TripAdvisor to be investigated by advertising regulator

Interesting developments from the UK after the Advertising Standards Authority confirmed it has launched a probe into TripAdvisor over claims it has untrustworthy reviews.

tripadvisor action2

The investigation was triggered by an official complaint from Kwikchex, the reputation management consultancy which has spent the best part of a year collecting information and examples of hotels that claim to have been on the receiving end of alleged defamatory and false reviews on TripAdvisor.

The ASA will not be investigating any of the reviews in question, but is allowed – under its remit of monitoring the activities of a company’s marketing – to investigate TripAdvisor’s claims to have unbiased and genuine reviews from real travellers featured on the site.

The investigation could take just a few weeks or several months, depending on the volume of the material filed by both Kwikchex and the response from TripAdvisor, an ASA official says.

Both companies have been informed this week of the investigation.

Kwikchex made two specific allegations about TripAdvisor to the ASA:

  • TripAdvisor has breached the CAP Code (Committee of Advertising Practice) by using unverified testimonials in its advertising messages.
  • TripAdvisor has misled consumers by claiming it has genuine reviews from real travellers.

After the probe has completed, ASA investigators could easily dismiss the complaints from Kwikchex, a decision it makes often on many of the 26,000 complaints it receives each year.

However, if either of the complaints are upheld, TripAdvisor could be forced to alter some of its on-site branding and external marketing messages.

A TripAdvisor official says:

“TripAdvisor does not comment on current or potential regulatory investigations or litigation.”

The official probe by the ASA is the first significant development since Kwikchex started its own investigation into alleged defamatory reviews in September 2010.

The company has also recently filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission in the US, once again accusing TripAdvisor for using “misrepresentation, misleading statements and unlawful practices of advertising using reviews where no substantiation is available and from a source where fraudulent reviews are known to be posted”.

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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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  4. RB

    RB says:
    September 22, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    Sorry, Worth repeating;

    Dave says:
    September 4, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    Hi – The jury is still out with TA at the moment. However, they did remove a malicious listing from our site when we complained. Let’s face it, you can normally tell what is right and what is not quite so!

    Good to know. Please tell me who to write to have one removed. Thanks

     
  5. RB

    Woth repeating;

    Dave says:
    September 4, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    Hi – The jury is still out with TA at the moment. However, they did remove a malicious listing from our site when we complained. Let’s face it, you can normally tell what is right and what is not quite so!

    Good tell know. Please tell me who to write to have one removed. Thanks

     
  6. Olga Kovshanova, MBA, MA

    Dave: About the TA paid line directly to a hotel’s website. You seem to forget that if a prospective guests books thru a third party site the hotel must pay a commission.

    Does not take very many bookings thru the hotel’s direct line to pay TA for the link and make a profit!

    Olga Kovshanova, MBA, MA

     
    • Dave

      Olga,

      My point is that if I pay a large amount of money (for us) for a link to our website, I don’t expect it to be overshadowed by a facility to book directly with a third party, a screen-inch away!

      And no, your reasoning. IMHO, is flawed. How many people would pick the big CHECK RATES (or whatever) button, instead of my little text link. I think I would be lucky to get *anyone* clicking on it….and I would be out of pocket by the business listing fee. In which case I save money by *not partaking.

      …and by the way I’m pro-TA.

      Dave

       
  7. Olga Kovshanova, MBA, MA

    Robert: Why must someone have stayed in a hotel to review it? One can simple visit a hotel to review it!

    Olga Kovshanova, MBA, MA

     
    • Robert Gilmour

      What I find hugely annoying about these discussions is that different people based their comments on different assumptions so there are as many comments as there are assumptions.

      Look, can we agree one criterion for Trip Advisor to use please, that the guest MUST HAVE HAD AN OVERNIGHT STAY AT THE HOTEL Then we have some homogeneity. A ‘visit’ is a nonsensical concept/event on which to base an argument for the validity of a review. Are we not talking about travel shoppers being on Trip Advisor trying to ratify or otherwise whether they should STAY at a particular property, or am i from a different planet?

      This also has the significant advantage that there is some homogeneity of criteria between TA and Booking.com, laterooms reviews &c – which makes total common sense in any assessment of this topic.

      if trip Advisor has to change its systems so as to be able to prove the guest has stayed, so be it, that has to be a critical part oi the validity of their reviews.

      I can’t believe some of the stuff that’s written about this topic. trip Advisor are in the dock for various reasons, and they and only they can get themselves out of it.

       
      • Olga Kovshanova, MBA, MA

        No-brainer: There is absolutely no rational reasons why an online reviewer must have slept in a hotel to review it! Simply visiting a hotel is enough to get a valid impress worth sharing. Or not even visit a hotel, simply interact or non-interact with it online, phone or snail-mail.

        Olga Kovshanova, MBA, MA
        Sales and Guest Relations Manager for CIS, Eastern Europe & Greece
        The Grand Mauritian Resort & Spa, Luxury Collection, Starwood

         
        • Robert Gilmour

          I couldn’t agree less. if we are going to accept that someone who hasn’t even been at a hotel or seen it can review it, then, good luck Trip Advisor, march on, I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous. These would never be my professional standards so i want to make it abundantly clear i don’t subscribe to them. Heaven help the hotels. Olga have you ever owned a hotel?

          End of my contribution. I’m a pragmatist. I want to stay in a hotel. i want the HONEST OPIN ION OF SOMEONE ELSE WHO HAS STAYED THERE, NOT SOMEONE WHO HASN’T EVEN SEEN THE PROPERTY. We need minimum standards here, not the sky’s the limit, anythinjg goes approach – that’s what’s causing most of the current animosity towards TA. its also IMPERATIVE in any resolve that the source can be verified by TA.

          As i say clearly i must be from another planet.

           
          • Olga Kovshanova, MBA, MA

            What “animosity” to TA? TA is the MOST used and respected online review site on the net. TA is NOT going to go away.

            Hotels’ online reputation managers need to understand that all hotels will just have to live with TA so they may as well start to use it productively. TA can and is a GREAT source for new guests!

            When hotels gets a positive review then thank the writer. When hotels get negative reviewa thank the writer for bringing the matter to the hotel’s attention. Assure that the situation will corrected and invite them back with a free upgrade to see the improvements personally. This impresses new potential guests that the hotel attends to the business of PLEASING guests!

            No one expects 100% perfection. If all the reviews for a hotel are RIGHT ON everyone will know that that reviews are fake. People are impressed when hotel management listens and attends to improvements.

            Certainly, a person does NOT have to sleep in a hotel to review it. All they have to do is interact with it–in person or from a distance.

            Olga Kovshanova, MBA, MA
            Sales and Guest Relations Manager for CIS, Eastern Europe & Greece
            The Grand Mauritian Resort & Spa, Luxury Collection, Starwood

             
          • Margo

            Dave if I can reinforce your comments – last year one of my guests called to cancel his room on the morning of his expected arrival I reminded him of our 48 hour cancellation policy of which he was not pleased, turns out he did not plan his Itinerary properly and he needed to move on to his next stopover and bypass his stay with us – again I explained that the 1st night charge would apply. 1 week later I found his review on TA that he had “arrived” to our property and found ( in his own words) a “dump” he proceeded to say he would not bother even trying to gain access by the look of the outside ? no mention of his cancellation attempt and the fact that he was miffed that he was charged and he used TA and the ease of venting ones spleen. I could of course by TA advice, take my right to reply but I am afraid that is another cost to me both in time and money, another person to employ to answer this rubbish – this is not constructive criticism – TA will fall the way of all other platforms that work this way – not knowing what to believe – read between the lines – it is not good enough. Fake reviews – what about fake content on any reviews good bad and indifferent.

             
  8. Robert Gilmour

    I could see this coming. It is time that people started thinking about suppliers, even 10% of the time, rather than customers (all of the time). Personally I think it is disgraceful that a supplier’s business could be put at risk from a flawed concept like Trip Advisor. Tick box on line guarantees and accepting conditions &c are not good enough. The reviewer needs to have stayed at the hotel, and as a minimum standard, TA needs to guarantee this, to be fair to suppliers, and to be trustworthy to customers.

    No amount of number crunching takes this issue out, if Booking.com and Laterooms &c only publish reviews from stayers, then so should Trip Advisor and it is TA’s problem to determine how to achieve this, but it is one which must be solved if it is to have any credibility going forward. Get the truth then go is a ‘no goer’. as it can’t be proved.

    Booking.com and Laterooms produce reviews as by products and they can get it right, so TA, which is in the review business mainstream, or so it alleges, has to get it right too i’m afraid.

    Suppliers, advisors, customers, hoteliers – ti9me to get real – we have all either perperated, or been victims of, manipulation.

     
    • Dave

      Robert,

      Intrestingly, I’ve recently read through our reviews on Laterooms and Booking.com. If I compare ‘the feel’ of all of them against TA they come out pretty much the same.

      Probably does not mean much to you,; but there again *I know* that there are no false positive reviews on TA….

      Regards,

      Dave
      ——-

       
      • Robert Gilmour

        I expect the reviews on TA to reflect the quality of a stay, that’s why i’m on it after all, i’m not on it because i want to VISIT the hotel. That’s daft.

         
  9. Olga Kovshanova, MBA, MA

    TA would loose ALL VALUE in promoting hotels if it had only positive reviews!

    Note: most reviews are mixed stating both positive and negative points.

    Hotels must deliver excellent service and on TA and other sites take the wheat with chaff.

    TA provides every hotel with a option to reply to each review. A hotel does have the ability provide its point of view on guests’ kudos and criticisms, including pointing out that a particular review is false.

    Further TA does remove reviews that are obvious fake.

    To recap, if all reviews were raves then reviews would only amount to advertizing and be useless–NO potential guest would bother to read them!

    As an experienced Hotel Professional in Sales and Marketing, practice has taught that TA, et. al. reviews are one/some of the MOST EFFECTIVE sales tools available!

    Olga Kovshanova, MBA, MA

     
    • RB

      Olga Kovshanova, MBA, MA says: TA would loose ALL VALUE.

      Really all value. Miss. Kovshanova your statement sounds overstated.

      My Mom would say; if there are cars in the parking lot, they probably have good food.

      Positive feed back can make or break a business. No outstanding, positive reviews; walk away.

      The good reviews will accomplish the same result, but they will destroy their own business, which is the way it should be.

       
  10. RB

    Two years ago; I arranged a gathering of my family in a high profile, 5 star Hotel chain in a large city. The reservations were botched terribly, the rooms were seriously not sanitary, ill equipped, poorly supplied, this in and of itself can not be over stated. Room service; they did not just get a request or order incorrect, it never came. Dinner for 12 in the dining hall, was three hours late, after our choices were taken. We went through six bottles of wine prior to dinners arrival. We consumed our weight in starch. The entries, actually the entire a la carte presentation could not have been in a greater disarray. Food that did arrive was inedible. This Hotel lost, in their enclosed parking, our car; not stolen, they lost our vehicle. They found it, but we had to use taxis until it was found. The vehicles placement was transcribed incorrectly. A weeks stay was fully refunded. I still felt I did not receive enough. But, I did not give them a bad review and without hesitation, and we’ve stayed all over the world; it was the worst over all lodging experience of my life. But, I did not give them a bad review. It is, I believe, paramount to allow good reports to build a business. Let it stand or fall based on it’s own merits. Hopefully they’ve improved; I hope so.

     
  11. Dave

    Hi – The jury is still out with TA at the moment. However, they did remove a malicious listing from our site when we complained. Let’s face it, you can normally tell what is right and what is not quite so!

    On the subject of the business lsiting, I find TA’s stance to be amazing. They will not remove any links to third party ‘agency’ sites that you may be with if you take up their offer. And guess what, their big ‘Book Now’ (or ‘Check rates’) button that takes you to these sites, is a lot bigger than your little text link to *your* website! So basically, you are wasting your money if you are with booking.com or something else…

     
  12. Olga Kovshanova, MBA, MA

    TA is more positive then negative. In fact, a resent Cornelle University study found more positive then negative reviews and is developing a program to flag false reviews.

    Suppose that we have to, as the old proverb goes, “Take the wheat with the chaff!”

    Olga Kovshanova, MBA, MA

     
    • RB

      Chaff is just not acceptable if it’s lies. It harms and distort a businesses growth. My apologies; an MBA should know this. I doubt we’ll find a C or SEO who will not agree, including those who ascribe to these great proverbs.

       
  13. David Wilkinson

    I am posting again in reply to some of the comments made.

    Let me say first that I act as a marketing agent for several hotels in Siem Reap Cambodia… a developing tourist destination (but still a ‘cowboy’ town), with a huge competition and a lack of bodies for beds. I advise properties from 5-star down to 2.

    Next, TA do post reviews from people who dont actually stay. T is just plain ridiculous. I normally complain and the reviews get removed.

    With regards to TA’s Business Listing… it costs you, but if you’re well placed at the top of the TA listing, it pays for itself easily. Most of my clients buy it and thank me for my good advise. I cant believe TA punish hotels for not buying, but then sometimes I am a bit naive.

    Will TA fade away due to fake reviews and legal action? I seriously doubt it. It is far too big. 40 million visitors a month is a lot of clout!

    Competitors do post fake bad reviews. One prospective client GM/owner told me he was planning to convert an unusable room into an office, hire some students and have them write fake reviews. Unbelievable! as I said above, Siem Reap is still a ‘cowboy’ town. Asian mafias and gangsters abound. Some hoteliers are coming close to having their knee-caps broken!

    TA is so influential that I have even experienced potential guests booking my clients hotels and then write bad (but genuine) reviews complaining about the location and the colour scheme. They obviously didnt research the hotels attributes (which is so easy to do). They just booked based on the position of the hotel in the TA listing. How bizarre!, buts its an eye-opener.

    TA is powerful. TA have worked towards being powerful. But with power comes responsibility. I believe TA provide a much needed service to travelers, but TA are far from perfect. They must be accountable for what they publish. The anonymity of the reviewer is the root cause. I welcome the investigation as it will surely drive changes which will fix some of TAs failings and allow travelers to obtain more accurate information and views.

     
  14. Brad Malone

    Our small Inn has begun to use TA as a business tool. We dread the day that someone writes something awful about us, but in the meantime, we’re using those high ranking reviews to promote our business to a world that would never have seen us.

    Additionally, since we’re in Taos, New Mexico, a town of 5000 people with almost 40 small Inns, we have to distinguish ourselves to capture the best part of the market. TA helps with those efforts tremendously.

    Having said all that, TA’s problems are well documented. Fake reviews are just one of them. They are also in trouble for placing businesses in arbitrary geographic designations that often have nothing to do with “where” the business should be listed. In our market, the exclusion of several of the best Inns, placing them in obscure or unknowable and unincorporated “areas,” has led to significant financial hardship for those Inns (disclosure: my Inn is not affected). TA’s response that we should “fix our geography” shows a corporate culture that is defensive and rigid.

    We’re hoping that they can adapt and fix these issues. Otherwise, TA will fade away or be replaced by something that the public finds easier to use or more trustworthy.

     
    • Olga Kovshanova, MBA, MA

      When something more useful comes along TA will change or be replaced.

      Do not “dread” a negative review. Respond to it and make it positive that potential guests see the you reply to comments and make efforts to improve. This impresses people.

      Olga Kovshanova, MBA, MA
      Sales and Guest Relations Manager for CIS, Eastern Europe & Greece
      The Grand Mauritian Resort & Spa, Luxury Collection, Starwood

       
  15. Margo

    The most interesting issue I had with Tripadvisor was when one of our Guests contacted us by email to say that he had tried to write a review but could not – he received a response from Tripadvisor telling him that because he had not “booked” with Tripadvisor he could not write the review…………..most amused this is the end game it appears Tripadvisor to come a booking agent. I do find it quite sinister of late I worked hard at “promoting” Tripadvisor over the years in the main up to 80 good reviews then I started to be bombarded with “take a listing” emails from them – quoting anything up to £250 quaterly for the privilidge ( remember I did not have a choice if I wanted to be on Tripadvisor in the fist place ) I did not take this offer from them and have noticed of late a lot of “bad reviews” coming up for us…………my gut feeling is that they are sinister and ruthless and in full control – secretative – profit is the name of the game and nothing comes before this Members – Holiday experience – Hoteliers – Restaurants. People say it is too big to bother – but they do bother – they have a management team on the ground in every country I do not know the name or phone or email of our Management Team – do you ?

     
    • Olga Kovshanova, MBA, MA

      Using the hotel’s right to comment brings new guests. If a hotel does not choose to reply they loose the new quests. It’s FREE advertizing!

      Olga Kovshanova, MBA, MA
      Sales and Guest Relations Manager for CIS, Eastern Europe & Greece
      The Grand Mauritian Resort & Spa, Luxury Collection, Starwood

       
  16. Randy Brown

    Being a hotelier, we have developed a really great working relationship with Tripadvisor. We encourage guests to review this site before making reservations and we ask that they leave feedback for others. Tripadvisor goes out of their way to help hotels succeed and provides exceptional tools and ideas.

    Almost all hotels also have a pay survey service, submitted to guests by email after check-out. This allows travellers to express their opinions, without being published in a forum. From the hotel side, it is a great tool to measure peformance and product against guest expectations.

    In both cases we receive comments which are not accurate. For example, email address is for the person who booked the room, which may not be the person who actually stayed in the room.

    To assume Tripadvisor is 100% accurate is a joke. To hold them accountable for the dishonesty of others is outrageous.

    Tripadvisor is an excellent tool for travellers to get a feel for what they can expect. Everyone needs to read between the lines, and use some common sense. If a restaurant has 10 reviews and only one person leaves a bad review, five pages in length, look at it closely. Most of the time you will find that one problem turned into at least eleven issues. Is it :fake” if the writer embellishes the story?

    The same is the case for “fake” or unverifed reviews. If the business has 10 reviews, all good with similar comments, take it with a grain of salt. No matter what restrictions are placed on the person who submits a comment, you are always going to get a few which are unreal. Sometimes the writer has unobtainable expectation; should we consider that “fake”? If it does not meet the normal standards for a review, do we not publish it? I think not, otherwise it becomes sensorship.

    My point, Tripadvisor is a tool. They examine every review before it is published, to do their best to assure it is accurate and real. They ask the writer to sign a disclaimer. It is up to the reader to make a decision, which does require some common sense. Perhaps Kwikchex does not believe we can think for ourselves.

     
  17. Murray Harrold

    I think we have to make a few assumptions, here.

    First, that TripAdvisor are not a complete bunch of born yesterday egits – I am sure they have systems in place so that can monitor what is coming in and from where and can monitor any (repeated) duff reviews .. and the premises owner can rebutt any allegations. That said, some input from Tripadvisor would be welcome, here.

    Second, we need to get behind the motives for the actions of Kwikchex – given that there is no such thing as a free lunch. As mentioned, I doubt very much if a large grouping is behind Kwikchex actions (if there is, we should be told) and a small one off hotel would not have the resources for this sort of action. Ergo, there is only one explanation – a rather cack-handed attempt at “hightened media attention” and self-agrandissment.

    We need to remember the words of Voltaire: “I disagree totally with what your say, but will defend to the death your right to say it”

     
    • Andrew

      Murry it cost around £200 GBP a year to become a member of Kwikchex alot less than what Tripadvisor charges for one of there business listings

       
  18. George

    In my opinion Trip advisor is a very valuable tool and my use of ithas proved accurate enough, even when inspected some badly critiqued hotels out of curiosity, or in areas i have strong product knowledge of. That said, Trip advisor never claimed to be the sole all-mighty truthful soul of absolute objective reviews, it has rules of conduct and personal responsibility is of highimportance where people state their opinion-evaluation of products publically.

    Two points to bare in mind in my opinion prior to jumping in the pool:
    1. when you have 5 evaluations of a hotel, this cannot be taken as objective review and we all know that, it may of course affect perception but any consumer who knows how to shop will get a second and third source opinion and will look into more sources.

    2. when you have 300 reviews if a great or bad establishment and they almost all coincide, i believe there must be some level of common sense there, and who would denominate a world wide renowed hotel as bad and be taken seriously under consideration?

    One thing is online reputation and e-marketing and another is to take on Tripadvisor. In any case, yesthe bittered employee and client can go over the edge but still this tells you something about other aspects of management. the mouth to mouth was intangible to the minds of some in the past, well it has never been intangible, and now it is even easier to monitor in Tripadvisor. so be it who it may that is behind all this they should look on the great opportunity provided to them by Trip advisor and thank the free info and heads up.

    Malpractice on individual level will always be an issue but you can not go against the messenger, and much more when they are part of one of the top hotel industryand tourism services organizations globally.

    I think some should be even thankful instead. Finally, what if the people behind this heard someone on the street talk bad about their hotel, would they call ASA as well? Democracy if freedom of speech and each of us bares the responsibility of our own words, if you cannot reach the law breaker (assuming someone goes too far) then youarrest and punish the establishment owner…??? outrageous!

    I say some hotel industry execs must look more into improving their functions and establishment management and stop blaming highly useful and respected enterprises, at the end of the day, doing just that makes them all the same as the people that bitterly attack hitels on online evaluation pages inthe first place, there have you the irony of the whole matter….

    thank you.

     
  19. Tony

    I write reviews on restaurants, hotels and theatres which I visit.

    These are done in my own name and to help other people make their own judgements.

    Tony Glazier

     
  20. Mark Wilson

    The Problem with Trip Advsior is that you do not need to have booked a hotel via the site to leave a review. This makes it vulnerable to your competitors or anyone with a grudge, (such as an ex employee for example) to leave an unfair or totally fabricated review. It can of course be a great forum to advertise the good points of your business, but whilst is is set up in the way it currently is, it will remain open to abuse, and thus will never be a totally satifactory (and fair) forum to judge. I have even heard tales of persons leaving reviews on the ‘wrong hotel’, i.e one with a similar name to the one thay actualy stayed at!. How can this be fair and indeed an accurate platform to judge someones business?.

     
  21. Murray Harrold

    Of course, this begs the question: Why do Kwikchex want to do this?

    No doubt Kwikchex charge for their services … so it is unlikely that a one off small hotel is likely to employ them. We must deduce that it is either a) a large group or b) a rather banal attempt to get publicity/ increase income on the part of Kwikchex.

    Now, most of the big groups are well advanced enough with doing the “hotel thing” properly… they have their standards and have been doing the job of checking both their own hotels and their franchise group members for a long time … and certainly if, say, Holiday Inn Express Hotels or Radisson Blu had garnered a reputation as some sort of fleapits, I am sure the various national media/ TV stations would have picked up long ago. So… this can but lead one to one conclusion…

    True, there may well be (I am sure there is) the odd bit of argy-bargy going on… bits of naughty reviews getting posted as much as good ones… but all is fair in love and war and I do not doubt for a minute that TripAdvisor have developed a bit of a nose for giving people a slap on the wrist when appropriate.

    Above all, let us remember that, at the end of the day, if you are (any) business do your job well and look after your customers properly you do not have to worry about “online reputation” – or if an indivdual of note, if you make sure you stay in your own marital bed and don’t get involved with matters of a shady nature … then the same applies.

    So, let us turn our spotlight on Kwikchex. What a lot of “badges” on their website. All of a nature suggesting that these may somehow be a badge of honour or some sort of nationally apporved logo. Who do they “help” – barnds with a problem. Well, Coca-Cola had a problem with Dasani What did they do? Call in Kwikchex? Nope. Coca-Cola had the sense to look at the issue, realise what was wrong and fix it… by withdrawing the product. They may have had to eat some humble pie but in the end, they did the honourable thing. What about the various public figures caught with their pants down? Call in Kwikchex? Well, you could do … I mean in many cases, you can always defend the indenfensible. Or can you? Would it not be better to hold your hands up, take the stick and move on?

    Help with customer processes? Oh! P-lease. If you can’t answer the telphone why are you in business?

    Nope, sorry. This is a complete red herring … and some gratuitous mis-placed attempt to try and make a name for oneself. I am sorry Kwikchex, we are not all daft and can see stright through this one. Oh! And I am sure the ASA will, as well.

     
    • Andrew

      Your missing the point murry it’s impossible to reply or put right something thats listed in a FAKE REVIEW,take a look at some of the case studies on kwikchex web site and hopefully you will be less cynical.

       
    • Andrew

      Sorry Murry The ASA as just up held the complaint towards Tripadvisor

       
  22. David Wilkinson

    So… any news site which publishes honest experiences and views by its members cannot be held accountable or be subject to interference from government…. is that right?…. try that in China… or North Korea… or even western countries for that matter… I wonder who mounted the recent attack on Wikileaks!

    Regardless of TA reviewers having to agree to the clause…

    “I certify that this review is my genuine opinion of this hotel, and that I have no personal or business affiliation with this establishment, and have not been offered any incentive or payment originating from the establishment to write this review.”

    …we all know that fake reviews are rampant and even reviews are posted from people who didnt even see the hotels, but who simply had difficulty booking a room due to email problems and want to gripe about it. OK… TA removes these reviews when they are disputed, but in the interim period, hotels lose business.

    And its stupid to say ‘laws exist to punish the violators’. Reviews are anonymous. Even TA has no hard and fast identification of those posting the reviews. The reviewers are untouchable and TA knows it!

    TA is a vehicle for people to anonymously and publicly display false and damaging material. Most material may be truthful, but that is of no benefit to those who suffer unjustly. TA is the only entity which can be held accountable for the damage it knowingly causes.

     
  23. Susan Atwood

    I can only speak to the reviews written about our facility- Wilson Lake Inn – Wilton, ME. All our reviews have been written by real people who have visited with us. I read and respond to them and have met and/or know these individuals personally.

    Tripadvisor has provided our independent inn with a platform which enables us to reach a much greater audience and helps us to compete on a level playing field with the big boys! Not an easy task for a small independent, locally owned lodging facility in the foothills of western Maine. Many of our guests have booked with us based on our reviews on Tripadvisor.
    Susan Atwood, Owner
    Wilson Lake Inn
    Wilton,ME

     
    • Kitty Cochrane

      Exactly, TripAdvisor provides a great platform for smaller business who dont/cant fork out huge amounts on advertising costs. So what if someone (a competitor maybe)starting posting false and damaging reviews about you? they could do as many as they wanted under different names if they chose to target you and potentially seriously affect your business. Wouldnt you want there to be someone who actually cares that this is happening. Im not saying Kwikchex arent also doing well from heightened media attention, but they do make a good point.

       
      • Rachel Shaw

        This happened to a friend of mine who owns and runs a very good restaurant. He has had a review posted which is obviously false and so full of complaints that even the worst restaurant on a bad night wouldn’t have them all happen at the same time! This should have been removed but is still there after he has contacted them to explain and request removal. It may well be written by a competitor, it seems the only explanation. The reviewer made no complaint on the day he claims to have dined there and the staff can’t recall any problems with the service that night either. It was a personal and damaging attack. If you read it, most people can see it is unreal, but it will put people off, so why don’t they simply remove the post. It has the potential to seriously damage his business. When it works it’s fine but if it can be used to bring another restaurant into disrepute unfairly then it is bad.

         
        • Robert Gilmour

          Look, this happens time after time after time. Can we just get real about this, and stop the woffle. Its getting us nowhere.

          For a travel shopper using TA as a review base for a hotel, the reviewing guest/s must have stayed at the hotel

          For a travel shopper using TA as a review base for a restaurant, the reviewing guest/s must have dined at the restaurant

          And TA needs to prove the due diligence it has done to validate the review

          NOTHING ;LESS WILL DO. Its a no-brainer. We are all making what is a very simple common sense concept into a minefield, There’s absolutely no need for it, lets get it right and move on.

          Trip Advisor is using and abusing hotel and restaurant reviews for commercial gain. Well done Expedia.

           
          • Stuart

            @Robert

            Why?

            What about when the place is so awful that you just turned around and walked out?

            What about places that cannot be booked online?

            What about places that lack the resources to have some sort of verified stay mechanism?

            What about places where the reservations book is an envelope full of cash stuck under the TV?

            What about places that are off the grid and lack internet connectivity or fax/phone?

            Many small, family-run businesses fall into some of these categories – your suggestion would have them barred from having the ability to be reviewed online.

             
          • Robert Gilmour

            Stuart, by whom and how do you suggest they are reviewed?

            For stay, i’d concede this becomes ‘booked a stay’ this covers the first ‘what if’

            i’m striving to get minimum standards here, what i’m reading has now convinced me that’s impossible, so we just continue with the talking shop,

             
          • Stuart

            @Robert

            Think there are two primary problems in requiring a confirmed stay to be entitled to a review.

            a) Places that were so disagreeable you walk about without staying. My example of this is always the four-star hotel in Chiang Mai where I arrived to checkin very late to find the receptionist getting a blowjob. Should I bee so inclined I should be able to review that hotel online despite my not having stayed there. Other examples off top of my head would be undisclosed construction and base lies on the behalf of the hotel that may see a guest decide to walk out.

            b) Places that don’t have the resources/infrastructure to be a part of some kind of global reservation confirmation shebang. These small businesses all get disenfranchised by systems like this. I think this is the bigger problem of the two.

            I see no real problem with a system where reviews can be “confirmed” on some kind of an optional basis and marked accordingly, but to make it mandatory I think in neither workable nor fair.

             
          • Robert Gilmour

            Stuart, point (a) is covered in my last post insofar as you have booked a stay, if you walk out, at least you had the intention to stay, the booking should be traceable – surely?

            Look, it is clear that there about as many views as there are reviews, so I don’t see any resolve to this anytime soon, so Trip Advisor rightly or wrongly will continue to dominate the industry.

            Of course my view has exceptions, you are right. So will any practical solution, The exceptions get dealt with/covered in the solution.

            I’m off now do achieve something where I can make a difference!

             
          • Olga Kovshanova, MBA, MA

            Stuart: Right ON!

            Olga Kovshanova, MBA, MA
            Sales and Guest Relations Manager for CIS, Eastern Europe & Greece
            The Grand Mauritian Resort & Spa, Luxury Collection, Starwood

             
  24. RobertKCole

    Reviewing TripAdvisor’s US site, I see the following claims:

    1) TripAdvisor offers trusted advice from real travelers
    2) TripAdvisor® features reviews and advice…
    3) TripAdvisor’s travel community has written millions of reviews describing their best and worst vacations, so you can decide where to go and what to avoid.
    4) … you’ll find real hotel reviews you can trust at TripAdvisor.
    5) Millions of travelers have shared their candid reviews…
    6) … helpful traveler suggestions and photos to guide you.
    7) … travelers’ honest advice on where to stay, eat, and play

    It would appear that all these claims are valid and do not provide any form of guarantee that all of the reviews have been validated and proven to be 100% factual.

    One could argue that point #7 may be difficult for TripAdvisor to unilaterally prove, after all, that advice is purely posted in the form of an opinion. If traveler is providing “dishonest” advice by defaming or libeling a business, that traveler should be held accountable for their own actions.

    Let’s be serious. TripAdvisor requires all reviewers to agree to the following statement before filing a review:

    “I certify that this review is my genuine opinion of this hotel, and that I have no personal or business affiliation with this establishment, and have not been offered any incentive or payment originating from the establishment to write this review.”

    No rational person can conceivably argue that any website posting consumer opinions must validate the factual veracity of each statement. Setting such a precedent is ludicrous.

    Perhaps we could logically extend the concept to apply to related areas such as blog comments, OpEd pieces or political oration…

    Speech may be free, but if all forms of media are required to fact check all opinions, it could get expensive…

    If reviews are legitimately defamatory or commerce-based, laws exist to punish the violators. TripAdvisor is not responsible to serve as the prosecutor judge or jury…

     
    • Deson

      I think point #7 is also hard to prove, especially since Tripadvisor has done a deal with Accor hotels to allow anonymous postings “From an Accor Traveller” on Accor hotels pages.

      As far as I am aware, this feature is not available to other companies

       
      • RB

        A valid point, I believe, concerning Accor. The arrangement Accor has with Trip Advisor shows both a conflict of interest & partiality.

        As a resort; we’ve suffered erroneous reports posted to Trip Advisor. Trip, true to form, refused to remove them. If we, the resort, as victims of abusive customers published a censorious report of this nature referencing specific guests who burned a suite carpet, became ill in the lobby after too much alcohol, or tore the cloth on a costly pool table requiring an expensive replacement; we would, without a doubt, be taken to task by attorney’s. My suggestion is to perform a service to both customer and company by publishing positive reports only. If no positive reports exist, do not visit that location. My mother used to say to us as children on vacation and I’ll bet some of you as well, if there’s no cars in the parking lot, do not stop there to eat. Partner companies advised us of examples where competitors have posted baseless, fabricated, reports by fictitious customers. If you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything at all. I still believe in that quote. Thank you.

         
    • Andrew

      Seriously were you one of the lawyers for OJ Simpson?

       
    • bkinnear

      As a hotelier, I can tell you that competitors have, several times, posted false reviews of hotels within my company’s portfolio. With not much detective work, several of these have been easy to spot. When I have disputed the reviews with TripAdvisor, they have removed the false reviews. This tells me that they are aware that false reviews are often posted. I am always wary of an unfavorable review if we cannot validate the problem reported or have no record of the problem being reported. Obviously not all guests will alert a staff member before departing and then will go on to the site to post of their dissatisfaction; however, from my standpoint, the site is not overly credible.

       
  25. Stuart

    I assume the ASA will be calling Pepsi next, just to confirm their drink is indeed “the taste of a new generation”.

     
    • brian

      Hmm being in the UK hotel Business,, what about Booking.Com !!!!
      they accept anonymous reviews
      And as a Hotelier you have no right to reply
      surely if a reviewer publishes an anonymous review then this illuminates a problem
      with that particular guest

       
      • Barbara

        Booking.Com are a disgrace, I am a guest house owner and somebody put a review on the site that was just heresay from another guest and Booking.Com refused to take it down. (the disgruntled guest did not put a review up because they new it was their fault).

        Without a right of reply it makes it a very one sided. I wonder if this would be legal in a Court of Law.

         
 
 

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