Thursday, September 1, 2011

TripAdvisor in the Hot Seat Once Again

The Advertising Standards Authority, the United Kingdom's equivalent of the Federal Trade Commission here in the US, has launched a formal investigation into TripAdvisor's practices. Its doing so at the instigation of some 2000 hotel and restaurant owners who are claiming that reviews on the site have either been falsified, or are defamatory. These organizations are working through Kwikchex, an online reputation defender, according to an article today in The Telegraph.

Was the last hotel you stayed in honestly reviewed on TripAdvisor?
The issues being investigated are two-fold. The first concerns TripAdvisor's practice of encouraging the hotels and restaurants it reviews to feature words of praise that come from the site in their promotional materials. Since these "reviews" are unverifiable, they probably violate ASA's standards of conduct. The second issue gets into semantics and the use of the word "trust" on the TripAdvisor site.

According to Kwikchex, this action in England is just the first of many the company will have to contend with in the coming months, including one in the US possibly with the FTC.

Stay tuned!

9 comments:

  1. This is kinda bad news. I frequent trip advisors a lot. I believe all the reviews there are given by authentic users, not fake ones.

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  2. Menachem: Take what you read on TripAdvisor with a grain of salt. Its common knowledge in the travel industry that many hotels post fake reviews (both positive ones about themselves, but negative ones about rivals). And even with the real ones, you gotta remember that you're taking the advice of a person who's been to exactly one hotel. They may not know that right up the street is a better, cheaper place. I'd cross reference with guidebooks and articles from travel magazines and newspaper travel sections so that you can get the advice of impartial journalists who have done their research and have no dog in the race

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  3. I agree, Pauline, although I have recently been very disappointed with journalists and guidebook writers who in an effort to be cool are biased (not your books, of course!)

    Last year, I was looking for a place to stay in Dublin and got a great deal on a lovely family-run hotel that was unexpectedly luxurious. When I looked in my very well-reviewed guidebook, the writer was terribly snarky, gave it a non-review review that listed none of the amazing perks and recommended going down the street to the chain hotel instead.

    I thought that was a fluke until this summer when I was desperately trying to find a good guidebook for Stockholm. Same thing happened: one of the more trusted guidebook companies had a Stockholm book that was blatantly biased and critical. Only the most expensive hotels were given glowing reviews and everything else was poo-pooed.

    Thank you for highlighting these issues. I am a big fan of your books and only recently discovered your blog!

    R. Ernst

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  4. Thanks for your comments R. Ernst (especially the kind ones about the guides). Very interesting. I think what it comes down to is finding an author or series you trust, as so much in reviewing is a judgement call. But the positives with guides is you can be sure the authors have seen all the options (and not just the ones they're writing about)

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  5. Pauline, this could not have been better timing. I write a blog on travel and also one on the island of Cozumel where I live. A friend who has a Cozumel website and I went to dinner at a new restaurant in Cozumel this past week. We love it. It had been #1 on TripAdvisor. Now they are #113 and being accused of all kinds of things. My friend and I went on and wrote good reviews and so did some of our friends who love the place too. None of these reviews are showing up. Only this obviously fake horrible review and a few others. They removed over 60 positive reviews and when we try to defend the owner (who happens to be Chinese so English is not his first language), we are being bullied and criticized by people calling themselves Destination Experts. Seems very suspicious and unfair. Restaurant is Danube in Cozumel. European cuisine and very good by the way! Have any suggestions?

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  6. Also Pauline, I have purchased both Frommers and Fodors guides for over 20 years, less so Lonely Planet. I have never trusted TripAdvisor ... doesn't mean I don't go on and look but mostly for the photos and contact information. But they are really a bully carrying a big stick at this point and it is too scary! I believe they have the ability to really hurt a restaurant or hotel.

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  7. I also want to say thanks for your blog. I read it every day!!!

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  8. Thanks for your kind message Luh. I'm sorry, I don't have any suggestions on this issue, but its one that seems to be becoming more and more common.

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