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Can You Trust TripAdvisor Reviews?

Let’s face it. Internet is full of opinionated folks. Heck, I’m one of them! How do you know who you can trust? When it comes to hotels, my go-to source is definitely TripAdvisor. For the most part, I’ve been fortunate when following recommendations of my fellow travelers and was happy to get heads up on any potential issues.

Can You Trust TripAdvisor Reviews?

But as is the case with most things on the Internet, you have to be careful. I encourage you to look for total number of reviews as well as overall rating. And even then, you may be steered in the wrong direction as was the case with Nancy recently.

Here are few things to watch out for:

1) Glowing review of a property from a user who has never reviewed anything before, and one that mentions a specific employee by name.

Many hotels give out bonuses to employees if they are mentioned by name on TripAdvisor. When you see that type of a review, chances are, it was left by that person or their friend. Not always, of course, some employees really do go above and beyond.

But when you see something like this : “An amazing hotel! Room was divine and food was fabulous. But the best part about the property was bartender Mark. He is the best! I sure hope the hotel management treats him right…,” and on and on about the employee, it screams FAKE. Honestly, I’m always amazed how easy it is to spot it, these guys really need to get more creative. Speaking of..

2) Watch out for a five star review mentioning details most normal people don’t really care about.

Chances are, it’s planted by the property manager. You will usually see those type of reviews when the hotel is brand new. They want to create buzz, and positive TripAdvisor rating is the easiest and cheapest way to achieve that goal. It’s impossible to prove, of course, but when something reads like an advertisement, chances are, it is just that, an advertisement.

If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and you know the rest. Most people who are not OCD will not mention the brand of bathroom cabinets as well as materials used during construction of the hotel. Just saying.

3) Know what type of traveler you are and look for those who have a similar taste.

When you see glowing reviews for Days Inn property, chances are, folks are just super happy that they didn’t find roaches and that the bedding didn’t have blood stains on it. Ok, I’m exaggerating, obviously. Plenty of budget type properties are perfectly comfortable and clean.

But there is no denying the fact that you are more likely to find bed bugs in Super 8 that you would in a Grand Hyatt. So, have reasonable expectations. If a US property costs $70 per night all-in, you are just getting a place to sleep. Don’t be shocked if the mattress is lumpy and the sheets are not 800 thread count.

4) Pay more attention to the newest reviews than the overall rating.

Nancy has mentioned in her post that even though the Country Inn and Suites property had 4.5 star rating, recent reviews were mixed. That’s a red flag. The hotel has probably seen better days and is going downhill.

5) Watch out for reviews left by unreasonable/crazy guests.

Here is a review for Wyndham Grand Orlando Bonnet Creek that I came across recently, written by a male guest:

Hmm, that doesn’t sound right. I’m talking about all the caps and exclamation points, of course. I do have a few questions for this guest. Why was he not wearing PANTS when the room service employee knocked on the door? A simple “just a minute, I need to put on some clothes” would do. Also, why did he wait 45 seconds to protest the fact that the employee was ogling his… you know? Lastly, demanding a refund for the whole stay is a bit rich, no? You already got the salad and cookie for free. Free!

But seriously, this guy clearly has mental issues. I’d like to see the rebuttal from the employee published on TripAdvisor (get your popcorn ready!) To be honest, if I were delivering food to the room and a guest (male or female) opened the door in their underwear, it would make me extremely uncomfortable. I would probably be smiling just to hide how nervous I am.

My point is, the guest gave the hotel one star review, which brought down the overall rating of the property. TripAdvisor is full of crazy rants and complaints about insane demands not being met by hotel management. It’s a Wild West. You may have to sift through some garbage in order to get an overall picture on a specific property. Still, it’s better to have some (however imperfect) point of reference than none at all.

Bottom line

Internet is full of fakes and crazy people. That goes for TripAdvisor reviewers as well as bloggers. While I’m not encouraging you to become paranoid, you do have to take everything you read online with a grain of salt. And yes, that goes for my blog too. It always makes me happy when readers reach out and say that they feel like they can trust me. Fear not, I’m definitely 100% transparent with you guys. Or am I? 🙂

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Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.

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14 thoughts on “Can You Trust TripAdvisor Reviews?

  1. Good article, thank you for posting it! I have actually stayed at the Wyndham Bonnet Creek in a condo and I loved the lazy river and the pools. I read another article that said TripAdvisor will wait a week or two to post a bad review so it is lower in the list, or maybe not post it at all, since they make money from people booking from their website. Thank you for the tip about checking to see if they have written other reviews, that is a good idea!

    • @Clyn6 I’ve heard that TripAdvisor will remove some negative reviews and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if that was the case. As you correctly pointed out, they are in the business of selling hotel rooms. Definitely a conflict of interest there. So, yeah, it goes both ways. It’s an imperfect system, but I’m still grateful it exists. Plus, access to TripAdvisor site is free, so I can’t complain too much. You take the good with the bad.

  2. Thanks for the info. Didn’t realize staff get paid if they’re mentioned. I love details such as parking & resort fees, if breakfast is included and what kind of selection. How clean the rooms are and if you should ask for a certain remodeled building, etc. and I love if they mention different restaurants within walking distance or grocery stores. One lady wrote about the free laundry mat in our last hotel which I was thankful for because not even the front desk mentioned it.

    I usually do a comparison with reviews on the hotel’s website and I look for family reviews. I don’t want to hear about the business traveler having an awful time because the family resort he’s at is too noisy or overrun by kids.

    I usually write my hotel reviews within the week of our stay so I remember the most details.

    • @Stephanie I doubt that all hotels pay employees for being mentioned on TripAdvisor (though many do), but there is definitely an incentive involved. When someone is considered for promotion, a glowing TripAdvisor review can be used as leverage.
      I too find TA reviews very helpful in general. I just canceled a hotel based on some things I’ve read (post coming up). I don’t want to take a chance and gamble our time as a family on a subpar property. I think I’m becoming more picky! And yeah, I also search for “family” reviews first. Those are the ones that are relevant to me personally.

  3. I kind have same approach than you. I look more recent reviews bu I focus on the 1*. If the critic is about rude employees (everybody has a bad day) or external factors (loud guest next door) I don’t even pay attention. I like to see guest pictures and reviews about room conditions. 5* reviews in my opinion are not very valuable. Different strokes for different folks.

    • @Tania Totally agree and I feel the same way. I look for 1* reviews, but take everything I read with a grain of salt (like the crazy underwear guy :). But if I see enough complaints about the room’s condition, I usually move on. Few times I’ve ignored warnings I ended up with a stinker of a property. Not worth it.

    • +1
      So many 1* reviews (also on Amazon, etc) reflect nothing more than a one-off bad experience which is unlikely to affect others, rather than describing the product as a whole. Or, as Leana said, the reviewer is just nuts.
      (Also not that useful are nonspecific comments such as “just what I wanted”. Hate those!)

      • @Audrey For sure! I love it when reviewers mention specific things they liked/didn’t like. When someone uses generic terms, it’s not super helpful.

  4. #3 is super important to me. When I review a place on TA I try to give a quick summary about our travel group and our age as well as our travel history like “this was our 3rd trip to Puerto Vallarta But first stay at this resort”. Context is important!

    I also usually don’t read reviews from a person with only one review. I think those are either fake, have an axe to grind or have never traveled anywhere before. I’m not interested in any of these opinions.

    I also try to read reviews around the same time of year that I will be visiting. This is especially important if I’m going during a holiday or school break. I need to know how the place handles a crowd.

    Even though I think I’m a savy review reader I have been duped and I’m still mad about it. The Westin Maui has thousands of reviews with a solid 4 star rating and I must’ve read 500 reviews before and after booking- both good and bad ones. I thought I was informed and prepared and had realistic expectations but the hotel was a huge disappointmentfor us. I learned to go to google maps and LOOK at the property in addition to doing due diligence on TA.

    • @Lindy Thanks for your perspective! I can relate to everything you are saying. I also ignore reviews from folks who have never reviewed anything on TA before. Not that all of them are fake, but as with everything, reputation and consistency matter. And I agree, context is super important. I actually look for feedback during high season as well because it’s a different ballgame compared to off-season.
      But like you said, sometimes you can be diligent in your research and still pick a lemon. It has definitely happened to me before!
      I couldn’t understand all the positive reviews of Hyatt Regency in Clearwater Beach. Don’t get me wrong, we got a great deal since we were using Hyatt credit card certs and got free breakfast and an upgrade. But most people there were paying $400 per night. I would be super disappointed, but most were happy with that price, apparently. At least according to TA reviews. I think sometimes people simply don’t like to admit that they were overcharged for something, so they convince themselves that they got a great deal.

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  6. I laughed so hard I cried!

    A manager of a hotel in Fiji once asked me to review his hotel. He said he needed a balanced review. Something that pointed out the nice things and the things that could be improved on. Because if people love everything or hate everything it doesn’t sound believable. He also wanted me to mention what needed improvement on in a nice way so that he could convince owners to support his initiatives (like more cleaning staff was needed). I did it! (And it was my only review ever – do maybe it looks suspicious!)

    • @Amanda That’s incredible! And the way it should be, really. I have to say, I’ve never heard of a hotel employee asking for a balanced review that points out flaws. Usually, they just beg for five stars on everything. But I tend to ignore those type of reviews.

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