You may have seen in the news this week the story about a Devon businessman setting up a fake restaurant in an attempt to expose the failings of Trip Advisor.
Supposedly built in the hull of an old fishing boat surrounded by reefs and shipwrecks in Brixham, Oscars Restaurant was given glowing reviews, and rapidly moved up the Trip Advisor league table. Apparently the cooking was so good it ‘bordered on scorcery’ and the wetsuit clad staff would dive into the water to catch whichever fish the customer desired.
Clearly a load of bollocks, but many prospective diners were caught hook, line and sinker, and disappointed to arrive for their special evening only to find a backstreet alley lined with dustbins and little else.
A funny story perhaps, but very damaging to the Trip Advisor brand. Yes, it is ill used by rival businesses posting ‘grudge’ reviews against each other, but usually these are easy to spot, and thus be taken with a pinch of salt. If a hotel has 300 great reviews and 15 poor ones, the law of averages dictates that 15 of the posters are probably either untruthful or unhinged. Equally, if a business has only 6 reviews and all are excellent, although it may well be the up and coming place it seems, it’s always useful to double check the reputation on other decent review sites like Booking.com. and the Lonely Planet Thorntree Forum, where you can ask any question in the world and there is a strong chance that someone out there will have an answer. I use Thorntree for the more obscure questions, such as the legalities of smuggling sand out of the Sahara, like you do. LP do their best to keep out the ‘trolls’ but of course some do manage to sneek in. They are however, pounced upon at once by the savvy Thorntree-ers and soon made to crawl back into the dark holes from whence they came.
You should never trust any review site 100%, but remember that overall, hotels and restaurants will have received much more business than they’ve lost, and when in doubt, just go and check it out yourself and stop worrying about the little things that somehow become so much more important when they’ve been mentioned in a review.
I rarely stay in accommodation listed in guide books but take it as my starting point to explore what’s really out there. I always use trip advisor however, not to make a decision, but to confirm one I’ve already more-or-less made. Perhaps I have 2 great looking guest houses, and just can’t choose between them. I’ll go on Trip Advisor and look for the little personal touches mentioned by guests, the things that stand out, the individual experiences and tales of above and beyond. And if I still can’t choose, I’ll probably just end up staying at both, with a disgruntled hubbie lugging the suitcases across the city and wondering why yet again we can’t just stay in one spot for more than a couple of nights!
It’s always good to give your own feedback after visiting a place, to help them improve or to point other travellers in the right direction, unless of course you want to keep the secret all to yourself that is!