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Have You Ever Been Bullied Into Writing a Positive TripAdvisor Review?

January 31, 2012 at 9:00 AM | by | Comments (14)

During a routine sunrise Twitter-browsing session this morning, we came across this story about employees from the Irish-based Carlton Hotel Group being instructed by their managers to post fake reviews on TripAdvisor. Needless to say, the reviews had to be positive, posted from non-hotel IP addresses, and include photos that were "not professional" but "good quality." Because you've got to be subtle with these things!

Which is impossible to do when said staff memo, which was originally sent by one of Carlton's sales and marketing directors, gets leaked all over the internet. The wily, conniving underbelly of hotel management: exposed!

But this made us think. How many times have you been co-erced (or simply asked) by a hotel to post positive TripAdvisor reviews after your stay? Would a free upgrade or restaurant voucher give you more incentive to say something nice? Or do you generally not make a habit of posting reviews in the first place? We want you to weigh in, fellow lodgers!

The reason we ask is because it's happened to us. As we were checking out of a one-night stay at an unnamed hotel this summer, the Front Desk agent asked if we enjoyed our stay. We said, 'Yeah, sure.' The agent then informed us that if we posted a positive TripAdvisor review when we got home, and emailed him the link, we would get a free upgrade on our next visit.

Hmmm...if we're gonna be working as your PR team, we deserve a little more than an upgrade! In fact, Starwood's solution of filtering all reviews onto their own website—provided they are indeed publishing every single review, not just the positive ones—is not such a bad idea, because it still leaves the forum open.

But rewarding guests' flattery seems a little incestuous to us. N'est-ce pas?

Comments (14)

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Dirty!

I think it's fine for a hotel to ask for reviews or give a card asking the guest to "rate them" ...but it's just downright dirty and unethical to "reward" guests to review the hotel positively...and even further down on the list to send a memo to ask employees to do it too! If you want good reviews, it's simple: Provide a good product with good service.

They can ask but my reviews are honest

On a trip to San Diego in September, we were asked by the waitress who served breakfast everyday to my wife (I had business breakfasts) to give a positive review and to mention her name.  Apparently, employees receive some kind of reward for having good reviews done on Trip Advisor.  I saw her name mentioned a few times in reviews as well as the names of other employees.  At the other hotel, it was more of a suggestion.  I gave both honest reviews which were generally favorable -- one received four circles, one three.

Loyalty

It's tricky, because I'd want to support an employee who went out of his/her way to help me, but think it starts to get a little incestuous when there are "rewards" involved.

My friend who worked at the Apple store said that employees would be ranked on how many MobileMe accounts they sold. Well, it turned out the one employee who was coming in #1 every week was actually buying them himself under different names, then deleting them, and racking up tons of sales. Lame!


Junkets

I've heard general managers ask journalists on press junkets to "also write a nice review on TripAdvisor about us." I sincerely hope the journalists did not actually take them up on that.

Yes

I have been asked twice to post a review on Trip Advisor. I don't have a trip advisor account but I do always go the site and read reviews before I make reservations.
You can easily tell the reviews that are written by hotel staff, I always read the negative reviews. I could care less about a horrible experience someone had at the hotel restaurant, I want to know if the room is clean and that no personal items were stolen from the room.

Be a sport!

As a young hotelier, public reviews has always caused the industry 'headache' to say the least. It is a matter of public opinion and people personally to make their own calls, the question of "whether the hotel is that bad?"

We don't offer incentive for guests that writes review on TripAdvisor or any public forum, we take the feedback in and try to fix it once and for all, in order to avoid the issue. As long as the team sticks together, the chance that the same case occurs are very much less. Typically the hardest part is when the issue came into engineering or relating to hardware "old hotel, leaking, pipes, etc" means a hotel will have to source or request for capital investment and in these economic condition things are not easy.

There is also the question of guests that also use "TripAdvisor" as a threat, a way into bullying hotel to heed to their will and basically gives everything for free.

Fair is fair, the hotel is providing a service and accommodation, hotel are in business to make revenue not only for owners but also hardworking employees.

Hospitality need to reflect the reality that reviews are there to improve us and if the hotel is a well working oil machine, great managers that inspire great teams, then their General Manager would have nothing to worry about.


Shameless

And then there's this guy, who's openly hiring "freelance writers" to come on board and write fake reviews for his hotels in Vietnam. The nerve!

http://tripadvisorwatch.wordpress.com/2011/06/

The Atlantic Wire pointed him out yesterday in their article "How To Spot A Fake Hotel Review," which doesn't say much new but I love that they can turn fake-review-spotting into a kind of sport.


Trip Advisor has always been bias

Ever since TA came about many, many years ago, I noticed an alarming trend among reviewers. The reviews in most cases of the chain hotels were very positive. Even in forums, say, the Riu chain, people would get very aggressive, beligerant, and malicious if anyone posted any negative comments.

When it comes to reviewing comments, definitely put more weight on the negative comments than the positive. It's important to seriously examine them because it's the negative comments where you can get a feel of what is going on in the hotel.  The fact is, never dismiss the negative comments especially if they have a strong impact eg. air conditioning didn't work well in a tropical resort


Trip Advisor loses "Trust" rating

I'm in the accommodation business and accept positive feedback. There is a trend to use T/A as blackmail recently. I really don't care. We provide a great venue and great apartments which are highly rated. But trying to get guests who rave about the place to go onto T/A is generally a waste of time. When we do get a shocker, it's generally from someone who is tired of living, has had a domestic, hates the world and wants to take it out on us. Well I do call a spade a spade and give it back in spades. BUT T/A don't like that. Whilst a negative reviewer can say what the hell they like, a hotelier is hamstrung in their response.
Recently in the UK T/A were taken to a tribunal who found that they could no longer use the word "Trust" in their advertising. "Reviews you can Trust." I don't think so.
A guideline only, certainly. Just use your own good commonsense.

Also found on follow-up emails

A recent guest at the Sanctury in NYC forwarded us the follow-up email the general manager sends to guests after checking out. It says:

We would like to thank you for staying with us at Sanctuary New York! We hope your stay was wonderful! Did you experience excellent customer service while staying with us? We would love to hear about it.

If you could take a moment of your time to write about your positive experience on tripadvisor.com, we would greatly appreciate it. 5-Star rating is our goal, and it's what we strive to achieve.

Then it includes the link to the hotel's TripAdvisor page. Innnerreessting!


Why is that interesting?

That seems to be a perfectly appropriate post stay email and this type of request is actually encouraged by TripAdvisor. It does not offer any incentive; it is simply a request.

I think what's interesting

Is that they specifically name TripAdvisor. Before user reviews sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor popped up, all a hotel might have been interested in was a comments card or suggestion box. Now, they're blatantly directing guests to TripAdvisor because they know how much of an impact those reviews can have on future guests.

It just seems slimy, since a user review is between the user and his/her review. The place being reviewed shouldn't be part of the equation at all.


Totally agree

You took the words right out of my mouth.  However, although I might take a look at Trip Advisor to see if there were any bad reviews and what the problem might be, I prefer to book a hotel that I have had personally recommended to me, by what I know is a reliable source.

It's regrettable but a Necessity!

I know this is an old thread but as a Hotelier, from a my point of view constantly soliciting comments for Trip Advisor is a distraction from our core business but has become a regrettable necessity.  There seem to be a growing number of guests who check Trip Advisor and we are ranked against our competition which makes it a necessity.  I have asked TA about their logarithms and they can never give me a straight answer. It depends on the "words used", "number of reviews", "timing of review", and who knows what else.  Being retired military I refuse to post fake reviews for my hotel but I know some of my competition is doing it.  And yes, we have started asking for reviews from our guests in an attempt to stay competitive.  What is another solution?

Interesting comments from all

Tripadvisor, Booking.com, Laterooms, Expedia.  As a small 9 bedroom guest house I wish I could do without them but unfortunately in a town like Torquay Devon there is so much competition that you have to have a listing on each.  And yes, I too, ask for a review in a follow up email, if possible but I dont use the word "positive" and I dont give rewards.  Coming from a training background I am used to being evaluated so its all run of the mill really in this business.  Sad but true.

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