Can You Trust TripAdvisor?

Running since February 2000, TripAdvisor is well known for comparing prices from 200+ booking sites to help you find the lowest price on the right hotel for you. However they also tout themselves as the world’s largest travel site, with over 500 million unbiased traveler reviews of hotels, flights, restaurants, vacation rentals, and things to do. But can you trust all those reviews? Read on…

From the research I’ve done, it appears that, overall, TripAdvisor can be trusted to give you relatively unbiased reviews from its members. They take the possibility of fake reviews very seriously since they’re potentially damaging to the trust factor of the TripAdvisor brand. There’s a lag between when a review is written and posted, which allows for investigation as needed.  Also, a business owner can report a potential fake review, in which case TripAdvisor will review it and may take it down if it violates their terms of content.

However during your research, overall, you should take complaint or praise reviews with a grain of salt – you just have to keep a couple of things in mind:

Are The Praises/Complaints About Things That Affect You?

Joe and I have been in a decent amount of hotels in our lives. However we never use the gym/health room/whatever they call it (note: we DO work out – just not with typical gym equipment). So we don’t let whatever reviewers say about that room have an affect on whether or not we stay there…if they have one, if it’s too warm or too cold, if there’s no good view from the Elliptical, if the equipment they have is old, etc. – what people have to say about the gym will have no effect on our time there. The same may or may not be true for other aspects of the hotel, such as a pool, business center, self laundry, etc. So if people are specifically complaining about those things, I don’t care, since I would never use those amenities anyway.

Are The People Making A Complaint Frequent Complainers?

Some people are just never happy and never have anything good to say. And others just trolls. So sometimes I’ll look at all the reviews someone has written to see what they’ve said about other establishments besides the one I’m looking at. Have they been upset about the noise/decor/staff speed/etc. everywhere? Are they continually looking for 5 star service at a 3 star place? If so, I don’t think it’s just that one place you’re looking at…it’s that reviewer.

Is There A Pattern Of Complaints?

Some places will get lots of awesome reviews and then all of a sudden the majority of their reviews go downhill fast. It’s dirty. The food was bad. The staff was rude. What happened? Did the Executive Chef or Hotel Manager change? Or did someone with a lot of friend get mad at the place and try to submarine it? Sometimes reading bad reviews takes a little extra investigating….including looking at other review sites to see what’s said there.

Does Someone From The Establishment Reply?

As you read reviews on TripAdvisor, you’ll sometimes see replies from the place in question that may or may not give you a better idea of how they handle situations. Sometimes the responses may be, essentially, “We remember very well when you were there and our front desk staff and managers tried to help you the best we could but you were unreasonable in your request of…..,” but other times it sounds as if the manager (or whoever replies) seems truly interested in fixing problems. Or maybe they never answer anyone. I take all of that into consideration when making choices.

What’s The Best Approach?

  • When you’re looking at reviews, focus on the aspects that interest you.
  • Be aware of what people are complaining about and see if they have a pattern.
  • Don’t exactly discredit, but certainly put less faith in the reviews that praise too much or are overly accusatory; both are most likely further from the truth than the middle of the road reviews.
  • Look for patterns and investigate as needed.
  • Check out other review sites and see what was written there.
  • See if someone from the establishment replies to said complaints and what the response was.

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