57 thoughts on “How Karma Killed TripAdvisor Reviews”

  1. I have a fair amount of experience contributing reviews and I DO read a lot of reviews. Fake or real, you can’t learn much by a four or five-point rating system. Teddy’s Bigger Burgers on Maui gets similar stars compared to Merriman’s with similar comments, “it was amazing.” Similarly, fake to real, 1-star ratings don’t tell you much. When you read the comments on copter tours, the lowest ratings often are because the company canceled the tour, usually weather. I think the key is to look at the 3 and 4 stars and looks for patterns in the comments. I ask does the pattern match something that means something to me?

    How important are the number of stars? I had a B and B guy on the Big Island tell me that my 4 stars from my previous visit hurt. I asked if he read my comments which were outstanding, but the bathroom in the premier unit was minuscule. He said people look at the number of stars. Do you think that is true? I read the comments.

    I have personal rule of not trashing a place based on one experience. I also refuse to let a less than perfect experience ruin my day or trip. If I do smack a place, I try to be as specific as I can and if the negatives include employees, I supply names. I also email the management.

    Something I’ve gleaned from your website is the importance of knowing the questions to ask of oneself, e.g. what do I expect from the experience, and the questions I hope to get answered from reading a review. Snorkel tours or wild dolphin tours are good examples of knowing what you expect and what you’re going to get. It is also good to know that when you “ask a friend,” you tend to get what they like in an experience and the pricepoints and value they live with. Are those the same as you?

    Although we’ve been to the islands dozens of times, we still find a tour or restaurant we haven’t tried and we frequently are reminded, “if you had a great time, be sure give us a review on….”

  2. I was an avid TripAdvisor devotee for years. I worked hard to post reviews of resorts, hotel stays, restaurants,etc. But over time would see people with blatant fake profiles post and just name drop staff members but no real substance of additional information. FB Fan Pages are my go to these days. Sad I had worked up a pretty good status with TA. I still go there for pictures of places – they seem fairly reliable.

  3. I like Trip Advisor and have had great success with it over the years.

    I’ve used Trip Advisor in the past when looking for things to do (off the beaten path) in the places we’re visiting. We had a major score in Bermuda a couple years ago, while visiting on a cruise. Pointed us on a self-guided excursion to some hidden caves in public areas, which only the local folks frequent, where you could swim in the caves and cost nothing more than the local bus fare to get there. It provided better than what everyone else was paying $100+/person for.

    I’ve also given back, by contributing reviews of the unique places we’ve been, to help others who might not want to take a chance on something which is out of the way, not well known, or visited by few.

    Unfortunately, any popular site is going to have its share of fake reviews. Happens all the time, whether it’s Amazon, hotel websites, other travel websites, or Trip Advisor. It’s the downside of their own success. Folks post the fake reviews there because they know that it is successful and gets lots of visitors looking for information. Like everything else online these days – Buyer (consumer) Beware.

  4. It is a sad fact that most websites giving advice on travel amongst other things are either purveyors of dubious reviews or they write reviews based on criteria that I find irrelevant and ignore major issues which to me are deal breakers. A clear example is the Points Guy. It is pleasant to note that this site tries to inform rather than opine which is why I keep reading. Yes, some of it I know already, some of it puts me right when I misunderstood. Some of the replies are not to my taste but hey the world is a big place and who says I have to like everybody. The fact that you also favor Kauai made me realize it was da kine.

  5. Wow! Thanks for this information. I must admit this is so disappointing. My family has rarely had the opportunity to travel, but next fall we are taking our dream vacation to Hawaii. Based on all the reviews, I planned on staying at the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel. I had no idea about fraud. I am a lot more nervous now about planning our trip.

    I also find it disappointing that if and when we do travel, any review that we may leave will be discounted since we have written no other reviews.

    Thanks for all you do! People like me really need it.

    1. Hi Kristin.

      Thanks. Better to be aware than surprised. We once stayed at a vacation rental that had apparently good reviews and had taken their photos using a fish eye lens. What was called spacious turned out to be painfully small. We did leave a review.


  6. Interesting and helpful. Here’s another story about fake reviews in the opposite direction. When I bought my condo on Maui there was a horrible review about it on TripAdvisor about ringworm. The owner, an attorney, was able to have it removed, but the scamming guest went unpunished.I rent out my condo in Kihei, am a SuperHost on AirBnB. I was off island and couldn’t check a guest’s claim that there was a mouse that kept them up at night, and that the washing machine had mold. I comped her some money back, hired pest control, and had condo staff and my cleaner check the washer. No mold, no mouse. When I wrote to ask for my money back, she said no. And, in case you didn’t know, AirBnB is happy to host the accommodations and relay the money, but they do nothing to help a host with a problem. I’m also getting stories from other owners around Maui about guest fraud. So, some of the reviews on AirBnB are also untrue, but they are written by real people.

  7. Sadly, it isn’t just TripAdvisor that you cannot trust.

    We booked a VRBO rental on the big Island with 5 star RAVE REVIEWS only to find that there was only cold water running from a garden hose to the ‘outdoor kitchen’ sink and that the outdoor kitchen was useless due to hoards of mosquitoes that swarmed around you during meal prep – and this during a Dengue fever outbreak. The owner continuously sprinkled the bushes and plantings around the ‘outdoor kitchen’ – thus making certain that there was a continuous crop of new vicious skeeters.

    The dining room was a room beyond the living room – we had to carry all food through the living room. DUH! Who designed this condo?

    The queen sized bed was horrendous! Sagged so badly that we fought to sleep on the edges. No night stands.

    The ‘quiet, serene, peaceful’ description didn’t apply. At night, we had to keep the sliding door open for ventilation = then we got to listen to sirens and large trucks. There was also heavy machinery early in the morning with construction just a block away. (this was not the owner’s fault. We just feel it would have been nice to mention that and let the renter decide if that was the type of experience they were looking for. We weren’t).

    The worst? The itsy, bitsy, teeny, tiny DARK bathroom with a shower that measured 24 x 20 inches and had no light. You could not tell if there were creepy crawlers in there with you or not. You were literally showering in the dark. We at least fit into the shower. But any person of size would not have been able to even take a shower! We paid $1500 for the week in 2016. A really lousy experience.

    THIS PLACE HAD ONLY FIVE STAR REVIEWS AND THEY CONTINUED FAR BEYOND OUR VISIT!! We wrote to the owner – no response. We wrote to VRBO. No response. I did not leave a review. I figured it won’t be posted or no one would believe me anyway.

    Similar experience with a VRBO rental in Mexico. LOUD XMas parties from 10 pm until 3, 4 and 5 a.m. They really party in Mexico. Talk about LOUD. No mention was made of his in the ad and I know the owner KNOWS that this happens during that time of year EACH AND EVERY YEAR! A Warning to anything even thinking of staying on Playa Norte Isla Mujeres during XMas season!

    They say a picture speaks a thousand words. THAT was before the invention of Photo Shop!!

    I occasionally use TA Forums, but rarely use it for hotel reviews. I wrote one review that they declined to post. Have not bothered since. It was not a five star review. Whatever algorithm they use must favor five star reviews from fakes!

    oh well……….

  8. I had never heard of Fakespot before, interesting tool. Trying out the Chrome extension (despite ITS bad reviews). Thank you!

  9. Thanks for this information. I have been an avid TripAdvisor reviewer for many years and this makes me sad. I go to great efforts to fairly review businesses, most of them in Hawaii. I might be thinking twice about it, and I will definitely be looking at the reviews with a more diligent eye. I do like the idea of the forum for getting more accurate information. How does a review testing website work? Thanks again for this information.

    1. Hi Tammy.

      You can read about how it works on the Fakespot website. It may well not be perfect, and there are others too. But the value is obvious since otherwise, you have to wade through up to thousands of reviews.


  10. Yeah, it’s amazing how people view TripAdvisor reviews as gospel.HOGWASH!
    They will take off reviews that are completely legit and reprimand the company for planting that review. Yet, at the same time allow false reviews?

    I guess their ever mysterious method and use of algorithms ain’t working so great now is it?

    Not to mention since when does the public have the best view point on a lot of things and how many of them are predisposed to only saying nice things and would rather not if bad? You know, if you don’t have anything good to say don’t say anything at all

  11. Have you gotten any additional information about the problem with the Hawaiian Airlines Neo Jet? I emailed the company and go the usual “we’re checking into it”. We’re traveling soon on Hawaiian air, and I’m a nervous flyer at best.

  12. I noticed the Waikolai Hotel (rainbow tower) in Honolulu isn’t on your list of top 10 hotels. Pls tell me it’s a great hotel!!

    1. Hi Valerie.

      You can get the link from TripAdvisor and paste it into Fakespot to see how it does.


  13. I think this is a big issue. The worst I have found is in UK. Reviews are generally suspicious anyway. When I see various magazines with 10 awards I often completely disagree with their findings and one has to accept that different people have different priorities. Whilst that is not dishonest, comments about cleanliness etc that are fake definitely are a fraud. Worst for me have been UK restaurants..

  14. I’m curious how the new short term rental law has affected those rentals on Oahu. Are the number of advertised rentals reducing or remaining unaffected? And has anyone been cited for a violation?

  15. I used to write reviews on TA for just about every place we did business. After reading about how much of their site is scam reviews I have stopped reviewing altogether.

    1. Hi Grant.

      Good to hear from you. Concur completely – stopped posting reviews there a decade ago and deleted profile.


      1. I stopped posting as well when two negative reviews of “5 star” properties were not posted. The worst was a booking at The Hotel Regina in Wengen Switzerland. The hotel was listed as a luxury property and was a real splurge. The rooms were tiny and dilapidated and nothing worked properly. In the vaunted dining room our table had no two legs of equal length and wobbled terribly. When we asked to be moved to another table, the hotel solved the problem with a matchbook placed under one leg. As I stated, my fact based review, exact but politely written, was never posted.

    2. “…..there is likely an equal business providing negative reviews” for rival companies. “Likely”??? Logic says to agree but can’t make that claim without some basic evidence.

  16. Hi im travelling from la to Hawaii sep 2019 my luggage is paid for. Then when my holiday in Hawaii finished I’m going to Las Vegas do I pay for my bags for this journey? Thanks.

    1. Thanks for the very useful article! Hard to know where to find accurate info these days. Even some TA forums seem populated with undisclosed hired help. Then there’s the honest awkwardness of going back to a favorite restaurant to find quality slipped.

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