Hotel owner gets
revenge over negative TripAdvisor review.
Article by Chris Ashton, from Yahoos Total Travel
Hell hath no fury like a
hotel owner scorned.
Outraged by a negative review left on TripAdvisor, a hotel owner has
hit back at the guests who referred to their stay as "a nightmare
from beginning to end".
The critical review read; "Very poorly managed extremely
disappointed: Was a nightmare from very beginning as they double
booked our room and continually lied to us about the booking. Our
friends came all the way from England and were very disappointed as
their booking was wrong also… will stay clear of this hotel."
Though constructive criticism is always appreciated, clearly this
review was a step too far for Alex Scrivenor, owner of the Crags
Hotel in Callander in Scotland. In his passionate (and often
hilarious) response to the guests which has gone viral despite being
removed from the TripAdvisor website, Mr Scrivenor said:
"From henceforth I will remember Valentine’s as the miserable day
that I had the misfortune to meet you, your husband and your friends
from England! And the 16th Feb. will now be called 'Hatchet Sunday'
in memory of the review you left us."
"Do you not think that there are one or two teeny weeny details that
you omitted from your review… did you fail to recall ‘twixt the
instance of your arrival and that of your department that you and
your husband went on a criminal rampage through the streets of
Callander the like of which we have no seen since William Wallace
had a 'city break' in Carlisle! (However to your credit you did
refrain from rape, for which the menfolk of Callander thank you)."
"One star our of five for value? May I courteously remind you, that
you didn’t actually pay a single, tiny penny! Despite having sat in
our restaurant, gorging yourself on wild boar and pinot grigio at my
expense! £400 of my money which I will never retrieve… pursuing you
for recompense through the small claims courts would be as fruitful
as pursuing a turd down the toilet."
"I understand that you were angry with me ... to arrive at a hotel
and be told that you can't have the room you booked is frustrating!
I get that! That is why I gave you a free bottle of wine ... and £15
off the room ... and a free night’s stay in March! I was
contemplating also throwing in a wee hug for you both ... but I felt
there might be health consequences!)."
"In conclusion. you have ruined me! You have set my therapy back
some six months ... You have stripped me of my greatest strength. my
compassion. I will be forever, a 'Basil'."
Mr Scrivenor said the guests were escorted out of his hotel by
police who arrested the reviewer's husband. Scotland Police
confirmed that officers had been called to the hotel on Valentine's
Day and a wall in a bedroom had been damaged.
This editor thinks this would
be A hotel to
definitely consider staying at!
TripAdvisor fined by Italian
TripAdvisor is considering
filing an appeal against a
€500,000 fine from
competition authorities in
watchdog, the ICA, issued
the fine against the review
site after a seven-month
investigation following a
complaint from hotel owners
and a consumer group.
The ICA has accused
TripAdvisor of publishing
misleading information about
the sources of its reviews.
Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) weighs into the
May 2014: Most travellers
book accommodation after looking at online travel reviews.
How does TripAdvisor identify the estimated 15% fake travel reviews,
and remove them?
What law applies to websites which host fake online travel reviews?
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), has
published a Supplier Guide for online travel review platforms such
as TripAdvisor to outline how to maintain the integrity of their
sites. It is called: What you need to know about: Online reviews – a
guide for business and review platforms; published in November 2013.
TripAdvisor has procedures in place to comply with the ACCC legal
guide. TripAdvisor is the world’s largest travel website, sharing
over 100 million travel reviews posted by travellers covering 1.5
million hospitality businesses. Every month 260 million visitors
reference TripAdvisor reviews on places to ‘stay, eat and play’
before booking a hotel, resort, restaurant or tourist
This is an outline of the ACCC legal guide, and what TripAdvisor
does to comply.
Detecting and removing fake travel reviews
Hoteliers and restaurateurs know that positive online travel reviews
are powerful marketing tools. They encourage guests to post reviews
on the excellent service and experience they provide.
But some are tempted to post fake travel reviews either to promote
their hotel or restaurant or to drive guests away from a competitor.
Fake travel reviews also concern the website host because they
affect the trustworthiness of the online review platform.
How do you spot a fake travel review?
Fake reviews raise suspicions because they are overly enthusiastic
or critical or contain incorrect facts. Illustrations:
‘Can definitely NOT recommend’ or ‘This place is a DUMP’ [the
capital letters point to a fake review posted by a competitor]
‘This place is fantastic! The rooms are BEAUTIFUL and the staff very
attentive and wonderful!! [the exclamation marks point to a fake
review posted by the hotel on itself]
The room descriptions correspond word-for-word with the hotel
website but the location and surrounds of the hotel are factually
inaccurate [word-for-word descriptions raise suspicion, factual
inaccuracies show it to be fake]
‘The trains came past the hotel every 20 minutes’ [fake because the
nearest railway track was many miles away]
A review of a one night visit posted 15 months afterwards [probably
fake - does a genuine guest wait this long?]
‘I loved the view from the room’ [probably a fake paid review
because the style is eye-witness. Reviewers say ‘The view was
How are fake travel reviews published?
Fake reviews are usually published anonymously on review websites.
If a fake travel review is published by a hotel, it is known as ‘astroturfing’.
Illustration: In June 2013, it was discovered that 105 reviews had
been published on TripAdvisor by an Accor and Sofitel manager over
several years. The reviews were a mixture of positive reviews on its
hotels and negative reviews on competitors. The fake reviews came to
light when the assumed name used by the manager to post the reviews
was traced to the hotel manager. The reviews were removed and the
manager was dismissed. The hotel retained its listing.
Some fake travel reviews are paid reviews. Illustration: In February
2014, Tourism Industry Association New Zealand warned against emails
from a Fake Review Optimiser offering to post as many as 20 false
reviews for $297.
What action does the ACCC recommend to online review platforms to
identify fake reviews?
An online review platform which hosts fake reviews is misleading the
public, in breach of the Australian Consumer Law.
The ACCC states that there is no precise formula for identifying
fake reviews. It points to indicators such as a ‘spike’ in reviews,
the same email or IP addresses, using ‘marketing-speak’ writing
styles, and copying the same marketing language as the business
The ACCC recommends that online review platforms adopt both a
proactive approach – using automated or manual internal systems to
screen a review before it is published, and a reactive approach –
relying on complaints information after the review is published.
How does TripAdvisor deal with fake reviews?
TripAdvisor is an online review platform which publishes reviews
contributed by ‘everyday’ consumers, relying on the ‘wisdom of the
TripAdvisor takes a proactive approach. Before submitting a review,
the reviewer must state:
I certify that this review is based on my own experience and is my
genuine opinion of this establishment, and that I have no personal
or business relationship with this establishment, and have not been
offered any incentive or payment originating from the establishment
to write this review. I understand that TripAdvisor has a
zero-tolerance policy on fake reviews.
The review is screened by technology and by editors before it is
published, for between 24 and 48 hours. It is moderated to ensure
that it is family-friendly, is posted to the correct business and
complies with guidelines.
Hotel owners may use the ‘Reporting Potential Blackmail’ procedure –
when a guest threatens to write a negative review unless a demand
for a refund, upgrade, or other request is met. This is used to
block publication of the guest’s review.
TripAdvisor also takes a reactive approach. Because it receives 60
contributions every minute, TripAdvisor does not fact-check reviews.
It relies upon travellers and businesses to report inappropriate
Businesses should monitor reviews and use the ‘Report an
inappropriate review’ procedure to request removal of a review.
To increase the chances of removal, businesses should highlight
factual inaccuracies which indicate that the reviewer did not visit;
and highlight defamatory comment, which it calls ‘non
family-friendly comment’, such as profanity, threats, prejudiced
comments, hate speech, sexually explicit language, or other content
that is not appropriate for the community.
If TripAdvisor fails to remove a fake review, a complaint should be
made to the ACCC.
What can a business do about a negative (but not fake) review?
The ACCC recommends that businesses be provided with an opportunity
to post a public response to negative reviews which do not qualify
to be removed as fake reviews.
Hospitality businesses should look at all reviews as first hand
market research, as an opportunity to engage with the public, and to
demonstrate that they take customer service seriously.
TripAdvisor has a ‘Write a Management Response’ procedure. It
suggests that the business responds quickly, iscourteous and
professional, addresses the specific issues and highlights the
What else does the ACCC recommend to travel review platforms and
Incentivised consumer reviews
The ACCC is concerned that incentives offered to consumers in
exchange for their reviews may lead to biased, inflated or
The ACCC recommends that incentives offered by the review platform
to reviewers are prominently disclosed on the review page.
TripAdvisor has a non-financial incentive scheme for reviewers,
called review badges. Review badges are awarded for both positive
and negative reviews. The contributor’s photo, reviewer status and
number of reviews appear on the review.
The ACCC is concerned that incentives offered by businesses do not
result in ‘inflated reviews’ being published. The ACCC recommends
that if the review platform notices a spike in consumer reviews,
then it should ask the business to disclose any incentive offered.
A business is entitled to offer incentives, such as vouchers or
sending a link asking for a review after the stay, so long as they
are offered to all consumers and for both positive and negative
The omission of credible consumer reviews, inflated (average)
reviews and the ‘big picture’
Most online review platforms use a star rating system to give the
‘big picture’. The more reviews, the more reliable the rating.
TripAdvisor uses a ‘bubble rating’ scale of 1 to 5, which it
displays prominently under the name of the business reviewed,
together with the number of reviews upon which this is based.
Because a body of reviews creates the overall impression, the ACCC
states that the review platform should not selectively remove or
edit reviews. But it is not misleading to remove fake, offensive,
defamatory or irrelevant reviews.
Disclosing commercial arrangements with reviewed businesses
Most review platforms have a business model of deriving revenue
through paid advertising or ‘sponsorship links’, rather than
charging membership or listing fees to businesses or access fees to
users. TripAdvisor has a basic listing which is free of charge.
TripAdvisor allows hospitality businesses to ‘upgrade’ by paying for
a Business Listing which has contact information and links for
bookings, a slide show for photographs and a more prominent display.
The ACCC accepts these commercial arrangements, so long as they are
prominently disclosed, are transparent and do not impact upon the
content and presentation of the review. The TripAdvisor website
pages display the businesses reviewed on the left hand side of the
page, and the ranking according to its algorithm. The paid Business
Listings are displayed separately in columns such as ‘Best deals:’
on the right hand side or in shaded boxes which are marked
‘sponsored links’. This satisfies the ACCC requirements.
The ACCC Guide for online review platforms have not been tested in
legal proceedings in Australia.
TripAdvisor has been mentioned in passing in 6 Court judgments in
Australia, but not as a party to legal proceedings.
Only the future can tell how the Australian Courts will deal with
fake online travel reviews.
Hospitality businesses should regularly monitor reviews and use the
procedures available to request that fake reviews be removed and
respond to both positive and negative reviews.
Anthony J Cordato, Travel Lawyer
TripAdvisor under fire for 'fake' reviews on
TripAdvisor has removed at least 10,000 reviews
from its Chinese website daodao following
complaints that they were fake. Online
reputation management company KwikChex is now
calling for the site to be suspended until a
"very thorough audit" can take place and new
systems installed to better detect fraud.
It claimed that the reviews of 12 of daodao's
top 500 reviewers have been deleted by the
website following a study by KwikChex into
online review sites which revealed "extremely
suspicious activity" on daodao. TripAdvisor
spokesman James Kay admitted "a number" of
reviews by daodao members have been removed from
the site pending further investigation. However,
KwikChex co-founder Chris Emmins said: "Whilst
there is little doubt that TripAdvisor, under
pressure from criticism has invested more in its
efforts, we found evidence that appears to
suggest that there are very significant flaws
"There are 'hotspots' of extremely suspicious
activity - many in Asia, where KwikChexrecently
met with many concerned owners."
For example, it found one reviewer on daodao.com
had posted 2,633 reviews since November 2010 and
one, who had posted 1,361 reviews since October
2010 claimed to have stayed in 51 hotels in
Paris in March 2013 while also visiting hotels
in eight other countries in the same month.
"Several of these 'super-reviewers' appear to
almost follow each other around the world -
posting reviews on the same businesses," it
said. The reviews on daodao also appear on
Although some suspicious reviews have been
deleted following the KwikChex report, it said
it was still detecting patterns that suggest the
problems on daodao are continuing. It said one
of those reviewers whose posts have been removed
has posted again. "The scale of the problems do
seem so huge that it may be best to suspend the
site completely until a very thorough audit can
take place - and new systems put in place to
better detect fraud," said Emmins. "This has
been corrupting content on all TripAdvisor
websites and is a threat to the integrity of not
just the TripAdvisor brand, but also to the
brands of major hotel chains that were
TripAdvisor's spokesman insisted the company was
"fighting fraud aggressively" and had
sophisticated systems to detect fraudsters and
penalties in place to deter them. "These
detection techniques and deterrents mean the
amount of fraud attempted is extremely small.,"
said Kay. "The fact is, the scale of TripAdvisor
means there is honesty in numbers - with 150
million reviews and opinions and 90
contributions a minute the community in itself
is a self-regulating force. "It is also worth
noting that the China business operates on a
separate platform from TripAdvisor to
accommodate the significant market and
regulatory differences in China. Our fraud
detection logic and processes are also
configured to the unique characteristics in that
market. "China is a highly dynamic emerging
market and continuing to maintain the high
quality of our reviews by identifying new fraud
patterns is an ongoing effort that we take very
just keeps on 'keeping on'.
Review website, TripAdvisor is under the reliability
scope again, after a hotel group’s employee has
admitted to posting up to 100 anonymous hotel
reviews on the site.
admitting to the accusation earlier this month,
Accor general manager of communications in Sydney
Peter Hook is said to have criticised rivaling
hotels, while promoting hotel owned by employer,
Accor and Sofitel, through glowing posts, Smart
Company reported. According to the report, Mr Hook
had been publishing reviews under the name ‘Tavare’
since 2010, but was caught out by online reputation
management firm, Kwikchex after TripAdvisor’s
Facebook app displayed the name, photograph and
location on Mr Hook’s Facebook account.
since advised Mr Hook has stepped down from his role
at Accor and said his actions “did not comply with
the Accor charter”. "We reaffirm our wish to
increase our watchfulness on this point,” Accor
chief operating officer Simon McGrath said. Mr Hook
has since told The Telegraph his reviews were all
“from personally experiencing the product”. "Every
review I have written has resulted from personally
experiencing the product," Mr Hook explained.
"However, it is fair to say that my professional
position should have been mentioned in any review of
spokesperson said Mr Hook’s have all been removed
and are under investigation.
This is a significant
development related to the continuous situation of incorrect
information on review sites such as Trip Advisor and others.
Recent piece of well founded
journalism published in the Melbourne AGE - weekend magazine.
This lifts the lid on the
abuse of review sites in general
You can read and download the
PDF versions of this article here:
October 2012 Written by Peter
In a landmark case that may
shake up the world of guest accommodation, a tiny bed-and-breakfast
in a remote part of the British Isles has stood its ground against
the corporate might of TripAdvisor.
The David-and-Goliath struggle has pitted the proprietor of a
six-bedroom guesthouse in the remote Outer Hebrides islands (off the
west coast of Scotland) against the world’s largest travel and
accommodation review website.
Rush hour in high season at Baile na Cille guesthouse
Richard Gollin, a former college lecturer who owns and runs the
Baille na Cille guesthouse at Uig, on the west coast of Lewis,
claims negative criticism posted on TripAdvisor about his business
is false and should be removed.
He has alleged the website has hurt business through lost bookings
worth around GBP2000 (about AUD3140), saying the site is full of
inaccurate or false guest reviews.
TripAdvisor, worth billions of dollars, has maintained that it is
not subject to foreign law. The online review site said it could not
be sued in Britain as it is headquartered in Massachusetts and
therefore beyond the jurisdiction of Scotland’s legal system.
Now, the internet firm has conceded for the first time that it is
subject to the laws of Scotland.
Following months of legal argument in the case, TripAdvisor
confirmed at Stornoway Sheriff Court that it was dropping a
challenge to the jurisdiction argument, the Herald of Scotland
Gollin’s lawyers pointed out that TripAdvisor had a designated
office in London, which puts “the defenders in the member state”.
However Sheriff Colin Scott Mackenzie ruled in TripAdvisor’s favour
over transferring the action to a higher court, which would require
Gollin to hire a lawyer. That could get very expensive for Gollin so
he is appealing that decision.
The result of his appeal will serve as an important precedent. It
could potentially be cited by other plaintiffs to support their
bringing legal action against TripAdvisor outside Massachusetts
where TripAdvisor is based.
TripAdvisor says it dedicates significant time and resources to
ensuring the content it features is authentic, using “a host of over
25 sophisticated filters, a team of detectives, and our community of
over 56 million users” to help police reviews.
In other TripAdvisor news, meanwhile, a former hotel worker says a
questionable review cost him his job.
Fred Keeler, who worked as a bartender at the Four Points by
Sheraton Philadelphia Northeast hotel for almost 14 years, told NBC
News that everything came to an abrupt end after a bad review on
TripAdvisor that said the only good thing about the hotel was “the
bartender, I think his name was Fred, [who] said for a $20 tip he
would give me open tap all night”.
Keeler suspects a disgruntled co-worker actually wrote the post – an
employee with whom he had had a fight on the day that the review was
published. He categorically denied the allegation, but was fired
five days later.