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Are online reviews broken?

I first read this news story on Saturday and it’s been bouncing in my mind ever since.

https://calgaryherald.com/news/world/woman-and-granddaughter-kicked-out-of-u-s-hotel-at-840-p-m-for-three-star-review/wcm/f5aa8f14-40c4-47d2-b752-09521a1307c2?utm_term=Autofeed&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook#Echobox=1637983091

In a nutshell, a woman and her 6 year old granddaughter were asked by police to leave their hotel room after the hotel manager called 911 to have them removed for leaving a bad review on hotels.com. Earlier, the woman had been emailed by hotels.com and was asked to leave a review. The police officer on the scene told the woman that the hotel had the right to remove them. The article references a Georgia state law that says hotels can remove guests for a number of reasons including the very vague “or other action by a guest”, which apparently can be interpreted to ridiculous proportions.

Thoughts bouncing through my mind:

  • Did the woman do more than just send a bad review like the hotel manager later said? Nothing in the police report indicates that.
  • What could possibly motivate a hotel manager to go to that extreme?
  • Extreme disappointment that Hotels.com backed the hotel until confronted by the media.
  • Credit to the Police officer for going above and beyond the call of duty and helping the woman and her granddaughter find a new hotel.

Since I do check online reviews, I used to feel a responsibility to also leave reviews as a way to help others who are helping me. But I find myself reading and leaving fewer reviews of any kind because I question the sincerity and motivation of too many that are leaving the reviews. It seems to take more effort than in past to weed out the angry reviews or even the ultra positive fluff reviews that also don’t always give a factual representation.

I’m curious if your attitude toward reviews has changed over the years? Is the whole online review thing broken and lost its value as a reliable tool?

Posted by
176 posts

This kind of harassment or retribution against negative online comments has been going on for years. I no longer leave reviews for anything online, stopped doing it around 5 years ago...not worth it to get hassled or sued by a hotel, vendor, etc.

Posted by
2464 posts

My first reaction to this story was that I'm impressed that the Helen, Georgia police department has the resources to respond to a non-emergency call to remove a woman and her 6 year old grand daughter from a hotel room that they paid for - and from what I've read, were not behaving inappropriately. I'm glad the police were nice to the woman, but more than that, I am appalled that they got involved to the extent that they did.

Personally, I would have given the hotel the opportunity to fix things - put me in a room with a better toilet, before posting a negative online review. And I for damn sure would have waited until I was out of the hotel to post a negative review.

My opinion of reviews hasn't really changed over the years. I disregard the "one and done" reviews on any website - whether the review is positive or negative.

The only time I used hotels.com, the hotel in Chicago had no record of our reservation. Luckily, the front desk found us a better room at a lower price than the room I thought I had booked. Hotels.com deleted my review on its website - you can probably figure out why.

Posted by
3210 posts

I don't think the system is broken, but there are definitely problems, and have been for years. This, I think is just a flagrant abuse of a loophole in the state law, and I think will backfire big time on that hotel. At least I hope so. I have never trusted a single source for reviews at any rate. If I can see a concensus of ratings over several sites, then I go with that. Even with several grains of salt, I don't really trust TripAdvisor any more. I guess hotels.com can join that list. For whatever reason, I do tend to believe booking.coms reviews more (but also with a healthy dose of skepticism.)

And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you are going to leave a bad review, wait until you have left. And hopefully you would have brought any deficiencies to the attention of the management and given them an opportunity to fix the problems during your stay before doing so.

Posted by
5769 posts

I utilize Hotels/com some, but mostly Booking.com, and what smells about this story is that you rarely can do a review until your stay is complete. Further, while some ID information can be deduced, nothing positively identifies you as a "reviewer".

This looks to be sensationalist trope, available on the Internet (Calgary, Alberta, Canadian newspaper reporting on a local Georgia, US minor story?)

Certainly may have happened, but just trash news.

Posted by
1307 posts

People that use this site are mostly experienced travelers and know to leave a review after they leave a hotel and have the final bill. A grandmother and 8 year old child do not fit this description and probably have no experience in this regard so I can understand this happening.

Posted by
4211 posts

I also read this story. It was in my local newspaper (Either the Minneapolis StarTribune or St Paul Pioneer Press.

Posted by
1837 posts

Read the closer-to-original-sources version of the article here:
https://www.11alive.com/article/news/investigations/the-reveal/hotel-calls-police-grandma-bad-review/85-377e243e-f05c-46e9-85f7-8a0748c7b71d

It says that the business at first claimed that the customer hadn't given them any indication that anything needed attention, and later reversed that by saying the customer had been complaining a lot -- in response the business is suspected of retaliation, not just acting within its rights to deny service.

Posted by
2959 posts

The Trip Advisor reviews for the Helen hotel are a fun read... especially when the GM mentioned in the article above starts personally attacking reviewers for their comments.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g35004-d79732-Reviews-Baymont_by_Wyndham_Helen-Helen_Georgia.html

For anyone who does not know, Helen was a down-on-its-luck Georgia logging town that decided to re-invent itself in the 1970s as a Bavarian town surrounded by... the Appalachian Mountains. Meh... I wasn't impressed when I went there several years ago.

Posted by
2181 posts

This looks to be sensationalist trope, available on the Internet
(Calgary, Alberta, Canadian newspaper reporting on a local Georgia, US
minor story?)

Google it. It made newspapers and TV around the world. I just chose my local newspaper as the link.

Posted by
2181 posts

I utilize Hotels/com some, but mostly Booking.com, and what smells
about this story is that you rarely can do a review until your stay is
complete.

I've never used hotels.com, but Expedia emails me soon after I check in asking me for a review on how the check-in process went and my first impressions.

Posted by
6513 posts

Yes, this retaliation thing has made review sites, like Angi (formerly Angie's List), Amazon, Google Reviews, etc., much less credible. Just as businesses are threatened with bad reviews by customers demanding discounts or favors. Sooner or later all good things get abused.

Posted by
1009 posts

This particular hotel is in the Wyndam chain, and changed management/ownership about a year ago. Relief, if any, could be provided by the parent company. In the interim, the reviews on Google Maps are tanking, indicating a recent pattern of neglect and poor management.

Posted by
27428 posts

I've just read the reviews over the last couple of months and they are awful - really awful.

It sounds like this woman's review was mild compared with some. It really looks like the woman was well out of there...

Posted by
1117 posts

I'm impressed that the Helen, Georgia police department has the
resources to respond to a non-emergency call to remove a woman and her
6 year old grand daughter from a hotel room that they paid for

My thoughts exactly. Isn't that a misuse of the emergency phone number, taking up the time and the phone line capacities for any real emergencies that might come in? I don't recommend trying that with the European emergency phone number. Could get very expensive.

We had the situation with an Amazon purchase once, the seller having included a note pressuring us to give them a five star rating. I don't as a rule give any ratings or reviews, so I didn't give one here either. But if I had, it would certainly not have been five but only four stars: everything else being fine, but one star less for trying to pressure us about this rating.

When I read reviews, I tend to read the negative ones first. I try to disregard the ones from those ever-complaining people. But if there is a sort of consensus among several sensible-sounding people, that's a different matter.

Comments by the seller or the proprietor can be very telling too. If there are comments attacking people for giving a negative review, well, you know what kind of a person you're dealing with.

Posted by
2396 posts

As one can do on the internet, I once fell down a rabbit hole where I discovered that people who provide wedding services are extremely concerned about their online ratings and very very aggressive about pursuing anyone who dares to post anything that is in the least bit negative. The signed agreements they have with their clients typically include really Draconian language giving them an incredible amount of leeway to pursue people who do not give them stellar ratings.

Posted by
3140 posts

Assuming its true, this hotel's behavior has hurt them much more than the negative review. I never would have seen that review, but now I know to avoid that hotel.