Controversy over Rating System Leaves TripAdvisor Red-Faced Again
TripAdvisor has put its foot in it again with a new rating system that allows people to rate hotels and restaurants without even leaving a review. Anyone with a Facebook account or a TripAdvisor account can rate dozens of places they have never visited in seconds.
The latest controversy follows hot on the heels of a reprimand from the Advertising Standards Authority which forced TripAdvisor to remove misleading claims that its reviews are posted by real people – TripAdvisor had to admit that it could not tell how many of its reviews were fake.
It is clear that things have gone from bad to worse, with some users using the new “easy-peasy” rating system mischievously – or maliciously – to post hundreds of ratings for places they had never visited. The new ratings were even more deeply flawed than the review system, since owners were left without any specific review comments to know what the reason was for a rating and without any right of reply.
For example, Tnooz found that Will83 had contributed only three “regular” reviews since January 2008, but suddenly almost 560 ratings appeared under this profile in a matter of days – the biggest influx of new ratings by the user appearing on Christmas Day 2011. Perhaps too much Christmas booze and bored with the telly?
Not surprisingly, hotels and restaurants have been in uproar over the new ratings. On TripAdvisor’s public forum over 240 messages of protest have been registered in a few days. On the Owners’ forum, hidden from and not accessible to the public, the fury has been even greater.
Under this barrage of criticism, the review giant today finally caved in dropped the new ratings without explanation.
Richard Bradford, owner of Porters English restaurant and the Covent Garden Grill, said of the latest controversy: “At least with reviews you knew where they were coming from and what the problem was, and you could respond.
“Now with these ratings there is nothing you can do. There seems to be a vastly higher percentage of poor and terrible ones for Porters and these will completely distort our ratings for TripAdvisor.”
A spokeswoman for TripAdvisor initially defended the change, saying that the ratings were coming from TripAdvisor and Facebook members about whom TripAdvisor had profile information.
“The recently highlighted ratings provide yet another source of insight from which travellers can make an educated decision when planning their trips,” she claimed. “Ratings enable travellers to rate accommodation properties, restaurants and attractions with a simple overall score out of five. This contribution option allows travellers to quickly rate hospitality businesses to compliment standard reviews, giving users another source of insight when planning their trips.”