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Taking hotel ratings with a grain of salt...scam alert

One of the wonderful aids to travel planning online are sites with hotel reviews, so you can get a first hand account of what a hotel is like. Unfortunately, there are dishonest hotel owners who try to scam the system by posting fake reviews. So, what are the tell-tale signs? First, look for multiple reviews with across-the-board high numerical ratings of the hotel's services. Even the best hotels aren't that perfect. Look for anomalies--is it a very small hotel with a huge number of reviews compared to much larger hotels in the same place? Is the hotel recommended for every conceivable type of guest? For sites like Trip Advisor, you can check the profile of the posters--did they review the hotel the same day they joined the list? Has the poster reviewed any other hotels before or since? In fact, that's a real give-away--when lots of supposed world travelers are reviewing a particular hotel, especially in a smallish place, and yet it's the only hotel they have ever reviewed, be suspicious.

This is becoming a sad fact of life as online travel planning sites are an increasingly valuable asset to travelers. Having a high rating can guarantee a full hotel, a fact not lost on some hotel owners, sadly.(And I suspect that a kind of "arms race" can develop, as one hotel owner hypes their rankings, others follow in "self defense." Reviews of hotels in Pamukkale Turkey on TA show this unfortunate pattern.) So, stay one step ahead of the scammers and check those profiles. Happy travels...

Posted by
1158 posts

The best web site I found so far for hotel reviews is tripadvisor.com
You can do a google search by typing the hotel name then the word "review" and try to read them on more than one site.
I think it's hard to figure out those type of scammers.

Posted by
11450 posts

Valid points, I always check out hotel reviews on multiple sites, this is easy to do by just " googling" hotel name and " reveiws" .
I also make a point to read all reveiws, not just last three or four, and look for odd man out reviews. I take all reviews with a grain of salt. I have seen someone complain that there was no bell man to carry their bags in a 2 star hotel, and I have seen others complian that the elevators was too small( get over it, elevators are small, you are too fat I think!LOL).

I look for consistant comments, phrases like " clean, good location" are what I look for, complaints about the night desk clerk not speaking english do not impress me at all(get over it and learn another language) .

I look suspiciously at any review that is very different from others, either much worse, or much better.
I also take personal tastes into account, some people are not experienced travellors and seem to suffer more with differences that I do not mind( rooms are smaller.

Posted by
990 posts

Pat, Your advice here is very sound. Travelers value different things, and a hotel that one person finds charming another might consider ramshackle; likewise the hotel that one person praises as beautiful and well-appointed might strike someone else as sterile and anonymous. Different strokes...

What I was writing about, though, is something a bit fishier--when hotel owners appear to masquerade as guests and hype their hotels online. Some time ago a guest in a small pension found a list of twenty or so monikers and passwords for Trip Advisor at the shared computer of the pension, all in the same handwriting. Sure enough, in the next few weeks those "guests" posted glowing reviews of the hotel and the hotel shot up to the top rating on Trip Advisor.

I can understand the temptation to do this. Imagine you're the owner of a small hotel in a tourist area. You've sunk your entire life assets into this. But in order to make a living, you have to run a full house. (continued...)

Posted by
990 posts

If only you could persuade your guests to write favorable reviews on online review sites, you'd have bookings galore. Of course, you could just sit down at the computer and write the reviews yourself. That way you can quickly get your hotel up the rankings and your investment is secure.

There is no question this happens. (Trip Advisor does take down reviews when they catch obvious plants. But they haven't got the time or the resources to vet every single one.) So...be alert for the possibility of fake reviews by hotel owners, especially for hotels in smaller towns. (It would take a huge investment in time to write enough reviews to be the top hotel in London. But not so much in Quaint Tourist Village.)

Posted by
643 posts

I think it's a worthwhile discussion. I have read a lot on Tripadvisor too. While I really feel I should stay at one of Rick Steves recommended hotels, there are much cheaper alternatives and one I found on TripAdvisor is half the price and looks pretty good. We'd save $800 over 9 nights if we stayed there vs. the one Rick recommends. One advantage to a more expensive hotel is you might meet more people (having more rooms) and they might be a little more well-heeled than a smaller, cheaper hotel like the one we're looking at.

If anyone knows anything about Hyde Park Rooms hotel near Paddington Station I'd sure like to hear about it. It's very cheap! We have a reservation at the Garden Court Hotel near Bayswater right now but it's twice the price of Hyde Park Rooms hotel...

Posted by
423 posts

Well, I take hotel reviews apart first to see if the are pluses and minuses that I care about. I never look at the ranking # - which can be inflated/skewed depending on who/how many are posting. I cross reference this site, with TripAdvisor and others. If I see a lot of conflicting information, I get suspicious too, and may just by-pass the option all together.

I have also been encouraged via email, by the hotel I stayed at in Florence (twice) when I return home to write a great review in TripAdvisor for them. They even sent me the link.

They know I was happy and have no quams at soliciting for a write up. So I would assume there are likely a lot of small hotel owners doing the same.

Thank goodness for the vastness of the internet where we can carefully research our choices. Years ago, we just blamed our travel agent :-)

Posted by
632 posts

JER,

You are right on target here..I use TripAdvisor because you can check out the reviewer's history...any reviewer that doesn't have a number of reviews to their credit is suspect...if you find suspicious activity (particularly when there are just a few outstanding reviews on a relatively unknown hotel)...send a note to TripAdvisor...I've done it on a couple of occasions and they have thanked me each time...they try to police the posters...but they need our help in identifying the frauds...interestingly, I find that the "arms race" phenomena is not a bad metaphor. The patterns that I have detected have occured in certain locations...not spread out over the whole globe...more like neighbors trying to best each other in the local competition for best lawn!

Posted by
632 posts

Dave,

We all use RS as a guide…the emphasis should be on guide…not a rule book…RS only has time to review a limited number of hotels…and he does a pretty good job of it. But, what if you are like me and you love Paris, but you don’t want to stay in Rue Cler? I keep going back to the same neighborhood I fell in love with back in 1965…Montparnasse…before the Tower…when there were Jazz clubs in dark alleyways (Buttercups Chicken Shack)…and writers drinking coffee in Le Select (Simone De Bouvier and Jean Paul Sartre)…and great artists on the steets…Rick has never seen my Paris…and he may not have seen yours either…Rick writes about traveling as an attitude…If you can adopt his attitude, you don’t need to know exactly which hotels he has recommened…because you will find one just as good as anything he would recommend.

Posted by
3404 posts

I'd like to add my 2 euros to the comments below. After many trips, we've discovered certain guidebooks whose recommendations are very reliable and lead us to the kind of places we like. Sorry to say Rick Steves isn't one of them. His places are too often geared to the hosteling/backpacking crowd; and we are seniors with a taste for comfort (at a reasonable price, of course). Also, his good picks tend to be filled with Americans clutching the Gospel According to St. Rick. You need to figure out if you're part of the audience the book is aimed at. We like Karen Brown and Alistair Sawday for just lodgings. The Cadogan guides have never steered us wrong on sights, restaurants, or lodgings. I also cross-check with Tripadvisor. I think venere.com has traveler reviews as well.

Posted by
194 posts

Oops! That means I blew it when I posted my very first and only review on Trip Advisor! I always look up hotels in cities I'm visiting, but have never posted. Last summer was the first time that I signed up and posted a review after a wonderful stay in a hotel in Montalcino. Of course I gave the place all 5s. I guess my review won't be taken with any credibility...

Posted by
632 posts

Sue...like everything else in life, you gotta earn respect...and one way you get respect in the "opinion" business is to publish your opinions...it's almost like peer review for professional papers. On the other hand, Mark Twain made the following observation: "It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt." So maybe I have just removed all doubt in my postings! And just for the fun of it, I've got a Montalcino review for you: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g635634-d539569-r10539544-Palazzina_Cesira-Montalcino_Tuscany.html

Posted by
11450 posts

Sue, I wouldn't disregard your review, unless, none of the other reviews all really very good.For instance if all other reviews were 2 or 3 stars, then I would think your review was a bit of an exaggeration, but, if there were many other 4 stars, and even a few 5 's then I would see nothing odd about your review.

Posted by
194 posts

Bill and Pat - Thank you for your reassurances! I looked at the Montalcino hotels on Trip Advisor and see that my hotel (Vecchia Oliviera) is ranked #2 out of 11 hotels and my review is one of many that gave the hotel all 5s. I may have been a trifle generous, but it WAS that memorable! I'm "aloha50seattle," by the way, and included many photos. I guess some of the pictures should have had us in them to make them look more authentic, but if you look very carefully at the picture of the approach to Montalcino, you can see a body to the right of the hotel along the wall. My husband and I had stopped to take a picture of the hotel, only to see our son-in-law with our granddaughter on his shoulders waving at us from the pool area. It's kind of a "Where's Waldo?" picture!
Bill, your b&b looks intriguing and a great find as well...

Posted by
18527 posts

Hotel owners all over Europe are aware of this website and it's plethora of somewhat naive travelers and can't wait to lure them to their hotels. Particularly, beware of unsolicited recommendations, like the one currently shown for "Pension Elisabeth" ("Elisabeth is god") on the "To the West" board. Nobody asked about Pension Elisabeth, but a recommendation was posted anyway. And I think there are people in Europe who just "troll" this webstite for questions like "where should I stay in Salzburg" to post a supposedly anonymous recommendation for their place.

In my experience, the only way to find reasonably priced accommodations in Germany is to find the town's website, www.[town name].de, and look for lists of accommodations.

Posted by
2297 posts

Soooo, I thought I add a few "real" hotel reviews to tripadvisor. But since then I haven't been able to get onto the website at all. I this just me or do others have similar problems?