To my great surprise I find myself using Tripadvisor more and more. Of course all the well rehearsed caveats apply. I know there will be fake reviews in there, along with the genuine. I haven’t tried to plant a fake, but I doubt it would be difficult. Remember how easily a few Italian journalists got a non-existent restaurant to Tripadvisor’s number one recommendation in their town? There may well be students who fund their degrees by churning out fictional Tripadvisor reports by the gross for bespoke agencies, and they may have a profitable future in travel writing. No doubt there are customers who use the threat of a bad review as a blackmailing tool.
I’ve read about PRs persuading Tripadvisor to take down bad reviews. After a bad experience at a B&B a friend filed a report to Tripadvisor and noticed that others wrote in to agree with him in a chorus of outraged customer dissatisfaction. The proprietor accused him of writing all the reports and successfully got Tripadvisor to remove all the bad reviews, including his, from the site.
All that said, I find that when I am asked to write about places I haven’t visited, at short notice for little money, as is increasingly the pattern in the absurd business on the margins of which I operate, Tripadvisor is a useful research tool. Compared with the alternative sources – online newspaper and magazine travel articles and blogs – Tripadvisor is far more convincing. I wouldn’t pay attention to its restaurant reviews or sightseeing reports but for hotels there is almost always good recent information to be uncovered.
If I look at Tripadvisor’s reviews of places I know, in most instances my own opinions are confirmed. The reviews of my sister’s self-catering cottage in Wales, for example, paint an accurate and detailed picture of it. Admittedly they are nearly all glowing, but that is because what she offers is excellent.
On a more negative note, in a recent idle moment I tried to think of the worst places my friend Galaxy and I came across on our bike rides through France, and the spectacularly unwelcoming Hotel du Parc in Issoire came immediately to mind. This was where the pettifogging M Robin proposed to charge us for parking our bikes in the garage, shouted at me for touching the wall with my hand, refused to let us out for a stroll after supper until we had paid the bill for the overnight stay, including breakfast; refused to let me sit in the bar reading a magazine at 10.30 when he wanted to turn the lights out, woke us up early with an alarm call we hadn’t asked for, and accused us of trying to steal the room key. A man less suited to the hospitality industry would be hard to find.
The Logis Hotels website presents the Hotel du Parc as a ‘house of character’ – say that again – offering a very complete wine card and service in a luminous setting next to a park that blooms in the summer.
Tripadvisor, on the other hand, rates the Parc 7th out of 7 hotels in Issoire. Here are some excerpts from the reviews (many of which agree with our finding, incidentally, that the long-suffering Madame Robin’s cooking is surprisingly good).
‘Rien à redire sur l’hotel par lui même (au niveau des chambres) ou bien sur le restaurant (qualité des repas) Par contre, tout est à craindre au niveau des gérants..! Indescriptibles…!!! Surtout le patron qui est simplement tres ronchon, aigri, indiscret, qui s’impose… “infecte” !’ (Antoine, January 2015)
‘… patron envahissant et bougon ….’ (Yann C, Dec 2014)
‘Le patron nous a raconté sa vie tout le temps de l’assiette de charcuterie. Râleur, bougon, rien ne va.
Le patron a aussi beaucoup de préjugés sur les motards, etc. Fatiguant. Si vous avez le temps, allez ailleurs ou le sourire est une évidence …’ (Isamia, Nov 2014)
‘Arrivés vers 20h un jour fin août, le patron nous à sèchement dit qu’il, je cite : “n’était pas intéressé par nous louer une chambre”, car nous n’avions pas l’intention de prendre le petit déjeuné. L’hôtel était désert, la salle de restaurant vide ainsi que le bar… et il était 20h !’ (Boubinours, Sept 2014)
‘we waited in hopeful anticipation for Le Parc to open at 5pm. Room was only available if we agreed to eat in their restaurant. Tired – we agreed. Our stay has provided us with funny snippets on how the place was run – perfectly clean etc, just character observations. (Tripteresa, July 2013)
Ronchon, bougon … Tripadvisor can be good for your vocab as well as your holiday.