Wednesday 19 August 2015

A whingers' charter

In the Morning Advertiser, the newspaper of the licensed trade, there have been few articles recently about Trip Advisor (TA). Pub licensees have been reporting how there have been some grossly unfair comments posted, and how it is hard to get inaccurate or vexatious reviews removed. For instamce, one customer wrote about the "odd mixture of spices and herbs" used in a lamb dish she'd had at one pub. The licensee asked why she had ordered “Moroccan Spiced Lamb if you is not liking Moroccan Spices and herbs?"

When a customer suffered a heart attack at a wedding reception at The Carrington Arms in Milton Keynes, an employee saved the sick person's life. Despite that, one member of the party, who had booked a room for the night in the pub for £60, posted an angry review because breakfast was not included in the price. Surely it's entirely his own fault: he should have checked what he was getting for his money. The licensee isn't happy with TA's reply, which is to post a response to the comment concerned. As he says, it just looks as though you have a bad attitude towards complaints. There are instances when TA haven't taken reviews down when they have been proved to be wrong: one complained that the home made-chips weren't up to much and that the car park was empty in August when the licensees were away on holiday. The pub replied that they don't do home made-chips, they weren't away in August and they don't have a car park. Although the review must refer to somewhere else, it hasn't been removed. Some proprietors have complained that malicious reviews demonstrably by business competitors have been left on too.

Some customers demand discounts or they'll write a bad review on TA. I'm not a legal expert, but I do wonder whether this could be viewed as attempted extortion; it is certainly despicable. Owners of one or two B&Bs I've stayed at have told me they have occasionally had such threats. Then there are those who take to TA to whinge about every fault without raising their complaints with the owners. Some fail to understand that you get what you pay for: if you're in a cheap B&B, don't expect five star hotel levels of service. I thought it quite funny, though wrong, when a Blackpool B&B fined anyone who put bad reviews on TA. While the B&B didn't sound much good, it was extremely cheap - were some customers expecting more than they'd paid for?

I'm very British in that I don't particularly like complaining, but I'll do so if necessary, always politely. I've rarely had a problem with that approach. Better getting the matter sorted out than fuming and writing an adverse review later. It would never occur to me use TA to find out about a pub, restaurant or B&B: I'm conscious of how much it allows whingers who lack the courage to deal with problems face-to-face to vent their frustrations afterwards. I'm not sure I'd value the views of such people.

For info, before writing this post I looked up on TA a number of establishments that I am familiar with. To be fair, nearly all comments were positive: most people seem to use TA to say what a good time they've had. It's the negative ones I wouldn't trust: are they accurate, are they unfair, or are they just horrible because the reviewer didn't get a discount? We have no way of telling, which for me negates the value of the TA website.

Here's an article about TripAdvisoritis, the publican's disease.


  1. Martin, Cambridge19 August 2015 at 22:21

    Most sensible readers can identify ridiculous complaints (and not just because of the apalling spelling) and discount them. I think it's unrealistic to expect Trip Advisor to employ people to form a view on the merits of claims & counterclaim; owners get unlimited right of reply.

    Main weakness of TA for pubs is that it's only really used by diners, rarely by drinkers.

    1. What's the basis for the assertion that all vexatious comments are by people who are semi-literate? An inability to spell well is not uniquely a characteristic of dishonesty.

      If it's unrealistic for TA to police this thing properly, then it is seriously flawed - which was of course my point. From pathetic whingers to people who try by threats to obtain discounts to which they have no entitlement: this website provides them all with the opportunity.

      The fact that most reviewers use it as intended is irrelevant: it's how they deal with the abuses that counts, and I consider they fail.

  2. Martin, Cambridge20 August 2015 at 20:22

    You make a valid criticism of the TA model, but I think it would be a completely different business model that funded TA to assess which comments or management responses were vexatious or unfair. Unfortunately there arent a great deal of alternatives in the hotel/restaurant review/market.

    1. Fair comment. But that leaves the question as to whether we need TA? We managed without it before, and it's certainly of no value to me.

  3. I checked tripadvisor for good bars in Amsterdam, and it turned out to be pretty useful. Good place to start, but I always take the individual reviews with a pinch of salt.

    I've left a few tripadvisor reviews myself, mainly where it was above and beyond the normal.

    Only 1 star review I ever left was for a cafe that refused tap water - and were arsey about it.


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