TripAdvisor: Should you fight it or embrace it?

08 December 2011
TripAdvisor: Should you fight it or embrace it?

TripAdvisor must vet the reviews first

Mike Pemberton, partner at the Café at Brovey Lair, Ovington, Norfolk Some 99% of our reviews are superlative and written by highly valued guests who have stayed here and loved the experience. But we have received what we consider to be a vindictive and malicious attack from a customer posted on TripAdvisor. They also rubbish other reviewers saying: "I really do not believe any of the other good reviews regarding this place … have to say having read the other reviews this place is a case of ‘The Emperors New Clothes' and I really can't see what it's all about."

TripAdvisor is under fire from hoteliers and restaurateurs who are becoming increasingly angry at the apparent absence of any form of investigative procedures to prevent the epidemic of vindictive reviews being posted on its site.

Our own case involves a correspondent named "musntgrumble" who posted a vitriolic and deliberately misleading review maligning both our property and its restaurant, which won fish restaurant of the year in the Good Food Guide last year.

The comments, some of which are inaccurate and some totally false, could be construed as libellous, and we are having this checked out by a solicitor. For example, we have never stated that we serve local produce - everything we use is day fresh, spicy Asian fusion and Mediterranean ingredients with some produce sourced from UK coastal fishing grounds or specialist vegetable growers.

Other false statements include the suggestion we keep our wines in a freezer and the insinuation we have not eaten in any of the restaurants named at the end of their review when we've been to all of them.

Their comments about our breakfast, which has received acclaim from writers and critics, are quite simply lies. We serve a freshly cut tropical fruit plate with mango, papaya, pineapple, passion and sharon fruits, kiwis and melon, not a "pathetic fruit salad".

What has attracted attention to our breakfasts is the Mexican/Californian combination of healthy and wicked. We accept there may occasionally be someone who is less enchanted with the food or thinks we are overpriced but these are subjective views and not defamatory or malicious.

Recently, an article in the Daily Mail stated: "Many hotels argue that furious postings which lambast their standard of accommodation are, at best, the unfair views of difficult customers or - rather worse - fake reviews deliberately written by rival hotels in a bid to besmirch their reputation."

We believe it is incumbent upon TripAdvisor to differentiate between a review containing subjective views and one that deliberately sets out to be gratuitously destructive. This one falls into the latter category and it should be obvious to TripAdvisor that is has been designed to bring our business into disrepute.

Robin Sheppard
Robin Sheppard

Stop trippin' - TripAdvisor is here to stay

Robin Sheppard, chairman of the Bespoke Hotel Group TripAdvisor is here to say, so learn to love it. It's already big, very big, and it's going to get bigger. It won't always give hoteliers and restaurateurs what they want, but it gives clients what they need. And if you're doing nothing wrong, then: a) you're probably lying, and b) you've got nothing to be afraid of.

How many times have you heard someone say: "The main course arrived 15 minutes after everyone else's and was cold. But the restaurant manager was so good. They didn't charge us for my meal and the waiter brought me a free glass of champagne with my dessert. Of course I'd go back."

Anyone who has worked in the hospitality - or any service industry - is lying if they say they've never cocked up. Sometimes, however, you make more friends in the way you make up for a mistake than if you'd never made a mistake in the first place.

And that's the thing about TripAdvisor. You're going to get the occasional angry punter who's had a bad experience. Sometimes it will be justified and you'll know it. Sometimes it will be completely unjustified and you'll know it.

But if you're running a great hotel or restaurant, if your service and your food are fantastic nine times out of 10, then your TripAdvisor reviews will be great nine times out of 10. If you rectify a mistake quickly and happily, then the chances are you'll end up with a great review anyway.

Today's consumers are worldly wise enough to contribute to social networking sites, blogs and consumer-review sites. By the same token that makes them sufficiently net-literate to filter out the occasional "troll", or dare I say it, the occasional comment that has been written by either a friend or an enemy.

Readers are also world-weary enough to accept that, just as one swallow doesn't make a summer, one swig of corked wine doesn't make the restaurant they are visiting a turkey.

If TripAdvisor weren't there as an outlet for the one guest who saw a photo of your plushest suite on your website but ended up in your standard room without a view, then they'd find some other way of complaining about it.

Just make sure you give your guests and customers as few reasons to moan as possible and you'll be alright. Owners, managers and executives work hard to keep staff honest and on their toes. So who keeps us on our toes? Why, the reviewers of course - whether they're a well-known jackal from a national newspaper, or a humble guest who just happened to get the hump. Think of TripAdvisor as the industry's conscience, because it's here to stay.

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