Friday, June 19, 2009

Radisson's Scarlet E-Mail From TripAdvisor Content Integrity Team

The Radisson Fort Worth-Fossil Creek, and reportedly a few dozen other hotels, are in the line of fire, having received a dreaded e-mail from the TripAdvisor Content Integrity team.

The result? In scarlet letters, TripAdvisor posted a warning next to the hotel's display advising consumers that the property, or people associated it, may have tried to manipulate its TripAdvisor Popularity Index.

Here's the e-mail that the TripAdvisor Content Integrity team sent to the hotel.

"To Whom It May Concern,

Evidence has come to our attention which establishes that you and / or others in your organization have submitted material with intent to manipulate your listing and position on TripAdvisor by submitting positive reviews of your own property. This is official notification that your property is now being actively monitored by TripAdvisor for suspicious activity on our website.

TripAdvisor serves as an important source of travel information, which users rely on to be the unbiased opinions of travelers. The reliability of our content is integral to our business. TripAdvisor takes attempts to undermine the integrity of our content very seriously, and in turn, have a procedure in place for penalizing businesses who choose to make such attempts. Please discontinue any attempts to subvert our system immediately.

We ask that you respond to this email to acknowledge receipt of this notice.

Thank you.
xxxx [name deleted]
TripAdvisor Support Team"

Here is the hotel's reply, from the rooms division director:


I am very sorry about this misleading information, I only respond to the reviews that come on the website. We have been advising our guests to enter your site and make a review, either negative or positive. We would like feedback regardless if it is positive or negative to fine-tune the property. I will also keep an observation here and make sure this doesn't happen on property. Thank you for your concerns and information that you have provided for us to be aware of.

Thank you,

xxxx [name deleted]

Rooms Division Director

Radisson Fort Worth - Fossil Creek

2540 Meacham Boulevard

Fort Worth, Texas 76106"

And, the hotel's general manager, David Michel, told me: "We did start soliciting our guests to visit and comment on TripAdvisor, unaware that it was not acceptable. We will discontinue this practice."

"We are unaware of any attempts by anyone at the property to submit reviews on our own property," Michel said. "Hope this clarifies our position."

Actually, TripAdvisor is OK with properties soliciting guest reviews as long as the hotels don't advocate for positive reviews, don't incent their guests to write glowing reviews, and don't pressure them to remove negative reviews.

The Elliott blog had a nice interiew today with TripAdvisor founder and CEO Steve Kaufer in which he defends the practice of maintaining these warning notices alongside allegedly offending hotels instead of just removing the entire listing.

Kaufer said: "We’ve been posting the warnings since 2006. We view our red badge and rating drop as the best punishment for properties trying to manipulate the system. A couple of people have asked why we don’t drop these properties from the site entirely. We think the red badge is a better punishment, and provides more information to travelers so they can make the most educated and informed decisions before they book. We also wouldn’t want hotels with very poor traveler reviews to use such a banning on the site as a loophole to get out. That’s exactly what poorly run properties want — to be taken off TripAdvisor."

I'm not totally convinced about the policy to retain the display of offending properties, but I see Kaufer's point.

At any rate, all of the guff that TripAdvisor has taken over the last couple of weeks, with the argument that its manipulation notices finally amount to an admission that TripAdvisor is a sham, is misguided.

Instead, give TripAdvisor credit for going after the bad guys and having its Content Integrity folks flag hoteliers who may play fast and loose with the rules.


Anonymous said...

Excellent insight, thank you. Use TripAdvisor constantly and contribute. By going "after the bad guys"TripAdvisor retains their integrity as a consumer's site!

Mary H said...

Thanks for this. Clarifies our role as PR advisors to destinations/properties.

Anonymous said...

Wow, not only did they get nabbed doing something disengenious that violates TripAdvisor's policy, their ranking still stinks. 83 of 101 in San Antonio. Sad at multiple levels.

Elliott Ng said...

I think you can check IP addresses of comments to see if they are all coming from the same place. I've had examples of "astroturfing" where 1 guy says something, and some other guy concurs violently supporting the 1st guy, and some more fanbois weigh in. Then I look at the IP and they are all from the same IP range. Another term I like for this is "sock-puppetry" :)

Dennis Schaal said...

On the other hand, Anonymous, Hotel Renew in Honolulu has a warning notice and it ranks #2 of 101 Honolulu hotels on TripAdvisor. Not as sad:)

Bilety lotnicze said...

Frankly I am suprised that they send out such emails (good for them though). Its hard to police a forum one one can change his IP through proxies like the Tor project. Noteing how many opinions they get and how many hotels they list its a daunting task.