The 900-lb Reviews Gorilla May Not Be Your Best Source

Consumers’ reviews of hotels and restaurants influence our decisions about which places we’ll visit - and are critical to their success. The more 5-star ratings we see, the more we’re likely to spend our money there. So when issues around TripAdvisor’s credibility are called into question, consumers should know about it.

Andrew Ellson of The Times of London published an article citing an independent analysis of tens of thousands of hotels and restaurants, which found that nearly one-third of TripAdvisor reviews are fake… especially those of top-rated establishments. Fakespot, a company that uses an algorithm and machine learning to identify suspicious reviews, claims that 33% of TripAdvisor’s reviews are bogus.

How easy is it to add a glowing, fake review? The Times reports that many businesses buy 5-star reviews (and negative reviews of their competitors), for as little as fifty dollars. Companies like ReviewsThatStick.com will write a review that rates a business as 5 stars when they’ve never been there to see for themselves.

According to the article, TripAdvisor says they invest in fraud detection, but in preparation for its article, The Times opened a TripAdvisor account without using a real name, and posted 10 reviews that were all accepted… and they report that one individual recently was successful in getting TripAdvisor to list their garden shed as one of London’s top restaurants.

Want alternatives? Use sites like Expedia, Oyster.com, Yelp and Conde Nast.. or trust your travel agent to vet the options for you.