One More Reason Not to Trust TripAdvisor Reviews

One More Reason Not to Trust TripAdvisor Reviews

At the beginning of this month I noticed on TripAdvisor a small B&B  with a rash of recent reviews that had pushed it to the top of the listings in its region.

The owners had no reviews on TripAdvisor until July 2010, then within a few weeks a regular series of reviews appeared.   Every review was by someone who had just joined TripAdvisor, all reviewers had done nothing other than review this one property, and all awarded this B&B 5 star reviews.  Oddly, the reviews were all in French until the end  of September, when a number of badly written English reviews appeared. 

One of the English reviews, purporting to be from the USA, said:

My wife and myself were royally baffled by this unexpected eclipse of hospitality. Rare for French hosts, English is spoken very well.

 That review was shortly joined by another from a supposed resident of New York:

The place is the fusion of high class and style – you can find yourself in the room with bed from Bali (put some colonial fumes in your evening) and the same time you can observe Mac book as a decoration over your head during the breakfast time. If you are still deciding where to stay visiting Pxxxx – don’t hesitate, Cxxxxx is the place to go !

There were several of these “English” reviews, one after another in the space of a few days around the beginning of October. 

Taken as a whole – the sudden surge of reviews by “virgin” reviewers at the end of summer into autumn, their unalloyed praise, the bizarre phrasing of the supposed English reviews – all this strongly suggested that some, if not all, of the reviews were “plants”.

TripAdvisor has since removed the obvious fake English reviews.

However, the French reviews have been left in place, the property did not get “Red Flagged” and it remains listed as the most popular B&B in the area, with nothing to indicate anything untoward has happened.  Effectively, the property has got away scot-free.

If one owner can do it, then doubtless other owners are also faking their own reviews on TripAdvisor.  Even worse, by removing the more blatant fake reviews that anyone could spot, but failing to penalise the listing, TripAdvisor actually makes a property look better:  people are more likely to be conned by the reviews that remain than they would if the obvious fakes had been left there!

Welcome to TripAdvisor, the world’s most trusted source of fake reviews!

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5 responses to “One More Reason Not to Trust TripAdvisor Reviews

  1. One should not trust Tripadvisor because Tripadvisor aims at serving third-parties interests rather than helping travellers. I wrote a one-star review of a restaurant that is high ranked in Wroclaw, Poland but at which I had a disastrous experience. Altough my review was genuine, it was removed from the website because it contained an allegation of fraud (sic). I found it strange since I’ve already written around 70 reviews (most of which restaurants) and never had such problem. Here’s a link to my Tripadvisor profile: http://www.tripadvisor.com/members/MikeDoviel. So I asked the Support about what went wrong. They replied that it contained a report of review fraud (sic) with no further explanation. I sent a second e-mail to ask for more details, they never bothered to reply. I then realized there was nothing wrong with my review. Tripadvisor just decided to censor it, probably in some effort to damage control the reputation of the restaurant I was reviewing. What’s worse, I denunced to Tripadvisor a review that was obviously fake: a first time reviewer who wrote a five-star review, listing items that were not served and stated “next time you’re around just pop in”. I was surprised to find out that my request was rejected, meaning that Tripadvisor finds this review to be genuine. Since, I’ve stopped writing reviews on Tripadvisor. When I travel, I’d rather ask locals or wander around the city and see for myself than trust Tripadvisor reviews.

  2. Pingback: TripAdvisor Evades “Cheating Owners” Question | TripAdvisorWatch: Travel Review Sites in Focus

  3. As TA relies heavily upon IP addresses (ie ‘don’t let your guests review from your hotel WiFi as it looks like planted reviews’) it is also clear that this enterprising individual either travels to many internet cafe’s or sends prepared texts to friends to post. It also follows that 18 different accounts have been created in TA, with 18 different email addresses, to enable this to happen. This somewhat dilutes the TA claim for the number of reviewers on their site and shows that whatever ‘systems’ they have, they are showing absolutely no competence to eliminate fraudulent or fake reviews. TA will, eventually, have to accept that anonymity is the cause of the problem and they would be better addresssing the cause than poorly, slowly and by all accounts begrudgingly, tinkering with the symptom.

    • Spot on – in fact, anyone with the computer skills to clear off cookies and to use proxy IP addresses can create a number of accounts from a single computer and they will be undetectable by TripAdvisor.

      A lady from USA Today rang me the other night as she was writing an article to tell Joe Public how to use TripAdvisor. She wanted to know how to tell real from fake reviews, so I pointed out that if it’s done properly, you can’t. She then said that the ‘red flag’ was proof that TA caught hotels that cheated – I pointed out that it was easy for a savvy owner to avoid detection. Unfortunately, this was not what she wanted to hear and the interview soon ended.

      When cheating is done as clumsily as this and TA does nothing to penalise it, it makes me despair of those like the interviewer who think TripAdvisor fakes can easily be weeded out.

  4. Pingback: Tweets that mention One More Reason Not to Trust TripAdvisor Reviews | TripAdvisorWatch: Travel Review Sites in Focus -- Topsy.com

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