How to not get sued using TripAdvisor
ON the hoteliers’ list of most despised things, TripAdvisor is near the top – along with bed-bugs, trashed rooms and guest mini-bar malpractices.
I’ve never particularly been a fan of TripAdvisor’s reviews since being a journalist I have to put a name to any critiques.
I’ve been shocked by the tone, pettiness and lack of balance of many of the reviews.
On the occasions that I do use the site I spend a lot of time scrolling through the reviews, attempting to establish some pattern to the critiques in order to get a proper perspective of the hotel in question.
Despite the attacks that TripAdvisor – which posts an average of 21 reviews and opinions every minute – has attracted, Accor has become the first global chain to put TripAdvisor on its website. Comments, unedited, now appear on the hotel’s reservation site, featuring hotels such as Sofitel, Mercure and Novotel.
Accor says that constructive comments on such sites can lead to real changes and improvements at a hotel.
Australian accommodation booking site wotif.com is also reportedly expecting to launch TripAdvisor-style reviews on its website.
My advice to wotif.com is to strike out and make it compulsory for reviewers to provide their real names, not just their disguised email ones.
And for all those looking to use TripAdvisor or similar consumer-feedback-based sites – here are some constructive tips on how to get the best out of the websites:
There’s no point complaining about the absence of fluffy white bath-robes if you’re staying in a three-star chain hotel (though you may find them in boutique hotels). The same goes for other inclusions, such as parking, that aren’t included in the property’s website in the first instance or aren’t likely to be provide due to the hotel’s rate and star status.
Don’t just write a critical review simply to retaliate against the hotel after a bad experience, which may well have been an aberration. Discerning readers will likely judge you as much as the hotel in terms what you have to say about the hotel and the tone in which you choose to express your gripes.
The party’s over
Now that the worst effects of the GFC have passed, hotel occupancy rates have risen while the number of bargains have declined. Don’t expect to be upgraded to that ocean view room – even if you ask nicely – in the current climate (unless you’re a member of the chain’s loyalty club).
Don’t write-off a hotel just because of what’s written on TripAdvisor. Google the hotel and see what else has been written (yes, even by experienced travel journalists).
I also find TripAdvisor, critiques aside, as a good way to determine what accommodation is available in a city and what’s new.
Do your homework
Check out TripAdvisor’s help centre, it’s actually rather helpful and shows how the site has been working in recent times to lift its standards and be more accountable.
There’s some great advice on how to write a review. I like the apparently real example they used to show how not to write a review: “There were bugs everywhere and the fat unhelpful, ungracious host should be ashamed to work in NYC.”
Don’t play the defame game
A lawyer was quoted on News.com.au last year warning that Australians posting false or exaggerated reviews could be sued, with the legal penalties having the potential to run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Robert Tood from Blake Dawson advised that when posting a critical review be sure of your supporting facts. It may not always remain the case that reviewers’ name remains anonymous, or that hotels, rightly or wrongly, won’t retaliate.
Don’t always tell the world
TripAdvisor and such sites aren’t the last word in complaint. No one writes letters these days but do send an email to the general manager of the hotel if you’ve had a bad experience.
My partner had a bizarre experience at a Thai resort a few years ago when the masseur announced thought she’d felt a lump and immediately diagnosed breast cancer. Fortunately, it wasn’t the case at all but the insensitivity wrecked the last days of our trip. I wrote a carefully-worded email of complaint to the general manager who wrote straight back with an apology. Matter settled.
Then again, had he not replied there always was TripAdvisor…