Don't believe everything you read online, especially on user-generated review Web sites such as TripAdvisor or Yelp, which claim to help you find the best hotels and restaurants.
At least that's the standard warning issued repeatedly by travel experts for the last decade. The ratings are rigged by hotel or restaurant operatives, or by unhappy patrons trying to shame a business, they say. Since the sites make no meaningful efforts to stop bogus posts, all the so-called user-generated sites should be ignored when you're planning your next trip.
I'm not suggesting the problem of unverified reviews has been fixed. If anything, it's a bigger issue than ever as Americans begin planning for the upcoming winter holidays. More companies are trying to manage their online reputations. Nor have any of the sites developed an effective fraud-detection algorithm that red-flags every bogus rating, as far as I can tell.
I'm convinced that you should believe what you read, or at least some of it, because the reviews might be written by real hotel guests and restaurant patrons, and they can be useful when you're planning your next vacation. I know, because unlike the sites, I've taken the trouble to speak with the reviewers. And I know many are real.
As a "senior contributor" to Trip-Advisor, Karin Ross has received luggage tags and water bottles from the company to thank her for her contributions, but she's never been asked to verify if she actually stayed in one of the hotels and restaurants she reviewed. That doesn't bother her at all.
"I take the reviews I read with a grain of salt," says Ross, a volunteer for a health organization in Phoenix. "If you read carefully, you can see if it's falsely inflated or defamed."
A majority of the other write-ups she sees are "relatively accurate" and as long as she disregards the hypercritical one-star ratings and the exuberant five-star reviews, she's confident she'll arrive somewhere close to the truth.
And getting close seems to be good enough for most travelers.
"I've been a TripAdvisor user for years," says Mary Bruels, a retired insurance manager from Gulfport, Fla. "I have rarely been burned."
She says the trick is to learn to spot "trolls" -- users who intentionally post reviews with extreme views meant to antagonize readers -- and simply ignore them. That's sound advice online, no matter what you're doing. Like Ross, it usually means disregarding the extreme reviews. "I've been pleased with the results," she says. (continued...)
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Posted: 2013-10-08 @ 10:53am PT
Reviews! No matter what the subject, you will always get bogus and good reviews. As said above, the bogus could be simply someone with an axe to grind regarding the hotel etc. It is therefore wise in my opinion to read all the reviews and take the middle line in keeping with your own line of thought.
Posted: 2013-09-30 @ 9:03pm PT
I have to travel a lot for my business, mostly in Europe, but often in the States. I used to use sites like Travelocity, but I quickly found a better way to find deals is to go to the second level - those sites http://www.hotelscombinedgo.com who compare the hundreds of different booking sites in one single search. So you not only see trivago and expedia deals but ALL of them in one place. I agree, just using one of the top booking sites is not the best idea.