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How reliable is TripAdvisor?

Old Jul 2nd, 2008, 08:07 AM
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How reliable is TripAdvisor?

I travel quite a lot and often go to web reviews to get a feel for a hotel. I've heard from a former employee that TripAdvisor manufacture a lot of their reviews to favor hotels who are paying them off. I found this website about CEO Stephen Kaufer, don't know if it's parody or for real.
http://stephenkaufer.org/
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Old Jul 2nd, 2008, 08:15 AM
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From a NYT article:

"TripAdvisor, which is owned by Expedia, is perhaps the best known of the hotel ratings sites and proclaims it is the largest, with more than three million reader reviews. It is so concerned with review fraud that it hired Reed Meyer to create a fraud detection algorithm to sniff out suspect reviews. Mr. Meyer would not disclose how the program worked because he did not want to tip off hotels on how to circumvent it. Nor will he say how many reviews have been weeded out by the application.

Christine Petersen, TripAdvisor's senior vice president for marketing, said, "Hotels periodically try to get around the system." In one memorable case, an Italian hotelier offered the site a bottle of Limoncello di Capri liqueur if the site would remove a poor review of his property. The site declined."

I'm sure hotels encourage their employees to post favorable reviews. But, that happens in restaurants, as well.

When I use that site I look for reviews that are not 100% glowing. That to me would seem to be a real review, one that does show some negatives because frankly few places get it all right.

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Old Jul 2nd, 2008, 08:19 AM
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The more reviews the better.

If there are a lot of reviews that repeat the same themes, that's a good sign. I look for quiet, clean, great location, helpful staff, etc.

If there are only a few reviews by people who have reviewed no other hotels, that is a clue the reviews were written by people who have an interest in the hotel (or an ax to grind).

I've heard from a former employee that TripAdvisor manufacture a lot of their reviews to favor hotels who are paying them off. Sounds like a disgruntled employee to me. I can't believe that TripAdvisor would risk losing it credibility in this way. It doesn't make sense, and, as Judge Judy says, "If it doesn't make sense, it probably isn't true."

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Old Jul 2nd, 2008, 08:36 AM
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I trust Trip Advisor. I recently posted a very positive review and before it was posted they emailed me to confirm I was not a paid plant.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2008, 08:50 AM
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I try to review every property I stay at for Trip Advisor, and they don't pay me. (ha)

I've had the same experience as SiteC_er -- they do check the validity of their reviews as much as possible. I do some marketing writing so my reviews can sometimes sound like they came from a brochure.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2008, 08:50 AM
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I think the "plants" are fairly easy to sniff out. But SiteC, I'm curious how that email to you would mean that you are not a paid plant? Wouldn't a paid plant also respond to the email?
 
Old Jul 2nd, 2008, 08:57 AM
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How reliable is any website? You, as a user, get what you pay for. I participate w/TripAdvisor more than I do here. Too many posters get sidetracked on this forum.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2008, 09:16 AM
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I have "used" TA for3-4 years: over most of US.
for me it has been 95 % accurate the % 5 had just as many good as bad reviews..
Many reviews with have one "issue" will offset the positive things.
all I can say about http://stephenkaufer.org/ is WOW
Anyone who will write such vitriolic garbage has a problem.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2008, 09:49 AM
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I trust it; the best feature is the photos posted by travelers - much more accurate than hotel photos.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2008, 09:56 AM
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People who are unhappy with a hotel/resort are MUCH more likely to post a negative review than people who are satisfied/happy.

So I don't put much stock in the reviews, with the exception of very specific comments (e.g., regarding construction, etc.).

Also, many people get the service they deserve, in my experience.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2008, 10:09 AM
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I always read the reviews with a grain of salt. What I like about tripadvisor is the feature which I can click on the reviewer and look at his/her profile. If that member has posted other hotel reviews, or participated in forums, it makes that member more credible in my mind.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2008, 10:10 AM
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That was not the type of fair reporting I expected from that link. It was full of foul language and accusations of bestiality. There is not one shred of evidence on that page. Sounds like sour grapes.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2008, 10:19 AM
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On a recent trip, all of the TA reviews I read helped me to make informed decisions; in turn, I posted reviews when I returned home to help future travelers. Using TA & these boards has really helped us to plan out better trips & we've been more satisfied with our accomodations & dining.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2008, 10:24 AM
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I read the reviews, but very carefully. I find that "rants" are often about something I consider trivial, or, after reading, believe was the poster's fault. Also, and this is most important, is that what's "fabulous" to someone who typically stays in suburban 50s-style motels, is not necessarily fabulous to me. Just be really aware of your particular sensibilities, tastes, budget, etc.
 
Old Jul 2nd, 2008, 10:39 AM
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Also, and this is most important, is that what's "fabulous" to someone who typically stays in suburban 50s-style motels, is not necessarily fabulous to me.

So true. Excellent observation. I've had this thought, but this is the first time I've seen it stated. Thanks.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2008, 11:04 AM
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Hmmm, a first (and only) posting with an axe to grind. This post by bonvivant69 on Fodor's is a perfect example of the sort of posting to be wary of on Trip Advisor.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2008, 11:08 AM
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Trip Advisor is a fantastic website. But rather than the hotel reviews section, I use the forums (which are a similar format to Fodor's) and read & ask my questions there.

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Old Jul 2nd, 2008, 11:31 AM
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I think the feature that allows you to click on the poster's name and see what else they have written is very revealing about Trip Advisor. I find the glowing reviews are either from one-time posters who logged in just to praise (I am suspicious), biut that more critical travelers (like me) have been to many places and will have a better sense of how things should be.

I agree that the traveler's photos are the only truly objective thing on that site. We were personally bribed with an expensive departure gift by a property in the Caribbean that received outrageously great reviews on Trip Advisor. I told TA about this and pointed out the exact same wording of tons of different "reviews" yet they did nothing about it at all.

We were upset because we paid so much for the property based on the abundant glowing reviews.

I've also foudn that travelers to the Caribbean from England are far more forgiving and easily wowed than travelers from the East Coast of the US, New York in particular, so I weigh the reviews in my mind.

I used to trust them blindly, now I use many sources to make a decision. I absolutely do not trust their rankings based on this Caribbean thing and on some properties in Hawaii having much higher ratings than my favorites.
 
Old Jul 2nd, 2008, 11:41 AM
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Since 2004, I've checked every pre-booked hotel room I've stayed in on TA, and as an earlier poster said, it's been about 95% accurate. I also post reviews of every room I stay in, especially unreviewed hotels and B&Bs that I stumble upon.

If you want to be really safe:

Stick with hotels that have photos posted by reviewers... these don't lie.

Look for mentions of "specific rooms." Sometimes hotels will have one or two great rooms, and a bunch of losers, so you want to book carefully.

Read ALL of the recent reviews. Sometimes people give low scores just because the desk clerk didn't snap to their attention.

Pay attention to the dates of the reviews. Sometimes a hotel will have a lot of low reviews early on, and then switch to high reviews after a renovation.

If a specific review is affecting your decision, look at the person's profile. If you're an 18-year-old college student, you'll probably have a different definition of "great" than a 45-year-old woman with a family.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2008, 11:46 AM
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I find TA useful. I review most places I stay unless the existing reviews pretty much cover everything.

Like anything else, including Fodors, you have to read the individual reviews with a grain of salt. But there is lots of useful information and specifics that you will find in the individual TA reviews.

I also find their forums to be helpful if you are looking for detailed advice, I've found a lot more local help there than here.
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