7 years ago
 

TripAdvisor slaps Red Badge on hotel for writing own reviews

TripAdvisor has punished an Irish hotel for apparently asking staff to write favourable reviews about the property on the user review website.

clare inn

The Clare Inn Hotel & Suites from Dromoland, Republic of Ireland, was issued with what is known as a Red Badge – a large red box placed again the hotel’s page on TripAdvisor to warn users about the validity of the reviews as they may have been written by the hotel itself.

The warning says:

“TripAdvisor has reasonable cause to believe that individuals or entities associated with or having an interest in this property may have interfered with traveller reviews and/or the popularity index for this property. We make our best efforts to identify suspicious content and are always working to improve the processes we use to assess traveller reviews.”

clare inn2

The Clare Inn is part of the Lynch Hotel Group, owner of seven properties in the Republic.

The issue came to light when Irish broadcaster RTE was handed an email from a hotel executive to a number of colleagues asking them write positive reviews about the property.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, the email read:

“We have come up with a plan for everyone on this email only to post a review about their stay at the Clare Inn. You must do this from your HOME PC or internet cafe, do not use a Lynch PC or the IP address will be picked up. I’d rather you didn’t discuss this with your team. This is not something we would normally endorse but the reviews of the Clare Inn at the moment leave us with no choice. Please do not use hotel language or else our plan will backfire.”

Claire Inn has yet to return requests for comment on the saga.

A TripAdvisor official says the Red Badge punishment has only been issued to a “tiny fraction” of the 450,000 hotels listed on pAdvisor – in other words, a rare occurrence.

The suspect reviews were removed from the hotel’s page this week.

“In addition to being a violation of our terms of service and an unethical practice, review fraud is also a violation of the law in many countries including the United Kingdom and Ireland, pursuant to the 2009 EU Unfair Commercial Practices Directive.”

The sentence does not end there. TripAdvisor says it employs “several other methods” to penalise those that “attempt to game the system”, including dropping the property down the site’s popularity index and banished from its Choice awards, press releases and top ten lists.

The Red Badge disaster for the Clare Inn comes against the backdrop of growing disquiet amongst some in the hotel sector over the TripAdvisor system.

A class action against the site is still being threatened by reputation management service Kwikchex – covering alleged defamatory reviews by users on hotel, vacation rental and destination pages.

A debate is also currently raging as to the best methods for responding to reviews on TripAdvisor.

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Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May was a co-founder and member of the editorial team from September 2009 to June 2017.

 

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  1. andresorta

    TripAdvisor needs to be more proactive in doing this. There are way too many hotels writing their own reviews out there… just look for all the reviews made by users with only 1 contribution. In my experience the only way TripAdvisor will slap the red badge on a hotel is when another hotel complaints about it to them.

    I’ve been assured multiple times by TripAdvisor that every review is verified by either a person or their algorithm, which also check’s IP addresses to make sure the same computer is not making multiple reviews. Still, I find it very unlikely that they are proactively removing fake reviews. And let’s remember, TripAdvisor makes money from hotel ad revenue, via PPC ads and now charging hotels to link directly to their website.

     
    • Phil

      I know the majority of reviews are by people with only one contribution but it isn’t an indicator as to whether they’re fake, unfortunately. Although it has umpteen million members (I can’t recall what the latest claim is) most of them aren’t regular contributors. At a rough guess I’d say half the reviews on TA are by “one time only” reviewers.

      I don’t think TA would slap a red badge on a hotel when another one complains about it. There would be a hell of a lot more red badges if that were the case, whereas this hotel is the only one I’ve seen in years.

      DOES ANYONE KNOW OF OTHER “RED BADGES”? I’D BE VERY INTERESTED TO KNOW, PLEASE CONTACT ME.

      The old “red badge” is exceedingly rare because TA is incapable of spotting fakes, whether they are from owners, competitors or mischief-makers.

      IP addresses can be changed by using a proxy IP – there are millions of free proxies available. Some ISPs don’t even issue fixed IP addresses – it changes each time the connection is renewed. So either way, that check is easy to dodge. With a fresh IP then the only thing remaining is to clear any TripAdvisor cookies takes less than a minute), create a new account using a free email address and hey presto – TripAdvisor won’t be able to tell that the new member has an existing account or not.

      A few photos, a question on a forum and a couple of reviews later, and your new fake membership has a better TA “influence” rating (and hence more influence in TA’s ranking algorithm when you post a review)than most of the TA genuine members.

       
  2. Phil

    Let’s face it, the manager who sent out this email to staff was seriously stupid. I imagine his or her bosses would approve of Robert’s solution in this case. What an idiot. He could easily have tricked the system without leaving the smoking gun in the form of an email to staff – there are plenty of fakes on TripAdvisor that TA can do nothing about.

    As an extreme example, look at this one – http://bit.ly/dm4nzX – and tell me, are the reviews mainly genuine, or are there lots of fakes by the management, by the hotel’s enemies, or both? My bet is the latter. But TripAdvisor can’t tell and so the reviews stay put!

    Phil

     
  3. Farhan Ahmed

    If the hotel in question actually believed it would get away with hoodwinking the system then it raises serious questions about traveler reviews in general! However, the red badge notwithstanding, I doubt if the popularity of the hotel would go down as they have received a good amount of publicity via TV broacasts, this should actually push their ratings up…see the picture?

    Now you would have customers actually checking out on the property to see what the fuss was all about!

     
  4. Francis Shenstone

    Is trip advisor becoming the Google of the travel world?

    Will we all be studying TripAdvisor’s secret sauce rating system like the SEO phenomenon.

    Maybe I should become the first SEO consultant for Hotels wanting to get a good review/ranking on TripAdvisor or maybe some agency has beat me to it already?

    The game keeps changing, you better be able to keep up or you won’t be in business for long you hoteliers!

     
  5. RobertKCole

    If I am not mistaken, the color used by TripAdvisor appears to be Scarlet. Nathaniel Hawthorne would be proud.

    I would propose an alternative approach that would provide a greater deterrent for hotels considering gaming the TripAdvisor system.

    First, a two-step process to determine if a hotel suspected of gaming the system truly authored its own reviews and to ensure justice is appropriately served:

    Step 1) Throw the General Manager into a deep lake.

    a) If the individual sinks, the hotel did not write the reviews and should be fully exonerated.

    b) If the individual floats, the hotel did create the illegitimate reviews and be punished pursuant to step 2.

    Step 2) Burn the General Manager at the stake.

    One may ask what would happen if the nefarious activity was undertaken by a hotel brand, management company or third party without the knowledge or consent of the property general manager?

    This is simply solved.

    In the case of chain affiliated hotels, the CEO of the management company, brand and/or third party would also simultaneously be subjected to the same lake test.

    In the interest of fairness, only the individual(s) that floated would be subjected to incineration.

    As a result of this easily implemented policy, one would imagine the number of faked reviews would drop precipitously.

    Please do not hesitate to contact me for solutions to any other pressing challenges facing the global hospitality industry.

     
    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @robert – I believe Halloween was three days ago (unless you own an iPhone, in which case given the weirdness of the time switch means it could be any day now) 🙂

       
      • RobertKCole

        Actually, with the success of the Tea Party movement in the recent election, Halloween was a bit extended this year in the States…

        As a result, with some newly elected officials clinging to Puritanical value systems, witch hunts and reactionary mobs seem to be enjoying a popular resurgence.

        Looking forward to seeing if my Android will be able to figure out the time without manual intervention this Sunday…

         
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    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Gary Arndt, Josiah Mackenzie, Henry Balanon, Gregory Ng, Sazbean and others. Sazbean said: RT @balanon: Kerpowwwww… TripAdvisor slaps Red Badge on hotel for writing own reviews http://bit.ly/a1GMo2 via @EverywhereTrip […]

     
 
 

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