By Daniel Edward Craig, Reknown.
In my last post I wrote about online travel reviews from a hotelier’s perspective. This time I take off my hotelier’s hat to poke some fun at online reviews from a traveler’s perspective.
When planning trips, I always check out traveler reviews for a refreshing, grassroots alternative to the salesy propaganda on brand websites. Yet the process has become time-consuming and confusing. Often reviews are so numerous, so polarized, it’s hard to know who to believe.
And whereas the majority of reviews are benevolent and authentic, some advice should be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism. Here’s a lighter look at some typical online reviewer personality types to watch out for.
The Self-Appointed Expert. This reviewer has posted scores of reviews, yet quite possibly has never left his computer room. An aspiring travel memoirist, he writes lengthy, flowery missives colored with acid-tongued remarks like, “To call this a fleabag hotel would be an insult to fleas and bags everywhere.” Although he positions himself as a martyr to the travel community, he wouldn’t object if a hotel offered him a free stay in exchange for a glowing review.
The Patron Saint of Hotels. This reviewer is so over-the-top in her praise either she’s never had a vacation before or she’s been into the sacred wine. She rates all services as excellent, including those the hotel doesn’t offer, and uses exalted phrases like “A hidden gem!”, “Glorious!” and “I thought I’d died and gone to heaven!” Because she insists on seeing the good in everyone, she often finds herself making excuses on behalf of the hotel, such as, “My niece fell down the elevator shaft, but I’m sure they’ve gotten that fixed.”
The Uptrader. Having scoured the internet for deals until he scored a five-star hotel at a two-star rate, this bargain-hunter now expects all other services to be equally discounted. He expresses moral outrage over charges for breakfast, telephone and the mini-bar, accusing the hotel of gouging. His comments are revealing: “$28 for parking!?! That’s how much I usually pay for a room! Rip OFF!”
The Downtrader. This high-flying business traveler used to spend lavishly on luxury hotels until the economic crisis forced a drastic reduction in her expense account. Now obliged to stay in budget properties, she lives in denial, complaining bitterly about the lack of a day spa, fur boutique and gourmet restaurant at her roadside motel.
The Uncle Bob. Like that dull relative who subjects you to endless vacation photos, this reviewer goes on and on but never manages to say anything helpful or interesting. “My room had a bed and a desk and a chair. Oh, and a painting of a landscape. Molly at the front desk—or was it Maggie? Well, whoever it was, gosh darn was she swell when we needed directions to the local IHOP…” Next.
The Extortionist. After a series of mishaps, all of which were his own fault, this traveler tried every trick in the book to weasel a comp stay, without success. Now he resorts to posting a blistering online review. He rates everything as terrible, including things that were perfectly fine. His reviews read like ransom notes, with bad spelling, excess punctuation and random capital letters: “This hOtel SUKCED!! RobeRto the Duty manger?%? was LaiMe…!!!!!”
The Shill. This reviewer writes in a style suspiciously similar to the hotel’s brochure, with phrases only marketing people use, like “nestled in the heart of vibrant old-town” and “well-appointed furnishings with dreamy Celestial Comfort™ beds”. Her review contrasts sharply with the other, not-so-generous reviews and is typically a one-off, anonymous, or using a cutesy pseudonym like “TravlinGrrrl”. Undoubtedly she’s the hotel’s director of marketing.
The Forensic Examiner. This CSI enthusiast treats hotel rooms like a crime scene, posting reviews with gory photographic evidence of carpet stains, bathroom mold and bedbug bites. Even when his review is glowing, which is pretty much never, his photos make the room look cheap and squalid, with personal items and family members lingering in the background.
The Corporate Saboteur. This reviewer is a hotel owner writing a nasty, bogus review of a competitor hotel in hopes of boosting his own property’s ratings. Telltale signs include anonymity and remarks like, “I finally checked outta that dump and went to the ABC HOTEL, the best hotel ever!!! Twenty bucks cheaper and free donuts! I’ll never stay anywhere else!”
We can all help increase the reliability of reviews by posting our own after our trips. Just remember to stick to the facts, play fair, and go easy on the punctuation. And try not to get too personal. It might not always seem evident, but hotel managers have feelings too.
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steve kaufer // November 6, 2009 at 5:36 pm
Great job summarizing many of the ‘writing styles’ of some of our reviewers Very funny!
I also agree with your suggestions in the previous post that hotel managers take the time to politely respond to negative reviews (just as if you were having a conversation with someone complaining), rather than let the negative charge go unanswered. There are often two perspectives on every situation, and we’ve found that potential guests appreciate hearing both sides.