Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Does Tripadvisor Play Dirty With Hotel Reviews?

USAToday: In a $10 million lawsuit filed against the online review site earlier this month, the owner of the Grand Resort Hotel in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. - dubbed "America's dirtiest" in TripAdvisor's latest annual ranking - claims its smudged crown was bestowed unfairly.

TripAdvisor's list of the 10 dirtiest hotels in the U.S., released in January, is based on travelers' cleanliness ratings posted to the site. The Grand (which has nothing to do with Dolly Parton's Dollywood) earned thumbs down from 87% of more than 200 reviewers - including "JordynC," whose scathing critique of her January stay ended with "the best thing thing that could happen is that a meteor fall from the sky and reduce it to rubble." It's currently ranked 90 out of 96 Pigeon Forge hotels, based on 281 reviews.

According to a report in The Mountain Press, the suit contends that TripAdvisor uses "a rating system which is flawed and inconsistent and distorts actual performance and perspective," and says "TripAdvisor has singled out [Grand Resort] and directly advised customers not to trust them."

"Our complaint is that (TripAdvisor) went too far. Instead of just reporting what people said, they made a flat-out statement that it was the dirtiest," the Grand Resort Hotel's attorney, Sidney Gilreath, told USA TODAY.

Asked whether the 397-room Grand Resort was challenging the veracity of the TripAdvisor reviews, Gilreath said "we may be."

"Are (the reviews) from guests, or from former employees? We're going to look behind the curtain to find out," said Gilreath.

The site has been front and center of a growing controversy over the accuracy of user reviews. While TripAdvisor says it weighs multiple, constantly evolving factors in determining a review's accuracy and has "zero tolerance" for fakes, critics say it's too easy for anonymous posters to plant falsely positive or negative critiques.

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