As previously blogged, we have had reservations about Trip Advisor and the way it has been used as a tool by disreputable sections of business and the public to manipulate good or bad publicity for all sorts of businesses, but particularly in the hospitality trade. The Good Hotel Guide have actively campaigned against it and we have seen at first hand how certain businesses have unnaturally boosted their own profiles by generating or artificially generating rafts of favourable reviews, even when they have been in business only for a short time. On the other side of the picture, it has also been easy for saboteurs to anonymously damage rival business with unfairly adverse reviews – all that is required being an email address – and we all know how easy it is to acquire a multitude of those!
Of course there are a vast number of genuine Trip Advisor reviews, and en masse they can be very useful to get the feel of an establishment, restaurant, venue etc, but must be used with a pinch of salt, particularly as Trip Advisor do not vet the reviews except to eliminate libel, bad language, defamatory comments etc., and all reviews are of course potentially seriously subjective. The expression ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’ springs to mind! When we plan visits, we decide on location, type of establishment, whether from its descriptions it suits our style, then we will take a look at Trip Advisor to give us a general feel.
Hanover House B&B (www.hanoverhouse.org) with its warm interiors, luxurious rooms and superb positioning within central Cheltenham (not that I’m biased) has had mixed results at the hands of Trip Advisor. 98% of our reviews are excellent – and all genuine you can be assured – but there have been two difficult ones, the first of which dropped our rating from No 1 in Cheltenham to No 5 – although we have regained some ground since. In our view it was totally unjustified and although it came from a genuine Spanish guest, in retrospect we thought he had had his own agenda. We had, after all, far exceeded a B&B’s remit to try to help a rather dissatisfied person with virtually no English, who through no fault of ours had caught the wrong trains and overbooked train tickets etc., plan a week’s itinerary of visits, travel and meals. Trip Advisor published his review in Spanish on the Spanish Trip Advisor site, although of course it appeared on our British site, and Trip Advisor UK did not permit a rebuttal to his comments in English – although 95% of the readers of our reviews are either English speakers or have English as a second language – and would have had to respond in Spanish at our own cost. In the end we declined to do so, as even with a rebuttal, the scoring out of five would have remained, which still seriously damaged our position.
Most recently, ‘out of the blue’, another review was posted saying that the house was nice enough but that the ‘owner’ (which of us did that refer to?) was ‘xenophobic’ and made them feel ‘uncomfortable’. This is completely untrue – in general conversation we may discuss general topics like the under-resourcing of the NHS, lack of housing, immigration in general but we have no axes to grind about any particular ethnic groups. In fact we are probably more derogatory, truth be known, about our own population in terms of behaviour, education, dress sense, fitness etc. I have lived for a third of my life abroad, mostly in Europe or Africa, and we have friends and staff of all nationalities, religions and sexual orientation – so where the comment came from we are mystified. Just look on the Hanover House video on the website where our good friend Winslow appears. What makes the review even more odd is the fact that apparently the guest stayed nearly a year ago – if he/she stayed at all – and only now has decided to generate a short two-line review. No detail of what was allegedly said was provided, and after a year’s gap, who can remember details clearly – or even where or by who they had been made?
So, is Trip Advisor a good thing – an objective tool to assess the worth or otherwise of places you intend to visit? Or is it potentially a biased, subjective tool that can distort a true picture. Probably a bit of both, so in conclusion, use with care!!
p.s. We just received a 5-Star certificate from Trip Advisor as having top ratings!!! Make of that what you like….