TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Cheap Suits

Welcome to the wonderful world of crowdsourcing. Everyone is an expert on everything and thanks to sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Angie’s List there are now platforms for everyone to display their expertise. Well, sort of.

First of all, let me be clear, TripAdvisor can be an incredibly valuable tool for today’s traveler. But like any tool, for it to be effective, it needs to be handled properly. Not many nails get driven with the claw end of the hammer. So pull up a chair for 636 words.

How To Read TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor has some built in flaws that they have not been able to (some say have not been willing to) resolve.  The most significant flaw is that the reviews can easily be padded. Property owners have been known to pay guests for flattering reviews and employ staff to write unflattering ones of their competition. Also, guests from different parts of the world have different expectations. An American in Europe will likely squawk about the twin beds in the small room; but in reality, for Europe, it may be a very fine room. And finally, someone could be having a bad day. We all have them and no amount of right is going to help.

To properly get a good review, look at who is posting it. Are all of their reviews negative? Are they from your country? Do they have multiple positive reviews on a small number of properties? Does the review pick apart every single part of the trip?  Take these all into consideration and assign their level of influence on your decision accordingly.

How To Write A Review

Of course, when you go on a trip, you want to share your experience with the world and let the masses know of your own new found expertise. By all means, write a review.  But not before you give it some thought.

If you had a problem, did you try to resolve it at the time? How fair is it to review a property and blast them for cold water if they were unaware? The time to resolve any issue is at the time it is an issue. On the off chance you had a horrible experience flying to your destination (insert sarcasm here), don’t take it out on the resort or hotel. It is not their fault. And thanks to the airlines, every little thing will be magnified. I had a client once who was livid that the front desk clerks were speaking Spanish—in Barcelona…in Spain.

Finally, be fair. Understand that things happen. If it is a new property, there will be kinks to work out. If it is an older one, things will break and need to be repaired. Your home is no different. And by all means, understand that the resort or hotel has nothing to do with the weather.

How To Discover The Right Place

But, TripAdvisor and their brethren should never be your only resource. It is only an arrow in your quiver.  Look at the hotel’s website and look at their photos versus user submitted ones. If there is a big discrepancy, question it; but understand the job of marketing. The perfectly beautiful people lounging around the pool in thongs will not be there when you are. The fat French guys with back hair wearing thongs will be.

Ask your friends. Presumably, your friends, relatives and neighbors all appreciate the same experiences in life as you. Put some serious weight to their recommendations because they are probably right on.

And finally, round it out with a consult with a bona fide travel agent. In addition to all of the tools you have (except your friends and relatives), agents have many more, the least of which is experience and connections.  A good agent will be able to know if a property is experiencing a decline in service. A good agent will be able to tap into the expertise of his or her colleagues who have firsthand knowledge. And most importantly a good agent will know what fits you.

Anyone can buy a cheap suit, but you need one that fits. Hotels, cruise lines, and resorts all have different personalities and vibes. So make sure to use all the tools at your disposal to make sure you don’t get caught with a cheap suit!

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About the author: John Frenaye

John has been in the travel industry since 1997 and held many roles including agency owner, member of the ASTA Communications Committee, Board Advisor to iJet Intelligent Risk Systems, and an MSNBC.com travel columnist. Throughout that time, he has amassed a a level head for solving problems and a sizable "rolodex" for getting the attention of the right person to solve your travel woes. Please feel free to email him or visit his site.

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