Hotel Review Websites

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!

December 2014

TripAdvisor fined by Italian watchdog

TripAdvisor is considering filing an appeal against a €500,000 fine from competition authorities in Italy.

Italy's competition 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.

Source Travelmole.com

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) weighs into the TripAdvisor debate

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 attraction.Cordato Partners-www.tourismlegal.com.au

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 breathtaking’]
 

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 uses. 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 crowd’. 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 reviews. 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 positives.

What else does the ACCC recommend to travel review platforms and hospitality businesses?

Incentivised consumer reviews
The ACCC is concerned that incentives offered to consumers in exchange for their reviews may lead to biased, inflated or misleading reviews. 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 reviews. 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.

Final Comments

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

March 2014

TripAdvisor under fire for 'fake' reviews on China site

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 still.


"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 TripAdvisor.com


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 reviewed."

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 seriously."

Source Travelmole.com

The problem just keeps on 'keeping on'.

 

31/05/2013  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.

Reportedly 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.

Accor has 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 the hotels."

A TripAdvisor spokesperson said Mr Hook’s have all been removed and are under investigation.

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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: Page 1:  Page2: Page3:

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October 2012 Written by Peter Needham

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 reported.

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.

 


 

Summary from a ‘Times on Line’ report from the UK.

Open to all web based review sites can be right and could be very wrong! The following online review appeared to be a glowing endorsement of a fine hotel by the shores of Loch Ness. “My parents stayed many years ago and said what a lovely spot this place has. They were so right!” said the review of the Drumnadrochit hotel posted on TripAdvisor, one of the most popular websites for travel information.  “Well done to the staff, who were really charming . . . Have no hesitation in booking . . . the food is outstanding . . . Believe me you’ll love it.”

 

 

The gushing praise, however, was not the independent judgment of an ordinary guest: in fact, it had been written and posted by David Bremner, the hotel’s owner. He admitted the ploy but was unrepentant. “Maybe I shouldn’t have done it,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s that big a deal.” Real guests might not agree: some previous reviews had complained of high prices and shabby rooms. Either way, Bremner is certainly not alone in exploiting the booming number of online travel guides that allow the public to post their own reviews of hotels and restaurants.

 “Stunning new pub restaurant,” gushed the writer on eGullet, a website for food connoisseurs. The chap who posted the eulogy, failed to mention one significant fact: he happens to be the owner of the pub. He admitted that he should have revealed that he was the proprietor, but denied that he had been attempting to mislead readers. “I was misinterpreted,” he said.

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

A Sunday Times investigation has shown:

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

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

  • 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 travel guides have traditionally been compiled by professional inspectors who visit hotels and restaurants incognito and fiercely guard their impartiality. But it is a costly business and one that can no longer compete.

Be wary and seek comments from a live travel consultant, or (if they still exist) a 'old' school review company who has hopefully been able to move to the web.