TripAdvisor being used to “blackmail” hoteliers

By Rachel Parkes

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Tripadvisor, Hotel

TripAdvisor is reportedly being used to try and coerce hoteliers into giving discounts and freebies
TripAdvisor is reportedly being used to try and coerce hoteliers into giving discounts and freebies
Dishonest guests are using review site TripAdvisor to try and ‘blackmail’ hotel owners into giving them free upgrades and refunds, according to reports today.

An investigation by the Times found that at least 80 hoteliers and bed and breakfast owners had complained that TripAdvisor has been used as a ‘weapon’ against them.

Hoteliers said they had been threatened with one-star reviews if they did not give in to guests’ demands, which included a 50 per cent discount on check in, compensation for a false claim of food poisoning and refusal to pay for damage to rooms.

TripAdvisor said it took the allegations ‘very seriously’, adding: “Not only is it strictly against our guidelines, but it may also be illegal”. Hotel owners who have been threatened in this way should contact the company immediately, in order to allow TripAdvisor’s ‘content integrity’ team to investigate, it said.

“We fully recognise the importance that the reviews and opinions on TripAdvisor have to properties and businesses listed on the site, and we encourage business owners to contact us via the management centre or our new dedicated UK customer care phone line if they feel they’ve been treated unfairly by a TripAdvisor user, or been victim of an illegitimate review or a review which does not comply with our guidelines,” said Emma Boyle, TripAdvisor’s spokeswoman.“We investigate absolutely every inquiry we receive.”

The British Hospitality Association said it would be launching its own line of enquiry. "We are in contact with TripAdvisor about a number of issues but this isn’t one that’s come up before", a spokesman for the BHA told BigHospitality. "We’re naturally concerned and we will be talking to Trip Advisor about this."

Accusations of foul play

Industry anger at TripAdvisor has been growing in recent weeks following Channel 4’s Cutting Edge documentary, ‘Attack of the TripAdvisors’​, which highlighted how bad reviews posted by anonymous reviewers can lose hoteliers tens of thousands of pounds in lost bookings and reputational damage.
When the documentary aired this month, hoteliers and B&B owners lined up to add their own TripAdvisor experiences to the mix – the most frequent being that guests had said nothing negative during their stay, and then posted defamatory reviews on the web.

Accusations of foul play by rival hoteliers further stoked the debate​, when it emerged that TripAdvisor’s security system has loopholes that allow businesses to post negative reports about their competitors.

But TripAdvisor defended its system. “We value the insights of the business owners as well as travellers and both are given an equal opportunity to speak to the TripAdvisor community – in fact, owners always have the last word in the management response tool,” said Boyle.

“We also have a zero tolerance approach to fraudulent reviews. We have numerous measures to manage the legitimacy of reviews on TripAdvisor including sophisticated automated tools on the site, and a large, passionate community of approximately 50 million monthly visitors that also help flag suspicious content,” she added.

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I wouldn't go anywhere without checking TA first

Posted by Penny,

So far I have found TA to be extremely accurate and places that have problems are now being exposed. Good - it's about time that traders stopped giving bad service and food and getting away with doing it!
I watched that TV programme and the problems with the businesses were the owners in my opinion. Look at how rude some are to their customers, that wife of the restaurant owner was disgustingly rude when she saw the lady who'd "dared to complain" walking in - that to me said exactly what was wrong with that place - their attitude. If you want to succeed you've got to want to give good customer service and to deal with complaints properly - that's why most people don't complain - because they're frightened to.

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Trip Advisor users need to prove their points

Posted by Susan,

As an owner who has benefitted from excellent reviews, taken action to improve things following negative comments and suffered from bad reviews from people who haven't even used my establishment, I maintain that Tripadvisor needs to change. The owner has already suggested that establishments should ask their customers to quote receipt numbers in their review - Tripadvisor needs to enforce this as a condition of posting any review, good or bad. Secondly, there should be a compulsory question (which everyone can see) "have you fed back your praise or compaint to the management before posting your review?" While this will not stop people posting who have not made their comments in person first, it will at least enable other users and owners to make a judgement on the value of any comments posted. Lastly, I'd suggest Tripadvisor has on its site some advice for users, which includes not only the recommendation that issues are best raised with the management first - so that something can be done to help - and also some advice about how to "read" reviews: i.e. to take more seriously people who write many reviews, both good and bad, to consider which type of places they have previously reviewed, and to take little notice of people who only ever write one negative or one positive review. Get on with it Tripadvisor - your site is at serious risk of being entirely devalued.

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Trip Advisor

Posted by Glenis French,

We have experienced guests writing complete lies on Trip Advisor, (even though on departure they have said they have enjoyed their stay). If you contact Trip Advisor to this effect, they flatly refuse to remove the review. It is a completely unfair situation and doesnt help any businesses.

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