TripAdvisor Reviews are dead for me

. Saturday, October 1, 2016

Ok, So I already vented about my experience with certain hotel in Barbados which I decided to stay at for almost two week based on purely on Trip "Advisor"'  great reviews. What a MASSIVE mistake it was...
See these posts:

But I don't want to continue to beat dead horse and despite what clearly there are hundreds of fake Positive reviews on TA for that hotel and seems to be many other establishments in Barbados, TA is in complete denial and refuses to take any action (expecting me to provide hard proof - which would be impossible to get without analyzing network traffic or a whistle-blower). In short only negative reviews are investigated and much more likely to get removed over slightest perceived violation.

And the vendors seems to be fully aware of this - they bombard themselves (or pay 3rd party) with hundreds if not thousands of fake positive reviews. This way, my what was originally 3 star review (or 2 - TA removed both), would be fully drowned. I had to take a stand and make it one star and GUESS WHAT - 25 other people agreed with me. Almost no other review has attracted so many "agree" or helpful votes, yet TA refuses to implement to sort by helpfulness like Amazon does.
Imagine how embarrassing that would have been if most helpful reviews on the top are super  negative ones. I imagine since TA is now in business of booking hotels (and collecting fees from bookings) - that would seem to be counter-productive and doesn't anyone else feels like since they are now a fully booking agency - they can not be seen any more as interdependent 3rd party reviews site like Yelp for example???

Speaking of amazon reviews - they are much less tolerant of any fake or low quality reviews, but they are not perfect -Luckily  there is great site to help to analyse average quality of reviews and provide adjusted score. - unfortunately it only works on Amazon reviews, not TA's, but I hope they expand to it sooner or later.

And now lets talk about the crown jewel and main reason for this post - it's the new "invention" by TA -

"Review collected in partnership with this hotel" 

How this works: Hotel sends a batch of email addresses to TA. TA sends out request for a review for all of them. So far so good.
Now interesting bit is here: The hotel is apparently gets the right to approve or deny a review to be published or not. Read MizN2u's post here (click in image for original size)

Anyone else sees an issue with that?

Bottom line: If you have no other source of reviews for hotel or restaurant but TA's - read only 2-3 star reviews, since there is much higher chance of fake 4-5 star reviews.

For nostalgic reasons I visited another travel reservation & reviews site: VRBO.
Only time I did used it it was purely based on price and review. Which were just as they are now - flawless. It's curious since I clearly remember leaving a 3 star review and arguing with managers of property on why I did so. It's wasn't that terrible, but they were issues and one biggest one is house located next to pond. Think about it. House in St. John USVI next to large standing water pond. What could go wrong?

I didn't have exact url handy so I just browsed for it, vaguely remembering it's location on map.
We stayed late summer 2012. and here's the house I stayed it: Notice anything wrong? Where's my 3 star review - nowhere to be found. Would VRBO remove it without notifying me ?? I was sceptical and then I figured lest look for it in my email and here it is:

Oh, listing not found you say.... It's like almost owners of property decided to remove listing, add it as a new one, post few fake reviews and move on. I wonder how many times they and other listings have done so...
Luckily internet doesn't forget:

Notice it's same photos of the house.

Update 2:

And Now I know reviews is not only place where TA uses heavy hand and ruthless censorship.

I found a forum thread called "Flawed review moderation". Sorry, can't provide the link as whole thread was deleted. In it I and others had complained about inconsistent at best TA review moderation.
I had added my own thoughts, actual experiences and even suggestions. I had not one, but two TA's forum little helpers provide their counter from replies like "You seem to be confusing TA with Yelp hold-down reviews" to gems like we will moderate (or remove) review only if we have facts to show otherwise. Meaning libel is not only reason for review moderation (far from it)

Pure gold, no matter how you look at it.

Again - DO NOT TRUST TRIP "ADVISOR" reviews. They are WIDE open to manipulation. Management and staff badly fails to acknowledge this. And why would they - Good reviews drive more sales and since TA had entered biz of selling hotel bookings - didn't anybody thought that is a CLEAR conflict with original idea Independent Travel reviews source?
They refuse to do even basic and minor improvements like adding new reviews sort-by option - like by Helpfulness count. This measure alone could help drastically to reduce impact bad players (like reviews per pay)

I don't even know why I bothered. Here is the proof btw:

Last Update:  After long and useless attempts to show way to TA to improve here:

I was suggested to open new thread which I did here:
Oh, where's the first post you may ask - what do you talk about, you say. Well, Thanks to google it could still retrieve it and here it is. This would be my very last attempt to help them in any way:


Help Us Make TripAdvisor Better
Ok, So we had quite lengthy discussion in this thread about an allegation of TA review censorship.
I didn't opened new topic to discuss same question I had raised there and bottom line is - regardless of review content or rating, as long as it doesn't violate TA's (IMO pretty vague guidelines) it will stay. and typically it does. Subject matter fully closed.
My issue with many low quality (always positive and possibly fake) reviews are flooding many properties. Possibly on payment from owners, but this is near impossible to prove.
I received many suggestions from regulars which come down to something like - "I have no problems reading hundreds and hundreds of reviews, across many pages and dedicate copious amount of time for that and I can easily spot useful vs non-useful reviews"
Maybe all the people who provided me with such answer have too much time in their lives (they all have multiple thousands of forums posts counts each).
But there is must be a better way. An easier and quicker way to spot higher quality reviews from no so much.
Now I know that fighting this issue is not easy. No one has a simple answer, but there are attempts of doing so in various ways - From requiring real name, to simply using two little buttons - Helpful review Yes/No and then sort by helpfulness (like Amazon Top sort) to some custom and fancy algorithms, like does.
A simple sorting by helpfulness might not be a cure all, but if used smartly may be a huge improvement.
well over 5500 reviews. I dare any regular to form conclusive opinion about it in a timely manner.
Now, this is a bold and you may consider inconclusive and pure personal opinion statement, but be warned (again imo) that all 2500 5 star reviews are all wrong. 4 stars I would think is a polite way to rate, 3 would be more honest. 1-2 are just angry folk.
This is not rule of the land. I stayed in honest 4 and 5 stars (not AAA stars, but what we could consider 5 stars) resorts in various places, so yes - I know ok from good place.
Again, I wish some sort of system on TA to allow someone else to come to same conclusion without reading thousands of reviews or wasting money and time staying there.
Edited: 1:43 am, today

Another sad case of abusing DMCA system

. Monday, March 14, 2016

A bit of insight into Synology or why it does not fit into enterprise (yet?)

. Saturday, October 3, 2015

So we have a few of smb/enterprise Synology Rackstation NAS systems. One in prod - technically ok, though the performance is nothing to write home about , one still in a box and last one went out to far away state remote office to be used as storage for VMs on VMWare host.

The issues started with unit freezing once every few months - ok - so far no big deal, then it's once a month and now it won't stay online more than 15 minutes.

Long story short - the support is proven to be utterly useless, but that's not even the point of my post.

What I would like to do is to quote an email from company insider , after LARGE retailer (think billions in sales) reached out to them.

For future reference, Synology technical support is available Monday-Friday 7am-4pm Pacific time. We do not yet have the capability to troubleshoot and resolve complex triage cases in real time. We do not offer any SLA or guarantee of 24x7x4 resolution or similar. Our system engineers are based out of our office in Taiwan and are not available 24/7.

I understand that this is not good news for this situation, but I want to make sure our current support scope is understood so we can keep expectations realistic.

If the situation is urgent, I strongly recommend to fail over to whatever business continuity strategy you have in place for disaster recovery situations until Synology support can resolve the issue.

I could not said it better myself.....

And before anyone says they don't target lucrative enterprise storage, let me bring this quote from RS18016xs+ product description page:

With superior performance and hardware specifications, RS18016xs+ provides a reliable, scalable, and easily managed network attached storage solution for enterprises seeking uninterrupted service and comprehensive business applications.

Does anyone sees an issue with these two things??

The House Review Part Two: Follow up

. Friday, November 14, 2014

I feel this needs a dedicated post and I got some responses from TA's community and some follow up reviews which caught my attention and deserve a response:

First one is this review from "Ian Watsom"

Fabulous fabulous fabulous

"As a frequent repeat visitor to the House I was moved to write my second review by the crass and bitter and bitter review by "Value 1st" - see below. 
It may interest readers that this review appeared with 2 stars, was removed and then reappeared with 1 star - judge for yourself what this says about the author...appears to know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
The House has great, attentive staff and a very relaxed atmosphere. The large number of sociable repeat guests that we meet suggests that the House is indeed things that the vast majority of guests like.
Food is better than average and no more expensive than the rest of the west coast of Barbados which has many great restaurants.
Try it - I'm sure you'll like it a lot.

Lets take it apart shall we?

"As a frequent repeat visitor to the House I was moved to write my second review by the crass and bitter and bitter review" 

Ian, If you knew the whole story, you might understand why the my review is "crass"

"It may interest readers that this review appeared with 2 stars, was removed and then reappeared with 1 star - judge for yourself what this says about the author."

What does it tells about yourself - judging me without knowing full story, like the fact original review was posted with 3, not 2 stars.

appears to know the price of everything and the value of nothing. - 

Yes, I know nothing about good value, I have only traveled to ONLY 8 islands so far - What do I know?

Food is better than average and no more expensive than the rest of the west coast of Barbados which has many great restaurants.

Lets agree on one thing - Daphne's is REALLY no more expensive than the rest of the west coast of Barbados. They are ALL overpriced ! Hugely so ! As for what counts for average - Maybe the mediocre food is indeed the "average" in Barbados West Coast fine dining, but I would disagree it has to be. In fact we had delicious food on BB West Coast from much cheaper places, like simply amazing grilled Marlin or grilled chicken from Just grilling or great curries from Roti - right across road from The House

The thing with expensive restaurants - I do expect to eat amazing food. I expect my taste buds to celebrate. If you charge $$$$  - be sure to deliver $$$$ taste. We are regulars in finer NY food establishments and very familiar how great food should be composed and taste like.
Daphne's wasn't even close on taste or quality of food.

Lets check out another one from Rachel: 

I stayed here with a girlfriend on a much needed week's break in February. It is easily the best hotel I have ever stayed at and I will certainly be returning. Yes I'm sure Sandy Lane has more facilities and more kudos but if you are looking for more of a 'stealth wealth' getaway then this is perfect in every way. The staff are all fantastic and the numerous extras really make a difference. The staff circulate every couple of hours with little pots of frozen yoghurt, fresh fruit, homemade lemonade, ice cream & water and the afternoon tea served on the deck daily was the best part of our day. (Included in our rate) Everything was immaculate, breakfast was lovely, our (front facing) room was just beautiful. I honestly can't fault it. The big squashy sunbeds round the pool were amazing and the complimentary massage was well worth having. I just can't wait to go back! They deserve all their success!

" It is easily the best hotel I have ever stayed at and I will certainly be returning." 

This is your first TA review and I got the feeling you haven't traveled much if at all. Returning to same place is never a good idea.

 Yes I'm sure Sandy Lane has more facilities and more kudos but if you are looking for more of a 'stealth wealth' getaway then this is perfect in every way.

Sandy lane has more facilities ???? Wut??? Wow. This "Rachel" is must be smoking something. 

Lets compare them for a second. Maybe the images would help to judge for yourself:

House Lobby

Sandy Lane Lobby

House Exterior

Sandy Lane Exterior

The House Pools
Sandy Lane Pools

The House living room

Sandy Lane living room

and lastly The house Mini Bar

vs Sandy Lane's

Did I made my point clear?? There is simply NO comparison, nor it not should be. 
Sandy Lane is MUCH more expensive (approx $400 vs $1800 per NIGHT) , but also MUCH more luxurious in every way.
Lets not forget for a second about Sandy Lane HUGE and immaculate Garden, Tennis courts (nine btw), private Gold course, spa and much much more. 
As for "stealth wealth" - Nothing is more stealth and private than Sandy lane - we walked by it bunch of time and yet to see even one guest due to privacy provided by of high fence and trees
It's not just the "facilities". 

"The staff circulate every couple of hours with little pots of frozen yoghurt, fresh fruit, homemade lemonade, ice cream & water "

Complete LIE. These things were in fact delivered to beach, but (except water) ONLY ONCE A DAY !!!
And on rotation. 

The House and Trip "advisor"

. Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Sorry for completely unrelated to computer post, but I feel I need to rant - something I feel I'm quite good at.

We recently returned from a two weeks vacation in Barbados. Specifically we stayed entire time in hotel called "The House" located on so called "Platinum Coast" of Barbados. It has 4.5 stars and according to Tripadvisor reviewers it's the best hotel on the island.

It goes without saying that WE HIGHLY disagree. Numerous times I had tried to post an honest review and several times TripAdvisor had taken it down for idiotic reasons.

In fact we had witnessed many establishments in Barbados have overly positive reviews on TA... Something is fishy and stinky here.

No more !!!

This is MY blog and I am the writer, editor and owner here. I will publish what ever I think !

Again sorry for off-topic, but it must be done.

I will publish the review in full here and add things as I recollect

The original review (originally rated with 3 TA's stars):

First I 100% agree with Mjyz0 about "The House" is being FAR cry from #1 hotel in St. James, Maybe #1 value? but then again everything in BB is very expensive..
I think it's not fair by Mjvz0 to even mention Sandy lane resort. It's completely on a different planet in every sense, including the price - in Nov 2014 is starts at mind blowing $1800 (US) per night !!
Lets not compare apples and oranges here. You can't expect a comparison at  1/4 of the price.

There were some good points about the House, but I feel strongly leaving 3 star review due to HUGE overabundance of FAKE REVIEWS!!!! Do yourself a favor and read some of these 5 star review - most of them are one liners and nearly identical or using language which no one outside PR department uses. You have been warned !!

We were "lucky" (*) and got garden view room with private pool. If I’m not mistaken only 2 other rooms could boast the same.
Included Breakfast is indeed a bit monotonous, but not identical daily. We had better and worse. So far we could find something which we liked daily. Free champagne is nice, but we don’t really care for it during breakfast.

Free 4pm tea service was nice addition - in addition to tea (no cheap Lipton here!) we got few small sandwiches and some sweets.
Bathroom was moderately updated and usable. Linens and Towels always spotless white.

WiFi is actually usable and reasonably fast (then it was working)
In room teapot, espresso machine were ok and Tea of choice is Twinings.
TVs in room had 40 channels or so including some premium channels.
AC in the bedroom was really quiet.
Service was mostly good, but then it’s pretty much expected of a hotel which aspires to be boutique.

Service was ok, BUT last year we stayed at truly boutique resort on Curacao (5 stars btw) at very comparable price (!!) and enjoyed really amazing service. The House could learn a thing or two from them.

Remember that * near lucky room - yea - it had few drawbacks:
It is located right above the bridge and every single time car drove over it - it made HUGE noise in our room.
The wooden bridge:
Our room was right above it

Bathroom is absolutely TINY ! So tiny, we could barely use the double vanity without bumping into each other.
The mattress is VERY firm - you might like it - we didn't - it was extremely uncomfortable and sleep quality suffered hugely as result.

The hotel is really OLD.Think 50-60s It is partially updated, but we did not at any moment felt the "luxury". Most of renovation were done using cheaper materials and in most cases done without talent or skill. Case in point - Bathroom - you can't sit on the throne and close the door in this order without hurting your legs. The wall tiles are really not that great under close examination. The Toilet cover is mismatched and doesn't fit. The ceiling fan when replaced, left huge gaps around and it does not look professional or luxury.

"The house" doesn't have it's own restaurant so the food is catered by a neighboring "Daphne's", which like already mentioned - is OVERPRICED and food quality is FAR from the level it's prices would suggest. I mean - it's perfectly edible -  but for $30 (us) pasta dish I expected a small miracle.
BTW: Speaking of Daphne’s (and most other fine dining establishments on Barbados) - DRESS CODE IS REQUIRED !!!! Do pack your elegant clothing if you want to be allowed in. No flip flops nor short pants.

BBQ and 7 Course dining nights cost arm and leg - we haven't tried it yet, but at $80 (US) person I am less inclined to gamble.

Beach entrance to the water is pretty rocky and you if you have water shoes you would be much more comfortable. Beach service was almost non existent - only once or twice a day we were offered bottled water and that's about it, The rest of promised items like Ice Cream, Smoothies and Fruit salads  WERE ONLY available at exactly 2:30pm - and god forbid you ask for it at 3:30pm !!! The feeding time is over !!! It’s NOT being brought out to you as other reviewers had mentioned - you have to go to the bar area and ask for it - every single time!

As for "nice afternoon tea" so many english reviewer boast about - I am not from UK, but we both love drinking tea - even more than coffee, however not while it's 85F and no breeze ! The sandwiches which accompanied tea were never amazing. Maybe UK food is supposed to boring and stale - I don't know

TONS of homeless folk hang around right on the beach and right in front of the hotel. Constantly ether panhandling or selling crap. Honestly - If we spend whole day on the beach - we were approached at least 15-20 times a day !! And none of them can take no as an answer.
Hotel staff does very little about it.

There are some stray cats roaming around hotel dining area and begging for food. You might find it amusing, but it’s not hygienic and we noticed hotel staff petting and feeding them. Same staff which brings you your food. Back in US it would have been a huge food safety violation.

We would never go back here nor recommend you to do so. There are much better places to visit like St. Martin for example.