TripAdvisor Reviews are dead to me

. Saturday, October 1, 2016

Ok, So I already vented about my experience with a certain hotel in Barbados which I decided to stay at for almost two weeks 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 the slightest perceived violation.

And the vendors seem 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 the 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 anymore 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 a great site to help to analyze the average quality of reviews and provide an adjusted score. - Unfortunately, it only works on Amazon reviews, not TA's, but I hope they expand to it sooner or later.

And now let's 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 a request for a review for all of them. So far so good.
Now interesting bit is here: The hotel 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.
The only time I did use 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 a 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 the map.
We stayed late summer 2012. and here's the house I stayed in it: Notice anything wrong? Where's my 3-star review - nowhere to be found? Would VRBO remove it without notifying me ?? I was skeptical 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 the property decided to remove the 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 these are the same photos of the house.

Update 2:

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

I found a forum thread called "Flawed review moderation". Sorry, can't provide the link as the 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 the 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 fail 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 the 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 a way to TA to improve here:

I was suggested to open a 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 googling 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 a lengthy discussion in this thread about an allegation of TA review censorship.
I didn't open a new topic to discuss the same question I had raised there and the 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 such 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 a 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 the 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 a conclusive opinion about it in a timely manner.
Now, this is a bold and you may consider inconclusive and purely 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 does 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 a good place.
Again, I wish some sort of system on TA to allow someone else to come to the same conclusion without reading thousands of reviews or wasting money and time staying there.
Edited: 1:43 am, today