
    us directly.

    We believe that at the end of the day, authenticated reviews are the sure
    path to serving the interest of both guests and hotels – and opening a
    true, collaborative conversation between them.

     
  6. Elisabeth Bertrand

    Is it actually illegal to write a fake review or is it just considered not very nice..?

     
    • Sean O'Neill

      Sean O'Neill

      Hi Elisabeth,
      Sorry for the delayed reply. I spoke with Ben Travers, Head of IP & IT Law, Stephens Scown LLP. He’s provided this statement by email:

      “One of the key elements of providing a service is feedback. Feedback, through review posts and blogs etc, drives sales through “word-of-mouth” on the internet.

      Given the pressure to score highly in public facing reviews, it is no surprise that many businesses are tempted to post positive reviews about their own business (or negative reviews about a competitor’s business). Whilst this type of activity appears to be on the rise, many businesses are unaware of the sanctions, including criminal sanctions which they could face for posting fake blogs, reviews etc.

      Any post where a business pretends to be a consumer, posting a review about their business under that pseudonym, or otherwise makes a marketing statement where it is unclear that there is a commercial interest in the post, could land themselves in hot water with the OFT and ASA and even face criminal sanctions. Sanctions can be levelled at business owners but also at marketing companies and others who make posts on behalf of a business but do not make it clear they are being paid for that service. Further, the rules apply not just to statements etc on a traders own website but also on any social media feeds.

      Businesses don’t just need to be careful when posting about their own business, posting about competitors is also a risky strategy, with hefty sanctions in place to discourage this kind of activity- for example, if an untrue statement is made about a competitor.

      With this kind of activity on the rise, it is only recently that the authorities have started taking enforcement actions. As a result, it is only recently that business owners are coming to terms with the fact that there are real world repercussions for online transgressions and that it is not possible for them to hide behind the seeming anonymity of the web.”

      In short, jurisdictions and rules vary, but that’s a UK perspective.
      Thanks for commenting.
      Best,
      Sean

       
      • Jessica Thomas

        Hi Sean,

        You said in an above reply that “The issue being raised is that TripAdvisor’s rules say:
        No reviews written by ownership or management; including past employees or anyone associated with/related to employees of the property in question.” There is no mention No mention of Mr Hooks actual use of a fake profile to do this.

        The fact he used another name to write these posts is fairly insignificant to the issue being “ownership or management; including past employees or anyone associated with/related to employees of the property in question”. Maybe Trip Adviser should have better clarified the term ‘ownership or management’ if they meant in terms of including ownership and management of competitors. To me this statement reads as though it directly relates to the hotel in question.

         
        • Sean O'Neill

          Sean O'Neill

          I’m asking TripAdvisor again for comment.
          Thanks,
          Sean

           
        • Sean O'Neill

          Sean O'Neill

          Here’s the clarification from TripAdvisor’s Angus Struthers, Senior Director, Global Communications:

          “It would clearly be inappropriate for a senior executive of a hotel company to review hotels within their own company. Additionally, it is in violation of our policies as every person submitting a review on TripAdvisor ticks a box to confirm that they have ‘no personal or business relationship with (the) establishment’ being reviewed.”

           
          • Jessica

            Hi Sean,

            Thank you for the clarification. This situation has been very interesting.

            Would it be clearly inappropriate for a senior executive of a hotel company to review his companies hotel? Maybe if all the posts were all glowing, but its been reported that not on all occassions they were.

            Over 7 years there were approx 107 posts, which works out to be approximately 1.27 posts a month. His reviews extend from his own hotels to competitor plus bars and restaurants. No articles actually breakdown the number of posts in each area, if there were numerous posts for or against a particular property or their frequency. As it stands, I would not consider 1.27 posts a month on his own hotels, competitors, bars and restaurants malicious.

            I find it strange the rule regarding not having ‘a personal or business relationship with the establishment’ appears on a tick box, however is not properly reflected within the company policies. Maybe thats where this goes sideways? TripAdvisor not clearly defining what they consider a ‘personal or business relationship’.

            It seems like the only rule broken was being associated with a hotel he has posted on. Nothing to do with competitors, or ‘fake’ posts.

            Its hard to not see this as a witch hunt thats been blown way out of proportion.

             
          • Jessica Thomas

            Hi Sean,

            Simon McGrath from Accor has said 70% of Mr Hooks posts were not hotel related, they were on bars and restaurants. So now its roughly 30 posts over 7 years. This certainly doesnt warrant the media attention its recieved. It hardly seems like it warrants anything outside a warning letter from his company for breaching their social media policy.

             
  7. Brenda Hart

    They all do it. Plus they reward their guests for doing it. I don’t rely on that for my recommendations at all.

     
    • Ward

      If a person owns stock in a company or in her mutual funds it seems to me that reviews from such a person would be as bad as from an owner or management.
      If I owned $40, $40,000, or $4,000,000 in a hotel chain it seems that posting a review should be prohibited.

       
  8. Stuart McD

    Were the reviews fake or inaccurate?

     
    • Sean O'Neill

      Sean O'Neill

      I haven’t been to the properties, Stuart, so I don’t know. The author says his reviews were “reasonable.”

      The issue being raised is that TripAdvisor’s rules say:
      No reviews written by ownership or management; including past employees or anyone associated with/related to employees of the property in question.

       
  9. Jenny Mathieson

    This is exactly the reason why we need sites like Triptease. We work alongside the industry and encourage reviews from hoteliers and agents, all of whom have been forced to lurk in the shadows for far too long. We believe their valuable knowledge and experience should be shared. By operating a ‘real name’ policy and tagging reviewers who work in the industry, we hope we can do away with anonymous reviews and pseudonyms.

    Sites like TripAdvisor actively discourage the industry from sharing their knowledge and experiences and Triptease aims to change that.

     
  10. Sam Daams

    Obviously kwikchex spent a lot of time finding out this guy or more likely got tipped off by a competitor and is using the case to market themselves, but it’s fairly easy to actually search by image, for example using tineye.com or Google Image search. Here’s a result using Google’s search by image for example: http://goo.gl/A9ku8 :)

    Just another good reason to not use the same photos on all social media accounts if you want to do something slightly dodgy…

     
 
 

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