Thursday, 3 November 2011

Tripping nonsense


I got to know about the TripAdvisor website after a hotelier friend of mine told me about how damaging the comments written there could be to a business. With over 50 million unique monthly views, this is a site that claims to “give consumers a voice,” but one which a Channel 4 investigation actually showed to be a forum dominated by “Little Hitler’s who think they can just walk all over anyone.”


The basic concept of TripAdvisor is that it allows individuals to air their views on their experiences in restaurants and hotels and managers and owners are given a right to reply. The problem with this is that most comments are negative as people tend not to write up good experiences and as a result TripAdvisor has become a sounding board for eccentrics, odd jobs and plain simply put nutcases.

 Dragons' Den star Duncan Bannatyne

Earlier this year Duncan Bannatyne (of Dragons' Den fame) decided to take a stand against TripAdvisor after they refused to remove negative reviews of his leisure business. At the time, Bannatyne commented:

“They have tried to bully me, they have sent threatening letters and emails, they have urged me to shut up, but they won’t speak to me directly… TripAdvisor is a despicable and cowardly organisation, which is bullying small hotel owners all over the United Kingdom. As a recent victim of a rogue review, I am well placed to lead the campaign for more protection against the perils of TripAdvisor.”

The subject plainly became of interest to the Channel 4 team who chose to show a programme named Attack of the TripAdvisors on Monday evening. Here was a show that highlighted the rift between hoteliers on one side and TripAdvisor “fanatics” on the other.

The Old Forge Seafood Restaurant

The Old Forge in Thursford was one small family run hotel that came under scrutiny in the show. Here we saw owners Colin and Sarah Goldspink complain of critics inventing “bullshit reviews” and “people not realising what this does to us.” The couple made the effort to invite one critic (who goes by the name of “CatDee”) back for a free meal. It ended in a showdown with Colin Goldspink stating: “I couldn’t give a fuck about the woman… But the truth is that she could ruin our business again.” Goldspink’s conclusion was frankly sensible when he said of his critics: “Forgive them for they know not for what they do.”

Lingmoor room at The Eltermere Inn

Mark Jones of The Eltermere Inn in Ambleside has been described as an “arrogant proprietor” running a “house of horrors” on TripAdvisor. For the programme Jones invited one of TripAdvisor addict named Stuart Wilson to his hotel. Before arriving this individual, of someone he’d yet to meet, stated:

 “If he’s got any sense, he’ll be on his best behaviour…  He’s too big for it’s own boots.”

During his stay Wilson wrote up his experience:

“One of the pictures depicted rape… I thought I had stumbled into a swinger’s hotel.”

When tackled by Jones about his review, Wilson’s only answer was: “You should embrace it.” Here was a man who was utterly ridiculously pernickety about a hotel that actually looks utterly delightful.

The worst individual on the show was a 26-year old supermarket assistant named Ricky who spends the entirety of his leisure time on TripAdvisor. “No detail is too small,” he began, before describing how he put dots on sheets to see if they were changed, stealing teabags to see if they replenish them and stating how “adrenalin rushes through [him] as he does this.” Sat in the bar of a Cleethorpes B&B, a dialogue between him and his gran went as follows:

Ricky: “I asked for a vodka and lemonade and they brought a vodka and tonic. I’m going to put that in my review.”

Granny: “Why are you making an issue out of that? Why do you need to write about it?”

Ricky: “Because it is an incident that happened on my holiday.”

Granny: “I love him to bits but he loves that power. He was bullied at school and now he thinks he’s getting the upper hand.”

Ricky: “I go through life with people telling me I’m not good enough… Everyone has got something they’re good at. I’m good at writing reviews and helping people.”

Other interviewees described how: “TripAdvisor is extremely addictive… Even when I’m not using it for research, I use it for fun” before adding that they photograph the room before using anything, check whether kettles have water in and time how long fans run before shutting off. Here were a bunch of oiks with too much time on their hands. These were people who frankly should find something better to do and should look inside their hollow lives before attacking others.

As the American editor Cassie Stinnett once said: “A diplomat is a person who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you actually look forward to the trip.” I doubt, though, that any diplomat would put up with a holiday with any of these tripping fools.

Watch Channel 4’s Attack of the Trip Advisors at: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/attack-of-the-trip-advisors/4od

For more information and a whole barrage of bile go to Trip Advisor at: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk. Follow Trip Advisor on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/TripAdvisorUK

For more from Duncan Bannatyne go to: http://www.bannatyne.co.uk. Read about Bannatyne’s campaign against Trip Advisor at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/travelnews/8277098/Duncan-Bannatyne-to-campaign-against-cowardly-TripAdvisor.html

For more information on The Old Forge at Thursford, Norfolk go to: http://www.seafood.northnorfolk.co.uk/index.php. Read Colin and Sarah Goldspink’s blog at: http://www.seafood.northnorfolk.co.uk/seafood-news

For more information on The Eltermere Inn in Ambleside, Cumbria go to: http://www.eltermere.co.uk


20 comments:

Anonymous said...

TripAdvisor is a site based on spite and malice. It is disgusting that such people exist and destroy the reputations of hardworking, decent folk.

Sinead said...

Trip Advisor is bloody boring.

Anonymous said...

Trip Advisor is full of junk. Waste of time.

Matthew Steeples said...

An interesting response from one of the TripAdvisor reviewers featured:

http://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowTopic-g186216-i15-k4918299-Setting_the_record_straight_Channel_4-United_Kingdom.html#36739719

Matthew Steeples said...

I've just spent a bit of time exploring the TripAdvisor site. It is full of negativity. I made a few suggestions and all I got was abuse. Bannatyne is utterly right about it. What a stupid website.

John Chalmers said...

Your post above again demonstrates how little you know about TripAdvisor and the community of users

There are loads of positivity and you certainly did not get any abuse thrown at you

Please get your facts correct

Matthew Steeples said...

John Chalmers - You are entitled to your opinion but I have to say I found the comments on certain establishments to be utterly ridiculous. On one, a TripAdvisor comment complained that someone had arrived at a restaurant at 4pm and was furious that they wouldn't make him a sandwich. Surely this imbecile should have realised that staff of any establishment have to be given a break and if no one was in the kitchen, then no one could make him a sandwich. This small minded mentality seemed apparent across several reviews I would welcome for you to convince me otherwise. Instead, however, you seem hell bent on attacking me just like many of your other TripAdvisor fans have done.

Ryan J said...

Utterly crap site run and supported by people who throw and spout bile and abuse. Nastiness personified. Simon Cowell looks like a cat in comparison.

Jamie Wooley said...

Trip Advisor = People with too much time on their hands abusing people who are trying to run their businesses.

Anonymous said...

The show was entertaining. The only person who talked any sense though was the granny. The hoteliers and the snoops were all just as bloody bad as one another. Awful.

Anonymous said...

C4 did a great job and hence the TA people are going into overdrive trying to spin that this was a hatchet job.

Anonymous said...

John Chalmers sounds just like someone else from that show.

John Chalmers said...

Sorry Anonymous we were not in it

However, we did take part in the filming for this documentary and also went to the Eltermere Inn - see link to my review below

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g2318405-d519730-r117138996-The_Eltermere_Inn-Elterwater_Lake_District_Cumbria_England.html

We were approached by RDF who made this programme for C4 many months ago and after initially saying we would not take part in the programme [more than once] but would give them any assistance that they needed we were eventually persuaded to take part but on condition that we would have anonymity

We ended up filming with them for 4 days both here at home and in the Lake District and it was a great experience and the people involved were great people. However, we heard last week that C4 could not work with us wanting to remain anonymous and could not use the footage but now having seen it I think the real reason was that we were too normal

At no time did anyone try to put any words in our mouths or get us to do anything we would not normally have done

I am so very glad that we were not included as the people they did are not IMHO a true cross section of the people on TA

We refused to write a review at the hotel but said instead that we would write in when we got home. We took part on our terms and anything we said was certainly not scripted. I do feel sorry for some of those who took part in the documentary as at best they have been made to look foolish. If you are wired for sound and have a camera pointed at you it pays to have your brain in gear

Personally, I do feel sorry for a lot of small B&B & Restaurant owners

I have always thought that the forums were the engine room on TA where people are willing to share advice and offer help to others

The more I think about the programme the more I see it as a standalone documentary about one aspect of TA. No different to a documentary about rogue builders, people fiddling benefits, abuse in nursing homes, rogue doctors, etc - it does not mean they are typical of the whole body of people

I hope they make some follow up programmes to reflect what the real world of TripAdvisor is all about as overall it does far more good than harm

Matthew Steeples said...

A most interesting review of your experiences, John Chalmers. Thank you for your post.

John Chalmers said...

Glad you liked it

I like to be thorough and always try to post loads of photos of the places we stay

Perhaps it may persuade you that TA does more good than ill

Carl Thomas said...

I take as I find and Trip Advisor is generally, I find, incorrect about a lot of places. Seems to be full of bigots.

John Chalmers said...

Seems me that the majority of people who have contributed to this topic have closed minds about TA - shame

Shooter said...

I find the main problem with trip advisor is once the establishment feels they have received an unfair review or something poisonous left by competitors; that 5 of the next comments are written by the owners of the establishments and their friends. So very quickly the whole arena becomes a flame ground for people trying to burn down a business or make it sound brilliant. Hence you find a series of 0 star and 5 star reviews of the same establishment which of course leave one confused and not really much wiser. That said when i was booking a 4* family hotel in Eygpt at the beginning of the year it was brilliant for giving me information on exactly how close the beach was from the rooms and what "children's entertainment" really meant at that particular hotel.
In summery it is very useful but you need to very much READ BETWEEN THE LINES, like most things in life...

Kevin said...

I have used TA for help in my travels and for amusement. I witnessed the channel 4 program this evening. Overall the establishments had great reviews on TA's site. My opinion the site works,any human with a decent emotional IQ can take the good from the bad. One thing i learned from working retail for a few decades is you don't publicly ridicule your customers, and never talk to the press unless your paying for it.Best of luck to all.

Rachel Waterson said...

Should be closed down.