How do you separate honest reviews from dishonest ones? A long-time passion of mine, travel review scam is something I’ve written about for a long time, and dare I say I’m even known for.
There are recent changes in the travel review community. Competition and economic uncertainty continue to give rise to a desire to change the outcome of all-important travel reviews. The impact of positive and negative comments is huge. So why wouldn’t a business want to improve its reviews, even if that involves writing negative reviews about its competitors or buying positive ones?
What’s New at Expedia and TripAdvisor Since Their Break-Up Last Year?
TripAdvisor removed their “Reviews You Can Trust” slogan on hotels, replaced with, “Reviews From Our Community.” Doesn’t that say a lot? Immediately after spinning off TripAdvisor last year, Expedia launched verified hotel reviews in order to help make them trustworthy. Time will tell. Under the new model you can only leave a review if your trip was booked on Expedia so they can verify you actually stayed at the hotel. I’d suggested many times that TripAdvisor move to a review verification process and had explained why. That was met frankly with a bunch of party line chatter.
Our new found consumer voices seem to be tied to ever increased expectations and a demand for excellence, no matter the price paid. Even legitimate reviews are becoming more polarized with either glowing over the top accolades or free for all complaints. We know that these at times fun to read extremes may be justified, or can as easily be vindictive and emanate for a variety of other reasons.
Crooks: the black market of reviews
At the bottom line, anyone can write anything and reviews for the most part aren’t verified in any way. Last year, there was big news of something I’d addressed previously when the NY Times wrote about the business of soliciting and creating fraudulent reviews.
Damage caused by reviews
Valid or fraudulent, review based harm can be done quickly and have long lasting or even irreparable ramifications -- reading that a hotel has bed bugs or someone found a cockroach in their food for example. A review I just read at one of my favorite eateries suggested the later. The guest was dismayed when the establishment would only give him one free meal, instead of the four for his entire family that he had requested. Apparently they were all damaged emotionally after having consumed all of the food.
I’ve also heard of requests for discounts in order to avoid a very poor review and have learned more than once about businesses being otherwise extorted in order to avoid falsified, negative reviews.
With nowhere else to turn
There are so many travel options to choose from, how else can we try to be sure that our choices will be to our liking? Review sources seem like the only option for starting to whittle down the field. As for me, I’ve taken more to using Expedia and Yelp rather than TripAdvisor. Yes, Yelp, even though they were once accused of extortion. I also like Amazon reviews. It doesn’t mean I completely trust even the verified reviews, but it feels somewhat better.
Go with the numbers
My best advice is to check the profile of each reviewer to see how frequently they write and the history of past reviews. From that I can decide on trust. If there’s only one review in the profile history, I move on quickly.
Has your use of travel reviews changed? How do you determine accuracy?
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