Friday, April 30, 2010

The trouble with Tripadvisor

“Find write-ups by professionals whose judgments you trust and rely on that. . . . I would never rely on the judgment of amateurs.” - Arthur Frommer, founder of Frommer’s travel guide laying it on the line about Tripadvisor.

Over the last few days The View from Fez has been emailed by several riad and guest house owners with comments about problems with Tripadvisor.

Here is what one correspondent had to say: "Let's say you open a new guesthouse in Fez (or indeed, anywhere) and of course you want it to do well. So you get all your family and friends to write in to Tripadvisor to say what a marvellous place it is. But then your next-door neighbour opens a guesthouse too, so you get all your family and friends to write in to Tripadvisor again, to tell them what an awful place that is. In a nutshell, Tripadvisor can be manipulated. I'd say heed the warnings, but take the gushings with a pinch of salt."

And another one: "I have just booked with a place "Riad ....".Stupidly I read the reviews on Tripadviser, and 100% disagree with what was said. It was the most appalling stay anywhere. Just wondering if the Riad's reputation is common knowledge, I would really appreciate it, if you had any thoughts on it"

The well known travel magazine Travel & Leisure has published on “Who can you trust,” detailing fake negative and positive reviews appearing on for New York hotel that had not yet opened! As travel blog has noted “Perhaps TripAdvisor’s motto, 'get the truth, then go,' needs to be changed to, 'try to find the truth, and go.'”

Award-winning business journalist Barbara E. Hernandez, writing on Bnet, has this to say: I think most people understand that these Web sites which solicit volunteered comments often cater to those with the most extreme views on either end — it skews to people who really liked the place or really disliked it. In some instances, where the negative reviews were unfair, the hotel owner may feel there’s no alternative but to post to try to balance out the review. But that, is a slippery slope.

One of the big problems TripAdvisor is having is that hotel employees are posting negative reviews of competing hotels simply to lower their rankings. Other companies are offering public relations “services” to improve or inflate rankings. It’s no surprise then that TripAdvisor has a warning sticker near these hotels. As always, buyer beware.

Even more bizarre is a report from the New York Times: One recent TripAdvisor review of the agrotourism destination Schrute Farms awarded four stars, lavishly praising the food, while another yielded just one star, casting aspersions on the owners’ sanity. This wild disparity is especially odd because Schrute Farms doesn’t even exist.

The farm “belongs” to Dwight Schrute of the NBC series “The Office” 

The Times of London has kept a keen eye on and other travel "review" sites:

These examples are just the tip of an iceberg. The entire industry of reviewing hotels and restaurants is in the midst of a revolution that risks leading customers up the path to Fawlty Towers.

The traditional published guides, often compiled by independent inspectors, are struggling, while online sites where checks are few are proliferating.

A London Sunday Times investigation has shown:

1) “Guests” who have never even stayed at a hotel can boost or depress its rating by posting fake reviews.

2) Poorly rated establishments can lift their reputations from one to four stars in a matter of hours by posting fictional positive reviews.

3) Some establishments attempt to damage the reputations of rivals. So tough is the competition that even top hotels and restaurants would consider placing fake reviews to maintain their status.

The best advice is to remember that real travel guides have traditionally been compiled by professional writers who visit hotels and restaurants incognito and fiercely guard their impartiality. There are some great guides around, so if you are planing a trip to Morocco, we suggest you go get one and save yourself the possibility of misleading information.


Anonymous said...

It's good that you highlight this issue. It is a difficult one, who to trust? A problem for you guys on TVFF of course is that some of the advertisers on your site are among those manipulating Trip Advisor.

As for the Arthur Frommer comment, well we all know that were also stories about the behavior of the 'professionals' in Fes. Such as one spending nights in a guest house that then gets a 'special' mention in their guide.

David (M'kech) said...

The previous comment is a fine example of what tripadvisor has problems with... the comment about your sponsors is simple mean spirited mischief! His comment on Frommer is also wrong. The writers who work for reoutable guide books have strict anonimity conditions and never reveal who they are working for. It is a pity that some people can not be constructive.

Sandy McCutcheon said...

Yes, "Anonymous" is making unsubstantiated claims. But it is, as you say, what toubles so called advice sites.

On the second comment about "professionals" I have worked with guide book writers and they do indeed go in "undercover"!

Hotel Mama said...

Good story. We also had problems with bogus reviews from competitors. Sadly this happens too often and there seems little that Tripadvisor can do. I never use them now even though my hotel is listed with them. If I am travelling I talk with others and read the better guide books like Rough Guide and Lonely Planet.

Anonymous said...

Trip Advisor's FEZ FORUM is a good example of how reviews are can we trust the opinions of two of Trip Advisors "experts" on Fez who every day write critiques, good or bad, of other Riads..... we all know that these two "local experts" themselves own and run a Riad in the Fez medina.

tripadvisorwatch said...

You're right and it's good to see someone else spreading the word. TripAdvisor began well but is now badly flawed - anonymity masks lies and perfidy.

You may be interested in the blog "TripAdvisorWatch" which aims to highlight these issues.

Anonymous said...

I recently consulted TripAdvisor regarding a winter trip to Belize. One of my concerns was the escalating violent crime in the country. No sooner had I voiced my concerns than an argumentative "expert" demanded why I was 'always quoting the statistics' (I did this once) and announced that the forum be closed, irrespective of the fact that my concerns had not been addressed to my satisfaction. I wondered if she had some vested interest in the tourism trade there. I was not impressed.

CathyK from BC, Canada

Louise said...

A good trick is to check the reviews on sites like instead, where you can only post a review if you have actually booked a room through the site and not cancelled it. I doubt many people will actually book and pay their competitors' hotels to write fake reviews about them! Of course reviews are always subjective opinions and may not be shared by everyone, though.

Anonymous said...

Trip advisor is all a big joke!!! Mr. "Chano" the trip advisor local Fes "expert" actually has a direct interest in a Riad in Fez....the biggest joke is that as far as we know this "expert" does not even live in these local experts get paid by trip advisor?

Real Contender said...

At least Mr Chano seems to have some real knowledge of Fes, unlike many of the Fes luvvies who wouldn't know Attarine from Achabine.

Anonymous said...

Who is this "Anonymous" who always writes negative comments? Is it the same person? His or her attitude is very childish and indicates a rather disturbed person. In life I have always believed that if you can't say something positive, you should keep quiet. The comments give us anonymous ones a bad name! Having got that off my rather splendid chest, let me say I have read Chano's advice for a while and always found it very balanced. Also, when I met him, discovered a very nice person. My understanding is that he no longer has a direct interest in Fes properties.

Please keep up the good work. You are our daily newspaper!

Chrissie - Meknes

Phil in Normandy said...

I agree that some of the so-called "destination experts" haven't a clue about the places for which TripAdvisor makes them the nominated expert. It's not alwys the experts' fault - just TA being sloppy and ignorant. The "expert" for our local town hasn't a clue about it and has probably never been there. He's based in a different region and has never posted a picture, guide or response to a question for our town!