Monday, February 28, 2011

Travel Reviews Bogus?

My wife recorded a portion of the Today show last Thursday regarding the business of deception in the travel/entertainment industry when it comes to all those review sites. The basic jist of it was that a lot of hotels, restaurants/bars, etc. are in the business of either hyping up their own businesses or posting damaging reviews on those of competitors businesses. There are even entire companies who you can hire to do the dirty work for you. In addition, many sites embellish photos of their own resorts, showing great expansive views when they are not quite as fantastic as claimed.

One example in the pictures below shows a hotel with a beautiful pool and city view when the actual view contains a huge Macy's department store directly next door. Similar to the one below, maybe are just taken at very good angles and not outright forgeries. The Oyster website attempts to expose embellished or photoshopped photos, so it might be worth a quick look to see your destination is featured.

When researching vacation spots/hotels we try to take everything we read with a grain of salt. We read an awful lot of reviews of destinations and resorts and don't put a whole lot of emphasis on one or two particular reviews. We probably read over 100 reviews when all is said and done and check out hundreds and hundreds of different photos, mostly posted by people that have recently been there. Even if 10-20% of the reviews and photos are completely fake, that still gives an overwhelming majority that aren't. Many times we post in forums or email individual people directly asking specific questions and have even met up with a few people we have interacted with prior, so that helps to lend legitimacy to our research.

However, it's not just limited to hotels. The Today show interviewed one guy who openly admitted he made up fake reviews for his own restaurant and would post negative reviews for competitors. So that means all the sites like Urban Spoon, Yelp, etc. have suspect reviews on them as well. They didn't specifically mention it, but the same can pretty much be said for any site that posts reviews such as Amazon.

Many sites attempt to limit fake reviews and many of the companies mentioned on the show responded back defending their site and policies. But what would you expect, that's how they make $$. At any rate, it doesn't change much, just something to be aware of.

Have you ever relied on information from review or review site, only to feel you were deceived in some way or the reviews were completely false in your opinion? Would love to hear the details.


Mock family said...

I mean can we not just be honest here people, this is ridiculous! Knew that it was going on but not aware of the extent... stupid... I like going to trip advisor and reading forums that I BELIEVE are real people....

Chris said...

I KNOW, I mean a lot of times we'd dismiss really bad reviews or perfect reviews somewhat, since we've either been to the places before and know generally what to expect or sometimes people complain about the oddest things that we could care less about....but we can still hope that the majority are real. I like to think that we can easily spot the fake ones. Lately, we've seen a bunch that aren't all that long, have no personality and terrible grammar and spelling, we're thinking those are the 3rd party offshore companies that get paid to post positive reviews. But who, but a fact of life I guess.

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