Adding further documentation to the debate, the Chris Elliott blog even found a hotelier and a former restaurateur who bear witness to the alleged manipulation of their TripAdvisor rankings.
So I have revisited the question and have totally abandoned my former advice that consumers would be prudent to consult hotel reviews from an array of sources, including fellow consumers, journalists, guide books and professional-ratings services.
My new mantra? If you want to figure out if a hotel is worth staying at, then trust me only!
I look at it this way: I have impeccable taste (according to me) and my situation is consistent with the demographics of virtually every traveler.
After all, I am a male; single; divorced (therefore formerly married); I have kids; at one juncture I didn't have kids; I once was in my 20s; my parents are grandparents (so I know their travel issues); I know women who have executed fantastic girls' getaways; I have heterosexual and gay friends; and I have lived in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Israel and Germany.
I drove a yellow cab in New York City so I know the hotel space from that angle, as well.
In the 1980s, I worked as a nachtportier at the Palace Hotel in Berlin and therefore, coupled with my journalism experience, I am an expert reviewer on all matters regarding lodging.
So, obviously, TripAdvisor's user-generated content has absolutely no worth even though there may be dozens or even hundreds of reviews about a property to balance questionable reviews, and despite the fact that even some of TripAdvisor's critics concede they often consult its reviews before stepping out.
Guidebooks? Forget about them. They add nothing.
Ratings services? They all have axes to grind and little information.
Oyster.com and its review by journalists? Not even worth a look because the scribes are paid experts and probably have crazy deadlines.
So, before you take a trip, if you want to find out if the hotel you plan on booking is a flea trap or a five-star wonder, my advice is to look at things in a totally one-sided manner.
Read my hotel reviews only.