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Protecting Trip Advisor Against Grade Inflation

Saskatoon, Canada
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9 posts
452 reviews
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Protecting Trip Advisor Against Grade Inflation

Since it began TA has been a sensational means of finding unique and interesting places. We have relied on it extensively, and often with very good results. On occasion, we have found the reviews off the mark and have shared our thoughts with the community. That is precisely the logic behind the concept -- the truth will come out over time. Our recent trip to Maui (Hawaii), following on a February trip to Disney World, have put our reliance on Trip Advisor into question. The aggressive over-cultivation of customers appears to be skewing the ratings in a way that we have not seen in other places. In Sweden, for example, the ratings seem quite reliable and often very insightful. The gushing reports on Maui and, to a lesser extent, in Florida, lessened the utilities of Trip Advisor. In several instances, the ratings were puzzling. In others, particularly with a couple of restaurants, they were downright misleading. Trip Advisor succeeds only if there is a high level of confidence in the reporting and rating.

In the case of Maui, I have no idea if the aggressive solicitation of positive reviews is the culprit or if there are other manipulations underway. Perhaps everything in Maui is simply excellent and outstanding, and it is my critical faculties that are failing. After a particularly unappealing meal -- at a location recommended by 78% of clients -- we re-read the reviews. They were simply inaccurate. The restaurant was a third-rate eatery and did not even have a restroom on the premises, a fact that most of the other reviews failed to mention.

So, on our next trip to Maui (and with warnings to all friends who travel down there), we will advise them not to count on the TripAdvisor ratings. We felt the same way about Florida. Maybe it is time to revisit the Trip Advisor algorithms to see if there is a way to better evaluate the utility of reviews.

My real concern, as a long-time user and frequent contributor, is that I can see the rapid decline of TripAdvisor if this kind of experience is replicated. We bought a locally produced e-guide book to Maui (Maui Revealed), and the ratings and comments were much, much better and more reliable than Trip Advisor.

Vancouver, Canada
Destination Expert
for Vancouver
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60,740 posts
64 reviews
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1. Re: Protecting Trip Advisor Against Grade Inflation

That's an interesting bit of research you carried out there. I have a feeling that other pockets and services (such as tour guides which vie in extraordinarily competitive ways to be first in some parts) with such blushing goodness can be found on TA forums for various parts of the world. But not all.

It is always worrisome when skewed reviews show up on TA. The thing is each review is a subjective thing and no matter which forum, they must not be taken as the sole resource. Using other resources, as you have done, is almost mandatory to create a compass that can be trusted for hotels, restos and things like tours. I would think that TA want to keep on top of the integrity of the reviews posted on the website. I can't see them ignoring the reviews. or letting them go feral. I hope I'm right about that.

p.s. Whitehorse, Vancouver and Saskatoon. Now that is one heck of a trifecta.

USA
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7,044 posts
248 reviews
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2. Re: Protecting Trip Advisor Against Grade Inflation

I was asked once for a review. Have you been aggressively solicited for positive reviews?

Cabarete, Dominican...
Destination Expert
for Cabarete
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43,762 posts
266 reviews
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3. Re: Protecting Trip Advisor Against Grade Inflation

Just a comment on the lack of bathroom facilities in Maui restaurants. In the US, every state health department decides on the requirements for bathroom facilities for customers. In Hawaii, it is not a requirement unless they serve liquor and have a certain number of tables. Each State has different laws in this regard so you may find many other places where restaurants do not have lavatories.

Silvia

Calgary, Canada
Destination Expert
for Calgary
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26,070 posts
86 reviews
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4. Re: Protecting Trip Advisor Against Grade Inflation

The absence of bathrooms would definitely be a helpful thing to note in a review. Some reviews are just plain unhelpful, without a single fact that could be double-checked by visiting the business for oneself. Are the reviews fake, or are the reviewers just part of the greater trend towards Twitterization? I think certain destinations do attract a more Twittery demographic, but sometimes I really wonder.

So Cal
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9,485 posts
75 reviews
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5. Re: Protecting Trip Advisor Against Grade Inflation

I think it's a combination of things, including:

- It's amateur hour. We're all volunteers, and there are no objective standards that apply across the board in TA reviews. It's good in that we get a broad base of opinions, but some people's written opinions turn out to be more helpful than others.

- Related to the above: too many users don't know how to objectively evaluate a place. They don't know where this place falls on the scale compared with others.

- And they don't know, or don't think, to include details of their experience. Details are the things that make a review helpful.

- The writing! Oh my goodness, the terrible writing. Forget the spelling/punctuation/grammar problems, forget the textspeak - those would all be fine if the posters could still string those words together to form some coherent, interesting thoughts! (Sidebar: ever notice how many reviews are clearly written by non-native English speakers, full of technical errors, but still interesting to read and helpful?) There's a reason very few people are good enough to get paid for doing this.

BTW, I'm sure my own reviews would make an editor weep.

So yeah, I read the reviews here, but with a very critical eye and a huge heap of salt. The forums can fill in a lot of holes. And as you discovered, professionally-written guidebooks had better not disappear anytime soon.

Edited: 3:08 pm, May 21, 2014
Corona del Mar, CA
Destination Expert
for San Diego, Orange County, California
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54,628 posts
422 reviews
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6. Re: Protecting Trip Advisor Against Grade Inflation

Sorry, but anyone who thinks that the #1 attraction on Maui is an ELVIS IMPERSONATOR did zero research on Maui and didn't bother to read any of top questions in the forum about where to eat, what to see and what to do and didn't ask a single question in the forum like, "hey is the #1 attraction on Maui an ELVIS IMPERSONATOR? Is he better than that volcano thing that is 10,000' tall? Or that Road to Hana thing with all the waterfalls and sacred pools?"

People need to take a little responsibility.

Oregon Coast
Destination Expert
for Crescent City, Oregon Coast, Oregon, Redwood National Park
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43,116 posts
1,081 reviews
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7. Re: Protecting Trip Advisor Against Grade Inflation

>> The restaurant was a third-rate eatery <<

Ahh, here is where that all important matter of subjectivity comes in! What exactly is a "third rate eatery"?

Example: I go to a little 'hole-in-the-wall' restaurant that is old and worn. It serves great food that is simple yet filling. The price is very reasonable. I have to go outside to use a porta-potty.

Well, that restaurant will get a four or maybe even five dot review from me since I am very satisfied with my experience there! I admit I would mention the porta-potty, though ;-)

Others might go to the same place and be disappointed by the outdated decor, or the lack of "nouveau" cuisine, and be upset about the porta-potty... so they might give the place one or two dots.

West Grey, Ontario
Destination Expert
for Toronto
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74,996 posts
94 reviews
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8. Re: Protecting Trip Advisor Against Grade Inflation

Hi;

I think some people are confusing #1 as being the "Best". TA's rating system is based on "Popularity". Being #1 means that it is the most "Popular".

tripadvisor.com/help/how_does_the_popularity…

A "greasy spoon" could be #1 in a city because it is the most popular, but a fine dining establishment, with a world renown chef, could be rated last, because it isn't popular with TA users.

Best Regards

Wales, United...
Destination Expert
for Bargain Travel, Cruises, Swansea, Cardiff, Carmarthenshire, Neath, Port Talbot
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58,605 posts
452 reviews
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9. Re: Protecting Trip Advisor Against Grade Inflation

This confusion seems to crop up regularly. As RT says, being ranked #1 at anything on this site is no measure of the quality, it's just the popularity. All sorts of factors could enter into why people rate something highly!

Jenazz, I agree with you. TA reviews must be read critically for the very reasons you list. Many that I read are not at all helpful to me, but may be helpful for others. For example, I have usually have no interest in parking, breakfast or Wi-Fi if I'm on holiday, so a review that praises or criticises a hotel by using those three facilities as a criteria does not interest me, but it may interest others. A complete lack of useful information is another matter, that I personally wish TA would address more pro-actively, but let's not go there today!

Anyway, I am happy to ignore poor grammar, spelling and a less than professional style provided that the contribution is useful to me. And I have to say that I have found an awful lot of very useful information on here. It isn't my sole tool for research, but it does help!

West Grey, Ontario
Destination Expert
for Toronto
Level Contributor
74,996 posts
94 reviews
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10. Re: Protecting Trip Advisor Against Grade Inflation

>>"Anyway, I am happy to ignore poor grammar, spelling and a less than professional style..."<<

We all need to remember that TA is aggressively entering new markets where English isn't the primary language.

Best Regards

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