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More than 9 in 10 global travelers admit their booking decisions are influenced by online reviews, and just over half refuse to do business with a hotel that isn't rated, according to online analytics firm Market Metrix. Alas, it doesn't mention anything about whether those reviews are truthful, or whether the prospective guests even care.
I've asked both Yelp and TripAdvisor about the accuracy of their content on many occasions. The answers alternate between defensive and defiant. The sites are nothing more than platforms for travelers and restaurant guests to leave their opinion, they insist. Besides, they have fraud-detection programs to ferret out the fake reviews placed by reputation management operatives and so-called sock puppets, or employees pretending to be customers.
But when I ask them to share even the most basic details of how the algorithms work, they refuse. To reveal that information would be to help the bad guys game the system, they say. That may or may not be true, but it's also a self-serving response.
The companies also seem dismissive when anyone points out that contributors like Ross, who on a recent day posted 10 reviews (oddly, it didn't trip any of TripAdvisor's fraud-detection alarms), are essentially unpaid workers upon whose labor they've built a multimillion-dollar, publicly traded business. I wonder how shareholders would feel if they received water bottles instead of dividends.
It turns out I've been asking the wrong questions. People don't necessarily expect the truth when they click on a review site. Truthy is good enough.
Just ask Susan Biederman, a retired fifth-grade teacher from Coral Springs, Fla., and a devoted TripAdvisor user. She says she's "very careful" about the advice she takes from the site. Since the site either can't or won't catch all of the fakes, she conducts her own verification process, which includes reviewing a contributor's social media profiles and reading other reviews by the same author.
A few days ago, when searching for hotels in London, Biederman found an obviously scammy poster who had written "glowing and superlative" reviews of five hotels in the city. She ignored them. But using the same process, she also connected with a resident of Istanbul when she needed a restaurant recommendation. He turned out to be the real deal, and even helped her by calling the restaurant to make a reservation for her.
"I was just overwhelmed, and that dinner was one of the nicest we've ever enjoyed," she recalls. "What a great memory ."
Perhaps we should be looking at user-generated sites not for what they aren't, but for what they are. They're useful travel guides that will do the trick until technology delivers a better solution.
© 2013 USA TODAY under contract with YellowBrix. All rights reserved.
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.