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Accor Exec Busted for Phony Reviews Raises the Question: Do You Trust TripAdvisor Anymore?

Where: Various Locations
June 12, 2013 at 10:59 AM | by | ()

We let off some steam a few weeks ago, letting hotels know we think they should back off the throttle a little bit when it comes to their sometimes-annoying persistence in getting guests to give reviews on TripAdvisor.

Given the importance that is being placed upon online reviews these days, we can't really say we're surprised to hear the news that an Accor executive was recently exposed for posting more than 100 phony reviews of Accor-operated hotels on TripAdvisor under an alias. He/she also wrote fake reviews about competing hotels, and Accor has placed the unnamed employee on leave.

"The employee has taken a leave of absence whilst we investigate this situation further," Accor said in the statement. "We value the feedback online travel reviews and forums provide and will take whatever steps we can to ensure their credibility and transparency."

Hmm... this one leaves a bad taste in our mouth. We've always known to take online reviews with a grain of salt, to really dive in and read the reasoning behind both positive and negative reviews when using them as an aide to plan our travels, but this discovery makes it hard to trust anything on TripAdvisor. If one executive was doing it, you can bet the farm that Accor isn't the only company guilty of this fraud. Plus, we've already talked about hotels offering guests rewards for positive reviews, so the idea that they care about the "credibility and transparency" of TripAdvisor makes us roll our eyes.

So where do we go from here? Do you still consider the site a valuable resource? One thing is for sure: There's no way we're going to revolve our research around TripAdvisor. Which is really a shame, because there are probably a lot of honest people providing honest feedback out there. We're just not sure where to find it anymore.

[Photos: TripAdvisor]

Archived Comments:

Kimpton #1 Offender Here...

Everyone in the industry knows that Kimpton is the #1 offender here... they pay for planted reviews, give away rooms for reviews, etc., etc., etc.  

My suggestion to tripadvisor is this:

  • TripAdvisor must implement "Real Name" requirements, per Facebook or Google log in - no exceptions.  Online news sites and blogs have realized that real names produce less hate, less fraud, and fewer flame wars.  Online review sites have also realized that real names mean better reviews that are more constructive and less destructive... and since TripAdvisor makes some of their money from the hotel industry, it would be incredibly wise to switch to "real name" reviews...

  • TripAdvisor should require guests to state which room number they stayed in and on what dates... this enables us as hoteliers to try to make a situation better, to resolve all problems, and to make our guests happy!  With this said,  a hotel should be able to have a review removed if a guest's issues have been resolved - for example: as soon as a hotel replies to a review, give the guest 7 days to respond that a situation has or has not been resolved... if resolved, the review gets a) removed if the guest agrees, or b) updated by the guest.  If no response from the guest, the review gets removed.  If no response from the hotel, the review remains.

  • TripAdvisor really needs to pay attention to discriminating guests... as in guests who discriminate.  TripAdvisor currently allows reviews for things like "there were gay people hugging at the pool! my children cannot be around that disgusting behavior!", when they'll probably let their children watch people kill each other with guns in movies, go figure... so would TripAdvisor allow reviews about hotels allowing interracial couples, or certain religious groups?  No, and why?  Because it has nothing to do with the hotel.

  • TripAdvisor needs to keep their "Top 25" hotels as the top 50 hotels with more than 3 reviews per available guest room.  I hate seeing a dumpy motel be rated #5 in a city, because they only have 9 reviews, when other hotels like mine have had over 900 reviews for only  ~100 guest rooms.  The number of reviews according to the rest of the market and the number of guest rooms (write an algorithm folks!) should be an indication of whether or not a hotel is popular... and it's really about popularity and vibe, more than anything else...

  • Create segmentation based upon: resorts, lodges, boutique hotels, chain hotels, motels, b&bs, hostels, campgrounds.... make those tabs prominent on the top of the page.  It applies more to the guest experience.... then add another column for "spas" and "restaurants" and "bars" and "attractions".... then each visitor will spend more time on the site.

Do this, and tripadvisor will survive... if not, it'll go the way of Yelp, where only a key 300 reviewers write 97% of the reviews for a city, and everything will very quickly become very unreliable, like yelp, and one day something will take its place.


CHEERS TO bbphx!

+++++++++++++1 to bbphx. You took the comments right off of my keyboard and then some. Well said.


I take all of them with a grain of salt but I still use TripAdvisor to get an overall feel of the place. I also like how reviewers list the extra charges--like WiFi or parking as those are typically not listed on the hotel's website. Plus, they often give good neighborhood detail. In fact, I just used it again today to make sure I wanted to book a certain hotel!

Still use Trip Advisor? Why??

It seems the site has turned into a forum for vengeance from guests that wanted "something" cheaper than the .com site they booked the cheapest rate already.  It is used as a tool to punish the hotel rather than give honest feedback.  5 star service has a 5 star price for a reason.  The fact that it is IMPOSSIBLE to speak with someone at Trip Advisor is also an issue.   Anonymous "guest" can say anything (yes even bed bugs) to malign your hotel and you are powerless with these indefensible attacks.  It is insane that this is allowed to go on.

As a frequent hotel guest...

As a regular reviewer on Trip Advisor (I have over 350 contributions, split about 65/30/5 between hotels, restaurants, and attractions), I can't agree with much of what bbphx is saying. First if all, if I had to give up my identity to every idiot out there trolling the Internet, I'd just stop posting reviews.

I also disagree about posting room numbers. I might stay in six different properties in a week, and to expect me to remember each room number is ridiculous. I also disagree with having only a week to respond.  I have a job, volunteer work, and a life, and it might take me longer than that to get back to them.  It is not my job to respond to them, it is their job to respond to me.  I also don't think negative reviews should be removed. Instead the hotel can post a comment discussing how the opportunity to improve was handled and the original poster should be able to post a follow up saying that they were or were not satisfied, and why.  As a potential guest, I'd rather see responsive corrective action and a now satisfied guest than nothing but reviews praising the hotel.

Typically when I have a serious enough guest issue to post anything more than a mention about it on Trip Advisor (small or threadbare towels, mildew on shower curtain or grout, and rough sheets are typical of things I might mention, but don't consider major issues unless I'm in a luxury class hotel) I've already given the hotel the opportunity to respond and correct, either while still there, or by e-mailing the GM when they aren't available and the MOD is the person I have an issue with. In the worst cases, I've tried to resolve it though corporate--like after find live bedbugs in my bed and having he hotel say, "oh, these things happen" when I presented them with the crawling bedbugs in a glass.  (True story, and never did get situation resolved to my satisfaction, even after involving Marriott corporate.  Avoid a certain Fairfield Inn in the Boston area. There's a reason my Marriott membership has slipped to Gold and I'm now Diamond with Hilton. )  

I don't sweat he small stuff. If there's dust under the middle of the bed that I only see after I bend down to pick up a dropped earring, I'm not going to ding a hotel over it. I'm sure there's dust under the middle of my bed at home.  I am amused by people who do complain about nonsense like that.  However drinking glasses with lipstick marks, a filthy floor, and cigarette burns in a non-smoking room are unacceptable. I might not mention them when I arrive at midnight after an 18 hour day, because I don't want to wait an hour for a housekeeper to come remedy the problem that was apparent and should have been caught with the room inspection before it was released to inventory.

I will complain about the beer bottles I find stuffed between the mattress and box spring--something the housekeeper should have found when making the bed. I will complain about noisy guests that several calls to the front desk during the night didn't solve.  (A couple fighting next door for hours, a youth group with absent chaperones, etc.). On the flip side, when I've had an issue like this arrive, and the hotel has handled it swiftly and appropriately, I'll mention it and praise them for their positive corrective action.

I have never posted a bad review (including live bed bugs in my bed!) without giving the hotel or restaurant the chance to take corrective action--in some cases I've given them several chances.  I have also posted positive reviews that discussed guest service opportunities that have arisen and applauded the hotel's handling of the event.

I try to give fair reviews, and don't hold a Hampton Inn to the same standards of guest service and amenities that I would hold a Four Seasons to.

When reading the reviews of others, if someone is praising a motel like a Red Carpet Inn as if it were Buckingham Palace, I tend to ignore it, or figure that they must live in a 50 year old mobile home next to the dump, where anything would be a step above.  I also typically dismiss overly negative or positive reviews posted by one hit wonders, unless they've got photos to prove their point about filth, danger, or general shabbiness.

I do agree that there has to be a better way to determine the ranking of hotels in various cities.  When the Drury Inn ranks higher than the Ritz Carlton in Orlando, anyone with a shred of intelligence would agree that the ranking system is flawed. Lodgings should be categorized by their level of service: luxury, moderate, and budget, or something along those lines and ranked against their peers. Savvy travelers are ale to quickly scan a list and identify which is which, but the occasional traveler. could be extremely disappointed to book that Drury Inn after seeing it rank higher than the Ritz.  Perhaps don't use the reviews of anyone with less than 10-20 reviews towards the rankings.

Bottom line, I believe that Trip Advisor only needs to make a couple of small changes to be a viable source for truthful and accurate info.