Is TripAdvisor still letting hotels rig their reviews?

Achim Baque/Shutterstock
Achim Baque/Shutterstock
TripAdvisor is a regrettable by-product of the information revolution whose user-generated ratings too often hurt travelers and travel companies more than they help.

As I’ve noted in the past, the company cynically monetizes the labor of its unpaid contributors while making virtually no effort to verify its reviews.

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TripAdvisor doesn’t promise its readers much, but the least it can do is to live up to the few guarantees it makes.

Even so, when I heard from Ellen Garland, who charged the company with allowing a hotel in Anguilla to brazenly game its ratings, I didn’t want to go there.

It’s a no-win proposition for me. The TripAdvisor contributors who read my site, and who would defend anything the company does, will just have another reason to click away (as if they didn’t already have enough reasons) and it would further strain my relationship with the company (as if it could get any worse).

But when has that ever stopped me?

“On TripAdvisor, the more ratings you get and the more positive they are, your property is elevated to a higher status,” explains Garland.

She’s been following the reviews for Meads Bay Beach Villas in Anguilla, which, at the time she wrote to me, was rated the number-one property on the island.

She adds,

It is an OK place, but does not deserve to be number one. Yet it has consistently ranked number one because the owners offer free stays for a review via contests or for liking them on Facebook.

TripAdvisor has told me this is against their rules, yet they have chosen to not do anything about it.

I think it is wrong and unfair that because this property is net savvy, they are allowed to continue to fool the public and are rewarded with a number one spot for cheating.

Garland was trying to get an answer about Meads Bay’s reviews, which is why she turned to me. She says repeated requests to TripAdvisor had gone unanswered.

This isn’t the first time TripAdvisor has given a legitimate question a vague answer or none at all. Historically, that’s how the company deals with some readers who call the company’s reviews into question. And as I’ve said in the past, it’s absolutely no way to treat the very people who are often writing the reviews that the company so effectively converts into revenue.

So I asked TripAdvisor. Here’s what it had to say:

Property owners are welcome to encourage their guests to submit user reviews upon their return home, but they are not allowed to offer incentives, discounts, upgrades, or special treatment on current or future stays in exchange for reviews.

If a business listed on TripAdvisor has offered an incentive for a review, we urge travelers to tell us about it. We will investigate every case and contact the business to ensure they fully understand our guidelines. If a business continues to break our guidelines we will apply a penalty.

In the case of the Meads Bay Beach Villas, the owners were notified about our guidelines and they immediately ceased their competition in May last year. A number of suspicious reviews were also removed at the time. If the owners break our guidelines again they will be penalized.

OK, so if I’m understanding this response within the context of the original complaint, someone reported Meads Bay to TripAdvisor a year ago. It wasn’t the company’s vaunted fraud-detection algorithm that spotted the suspicious reviews. And TripAdvisor told the property to knock it off, but took no meaningful action, allowing its number-one ranking to stand.

Now, it’s possible, of course, that Meads Bay truly deserves to be recognized as the best hotel on the island, even with the fake reviews removed. But I’m skeptical.

I guess I should be happy that some of the questionable reviews were deleted after Meads Bay was reported. But TripAdvisor’s actions — or lack of actions — may have repercussions beyond Anguilla. Other hotels watching this will interpret this move as a license to buy favorable reviews and not to worry about what comes next.

The slap on the wrist won’t hurt — that much.

Do you trust TripAdvisor's hotel reviews?

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76 thoughts on “Is TripAdvisor still letting hotels rig their reviews?

  1. no i don’t trust their reviews or any site’s reviews. i go to the page fo the hotel and see for myself if they have
    -wifi of any kind
    -located near a tour bus stop (or metro)

    i do not look at stars or rankings.

    even then i have been tricked. since many hotels don’t list if they are under construction (throwing off my list…)

  2. The first time we visit a city we spend a lot of time looking at the hotels we might use the next time 🙂

    But by the time the next time comes, it could be under new management 🙁
    Finding a good hotel for everybody is really difficult since we all look for different things in a hotel. Also if I find a good one, why would I write a review about it? Word of mouth is good enough and usually to local travel community knows what is going on.

  3. I pay little attention to the rankings, but I love TripAdvisor and contribute regularly after every vacation. I hope my reviews have been as helpful to readers as many reviewers have been for me. If you read TripAdvisor as carefully and critically as anything else you read on the internet, you’ll learn a lot about the hotels, activities, and restaurants at your destination. Of course you can’t blindly follow every piece of puffery or every high-maintenance critic who freaks out over a stain in the bathroom. But my experience with TripAdvisor is much better than other review sites, and I am consistently grateful that they’re there.

    1. I’m with you! We review several hotels in a new city (or even to just try a new place) and read a few of the best and a few of the worse reviews, then decide. Last year in Paris, the hotel actually asked us how we found them and we said TripAdvisor. They asked us write a nice review (which we did because they deserved it) but they didn’t offer us anything to do so. I think that’s fine. They also asked that if there was anything we thought was negative that might go in the review, give them a chance to fix it first. That seems to me to be OK too, because they’re just saying, “If you have a problem, let us know and we’ll try to fix it.”

      I think TripAdvisor is great but, like any marketing tool, don’t follow it blindly. It’s one arrow in your quiver to use in researching a property.

      1. While I think Trip Adviser has gone downhill due to the buying of reviews, I still do leave reviews on there as much as possible.

    2. I couldn’t agree more. The reviews add “tidbits” you wouldn’t discover anywhere else. For example, I’ve found out about broken pools, difficult parking, room recommendations, whether something is actually walking distance, breakfast quality, etc Its just one piece of the decision making process.

  4. There needs to be a third option – I take them with a grain of salt.

    I’ve done some commenting on there – and it’s obvious I’m not a ‘bot or reviewing in exchange for something, since I’m pretty detailed and highlight positives and negatives. So in turn, I read detailed reviews, and make a point to look for negative ones. If I see no negative ones whatsoever, I tend to trust the rating less. It’s human nature to bitch about a bad experience, and no one is perfect, so there should always be a few. If there aren’t any at all, I may very well move on to a different property completely.

    Mostly, I use it as a jumping off point for research. But I would never base my booking solely on great TripAdvisor reviews.

    1. Same here – I take it all with a grain of salt. I’m a senior contributor on TA because I hope that my input will make the site better. In addition to everything you said, I tend to disregard reviews written with really poor grammar. Call me judgmental, I can handle it!

  5. Tripadvisor is a tool like anything else. You read the reviews with some wisdom and discerning. That had to be done with any review.

    It’s no different from reviews on Amazon or Ebay.

  6. Reviews in Tripadvisor and elsewhere, including ‘advertorials’ in the media, need to be viewed with a dose of cynicism. I have placed a small number of reviews on Tripadvisor in the hope that they might be useful for other travellers and I hope that most other commenters have a similar motive. However I know that there are probably a lot of suspect reviews out there. For me, Tripadvisor is a useful way of finding out what hotels (and their star rating, price, amenities etc) are located in a particular area. The downside of being a reviewer is the constant stream of emails urging me to write more reviews with the promise of gaining senior reviewers’ badges, as if I were a teenager working at McDonalds.

    1. That’s a good point about media “advertorials.” It’s not like the travel industry has a history of publishing lots of unbiased information. Tripadvisor, even flawed as it might be, is still much more useful than the travel section of the local paper with its paid-for articles.

  7. I’m in the “take them with a grain of salt” category as well. TA has helped me find a good budget hotel in New York, for example, that I probably wouldn’t have found otherwise. Otherwise, I have found them unresponsive to complaints. For example, in the Washington, DC, forum, there is an acknowledged VRBO owner who responds to “help me choose between these two hotels” post with a response saying, “forget hotels, vacation rentals are better” every opportunity she gets. Emails to TA have not resolved this issue.

  8. I think TA is more useful in figuring out which hotels to avoid. If a hotel manages to get less than 3 stars on TA, then people *really* dislike it and I’m going to avoid it too. It’s also great to check if a hotel has bedbugs. But in terms of making that final selection, a lot of other factors come into play.

  9. Sorry Chris but you’ve done too many stories now on hotels gaming the system to believe the really good reviews. I also ignore the really bad reviews of a property. By the time you do that, not much left to read so I steer clear.

  10. I have no love for TripAdvisor. Like everything else on the internet, I take it with a block of salt (and a lot of tequila)

  11. Maybe I’m naive, but I do post legitimate reviews to Trip Advisor. I hope that readers can recognize they are legit, and I’m helping someone out there by posting the truth. I’m not afraid to say when a hotel is poor, or a restaurant is serving lousy service, etc.Do I trust TA…I take it review by review 🙂

  12. I use TA and sometimes write reviews of places we have stayed. I ignore the outlier reviews, both good and bad, but look for helpful hints from people who have stayed there. If the same comment turns up over and over, I tend to trust that. Like anything else, it is one tool.

    1. I agree and gave your comment a thumbs up review. Some 5 star reviews would lead one to believe that the place is the next best thing to Heaven, and some one star reviews would make the place out to be the worst Hell Hole on Earth. Finally some hints/tips are very helpful, and some are totally worthless.

  13. This is another poll that needs a qualified choice of “somewhat”.

    I do go by the rankings to some extent–if a property only has 1 star on Trip Advisor, it’s not going to be a place I want to be. I’ll read some of those reviews just to be happy I’m not there.
    I read the reviews for likely places and try to judge them all. If it’s totally glowing, I’m suspicious–I’m never looking at 5 star properties for my stay. I try to judge what the person says along with the details provided to back it up. That goes for bad ratings as well. I’ve read reviews where the reviewer says they’d find the place perfect except for some nitpicky thing that would never bother me.

    When I provide reviews on Trip Advisor, I try to give the good and less-good points. I appreciate reviewers who do the same thing.

  14. I have been active on TA for years and find it a valuable resource. That being said they must be taken with a grain of salt. I do not always agree with the opinions I get but can say the ones I add are to the best of my ability accurate and honest.

  15. There was one hotel that I use to work for who put up fake reviews on their TripAdvisor site. They were a new hotel and small as well so getting attention was priority for them. They weren’t 100% familiar with TripAdvisor and openly admitted to staff that they got family members to make accounts and post good reviews to drown out any negative ones. Even after speaking with the manager and telling them that it could mean having their hotel de-listed from the site or the fake reviews deleted, they still continued for a short while afterwards. Don’t believe everything you read!! I’m especially wary on people who have ever posted 1 review.

  16. I like TripAdvisor and contribute whenever I travel. I do take reviews with a grain of salt and further check out the hotels I find on their site that I like. Usually google “reviews of XXXX hotel” TripAdvisor is a good place to start but as with any other travel your own research.

  17. I voted “Yes”, but I think this is a case of “buyer’s beware”.

    If Trip Advidor was so horrible and useless, people would just stop reading it and the model would collapse. How many review sites suffered the same fate?

    At the same time, any user-generated content platform is subject to some degree of fake entries, paid entries, even malicious entries. This applies to Trip Advisor, Amazon’s user reviews, comments on Edmunds, Yelp and any other single site that allows reviews.

    Let’s try, however, to compare other forms of hotel review:

    – travel guides: not even the most comprehensive guide can have people coming and going on a weekly basis to every listed property, guide writers and/or their guest hosts can take kickbacks or flat-out charge hotels to appear on their guide

    – government or trade-sponsored certification (the “star system” in many countries): they are public, but leave plenty of room for gaming the system. And official standards can’t capture things like the friendliness of service. Finally, lobbying and trade pressure operates in many touristic-dependent places, whereas officials are way slow to withdraw a star from a slipping-in-quality property.

    – travel agents: if they are too personalized, they will have deep knowledge only about a handful of properties, if they deal with an ample spectrum of the market, they can’t humanely keep their personal tabs on what is going on with thousands of properties.

    I think there is a smart way to read reviews on Trip Advisor and similar websites. On my case, that includes looking for patterns instead of overreacting to just one or two overly critical or overly lauding reviews. I also put more emphasis or specific negative remarks such as “non-functioning a/c” or “wi-fi signal not available inside the room” that are recurrent.

    Something I particularly like are users’ amateur photos of the facilities, where you can see how a room looks like without all the special arranging and lighting that they are subject to when professionally shot.

    With some practice, you learn yourself how to use user-generated reviews. Not a perfect system, but not a “regrettable product of the information revolution either!”.

  18. Funny poll results considering the number of reviews generated from travelers and the widespread usage of TripAdvisor.

    Right off the bat, I knew Ellen overreached when she said, “TripAdvisor has told me this is against their rules, yet they have chosen to not do anything about it.” She had no proof one way or the other that TA did anything about it. But she made the statement anyway.

    So it seems Ellen is embellishing her assertions.

    TA is a tool, not the last word on every facet of a hotel stay. As a tool, the site should be used appropriately, like a wrench or screwdriver.

    Considering the hundreds of thousands of hotel properties reviewed at TA, I am sure anyone can find many hundreds, if not thousands, of bogus or prize-inspired reviews given enough time to look. Any service relying on the good faith and sincere intent of volunteer contributors is bound to attract phonies. Who would this surprise?

    Another characteristic of humankind is that they are lazy. So many of the fake or prize-inspired reviews are simply poorly written vague reviews. They add nothing to the knowledge about the property with gross generalizations. “I found the hotel well decorated, with a nice breakfast spread and helpful front desk.” Hmm. That doesn’t tell sell me on any hotel. I don’t like early American maple furniture with frozen reheated waffles and only one desk clerk to handle all the checkouts.

    So I just don’t trust the exact rating or ranking. These are devices to narrow down choices. Only after reading individual reviews, placing an emphasis on the last several months, do you get a sense of what is going on. A whole series of, “I had lots of fun at this great resort,” reviews tells me either the guests are extremely shallow or the hotel sponsored a bogus review contest. Yes, there was the Cornell study which had some serious flaws. Suffice it to say, if a hotel hired expert review writers to hide behind different IP addresses, email addresses, and locations, with noticeably differing writing styles, taking amateur photos at the location, then the whole system can be gamed. That never has been uncovered to any degree sufficient to cast a whole pall over TA hotel reviews.

    As a tool, TA reviews have many advantages over the formerly popular “expert travel writer” who would visit the property, but most times never stay there, never eat the food, and never really interact with the maid, maintenance and front office staffs. I would trust far more the collective opinion of 350 reviewers of one property, knowing the vast majority of reviews are honest opinions of “average Joes and Janes.”

    Note: I am a destination expert at TripAdvisor. Of course, this is voluntary so I have no financial connections with this company. I give out mostly good hotel and restaurant reviews as I preview the places at TA, therefore narrowing down my choices to the top rated groups of properties. Knock on wood, I do not run into bedbugs with dripping pipes and paper thin walls, as I read the terrible and poor reviews of a place I am seriously considering. If the complaints are trivial to me (but certainly important to the reviewer) then I go ahead with a reservation.

    1. Sorry but I have to agree with Ellen. I have been going to AXA yearly for 25 years and stayed in many, many establishments. In regards to Meads Bay Beach Villas on Anguilla, my comments are: 1. I saw with my own eyes an email from Meads Bay Beach Villas soliciting positive reviews in return for a chance to win a free week (and you did not have to have stayed there – there were reviews from people who only “toured” the hotel, 2. it defies logic that a hotel with only four rooms can have such an extraordinarily high number of posted reviews and 3. that I monitored this topic on TripAdvisor forum for a year and found that repeated messages to Trip Advisor received no response for over a year (that constitutes “no response” and deleting a handful of reviews is also “doing nothing”. Meads Bay Beach villas was blatantly disregarding the rules and “paid” for positive reviews. They should have immediately been black listed by Trip Advisor and flagged and were not. There are many other hotels on AXA that are better (I have stayed at them) and they are not rated as well because they did not “cheat”.

  19. I don’t generally follow any kind of ratings put out by O.T agencies. But I have written many honest reviews of my experiences with hotels, restaurants etc.,.with Trip Advisor. If I’m travelling I generally look up comments & try & sift through. After that I rely on Travel Agents & friends for any information.

  20. Just for base knowledge, the #1 hotel in Anguilla has been and should be is Cap Juluca. Trip Advisor lives up to my full expectations……zip. They skew all of the ratings, they have had a fine levied against them by the FTC in the past, and outright lie. Too many of my friends in the hotel industry tell me that their jobs are dependent on 4-5 star ratings being made. As you article indicates, numbers are important. My clients see it on sites and I tell them, “Make sure you read the 10 worse and the 10 best ratings” This will at least tell you why people waste their time online.

  21. I was a big fan of Trip Adviser until a few years ago, then it started to make no sense. I used to be able to go to any city, and use Trip Adviser for my hotel, restaurant, etc. and when I picked something in the top 10, I was consonantly blown away. I drove for an hour from Fort Worth to some rib joint in south west Dallas and the food knocked my socks off. I learned that the best Chinese food I ever had was in the middle of nowhere Maryland, and the best Indian food was as a Days Inn in Seymour, IN. No kidding, Trip Adviser always helped me find amazing food and great boutique hotels. even in the middle of no where.

    Sadly in recent years I see fast food and chain restaurants showing up in the top 10 restaurants as well as big chain hotels that fail to live up to their brand reputation. I think the way it works now is these restaurants and hotels pay $500 to a group of teenagers pretty much anywhere in the world who create fake accounts and write great reviews. Throw in $250 extra and they write bad reviews about the good properties. I often see reviews now where people talk about great things that don’t even exist at the properties. i think these career reviewers now dominate Trip Adviser and its all about who is willing to pay for the reviews, not the actual customers.

  22. Reviews are just that someone’s personal opinion about a resort or a restaurant etc. It has been my experience that most of the very bad reviews are usually filled with very petty complaints and a number of 5 star reviews overlook some of the establishments faults. In the end I will check the company’s web site and try them 1st then decide if I want to go back again

  23. .
    I could not say either yes or no. I read and contribute to TripAdvisor’s reviews and my own Sanibel vacation rental properties are rated on TA. So I know for certain that some of the reviews are real and verified. Are all of them? Probably not, but in reading all the reviews on a certain property, you do pick up information (negative and positive) you will not pick up on the property website or from a travel agent. So my answer to the question is BOTH yes and no

  24. I always look at Tripadvisor when I am booking places to stay. In the last 8 years, they have never steered me wrong. Of course, I think I know how to critically read them and distinguish the wheat from the chaff. Rick Steves disses TA too, but he only has a few hotels in his guidebooks and they are always booked by the time I need to go–so what does he expect people to do? Also, what do you do when the place you need to stay is not touristy and therefore not listed in guidebooks? That happened to us in Bergama, Turkey. We looked at TA and found a wonderful pension. It isn’t perfect but it is a godsend to travellers.

    1. Plus, Rick Steves, like everyone else, has a certain bias. If your travel paradigm isn’t in line with his, the entire guidebook becomes less useful.

  25. I like the answer below about ‘grain of salt. I also review a lot of hotels and attractions on TA, and try to give a realistic eval of the place- or at least my impression of it.
    I’m very skeptical of a hotel with glowing reviews from many people with only one or two posted reviews, but on the otherhand, if I find a number of posts who give some detail, think it can be of great use.

  26. As a new hotel in Santa Fe Panama, I can tell you that after about 3 months of opening, we had received about 8 or 9 “5 of 5” TripAdvisor reviews. The company contacted us and suggested we were rigging the reviews. We were not. I offered guest contact information to TripAdvisor (with guest permission of course), and the company contacted most of the guests who reviewed us. About 10 days later, we received a report from TripAdvisor indicating that they had contacted a number of reviewers and were satisfied that all reviews were legitimate and accurate.

    Since then, we have received many more “5 of 5” reviews, and some clunkers (one in particular where I did make a mistake with a reservation), and I take responsibility for each and every one. I think if some hotels do rig reviews, that is a slippery slope because they will be eventually uncovered, and it will be an error from which they will not be able to recover.

    Travellers, however, do need to realize that everyone’s expectations are different, and what one traveller strongly favors, another may not. Casa Mariposa is ranked the number one hotel in the Santa Fe area, because we are, including the
    comfort of our suites to the exemplary service we try to provide to each and every guest each and every time. We have never “rigged” a review and we never will, because I will not do anything to compromise our reputation, nor do anything to compromise the reputation of TripAdvisor.

    Having said the above, people need to use common sense, and take reviews on any site with a grain of salt. For this reason, I strongly encourage travellers to use TripAdvisor to discover what hotels may be in a particular area, but then go the extra mile and engage with the hotel directly. If you do this, and get a poor or vague response to your questions through email (for example), then you can probably expect similar service at the hotel. As with most things in life, you should not rely on just one internet source to make a decision.

    For my part, we have a very good relationship with TripAdvisor. They have provided us with excellent exposure, they have great tools for small businesses like mine, and their service to me personally has been exemplary. If all businesses out there were totally altruistic, and if all travellers used common sense and worked with TripAdvisor for what it is – “an advisory site”, then I think people would agree that TripAdvisor is probably the most valuable research tool on the internet today. Just my two cents.

    1. It’s called a “shake down.” Did they ask you for money for some “service” or “membership”?

      1. TripAdvisor doesn’t seem to have a reputation for doing this, do they? Don’t get them confused with the “Better” Business Bureau or Yelp, both of which are known for that kind of shenanigans.

  27. I have a restaurant and get 85% positive reviews on trip advisor..can’t please everyone. I am at a point that I would not like to be listed at all. We have had a few problems where an old employee goes on and writes in title ” food poisoning, people going to hospital don’t eat here”… Now , I have had at least 3 reviews i did at other places that got rejected for saying I must work there, I am the owner or for one coment I put “thank god for meatballs done right” which they marked as offencive. These were other people’s places I ate and had a good experence . I had to legally for trip advisor to take down the post and another which made sexual coments about a waitress employed by us. As I see it anyone with a new email address can write what they want and hurt business and I have asked to have our placed removed for there site, as we do well enough with out it. They said its public domain, but we are looking to challenge it. The really seem to have a licence to do anything they want but it’s not verified or monitored . I am in key west Florida and have spoke to 21 other owners who have the same problem .

  28. I think you have to take all online reviews with a grain of salt and read them and weed out the obvious shills and obvious trolls. Yelp is the worst for this, their reviews are so rigged that I don’t really trust them any more.
    I have far more trust for trip adviser than I do for places like yelp.

  29. You seem to suggest that you can rely on reviews from paid reviewers. The truth is many reviewers, especially in travel guides, have vested interests and their reviews can’t be trusted. I have been very successful with TA. You just have to be a bit smart. If the writer only has one or two reviews to his credit, move on. There are plenty of reviewers like me (68 hotels to date) who are honest and fair. I’m not looking to be paid. I’m just looking for quid pro quo. I write an honest review and you write an honest review. Period. I would never stay in a hotel without reading TA and, cynic that I am, I read between the lines and have never been burned yet. Like any other travel tool, you need to shop carefully. I find that if personnel at the hotel are named it’s a sign of a bias that I don’t like. I rarely know the name of the friendly desk clerk or busboy or breakfast server. Reviews replete with names I ignore. It also pays to note where the reviewer comes from since different standards come from different places. I read one review where the writer raved that the hotel actually provided soap and towels. Move on and follow the reviewer with lots of reviews and TA is a marvel.

  30. I do use TripAdvisor in planning my trips but I take some of the reviews with a grain of salt.

    Those that are over the top are ignored, those that are completely negative are also ignored.

    More often than not, I see in the negative reviews things mentioned that could have been dealt with had the reviewer gotten a little more proactive during the course of their stay. I also see people post negative things about a place that are completely out of the control of the hotel or its employees (people with red cars parked on the street! Will never stay there again!)

    I know my reviews are honest and I can’t be overly concerned with policing the rest of them. The world has become more about money and less about integrity a little more every day. It’s like I tell my kids, you can’t change the entire world, you can only work to change your part of it and hope it spreads from there. I can’t help but feel the OP is being a little to concerned about this and should move on.

  31. No question you HAVE to be suspicous of any reviews any where .. common sense tells you a review from some outside US will have different scale of expectation and acceptance than some one from US
    Watch the negatives .. often they are things I that would not bother me .. and you can tell if reviewer is just a complainer or hotel seems to have numerous complaints than avoid
    It doesn’t ALWAYS have to be you get what you pay for

  32. Agree with a number of the comments below. Also need to be aware that expectations are different among people. I have used it to research hotels I am considering…agree that less than 3 stars makes it questionable…and you can get some pretty solid or flimsy reasons whey NOT to stay there.In one instance, I read a really bad review on a hotel in Rome…but it was the only one review and was responded to appropriately by the manager. I concluded that the writes expectations were”Off” (example: people there were speaking German…it IS EUROPE AFTER ALL). I booked the hotel based on the other positive reviews and we couldn’t have been more pleased!

    Likewise, on recommendations, if you read them clearly, look at the profiles for the authors and match them up to your own, you can get a fairly good idea of whether it is a good match.

    While I also look at the hotels direct website, I find that less reliable in many cases..they may tell you what amenities are included but never do you get the inside scoop as you do on Trip Advisor.(unsavory neighborhood, poor room condition, etc). I think it is MORE LIKELY to have manipulated comments on the hotel’s website.

    I have written reviews, good and bad, for Trip Advisor and have done so to share my own experiences. I have never even questioned whether there was any benefit to me directly so I am quite annoyed with the implication that all reviews are incentivized and therefor falsified.

    Just my opinion

  33. For a person in the “travel advice” business, you could (and I say this with all affection) be a bit more generous with your fellow advice-purveyor. Mostly, and by necessity, we all must guide our lives by hearsay (as opposed to “facts”), and most people learn how to judge it with an adequate degree of discernment. Even though, for example, I happen to broadly agree with you on the TSA, your opinions on that subject sometimes seem just a bit affected by a certain inopportune visit to your home (or subpoena or whatever it was) in your past. That’s just all part of the mix. That’s life.

    Frankly, what I’m most interested in about reviewers is whether their reviews are honest and reliable. On TA, some reviewers comment on other reviewer’s reviews, a feature which is more important than any supervision that TA management could ever exert.

    Sure TravelAdvisor monetizes people’s communications with one another but, then, so does the phone company. Nonetheless, I’ve found TA to be both useful and even entertaining, in a vicarious sort of way.

    Many of the travel company abuses that your own site documents so very well might become a lot harder to pull off if more people would go to some widely-read place like TravelAdvisor and warn others about them, so the “bad” merchants can be more easily avoided. Maybe you should consider starting such a service, and monetize it, of course.

    I wish somebody would.

  34. Yes, I use TripAdvisor a lot when I travel, and have found it incredibly helpful. I do however, check out the author of the posts. (Very easily done, by clicking on their profile). And once i find a reviewer that I like, I will go back to that particular person, especially if they have several posts for the same general area.

  35. TripAdvisor works if you READ. You must read many, many reviews to pick up the truth about things that are important to you. It is clear on the TA website that the ratings are based on the number of reviews. If hotels are “buying reviews” all TA has to do is post that front and center. Then readers will be aware of it and take it into consideration. As a frequent traveller and a self-confessed hotel junkie, always looking for the most luxury at the best value, I’d welcome some alternate research outlets, but I can’t think of a research tool better than individuals’ opinions and comments.

  36. Like a lot of other posters here, I too take TripAdvisor with a grain of salt. Too good or bad of a review and I tend to disregard it, which doesn’t leave much else to read. However, I do tend to believe reviews more when someone from the hotel property, usually a manager or owner, has responded to reviews. And I’ve seen responses to both good and bad reviews! Kudos to the hotels for their active participation!

  37. I don’t have to repeat all the true things already said. Of course there are false and ignorant reviews on the site. What should be important to us is to add accurate reviews — “The truth shall set you free.”
    So, I try to post useful and accurate reviews of the places I have visited on vacations. Then I noticed that there were very few reviews of places I go to at home. For instance, there were ony 2 or 3 reviews of a really good pizza place a mile from my home. One zapped it for not serving slices and not taking credit cards and that their parking lot was full. Well, the place is known for “No slices, no cards.” And a full lot suggests populatity, not a one star rating. So I put in my own review.
    Then I noticed that very few of my regukar dining spots at home had a significant number of reviews. If anyone was looking for places to try in the area, there would be no information. So I reviewed my regular spots, as accurately as possible.
    I suggest we all review our local places, so that visitors to our areas will have useful information to go by.

  38. My previous posting on this topic seems to have been deleted, but one point was key:

    Most of the abuses by travel companies that are reported about on this site would become harder or nearly impossible if more people who’ve been mistreated would write reports on TripAdvisor or the like, so others could be forewarned and avoid the “bad” merchants.

    FWIW, on TripAdvisor, reviewers often comment on the reviews submitted by other reviewers and this feedback, more than any supervision that TA management could do, helps assure that the reviews taken as a whole are honest and reliable. Naturally, however, they have to be read with judgment and discernment.

  39. These reviews are just like the BBB – businesses get to game the system. That’s how really shady places get A+ ratings. “Web Marketing” companies pay people write reviews. There is absolutely zero way of validating if any were real or fake. They might all be legit – or none of them could be. And most of these rating sites (Yelp, TravelAdvisor, etc) give their customers (the properties and businesses are their customers – don’t ever forget that) the ability to “correct erroneous information.”

    1. Isn’t that the truth about Yelp. I reviewed a business on there that at the time, there was only one review, and it was negative. I posted a negative review also, and it was a very similar issue to the one that was there. A couple months later I went back and checked to see if there was any new reviews. Imagine my surprise when I found my review moved to the “posted by a bot” list, the original negative review gone, and two absolutely glowing positive review posted the day after my review by two brand new accounts. Their rating went from a 2 to a 5 – and the same problem is there. Never been back to Yelp after that.

      1. I had a similar experience recently with Yelp. I have yelped for a few years without incident. There is a restaurant near me that a friend and I decided to try. It had 4 stars from 3 reviews total left over the years. Our wives shared a dish and both felt sick later, and my food was just very poor quality. We were the only ones in the place, it was empty on a Friday night. My friend gave it 1 star on Yelp, and I gave it 2 (Because the service was good). The owner actually contacted us and asked us to remove our reviews and we both said no, then he offered to give us free food if we did, we again both said no. A few weeks later I looked at the place and my friend and my reviews were both in the bot list despite us each having many other reviews. Also, there were suddenly quite a few 5 star reviews bumping it up to 4.5 stars. I contacted Yelp and they said the bot list is done by an algorithm they have no control over, and that they don’t take bribes by restaurants and will look into it. I don’t know what ever happened with it, but they now have 3.5 stars and plenty of good reviews. My review is back, but my friends is still in the Bot list as are most of the 1 star reviews. The bad bot list reviews contain a lot of details about the place than the 4 and 5 star reviews that contain 1 or 2 lines which are not on the bot list. Still seems fishy.

        1. Hi Em.

          Damn, I hate to hear that. I wonder if Yelp is run differently in different parts of the country? Here in Sacramento, I’ve been “Yelping” for six years, and never observed any improprieties. I have submitted 44 reviews, including eleven “1” and “2”-star reviews, and only been “botted” once (for referring to a reviewee as “these assholes” in one of my 1-star reviews

          Good on ya for complaining to Yelp. Sites like Yelp and TA can be useful, but it’s up to us to keep them honest.

  40. I vote useful with care.

    I am a top contributor on TA, despite dropping off for a couple of
    years after a bad experience in Morocco. What really annoyed me about
    that was that the property owner flat out lied in his response to my
    bad review, but TA neither let me respond, nor removed his post. More
    recently, TA provisionally removed one of my reviews when the property
    owner complained that it was for a different hotel. I wrote back to
    TA, pointing out that there were only five places to stay in the small
    Albanian town in question, and a couple of other discrepancies in the
    complaint, and TA re-posted my review.

    TA’s value varies some depending on the country, but it should always
    be approached with caution. I ignore any listing where the first page
    or two of reviews are all from one or two post contributors. I read
    all the bad reviews for properties I am considering, but with care. I
    stay in lower-end places, and sometimes poor reviews have been written
    by people who shouldn’t leave the 4 and 5 star reservation.

    I have found some gems well down the list – a lovely place in Riga
    that was then no. 66 – and approach highly-ranked places with
    skepticism – besides Morocco I had a problem with the then no. 1 B&B
    in Belgrade – but there are exceptions to everything, my recent stay
    at the then no. 1 hotel in Buenos Aires was great.

    The one certainty with travel is that there is no certainty. TA is
    just one more resource for places to stay – but have severe doubts
    about its use for restaurants.

    1. In the age of content contribution by anyone its tough for TA to police while crafty hotels can spin almost anything. My wife and recently stayed at a boutique hotel in Isla Mujeres off of Cancun and I still chuckle about the follow on Trip Advisor reviews. The place was amazing, food, service, views everything you’d want – except the beds. I don’t know what is is with these places. Their concept of a mattress was a straw filled sack on top of a concrete ‘box spring’. The first night I was so tired I slept on the ‘park bench’. Second night I got creative and stacked all the pillows on top of the folded over ‘mattress’ but that ended up with the pillows not staying put so not a great night. I was willing to sweat it out – we were only there for 8 more days but my wife talked to the owner – a Texas based American couple who bought and ran the hotel. My wife was given a foam insert for her mattress which was a bit of an improvement but not much. At close to $400 a night you’d expect a bit more. So much so that we ‘gave’ our rooms away to a local couple for the last 2 nights and went to stay at Isla for $600 a night to be closer to our family. The short story is that we were thinking of giving trip advisor a comment since these folks told us their ranking was #2 and that’s where they get all their business but we decided not to since the rest of the stay was awesome (even though we wrote the last 2 days at the thought of a good sleep). What gets me is it seems like every trip advisor post from that time on people rave about how comfortable the beds are and many of the reviews are from Texas – hmm. I keep laughing at this – since we didn’t complain of make a suggestion other than we don’t like sleeping on concrete to the owners. TA’s ability not to police or monitor posts allows anyone to make comments even if to us when we know the beds are like concrete (at least in the room). Sounds like a good strategy if people like us did complain. The ‘spin’ say otherwise. One way smart owners are dealing with deficiencies on TA.

  41. I believe everything I read on the Internet at all times.

    You only get as much out of the site as you put into it. Just like everything else.

  42. As to the illegitimate reviews, there was a rumor a year or so ago that a company based in Madagascar would put together ‘TripAdvisor blitzes’ for a price. Whether it is true or not, I cannot
    say, but I would not dismiss the idea offhand.

  43. As to the illegitimate reviews, there
    was a rumor a year or so ago that a company based in Madagascar would put
    together ‘TripAdvisor blitzes’ for a price. Whether it is true or not, I cannot
    say, but I would not dismiss the idea offhand.

  44. As to the illegitimate reviews, there
    was a rumor a year or so ago that a company based in Madagascar would put
    together ‘TripAdvisor blitzes’ for a price. Whether it is true or not, I cannot
    say, but I would not dismiss the idea offhand.

  45. I too take the reviews with a grain of salt so I thinl there should be a yes no or sometimes survey. I realize some people are way more picky than others so I use it to find out of the location is close to attractions or what the property offers. I write reviews for most places I visit based on what I find important. In the days of the internet there is no need to blindly stay at a property when you can read what people have to say. Word of mouth has always been the best marketing.

  46. I take it with a grain of salt. If someone writes “It was sooo awesome” and their only other review was for their local Olive Garden (“awwweesome!!!), I ignore it. The same with “Ewww there was a stain on the carpet in reception.”

    But for properties/restaurants with many reviews, if one has time to read them, a pattern usually becomes clear. The same complaints will come up, the same praise for out/of/the/way goodness will come up. There’s really no way for a high-traffic property to game that.

    So, pretty much, I find TA quite handy when making business travel arrangements, or choosing when making a short-notice getaway.

  47. We use TripAdvisor a lot when planning where to stay. However, I definitely take the ratings with a grain of salt. I’ll skim through the reviews looking for detailed reviews (both positive and negative). Another thing that helps is that we almost always stay in B&Bs instead of hotels (much less likely to try to game the system in our experience as well as generally a nicer stay experience).

    1. That’s pretty much how we use Trip Advisor. I find it quite useful, but I read the individual reviews carefully, pay almost no attention the rankings. We avoid corporate entities, stay in hostels or B&Bs which are mostly too small to bother with shenanigans.

  48. In the aggregate (which is the way TA works), the reviews are reliable. It is pretty obvious that a property doesn’t deserve its TA rating when you see consistent, credible feedback on the site that is contrary to the rating. To assess a hotel on TA, I usually throw out the gushing reviews and look for a theme with the more measured and negative reviews.

  49. I read them, and contribute, but I also take them with a grain of salt. I know the deck can be stacked, I have witnessed it a couple of times. I think it is unfair that Trip Advisor does not monitor their reviews more carefully – there is actually one for Meads Bay Villas that blatantly states that the writer did not stay there, yet it is still on the review section.

  50. I always read the TA reviews and have never been grossly disappointed. I do read reviews carefully. I have noticed in the past the top motels may change in a matter of a few months, so that makes me cynical. I contribute regularly, and have found some real gems (not to mention save fortunes) by using TA. I always go right to the worst reviews to see what is going on, although even a very good motel will have a bad review, sometimes their fault, sometimes not. Of course, I am not looking for how good a fitness area there is. I am looking for bugs, cleanliness, courteousness, convenience and location. I did once did a beachside hotel in Sitges. Spain, once and wondered why it disappeared. I redid it. It never dawned on me that TA would think it was phoney, considering the number of reviews and pics I have posted.

  51. I posted a negative review about a hotel and was offered a full refund if I removed my review. I did and they credited my card.

  52. In my hometown – which hosts many coffeshops – there is one which is ranked #1 on TA. As a local who has tried them all, over time, (and has no vested interest in any of them), the #1 place is most definitely not a candidate to be even in the top ten. The majority of the reviews praising the place to the roof seem 1-review-puppets, on first name terms with the owners, and careful to promote a wide variety of the things being sold. What also is suspect is that none of them give their location as locals; the majority are located in a big city, 50 km away, and the coffeeshop is just a small, provincial place without any special ‘pull’ or merit. I decided to join TA to post a realistic review of the business, (the occassions I have visited, the staff were unfriendly, the place devoid of charm, and other customers). Well, after a couple of weeks my review has now been removed and the place has, again, purely 5/5 excellent rating. To Google the place reveals that they actually have a very poor health&hygiene rating from the local authority.

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