TripAdvisor Reviews: Malicious, Bogus, Vexatious says AAA

One of Asia Pacific’s largest accommodation lobby groups says dealing with powerful review website TripAdvisor has become a huge issue for its 2000 members with the “possibility for abuse” having the “strong potential to undermine a business and damage it”. The Accommodation Association of Australia says operators regularly complain of “malicious”, “bogus” and “vexatious” reviews they feel powerless to stop.

“It is here where there is a strong concern that the process is weighted against operators, with their responses more likely to be moderated than those of the reviewer,” wrote Michael Georgeson, Manager National Operations for AAA.

“In a recent case presented to us, the site was used in a personal attack on a property manager via a review where the manager was accused of inebriation (amongst other complaints) whilst on duty.

“In this case, the property was able to identify that the reviewer was the disgruntled former partner of the manager.  Despite having this fact pointed out to TripAdvisor, the site refused to remove the review.

“The property was fortunately able to go directly to the reviewer and have the listing removed. However, this case underscores the lack of control and severity of attack that is possible.

“The possibility for abuse can mean that TripAdvisor has the strong potential to undermine a business and damage it quite substantially.

“This potential has been realised quite acutely in at least one UK case, where a targeted campaign was launched by an individual posting negative bogus reviews on a restaurant they had not even visited.

“Whilst it is unfortunate that this is not the only example, it is amongst those which have led to legislative changes in the UK.

“The issues are not limited to these negative reviews and the potential for attack either – even the positive reviews have pitfalls which may be questioned.

“Ghost-writing opportunities are available for the posting of reviews, in some cases specifically identifying TripAdvisor and the process to generate numbers of reviews from multiple profiles.

“To date, the advice of the Accommodation Association to members has been to attempt to respond to reviews through TripAdvisor.

“However, the consistent feedback from operators is that getting a response from the site operators is difficult, and when successful, responses to reviews can be heavily moderated, with one member saying the final response allowed was almost pointless.

“It is here where there is a strong concern that the process is weighted against operators, with their responses more likely to be moderated than those of the reviewer.

“Regardless, at this stage a measured response via TripAdvisor seems the only productive means of engagement with reviewers.”

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5 thoughts on “TripAdvisor Reviews: Malicious, Bogus, Vexatious says AAA”

  1. TA is flawed – it’s a spam site for Expedia/ Hotels.com. Click on anything and you have a pop up from Expedia or Hotels.com. Reviews have no consistency and i’m sure this bubble will burst.

  2. I travel a lot and rely on trip advisor. To date what I get is what I read. Hotels showing edited pics of paradise only to get there and find the truth is over. I prefer to read what other people experience. Even when sometimes you can tell the person was angry or unfair. In the main I trust trip advisor.

  3. I completely disagree with AAA and agree with what Dante has said above. Most of the hotels complaining about Tripadvisor are the ones ‘tricking’ people into buying a product and service of which they cannot deliver.

    Hoteliers are forgetting the most fundamental rule of feedback; it is not an attack, it’s an opportunity to improve. Even the most irately toned reviews can be traced back to some area of service/product failure. Whether the angry nature of the review outweighs the extent of the original problem is besides the point. The fact is, a guest bought your product and isn’t happy with it. Marketing departments should be working out ‘why’ instead of calling ‘unfair’, ‘malicious’ or ‘bogus’.

    From the other side of the table, not enough credit is given to the readers of reviews. As Dante has pointed out, most readers will be able to tell if a review is exaggerated, unfair and simply and overreaction to a minor fault of the hotel. People who use Tripadvisor are not stupid, in fact they’re probably the more intelligent of guests.

  4. No system, verified or not is perfect, but the sheer volume of reviews on TripAdvisor, and the intelligent way in which our visitors use those reviews to form their own opinion, makes it highly unlikely that one review will have a significant impact on the property.

    Travellers have multiple sources on which to base their educated decision on which property is right for them based on the opinions of many. The average traveller reads dozens of reviews, can look at other sources such as traveller posted photos, look at the review history and profile of the reviewer before deciding what’s right for them.

    For those that try to manipulate the system with widespread or multiple attempts, our automated tools are exceptionally effective at identifying them. We weed them out, and we penalize business owners accordingly.

    We know that our users approach TripAdvisor with common sense, and make an educated decision based on the opinions of many. If people did not feel the insight they gained from our site was an accurate reflection of their experience they wouldn’t keep coming back.

    For the last 11 years we have been empowering business owners by giving them a powerful platform to promote their business for free to millions of travellers.

    We’ve received a lot of feedback from business owners listed on the site. We agreed we could do better at some things, so we are in the process of developing our global customer care team so that businesses can reach us more easily.

    We recommend that owners contact us via the Management Centre, on the TripAdvisor site (www.tripadvisor.com.au/owners), using the links provided to ensure that their queries are channelled to the teams best equipped to deal with their enquiry as quickly and efficiently as possible.

    We also strongly encourage owners to give their side of the story by posting a management response to reviews on their property. The management response gives the business the last word and allows users to read both sides of the story before making a decision on whether a property is right for them. While management responses must meet our guidelines (as must reviews), business owners always have the last word with the management response tool.

    We strongly encourage business owners to take advantage of this feature, so their voice can be heard as well. According to a recent Forrester survey commissioned by TripAdvisor, 71% of travellers think seeing a management response to reviews is important (these responses are to a specific review from an official hotel rep).

    Or if a business owner feels they’ve been subject to an unfair review, or are being unfairly treated by a reviewer we urge them to report it through the Management Centre where every issue will be fully investigated.

    We were obviously appalled to hear about the Good Life restaurant incident last year and urge any business who feels they may be a victim of bullying to contact us immediately, as the Good Life restaurant representative correctly did, resulting in the reviews being removed from TripAdvisor. We have a zero tolerance approach to this and will investigate every issue fully.

    As always, we also strongly encourage owners to give their side of the story by posting a management response to reviews on their property. The management response gives the business the last word and allows users to read both sides of the story before making a decision on whether a property is right for them.

    Or if a business owner feels they’ve been subject to an unfair review, or are being unfairly treated by a reviewer we urge them to report it through the Management Centre. Every single report of suspicious content undergoes a full investigation by our content integrity team and if a review is found in breach of our guidelines, it will absolutely be removed from site.

    The Advertising Standards Authority is a UK regulatory body and has no legislative jurisdiction. Earlier this year the ASA took a highly technical view around some marketing copy that was used in a limited capacity on the UK website only. Changes were made to the marketing copy as requested. We feel the ruling was unrealistic in its expectation of sites likes ours. The ASA upheld the complaints on the basis that we could not provide 100% certainty that that every single review on the site was written by a real traveller and could be trusted. No system, verified or not, could provide this.

    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.

    There are companies that claim they can submit reviews and boost a property’s standing in the TripAdvisor popularity index. We have several of these companies on our radar already, and the properties found to be using them have been penalized appropriately. Using these services is against our rules and will result in penalties.

    Attempts to manipulate TripAdvisor are rare as the vast majority of hoteliers understand the tremendous risk to their reputation and their business if they attempt to post fraudulent information on review sites like TripAdvisor. We take serious steps to penalise businesses who are caught attempting to manipulate the system.

    Yours sincerely,
    TripAdvisor Team

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