Uncategorized May 20, 2014

Online Travel Reviews: Under Review

Miriam Cross of Kipinger.com reviews value-or lack thereof-of an online travel review..

"Before dropping a few hundred dollars on a fancy hotel room with rave online reviews, be sure that what you're reading is legitimate, and not the work of a hired writer or the business itself. As online review platforms such as Yelp and TripAdvisor become more popular, businesses have a greater incentive to game the system–drumming up buzz with planted accolades or tarnishing competitors with unfair criticism. Last year the New York state attorney general's office cracked down on 19 companies that solicited fake reviews to prop up local services.

The problem has not gone unnoticed by review sites. Yelp filters out 25% of submissions. Some sites require the reviewer to have made a reservation for a hotel room or restaurant through the site before detailing his or her experiences; other sites highlight contributors with authenticated profiles or alert consumers to suspicious content.

But no site has a foolproof system, so it's important to cross-reference write-ups for the same establishment on different sites. The breadth of reviews on free sites should provide enough accurate information. If you're looking for a specialized service, scrutinize the reviewer, not just the review. A full profile, a history of contributing to the site and a "verified user" tag are good signs. And don't neglect word of mouth. "Asking people you know and trust is the first thing you should do before trusting strangers online," says Boston University professor Georgios Zervas, who studied fraudulent Yelp reviews.

If you're the one penning a negative assessment, avoid becoming the target of legal threats by sticking to indisputable facts, toning down hyperbole and emphasizing that this is your experience."

Reprinted with permission. All Contents ©2014 The Kiplinger Washington Editors.