Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Are Hotels.com Guest Reviews and Ratings Faked?

It seemed a routine internet transaction. My cheapo flight reservations through London had left my wife, daughter, and a friend with a 12 hour layover in Gatwick. No problem, but longer than I want them sitting in an airport at night after a hard day of travel and a 9 hour flight in front of them. So I do a search to find a place to stay. The review on the hotels.com site said it was a 3-star hotel, and that 1 of 1 guests had recommended it. It was given an overall rating of 4.0 on a 5.0 scale. I made a reservation through hotels.com for an overnight stay at the Best Western Gatwick Worth Hotel.

Well the hotel wasn't that great. So when I get my customer feedback survey from Hotels.com, I diligently fill it out. Maybe I can save the next guest the trouble. I marked the survey honestly, some high, some low. Here are the comments I made
"Clean sheets, but nothing else
For me, room cleanliness is my most important criteria. This hotel did not meet it. Dirty carpets, candy wrappers on the floor, hair in the tub. Yuck! At least the sheets were clean. There were three of us for a $160 3-person room. After paying 16 pounds for the after hours taxi, then 3 pounds each for the morning shuttle back to Gatwick (I had assumed the shuttle would be free - most US hotel shuttles are), we were pretty close to what it would have cost for the Sofitel in the Airport."

Like a good consumer and web denizen, I send off my review. Wait a week and check the site, knowing that now it should show "1 of 2 guests recommend this hotel, average rating 2.5"

Surprise. It's not there.

Now I drop an email to customer service to ask why. They tell me that to post a review on a hotel, go to tripadvisor.com. So I go there. Guess what, 16 reviews on the place, average score is 2.5.

Something's wrong here. So I call hotels.com and find out that my survey review was "for internal use." So where did the review on the site come from? Dunno. There's no link from your page to the reviews at tripadvisor.com, how am I supposed to know beforehand to go there? Dunno, send another note to customer service.

So here's the situation. There are "Guest Reviews" on the hotels.com website. But if you're a guest, there is no way to submit a review. So where do they come from? My line of reasoning would lead me to believe that someone is making them up. Faking them in other words.

Bottom line for now, use tripadvisor.com to check ratings. Stay away from hotels.com until they can demonstrate that they have an honest ratings system.

UPDATE 7/11/2006: Tripadvisor has posted my review. The hotel has now dropped to a 2-star rating. Has the hotels.com rating changed? Nope. They've still got the 4.0 fake rating up there.

Head on back to Mudville


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