Friday, July 6, 2012

Cruise Critic and TripAdvisor: Perfect Together...Scamming the Public

One of my clients just forwarded a July 5, 2012 article from Frommers.com Does TripAdvisor Have a Problem with Fake Reviews?  That article discussed two things:  Bogus Reviews and Manipulation of its Message Board/Forums.

Let Goldring Travel Show You The Way Through the Murky World of TripAdvisor/CruiseCritic
The first, Bogus Reviews, is easy.  TripAdvisor is loaded with them.  Back in February I wrote an article Trip Advisor - Reviews You Can Trust? Not According to the Advertising Standards Authority which discussed the issue from a macro (big picture) perspective and let you know that the United Kingdom forced TripAdvisor to  drop its representation that you can trust its reviews.  The Frommer article discusses this on a micro scale, focusing on the reviews of a single hotel and how the hotel itself manipulated the reviews to assure itself a 5 star rating.

Now for the meat:  Manipulation of the TripAdvisor Message Board or Forum.  TripAdvisor and Cruise Critic are related through a common owner.  It is now clear that they both engage in knowingly deceptive practices; practices which may well be bordering on unlawful.  But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

The Frommer article discusses TripAdvisor's refusal to identify a poster named "hunnyb62" who had apparently posted similar reviews of a number of Sheraton hotel properties.  TripAdvisor refused to cooperate with identifying this person because of alleged concerns over privacy.  Huh?  This "person" has injected him/herself into the public arena solely to provide innocent third parties with knowingly false information in a designed effort to have them rely upon same.  Folks that is fraud.  Not a whacko.  It is fraud.

So why would TripAdvisor not cooperate with purging its site of people knowing committing a civil, if not criminal, offense?  My guess is easy:  Advertising Dollars!

Oh, but TripAdvisor did more...Much more.  On its message board there was a thread discussing hunnyb62 and the troublesome postings...and, apparently, Sheraton's somewhat cooperative efforts to find out what was going on.  (Apparently Sheraton has figured out that doing something to protect its integrity is valuable.) So what did TripAdvisor do.  According to Frommers it removed the thread.  "Poof!"  Any evidence that TripAdvisor is supporting fraud and false reviews is gone! 

TripAdvisor could have left the thread up for the world to see and simply locked it so that further comment could not be made.  But it didn't.  Why?  Because that "honest" review and discussion of TripAdvisor would hurt its reputation and, therefore, its position in the market...and, thus, advertising dollars.  Put another way, TripAdvisor is manipulating its website so that it is extremely difficult for the average person to know TripAdvisor engages in, promotes, and protects fraudulent reviews.

So what does this have to do with CruiseCritic?  Essentially the same thing goes on.  Sometimes, however, it goes the other way whereby CruiseCritic nurtures and protects knowing false negative reviews or posts, rather than removing them, because they generate more views (people love to read about alleged train wrecks) and thus higher advertising revenue.

I have written about this too in articles such as Cruise Critic Prostitutes Itself and Violates The Public's Trust! , but you can search out here them if you wish.  Possibly of more interest are two threads that I do not censor  on The Gold Standard Luxury Travel Forum

Don't You Hate Irresponsible Travelogues and Comments?
and
Host Dan is at it Again!!!

These two cruise message board threads arose out of CruiseCritic's intentional efforts to do exactly what happened on TripAdvisor:  Silence the Truth. 
 
And on CruiseCritic they do something really troublesome:  They allow people that are truly emotionally and/or socially troubled to post clearly false information and ban people that call them out and event try to block them from visiting the site.  If that is not nurturing fraud and train wrecks I do not know what is.  See my article:  Cruise Critic Has An Ethical Obligation Not To Exploit Troubled People.
 
It is a shame that TripAdvisor/CruiseCritic have knowingly prostituted themselves...and then market themselves to you, the public, with "Trust Me".
 
No:  Trust Goldring Travel.