Is Expedia censoring negative comments about its resorts?

By | January 24th, 2008

Posting customer reviews on a travel site is often a double-edged sword. The information can help other travelers make a more informed decision — but it could also upset the airlines, cruise lines and hotels the online travel agency works with. At least one customer thinks agencies have quietly decided that if a review could potentially damage the relationship with a supplier, it gets zapped (a belief that many other travelers share).

Here’s what happened when Bob Ledford had a less-than-pleasant experience with a hotel he bought through Expedia:

I booked a stay at an all-inclusive hotel in Cancun called The Royal. We paid extra specifically for a corner suite which, according to advertising on the resort’s site and Expedia, entitled me to a “two sided ocean view” and an “assigned” beach cabana.

When we arrived, our second side view was of the rooftop of another hotel. The assigned cabanas have been non-existent for over a year. All guests must battle it out for a cabana, first come first serve.

When I complained to the general manager he was unsympathetic and would not refund the difference in price between the next lower-priced room that did not offer these two features and what we paid. They have been unresponsive to me and Expedia, which is attempting to intervene.

Then Ledford tried to post a comment about his experience on Expedia.

Expedia flatly refused to post my review. I have followed their rules, but they have repeatedly told me they won’t post it because I’m not following the rules. They will not tell me which rule I didn’t follow.

I firmly believe Expedia has a policy to not post unflattering reviews of properties they represent. I know for a fact from other sites that others who rented my same class of room ran into the exact same set of lies and refusal to address the grievance and none are posted on Expedia.

So is Expedia censoring negative reviews?

I asked the online agency. Here’s what Katie Deines, my company contact, had to say about Ledford’s question.

Due to the nature of the information he provided regarding inaccuracy on the hotel infosite (the information pages with detailed information about each ESR hotel we offer), his review was temporarily declined so that we could verify the information he provided and make necessary changes to infosite. His review was in queue for approval but has been expedited and should be up on the site.

Here’s the review:

We paid up for a corner suite which direct advertising said came with an “assigned cabana” and a two-sided ocean view. They no longer have assigned cabanas on the beach, our second sided view was of air conditioning units.

When we asked about getting some relief on the promises not kept, the management staff completely disregarded our issues. If you check posts on other websites you’ll see this as a recurring theme. The rooms were great. Beds out of this world. Food ok… just ok… beach eroding but plenty big enough. beautiful place. Just beware about paying up for specific things that appeal to you because in our case we bought the bill of goods and were sorely disappointed.

Have traveled extensively… have never been treated more rudely by management. again, staff was great.. management not.

So apparently Expedia doesn’t censor comments — it’s just very careful about what it posts.

Incidentally, the full resolution to this case will appear in a future Travel Troubleshooter column. (My thanks to Expedia for its help in resolving this.)

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