“A Hidden Gem!” or “Lame!!!”? Online Travel Reviewers to Watch Out For

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.

Comments imported from WordPress:
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.
CEO, TripAdvisor

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

17 Responses to ““A Hidden Gem!” or “Lame!!!”? Online Travel Reviewers to Watch Out For”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. Alexis says:


  2. Anonymous says:

    What a great post!

  3. Since a hotel makes or breaks my trip I spend hours researching and cross-referencing professional reviews against those of travelers. I always look to see what is being said about a hotel on TripAdvisor. I ignore the positive reviews and look for the worst possible scenario in the negative ones. Daniel, I know you won’t be surprised to hear comments on cleanliness hold my attention. If a past guest says a hotel smells like 1849 I’ll take a closer look at the age of the hotel, the type of flooring in the hallways and rooms, and when it was last renovated. Being an obsessive personality, I trust no one. For fun, after I’ve returned from a trip, I usually read all of the comments on TripAdvisor and reread professional ones. Personally, I’ve never posted on TripAdvisor because I write reviews for newspapers, magazines and online, and have my own blog at http://www.hygienehunter.com And there’s plenty of crazy there.

  4. Daniel Edward Craig says:

    Hygiene Hunter, I think you're doing a disservice to travelers by not posting online reviews. Then again, your fantastic website makes up for it. Although I must admit, whenever I read it I'm afraid to leave the house.

  5. justafan says:

    Seriously laughed out loud (hate the lol acronym, and all other web/texting acronyms for that matter) Being a hotel management student I regularly make use of TripAdvisor for most hotels I have and would like to work for and I must say your reviewer segmentation hit the chord perfectly! I wish people would be a little more objective too, but then I guess I wouldn't have had a good laugh today and what's a world without witty travel comedy? keep it up Mr. Craig

  6. Daniel Edward Craig says:

    justafan, WHAT?! lol means laugh out loud?? I thought it meant lots of love. All this time I thought people were loving me when they were actually laughing at me???
    Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

  7. Sam Clark says:

    As experts in our small part of the world I have to keep up with what te peers are saying about out hotels and so read it a lot. You have definitely nailed the types. Worth adding perhaps is someone who seems unique to The Maldives. Having Bennett to 3 or so resorts they consider themselves a complete expert on all thing maldivian and write 3000 word blow by blow account.TA of their entity trip! Oxford agree the reviews ate a fantastic resource but ed think it is always worth talking to travel industry professionals with an in depth knowledge of a country who can offer some professional judgement to assist!

    • Love it, Sam: “The Local Expert”. It is amazing how much time and effort – and detail – some people put into reviews. Great advice to not forget about consulting travel professionals as part of researching a trip. Thanks for writing.

  8. Sam Clark says:

    Sorry about appalling spelling. Next time I won’t post from my phone!

  9. Andy G says:

    Daniel, loved the post.  You had me laughing and shaking my head.  I read in another one of your posts that lead me to this one.  As you mentioned, constant improvement and using reviews as a driver to improvement is key to better service and subsequently better reviews. 
    There are some people you'll never make happy no matter what.  Looking forward to your next post.  -Andy

    • Glad you enjoyed the post, Andy. Funny, I just received a comment on another post that expressed the same sentiment: that you can please everybody. As long as we try our best, that’s the best we can do, right? Thanks for writing. DEC

  10. Hello Daniel.
    I like your comment about the "extortionist".  We've had a few of them.  Some even threaten a bad review while standing at reception groping for a comp.  My advice is not to give in, tell them who they are and suggest they look in the mirror.  You can usually tell one coming if you read the incoming reservation mails carefully (excessive special requests with forceful hints of already having got them).  Be ready and don't forget,  if you do give in, you'll be setting yourself up for a boatload of freeloaders. And keep records of those type guests and everything they say and do during their stay, make sure they know it, it'll slow em down when contemplating that revenge review when their grope didn't work since they'll be exposed.  And it'll help on the necessary response if they do.  Nothing like a response which starts with "We saw this one coming" and then go on the make fun of the whole issue, readers love it and it'll stop other extortionists from visiting.

    • Thanks for the entertaining comments, Eric – love the ‘tude! I was at a TripAdvisor Master Class event in Vegas yesterday and someone from the audience asked what to do when a guest threatens to write a bad review in order to extort special treatment. The TA speaker Brian said the hotel should send a note via the Owners’ Center to give them the heads-up to keep an eye out for the review. Not foolproof, but at least it’s something. He also said travelers rarely follow through with such threats. But your suggestion is good too 😉 Thx for writing. DEC

  11. Thx Daniel,
    Nice forum you have here.  The comment from Brian is helpful, in the beginning around 5 years ago, we could mail them regarding issues.  Then they went quiet sort of like Google, and now their beginning to open up to the hotel side again.  However, I must admit  I'm a little skeptical they'll actively "keep an eye out" for the bad review coming.  Now days, it seems we have to deal with a 1-2 week lag for action (compared with 24-48 hours before), during which time bookings can slow by 50% especially if you've taken a double hit.
    TA has become a major force, probably the number one, in marketing now.  Bad reviews can cut occupancy by 50%, not to mention the worse long term negative effect on metrix and ranking.  If the reviews are bogus for some reason or another,  it's really important to have communications on valid issues (for the readers here, I said "valid", so that means you have to keep your ship in order :-).  
    I really wish I could have attended that forum, TripAdvisor is an incredible resource for both travelers and hotels.  I would have been fantastic to meet some of the people behind the site.
    Cheers and my pleasure to meet you Daniel.

  12. And Daniel. please mail me, I've been doing online hotel marketing for 18 years since we started my first site on the web using Netscape.  I'd love to share knowledge from time to time and get on your mailing list if you have one, you can use the mail address in this submission and please put my name "Eric" in the subject line and it'll get dropped in my main box.

  13. This was damn funny.  Thanks for making me crack up about something otherwise extremely anxiety provoking.

Leave A Comment...