What do I have in common with Arthur Frommer and Google? We don’t think you should use TripAdvisor!
You shouldn’t believe everything you read. Verification and consistent fact-checking is the mantra of good investigative analysis and journalism. Experts take time to become experts. Monday Morning Quarterbacks are good for nothing but Budweiser.
You shouldn’t believe a car mechanic who tells you that your breaks aren’t working because your foot is suffering from Fibromyalgia. You shouldn’t believe a cotton farmer who tells you that nylon is bad for your skin. You shouldn’t roll over your IRA into the hot lead penny stock. You shouldn’t believe a Republican who tells you he favors cutting the deficit.
And you shouldn’t believe a traveler you don’t know about the quality of his recent experience.
That’s been my gripe: the wholly and exclusively subjective analysis of TripAdvisor reviews bereft of any expertise whatever.
And Google, now, seems to agree.
Last week the on-line search engine marketing firm HitSearchLimited reported that “Google seems to have removed [TripAdvisor] reviews from sources that do not have a verifiable method of ensuring that each review is written by a verified source…”
Yes! (Not that I’m a great fan of Google or anything that gets this big, but when the bigwigs start to fight among one another, I’ll route for those carrying my view to be sure.)
Time and again I’ve listened to astute clients claim that they are fully capable of reading between the lines, judging which reviews seem more credible.
It’s possible, if you’ve had a similar experience to what the review is about, but still unlikely. At the very least, you need to know the reviewer, as you would know and trust your friends about a travel experience. The known idiosyncracies and prejudices of your friend you’ll understand temper his/her evaluation, and you’ll probably then be in a better position to use the review.
Arthur Frommer has carried on his own campaign against TripAdvisor for as long as I have, and in last month’s blog critical of TripAdvisor he reiterated, “I will not choose the London or Paris hotel recommendation of an amateur who has stayed in exactly one London and one Paris hotel in the course of their entire life.”
The UK based KwikChex, a vetting agency for travel companies, announced in September that it was representing more than 120 travel companies (mostly hotels) in a possible class action suit against TripAdvisor.
This gets much more onerous than just my or Frommer’s general cautions about using TripAdvisor. These 120 travel concerns, one of which I know personally, have been defamed by malicious reviews on TripAdvisor using outright lies.
Kwikchex can be hired to sort things out. With enough documentation, TripAdvisor can be convinced to remove a review and has done so, specifically at Kwikchex’s behest. But the time and expense can sometimes be deadly for a small travel company or hotel.
The ego of many who believe they have “discovered” something is hard to suppress. The reason you don’t buy that tonic to grow hair is because … well, it doesn’t grow hair! Despite the old hairy man on the television who says it does!
As a travel consumer, you need to evince that same kind of discipline. Some of you may, indeed, think you can ferret out the more likely true from the less likely true in a string of TripAdvisor reviews.
I don’t think so.
So I suppose instead we should listen to the travel advisor who has received kickbacks and/or free luxury accommodations from the establishments he recommends? BTW, can you be sure that the travel concern that you “know personally” didn’t deserve that bad review”? Maybe housekeeping actually was lax that day, the front desk staffer surly or the waiter indifferent. Quality can be variable, and guests may have quite different experiences, unfortunately. Vetting by any single source will never be infallible, so sifting and weighing reviews on amazon, tripadvisor, yelp and the like will continue to pay off for 21st century consumers. You and Frommer are free to continue blustering about it, of course.