Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cruise Critic Has An Ethical Obligation Not To Exploit Troubled People

I am all for making money, but there is a line that shouldn't be crossed.  I, personally, believe that Cruise Critic has crossed that line and it does so willingly and with a profit motive...taking no responsibility for giving a forum to those who may have significant sociological and/or psychological issues.

I have watched for years as people have fabricated stories, seriously embellished stories and stirred things up.  But there comes a time when there is a limit to what an open forum should ethically allow.

But you say, "Anyone can say anything.  Who is Cruise Critic to police what they say?"  Well, to be honest, Cruise Critic.  If you really take a look at its practices, it regularly bans people from posting and does so under the guise of disrupting its "community" or making a personal attack or simply because it can. So it has a practice of limiting, suspending or banning people for doing things it believes is incorrect.

So why does it allow a person who - shall we say - sits at The Patio Grill of the Seabourn Sojourn every evening having little to no interaction with the ship's staff, other guests or even the ports to post absurdities every day for over a month when there are clear signs of anti-social or sociopathic conduct?  The answer is "clicks".  The poster either has a huge number of followers or, as is suspected by many to be the reality, has the time to run up the views to astronomical figures in a effort to create self-importance.  Either way, "clicks" or views results in advertising profits for Cruise Critic.

So what is the harm?  There are many. 

First, if there is a person with an obvious probability of being something other than quirky providing a forum for them to act out can be harmful, if not dangerous.  I don't want to get into the studies about such things, but they are out there.  Repetitious comments can be a sign of trouble; especially when overemphasized and clearly false.  A seemingly benign comment by someone who says The Colonnade or room service is being KILLED or FULL ON ATTACK or MADHOUSE, etc. shows a rather violent streak; especially when he insists he is not embellishing...and such conditions simply never exist on a Seabourn cruise.  (There are busy times, but violent characterization is clearly inaccurate and troublesome.  Another person who was on the same cruise wrote:  "we had superb service and never came across any problems in The Colonnade at breakfast or lunch. We always found a table outside and thankfully never came across anyone pushing or shoving".)

Second, when someone is obviously a loner and doesn't partake in most any social activities complains about such things as a woman  trying to "literaley mow me down and push me aside as I was trying to cut and spread the goat cheese on a two crackers" I have to ask two questions: 
  1. Why the violent reference yet again?; and,
  2. Why would this judgmental person believe it would be appropriate to spread cheese (assumedly with a public serving knife) on his crackers when the proper thing to do is place the cheese on one's plate and attend to its preparation while sitting at a table.
I get that he may have found Cruise Critic to be his social life...because alas it is not a social place, but a place where he can have seemingly anonymous interaction...but there is a warning flag flying.  (Where are the comments about something positive?  Heck he even complains about his pre-breakfast chocolate muffins and any person - whether they actually exist or not - that doesn't comport with his standards...whatever they may be!) There is a reason the phrase, "Get a Life!" exists...and Cruise Critic should not permit itself to be the enabling vehicle for what appears to be a very troubled soul.

Third, Cruise Critic knows there are many people that read its message boards and when something is clearly askew, allowing it to continue on only creates knowingly false impressions of what a Seabourn (or other) cruise is like and thus, with Cruise Critic's blessing, causes the ill-informed, easily persuaded and newbie to change their plans, worry levels or expectations so they do not receive what they actually want.

Fourth, it hurts the Cruise Industry and the cruise line in question.  There is a saying that any publicity is good publicity, but when things like falsely reporting complimentary upgrades or service flaws or extraordinary treatment, it hurts a cruise line's, travel agent's, and other guests' reputations and ability to easily and efficiently transact business. The travel industry has a terrible black eye with consumers because of the plethora of travel businesses and agencies that do not act ethically. So while it is not shocking that Cruise Critic does not seek to rise to a high ethical standard, I believe it is time for it to put some ethical constraints in place.

Is any of this against the law?  Probably not.  But is it ethical? I believe it is extremely unethical.  And, to be sure, the company that owns Cruise Critic, Trip Advisor, was recently found to violate England's ethic's laws. You can read the article I wrote:  Trip Advisor - Reviews You Can Trust? Not According to the Advertising Standards Authority .