Trip Advisor

Trip Advisor, de invloedrijke website voor toeristen, is waardeloos. Dat concludeert de Engelse consumentenwaakhond na een experiment dat handenwrijvend wordt geciteerd door de Good Hotel Guide, wiens leden zo veel te lijden hebben onder de ‘recensies’ op Trip Advisor. De consumentenclub schreef twee niet-bestaande hotels in, die werden binnen een paar dagen opgenomen. De bond liet een aantal medewerkers ‘recensies’ schrijven. Jubelend, zo overdreven dat je onraad zou kunnen ruiken. Die werden klakkeloos geplaatst. Toen de ‘hotels’ zich bekloegen over negatieve recensies (al net zo nep als de loftuitingen), liet Trip Advisor weten dat ze niet verwijderd zouden worden. Concludeert ‘Which?’, het blad dat het experiment uitvoerde: ‘Als we TA’s eigen waarderingsschaal zouden gebruiken voor betrouwbaarheid dan geven we het één cirkel – terrible.’ (tip van Marthe Fock) Complete blog van GHG hieronder. 

TripAdvisor: Mass deception
Which?, formerly the Consumers’ Association, says that 85% of its members trust TripAdvisor reviews. That is perhaps the oddest statistic in its latest INVESTIGATION, which has comprehensively shredded TA’s reputation as a reliable source of information about hotels.

If subscribers to Which?, by definition mostly middle-class professional sceptics, are so easily gulled, no wonder that hundreds of millions of ordinary folk who turn to TA as a primary source of hotel information are deceived. Which’s devastating conclusion is brutal: ‘Using TA’s own rating system when it comes to trust and reliability, we give it one circle—terrible.’

Before long-suffering readers dismiss this as another GHG rant, let me acknowledge that TA is potentially a very useful source of travel information. But when international companies misbehave, they need to be held to account, whether it is Volkswagen cheating on pollution controls, or Turing, an American company, which recently raised the price of a drug to treat Aids by 5,000%.

TripAdvisor makes a lot of money—£150 million last year. It has no excuse for failing to carry out basic checks to ensure that the information it publishes is genuine. It doesn’t even verify that its correspondents have stayed at the hotel they are reviewing. Nor does it know whether the businesses it puts up on its website actually exist as Which? showed.

The consumers organisation created two fictional B&Bs, one in Scotland and one in Surrey. Both were put up on TA’s website within days. The only evidence required was a website, postal address, email, credit card and phone numbers which anyone could arrange in an hour. TA was then deluged by Which? with bogus reviews of the bogus B&Bs, many of which it promptly published despite some of them being patently absurd. The fictional Scottish B&B was praised in extravagant terms: ‘We liked the health club and the swimming pool. The new in-house Italian restaurant is great—and the concierge helped us find the best seats at the theatre just up the road.’

TA’s handling of hoteliers’ complaints was equally negligent. One of the fictional B&Bs complained about a scurrilous comment from an anonymous reviewer alleging that he had had ‘to make do with a wash from a kettle.’ TA replied to the hotelier’s complaint saying that as ithe review complied with its guidelines, it would not be removed.

Does any of this matter? Well, it does to the thousands of hospitality businesses, including many GHG selected hotels and B&Bs, which have suffered malicious reviews which TA then refuses to remove despite producing evidence that they are fraudulent. TA even refuses to disclose the identities of its reviewers, as required under British law, claiming that it has no obligation to do so because it is an American corporation. And, yes, it matters to the millions of travellers looking to find reliable information, many of whom do not realise that TA is wide open to collusive and malicious reviews. So much for its much vaunted algorithmic fraud-detection systems. They are a sham.

The Competition and Markets Authority is currently examining the problem of dishonest online reviews which some industry experts suggest could now represent as many as a third of all those posted. With businesses around the world using increasingly sophisticated methods to manipulate their online reputation, it is time that TA cleaned up its act. If not, it should be forced to do so by the regulators. Three years ago, the Advertising Standards Authority criticised TripAdvisor for claiming that its reviews could be trusted and were from real travellers. This forced TA to change its marketing spiel. Nothing much has changed since then. One day the public will get wise to what is going on. Until then or until TA changes its deceptive business practices, I will keep banging on about it.