Tag Archives: owner

TripAdvisor Owners Helpline?

TripAdvisor Owners Helpline – Does it Help?

Caterer & Hotelkeeper and Kwikchex announced recently that TripAdvisor has launched a customer support telephone number for  registered owners and managers.

Hotel, B&B and restaurant reviewers have frequently criticised TripAdvisor for the difficulty they have contacting the company in the event of  malicious or fake reviews – is this a sign that they are doing something positive to help?

Unfortunately, early feedback indicates that the “helpline” staff refuse to deal with complaints about reviews.  According to Kwikchex a typical response to an owner calling them concerning reviews has been, “He advised me that the line was not for complaints about reviews, there was another department but that he could not put me through to anyone.”

The explanation may be that the UK telehone numbers provided for the supposed ‘helpline’ are actually the existing numbers for TripAdvisor’s Business Listings team.  

The telephone numbers in question have only ever been for contacting the business listings team, to ask about buying a business listing or to answer queries about business listings . They have never offered general support.  If this has changed, maybe someone at TripAdvisor ought to tell the people answering the phones about it!

Just in case, for any owner who want to give it a go and contact TripAdvisor on this number, the UK contact details are as follows:

Monday-Friday
9:30 AM – 5:00 PM EST
0800-098-8460 (Toll-Free)
+44 (0) 203 318 5019


TripAdvisor Evades “Cheating Owners” Question

TripAdvisor Evades “Cheating Owners” Question

I recently posted concerning a property on TripAdvisor that had received a flurry of very suspicious reviews (see One More Reason Not to Trust TripAdvisor Reviews, November 22nd 2010) and asked why TripAdvisor failed to penalise this example of cheating.

TripAdvisor Owners Forum

TripAdvisor Owners Forum

Around the same time I asked on TripAdvisor Owners Forum why properties were allowed to get away with seeding their own listings with obvious fake reviews.

TripAdvisor failed to give any response to the question on the forum, but several of the fake reviews cited in the example were removed within a few days of being reported to TA.

Subsequently the question was removed entirely from the Owners Forum, the reason given to me off-forum being that

the open forum is not the appropriate avenue by which to report a review you feel is suspicious or inappropriate.

It was also suggested that my question could be a smear campaign against a particular property. I pointed out that reflected neither the content nor the purpose of the question I posed; my argument had required me to give an example of fake reviews (but I had not named the property) and TripAdvisor must have thought the reviews were suspicious as 3 were removed when they were reported through proper channels. They replied:

it is our policy not to disclose information about our investigations or actions taken regarding other members’ accounts or other properties’ listings. Keep in mind, though, that it sometimes happens that a review will be removed for reasons other than those for which it was originally reported, so the removal of a review should not be interpreted as an acknowledgment of anything except that the review either did not meet our guidelines or the author requested its removal.

Pull the other one, please! To suggest that reviews purporting to be from the USA, that said:

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

and

“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 !”

that were reported as fakes and were removed immediately, to suggest they were removed for any reason other than that they are obvious fakes, strikes me as disingenuous.

Further coincidence, the property in the example has not received a single review since the beginning of October when the fakes were reported. However, due to TripAdvisor’s failure to penalise the property, it remains the best rated in its area!

The TA system has proved its inadequacy once again.

TripAdvisor and the Disappearing Reviews

TripAdvisor Finally Admits “Disappearing Reviews Are Our Fault”

For months – going back to early spring this year – the TripAdvisor Owners Forum has been groaning under the weight of complaints from owners whose perfectly good reviews have been disappearing from their listings. Here’s a small sample:

TripAdvisor Reviews Disappearing

For an equally long time TripAdvisor has either been ignoring these complaints or, when they have bothered to reply, fobbing the owners off with a standard response saying that they can’t discuss reasons for reviews being removed:

Standard "Response" from TripAdvisor

For months on end these same excuses were trotted out, much to the owners’ frustration and anger.  Heated discussions abounded on the subject.

The volume of complaints grew to such an extent that a “sticky” was added to the top of the Owners Forum, and whenever someone raised the issue they were referred to it – it has since been removed but here’s the gist:

Q. Why was the “sticky”, effectively telling Owners to “go away and stop bothering us”,  removed?

A. Because finally, months on and after the disappearance of countless good reviews, TripAdvisor has come clean and admitted that it has been erroneously removing perfectly good reviews from its site.

Apparently it was “due to a bug”.

Oops - we've cocked up!

Massive Cock-Up Admitted

To give some idea of the scale of the problem, they are still working on trying to replace all the reviews they have wrongly deleted – three weeks after they admitted the problem (August 25th).

As of 13th September, TripAdvisor staff say it will take some time yet for the erroneously deleted reviews to be reinstated.  TA also says there is no guarantee that ALL missing reviews will reappear – if some don’t they are covering their backsides by saying  it’ll be because ‘they’ve been removed for other reasons’.

If you’re an owner whose perfectly good, genuine reviews fail to reappear you’ll never know whether it’s because the retrieval exercise has failed, or because TA deliberately removed your reviews, as it is TA policy never to discuss the reasons for reviews being removed.

I would be interested to know exactly how many reviews have been wiped out by TA’s “bug” but I doubt if TripAdvisor knows for sure (otherwise it would not be taking so long to try to sort the problem out), and it’s unlikely that they would tell us even if they did.  Given the hundreds of owner posts on the subject, and the likelihood that most owners would not notice some reviews disappearing, there are probably thousands affected.

Marvellous.  SNAFU, as they said in WW2.

How to Improve TripAdvisor Ranking

Great Marketing Job – or Fiddling the Reviews?

Let’s say a small B&B in France, which has been operating for at least 5 years but has had no reviews on TripAdvisor, suddenly receives 16 glowing reviews in the space of a few months – all 5 stars, all from Britons and all except one from people with only this one review to their name.

It leaps up the rankings on TripAdvisor, not surprisingly.   So what do you think is the more likely explanation?

  1. Foul : the flip side of the fake reviews coin – rather than malicious reviews, it is probably an owner rigging the ratings with fake reviews
  2. Fair : genuine guest reviews, perhaps because the owner is encouraging them to do so
  3. Some other reason?

This is a genuine case on TripAdvisor – what do you think?  I’m not sure either way, and therein lies the dilemma of anonymous reviews – should you trust the reviews or not?

If you’re a registered owner on TripAdvisor you’ll find a link to the same question on the Owners’ Forum if you click the image:

Phil

Open Letter to TripAdvisor

My TripAdvisor ID

I was prompted today to send a “Private Message” (henceforth to be known as “Direct Message” now I know they are not really private!) to one of the TripAdvisor staff members on the TA forum.

As I was tapping away, I soon went off from the specific matter I was contacting them about, and started discussing life as an owner and how I felt about TA in general.  Maybe I should change my TA avatar from a frog to a butterfly.

Anyway, I thought I would share part of this same message in an open letter to TripAdvisor:

Hi XXX

I know I’m a pain in the butt.  It must seem that all I do is ask awkward questions. But I honestly think they need to be asked, and I think open discussion on the Owners Forum helping both sides understand each other’s standpoint.

In my opinion your responses are helping to remove one big source of owners’ frustration, namely the difficulty of entering into any meaningful dialogue with TA.

That said, there are certain points over which owners and TA are probably NEVER going to see eye to eye. In particular, the issue of fake and malicious or unfair reviews. At the centre of the problem is the TA policy of not checking (and usually being unable to check) the veracity of reviews.

I think I’m a fairly typical owner in that I’ll take fair criticism on the chin, apologise when I fall short and try to do better next time. But when I knew that 2 reviews of our property were plain lies, that led to genuine distress and anger, loss of sleep and all the rest, both for me and my wife.

Doubtless other owners in a similar position feel the same.  Most of us knock ourselves out to look after our guests and it’s crucifying when something like that happens.

I don’t take wrongs against me lying down – whether in day-to-day life or on review sites. I fight back to get wrongs against me righted, and it’s clear some other owners feel the same.  We can’t be expected to roll over when someone spreads lies about us.

Finally, I do appreciate your and other staff members’ recent contributions on the Owners Forum – though it may sometimes feel like a pretty thankless task from your point of view.  But it’s also a pretty thankless and sometimes fruitless task trying to get a malicious review removed.

Phil

A Cautious Thumbs-Up for TripAdvisor

I hope I’m not imagining this, but it seems to me that TripAdvisor is becoming better at responding to owners’ problems.

The Owners Forum is a private area of TripAdvisor where owners often post questions about missing reviews, property listing errors, allegedly fake reviews etc.  When I first started posting there (where I use our B&B identity of Basse Cour) I hardly ever used to see any sign of an answer by TA staff.

Virtually all the responses to anxious owners were by other owners; even the “Owners Forum Destination Experts” are just other owners and can do no more than point owners unfamiliar with TA procedures to their Owner’s Centre dashboard.  What the owners really wanted was a forum where they could address concerns to TA, not just to other owners.  Unfortunately this was not how TA saw the forum.

Recently, unless I’m much mistaken, TA staff seem to be more active on the Owners Forum and are starting to reply to owners’ concerns.  The answer isn’t always what the owner wants to hear, but at least there is the occasional TA “human face”.

I think this is a Good Thing. 🙂

Moreover, I recently posted a question about TA’s liability in libel cases, linking back to the previous post here.  I tried to make sure that it remained within the restrictions of forum rules, but wasn’t sure whether this would be allowed to stand, as in the past TripAdvisor has jumped very quickly to remove any forum posts that carried even a hint of criticism – like this.  To their credit, on this occasion TA let it stand and even replied to it.

I do hope this is the start of a move towards greater openness and better communication on TripAdvisor, and not just a one-off case.  Opening a dialogue with owners should be the first step to addressing their concerns and creating a partnership, rather than the “Us and Them” mentality that comes from refusal to engage.

A Glimpse of TripAdvisor’s Owners’ Forum

Did you know there is a special forum on TripAdvisor which is hidden from the general public?

To access this forum you need to be registered as an owner of a property listed on TripAdvisor.   There are plenty of properties on TripAdvisor that aren’t claimed yet by their owners – I wonder if just anyone could claim one and so get access to the forum?

You would probably imagine that this forum is very useful for TripAdvisor to get valuable feedback from owners.

Here’s a small glimpse into this hidden world – the exchange of views is fascinating.

Dialogue between Owners and TripAdvisor

Dialogue between Owners and TripAdvisor