Tag Archives: tripadvisor

Reporting Blackmail to TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor has finally responded to owner reports of attempted “blackmail”  when guests threaten to post negative and malicious reviews unless a demand for a refund, upgrade, or other request is met. They describe this as “an occasional concern” although reports of attempted blackmail are fairly common on their Owner’s forum.

TripAdvisor Blackmail on Owners Forum

TripAdvisor Blackmail on Owners Forum

They now have a way for you to report blackmail threats before a corresponding review is submitted. TripAdvsor says that immediate reporting of blackmail threats can “supplement our investigative procedure and help us keep blackmail reviews from ever reaching the site.”

Here are their procedures for registered owners to report blackmail to TripAdvisor:

  • Instruct staff to share any guest blackmail threats immediately.
  • Submit a potential blackmail review report as soon as possible via the Management Center as follows:
  1. Log in to your property Management Centre
  2. Select “Manage your reviews”
  3. Click the link under “Dispute a review”
  4. Complete the form and confirm that the issue “Report blackmail” is selected
  5. Provide the month and year of the guest’s stay, an email address and/or a name and as many details as possible about the incident.
  • Retain as much documentation relating to the report as you can including emails, letters, voicemails, etc.

Any reports of experiences in using this procedure would be welcome!

#TripAdvisor Liable under UK Law

TripAdvisor Liable under UK Law

Hotels, B&Bs and restaurants can now take legal action in the UK against review website TripAdvisor following a landmark victory over legal jurisdiction.
Following months of legal argument, TripAdvisor said on October 11th at Stornoway Sheriff Court that it was dropping its challenge to UK jurisdiction, conceding that it is subject to the laws of Scotland and can be taken to court in the UK.
The case was brought by a Scottish B&B owner who claimed that negative criticism posted about his business was false and should be removed by TripAdvisor.

TripAdvisor had previously denied it was subject to UK law and argued it could not be sued in Britain, saying that its headquarters are in Massachusetts and therefore outside the reach of the UK legal system.

However, the B&B owner’s lawyer argued that the “harmful event” took place in Uig, on Lewis, and thus the Stornoway court had jurisdiction. In addition, he pointed out TripAdvisor had a designated office at 7 Soho Square in London, which put “the defenders in the member state.”

However, this particular case may not make it to court as the Sheriff ruled it was too complex for the Sheriff court and would have to be transferred to a higher court.  This would expose the plaintiff to unlimited legal expenses.

The B&B owner pointed out to the sheriff that TripAdvisor had spent weeks trying to transfer the case to Massachusetts, and that its latest request to transfer to a higher court was a ruse to make it too expensive for him to pursue his case.  Sheriff Colin Scott Mackenzie said, “I do have sympathy for you” but added that the contract law involved might be too complex for his court.

Mr Gollin is now appealing to the Sheriff Principal over the decision, which could force him to drop the action due to the legal costs involved.  However, it does set a precedent for other owners to challenge TripAdvisor in court outside the USA.

#TripAdvisor #Travel #Fail

TripAdvisor Geography Failure

If you’re planning a trip to France using TripAdvisor (or anywhere else, for that matter) just beware – geography is clearly not their strong point.

I was browsing the department of the Sarthe in France – home to the famous Le Mans 24 Hours race each June – and I noticed that TripAdvisor had helpfully suggested some nearby “popular destinations near the Sarthe” that I presumably might want to consider visiting if I were going to the Sarthe.

TripAdvisor – Popular Places near the Sarthe

Fortunately, I know the region but just in case anyone doesn’t, here is a map of France showing where TripAdvisor’s idea of popular destinations near the Sarthe actually are (in red) and where the Sarthe is (in green).

TripAdvisor - Popular Places near the Sarthe

TripAdvisor – Popular Places near the Sarthe

Thanks, TripAdvisor!  But we regret to inform you that we won’t be taking up your suggestions :)

Dangerous TripAdvisor Reviewers to be Tagged

Dangerous TripAdvisor Reviewers to be Tagged

In a bold move to aid hotels, restaurants and bed and breakfast owners to avoid some of the worst of its members, TripAdvisor is trying to tag its most dangerous reviewers.

It is hoped that in time all of the most pompous and prolific reviewers with the most grossly exaggerated view of their own self-importance will be tagged in this way.

The scheme works by attaching a large “TripAdvisor” logo to the luggage of the unwanted guest, enabling canny owners to put up a “Fully Booked” sign as they see the offender approaching their business.

The trap is set by TripAdvisor sending out emails to its reviewers inviting them to apply for the luggage tags as a “gift” – much as police have used prize draws etc. to trap criminals in the United States.  As the scheme is entirely voluntary, it is legal for TripAdvisor to tag its members in this way.

TripAdvisor also takes the gullible reviewer’s email address and home address enabling them to further punish them with spam.

TripAdvisor on Facebook

TripAdvisor on Facebook

Despite not really caring about the great, unwashed travelling public and not wanting to interact with them, TripAdvisor has thrust its fat corporate finger into “social media” via Twitter and Facebook and posts a never-ending stream of pictures inviting comments.  And of course, it gets replies in their hundreds, mostly from morons who don’t realise that nobody at TripAdvisor is ever going to read or react to what they post.

However, there is an upside to TripAdvisor’s transparently non-social use of Facebook and patent lack of engagement.

Occasionally they post a picture which allows us to have a little fun at TripAdvisor’s expense, knowing that they’ll never read it.  Here’s one recent example:

Having Fun with TripAdvisor on Facebook

Controversial Quicky Ratings Reinstated by TripAdvisor

Controversial Rating System Reinstated by TripAdvisor

Back at the beginning of March I reported that TripAdvisor had withdrawn a controversial “quicky” rating system that allowed people to rate hotels and restaurants without leaving a review or a comment.  This made it easier for anyone to rate dozens of places they had never visited in seconds just by clicking a list of suggested places.

TripAdvisor’s Controversial “one click” Ratings System

As an example of the abuse this encouraged, 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.

On TripAdvisor’s public forum over hundreds of messages of protest were made in a few days.  On the Owners’ forum, hidden from and not accessible to the public, the furore was even greater.

Under this barrage of criticism, the review giant today finally caved in dropped the new ratings without explanation.

I’m sorry to report that TripAdvisor has now reinstated the “quicky” ratings.

TripAdvisor Appoints Head of Fraud

Andrew Marane. "Content Integrity" will stop short of verifying facts or whether people have used the places they review.

In an attempt to stem the continuing problem of “fraudulent reviews”, Mr. Andrew Marane has been appointed new “Director of Content Integrity” on TripAdvisor.

Ex-Navy, Marane worked in law enforcement where in the latter part of his career he worked on organized fraud investigations. He then moved on to the insurance industry before his last move to eCommerce and financial markets.

Marane says of his role in TripAdvisor, “People who try to affect the quality on TripAdvisor never stop thinking of new ways to improve their attempts, so we should continue to improve, also.”

It is revealing that TripAdvisor consistently uses the term “fraudulent” rather than “fake” reviews, suggesting that it is more intent on catching owners trying to game the system rather than malicious guests.

In announcing Marane’s appointment TripAdvisor does not mention any plans to verify that reviewers have used the restaurants and hotels that they review, nor to fact-check the veracity of reviews.   Until such measures are taken, the use of marketing phrases like “Real reviews by real people” will continue to be forbidden in the UK market despite its use in the article introducing Marane.

TripAdvisor U-Turn Over Ratings System

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.

TripAdvisor’s New Ratings System

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.”

Tnooz uncovers “TripAdvisor Select” scam

Yesterday Kevin May and Tnooz published an article revealing a scam whereby properties have been contacted by someone claiming to be the new “director of traveler reviews at TripAdvisor”, whose email says the company is launching a programme known as “TripAdvisor Select”.

The mailer says that TripAdvisor is looking into ways of giving some hotels on the site with the best reviews an official badge of approval, to say that the property has been audited for high quality by TripAdvisor itself following a visit.

Hotels getting the official thumbs-up from TripAdvisor would be rewarded with a “TripAdvisor Select” logo on their listing and, most importantly, having this official approval would prevent users from leaving negative reviews about a property!

Naturally it’s a scam and the mailer has nothing to do with TripAdvisor, despite   the mailer signing off with the address of the company Massachusetts headquarters in the USA.

#TripAdvisor Ordered to Remove False Claims in UK

TripAdvisor Ordered to Remove Advertising Claims

TripAdvisor has been ordered by the Advertising Standards Authority to remove a number of marketing claims from its UK website.  This follows complaints to the UK advertising watchdog that the TripAdvisor website includes false claims such as “Read real reviews from real travellers”, “TripAdvisor offers trusted advice from real travellers”, “Reviews you can trust” and “More than 50 million honest travel reviews and opinions from travellers around the world”.

The ASA ruled that consumers might be fooled by fraudulent posts since reviews on TripAdvisor could be posted “without any form of verification” and its claims of trustworthiness were misleading.

“Don’t major on trustworthiness if fake reviews can appear”, said Guy Parker, ASA chief executive.

The ASA  findings stated: “We noted that reviewers were asked to agree to a declaration that their review was their genuine opinion of the hotel and that they had no personal or business affiliation with the hotel, or been offered an incentive to write a review for it.

“(But) We also noted that reviewers were not asked to similarly confirm that they had no competitive interest in the place they were reviewing, or were posting a review on behalf of a competitor or other interested party, and we did not consider that agreeing to a declaration in itself would necessarily prevent non-genuine reviews from being posted on the site.

“Notwithstanding that, we understood that reviews could be placed on the site without any form of verification, and that whilst TripAdvisor took steps to monitor and deal with suspicious activity, it was possible that non-genuine content would appear on the site undetected.”

It concluded that certain TripAdvisor advertising slogans and claims were misleading because they implied that consumers could be assured that all review content on the TripAdvisor site was genuine, when that was not in fact the case.

It told TripAdvisor “not to claim or imply that all the website were from real travellers, or were honest, real or trusted”.

It warned that the issue of fake reviews was particularly a problem  if a business only had a small number of reviews, and that offering owners a right to reply did not address the problem.

“This should be regarded as a benchmark ruling which applies to all web sites which make claims about the reliability of their user-created content,” the ASA’s spokesman Matthew Wilson said.

Despite the ruling, TripAdvisor downplayed the risk of customers being misled. “We have confidence that the 50 million users who come to our site every month trust the reviews they read on TripAdvisor, which is why they keep coming back to us in increasingly larger numbers to plan and have the perfect trip,” it said in a statement.

The tripadvisor.co.uk homepage now contains no reference to the word “trust” and simply describes itself as “the world’s largest travel site”.  However, its international tripadvisor.com website, also visible in the UK, continues to describe its content as the “world’s most trusted travel advice” and that “you’ll find real hotel reviews you can trust”.