According to hotel owners, guests are using reviews on TripAdvisor to blackmail them. About 80 hotels and bed-and-breakfasts are claiming that customers are threatening to give them a bad review in order to get discounts or upgrades. This is happening even if the guests have had nothing wrong during their stay. A hotel could lose bookings, worth tens of thousands of pounds, due to a bad rating on the site.
One hotel was threatened by a guest that it would get a poor review on TripAdvisor if they weren’t given a 50% discount on their stay. In another case, the owner of a venue tried to charge a guest for damage that the customer caused to a room, but the hotelier wound up being forced to back down after a poor review was threatened.
There are more than 50 million reviews written by guests about hotels, airlines and restaurants on the travel review website. Hotel owners say that TripAdvisor’s model is unfair because it permits anonymous reviews, and there are many times that there is no supporting evidence.
Good Hotel Guide editor Adam Raphael says that he has heard of cases where people call a hotel and threaten to leave a horrible review before they even get there in the hopes of being given a discount. TripAdvisor says that they take blackmail allegations very seriously, as it is strictly against their guidelines and could also be illegal.
In one case that is still involved in legal action, the owner of a Sussex hotel says that a guest demanded nearly £1,000 after claiming to have suffered food poisoning. When the hotel refused to pay, following evidence from other diners that the meal was eaten and hadn’t caused the illness, the guest posted a nasty review on TripAdvisor. There are also frequent examples of guests causing extensive damage to rooms and forcing owners to back down by threatening to post a bad review.
TripAdvisor was launched in 2000 and now has 45 million unique visitors every month – ranging from business travellers to holidaymakers looking for accommodations. However, its business model of allowing people to post reviews anonymously, often without evidence to support their claims, has been slammed as unfair. Even hotels and rival venues have been accused of submitting fake reviews to boost or impede bookings, and the company has been working to keep this to a minimum.
It was reported last month that the owner of the Riverside Hotel in Evesham, Worcestershire launched legal action against TripAdvisor after the company placed a ‘red flag’ on its review page in August. The message said that they believed the hotel was posting suspicious reviews. The hotel was ranked number one in the area, and owner Deborah Sinclair claims the message caused a catastrophic 75% drop in bookings.