Attack of the TripAdvisors: Should review websites allow anonymity?

By Luke Nicholls

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Restaurant, Website, Tripadvisor

TripAdvisor is the world's largest travel site, with more than 150 million reviews left in 2013
TripAdvisor is the world's largest travel site, with more than 150 million reviews left in 2013
Review website TripAdvisor has reiterated that blackmail from customers is ‘strictly against guidelines’ after a Yorkshire-based restaurateur claimed reviewers were threatening to leave negative comments unless they received a free meal at one of his outlets.

Jason Mace, who owns two restaurants in Rotherham under the Real Steakhouse brand, says his staff have been subject to threats of bad reviews ‘on several occasions’ and is now urging TripAdvisor to change its policies.

“Tripadvisor is a great concept in principle if people use it correctly,” said Mace. “What it doesn’t do is protect genuine restaurants from purposely malicious users, as it allows them to retain their anonymity, which leads to unnecessarily harmful reviews.   

“This is breeding a small band of malicious customers who are threatening restaurants with really bad reviews if their demands are not met. It’s verging on blackmail plain and simple and as restaurateurs we need to band together to make sure this cannot be allowed to happen.

“By allowing this to happen, Tripadvisor is losing its credibility and its influence over the consumer.”

TripAdvisor response

But TripAdvisor spokesperson James Kay was quick to jump to the firm’s defence, claiming allegations of blackmail or threatening behaviour by guests against property owners ‘are taken very seriously’.

“Not only is it strictly against our guidelines, but it may also be illegal in many jurisdictions,” said Kay. “If an owner experiences this, we urge them to contact us immediately.

“We now have a way for owners to proactively report these threats before a corresponding review is submitted. Immediate reporting of blackmail threats, via the Management Centre, can supplement our investigative procedure and help us keep blackmail reviews from ever reaching the site.”

Unscrupulous customers

Mace, who established the Real Steakhouse brand in 2013, is demanding that Tripadvisor goes a step further; by removing anonymity and providing better policing of its site in order to protect both restaurants and the public.
“What shouldn’t be allowed to happen is that restaurants are held to ransom by a small band of unscrupulous customers,” he added. “It’s still a very challenging and competitive market for restaurants and the last thing we need is a tiny minority of customers spoiling it for everyone else.  

“If this continues, more restaurants will be at the mercy of these malicious individuals and will end up closing down, leading to job losses, further economic hardship and less choice for the customer – this isn’t in anyone’s best interest.”

He did, however, point out that TripAdvisor does have its benefits for hospitality businesses. “On the plus side, some customers now come into the restaurant asking for Sarah and say ‘we love your review responses, so we decided to come and try this place.’ This always creates a great talking point for the evening.”

What do you think about this - should TripAdvisor remove anonymity? Perhaps you’ve experienced something similar to the above, or maybe you think the review website is already providing the right level of policing… Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts.

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10 comments

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What's the real argument?

Posted by Mahesh Patel,

I as a restaurant owner have dealt with tripadvisor in the past. We were suffering several negative reviews which we felt were not left by genuine customers. For example we are closed on sunday's and monday's however one reviewer specifically mentioned that they dinned in the restaurant on a monday evening.

We brought this to tripadvisor's attention and was immediate shunned towards their so called policies and procedural guidelines. We were told that that they (tripadvisor) will not take down the false reviews as it challenges FREE SPEECH! We then went on to explain that we are closed on Monday's, to which they replied that we should not be affected by the odd negative review and should focus on improving our service further.

I disagree with their policies as I feel they have provided a platform where by they allow business to be defamed openly!

An individual experiences a lot hardships when it comes to setting up their own business. Its slightly unfair for the individual then has to suffer sleepless nights due to malicious bad reviews that are posted on such a wide and open platform.

I disagree with this article in regards to anonymity. There is nothing stopping a malicious person from using a fake name with a temporary email address.

The real argument I feel is, that business should have the FREE WILL to have their property removed from tripadvisor.

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bad reviews

Posted by David Deans,

I have experienced this with a drunk customer who was staying in my hotel the lady in question threatened and then put a bad review which was contradictory to majority of other customers at the George hotel hatherleigh

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Bad Reviews

Posted by Maxx Preston,

I initially was worried about Tripadvisors Power in the Market place but I now View Trippy as a Great FREE Marketing Tool.
People since time began could badmouth any other person or business and behind your back with the result that your Reputation or Business could suffer and you would not know or even why but at least now when people post a true or false review on Tripadvisor I can leave my review and let the readers make up their OWN MIND, so Game over for the liars and cheats of this World..

Maxx..

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