OMAAT readers will never guess which hotel is making me question the legitimacy of some online reviews…
Some TripAdvisor reviews are obviously fake
Review platforms like TripAdvisor are fantastic for travelers in so many ways:
- They’re a great resource when planning travel, since you can learn about firsthand hotel experiences, rather than just what a hotel puts out there
- Only review platforms make hotels even more accountable for the service they provide, since suddenly everyone has the ability to leave feedback on a platform that matters to the company
As you’d expect, one of the major challenges with these platforms is the legitimacy of some reviews. While TripAdvisor does what it can to make sure reviews are legitimate, there’s only so much that can be done when the platform can’t verify that someone has actually stayed at a hotel.
As you’d expect, some hotels take advantage of this, and leave fake (positive) reviews. Typically they’re easy enough to spot. Some of the common signs of fake reviews include:
- The person leaving a review is new to the community, and hasn’t left any other reviews
- There are a bunch of new reviews at once, mostly from accounts with limited history
- The reviews are short and don’t contain many details
- The reviews use the same type of language and grammar, perhaps even regurgitating the hotel’s marketing bullets
My personal thought process is that if a review is left from an account with no other reviews, and it’s light on details and/or uses hotel marketing bullets, it very well could be fake.
Some TripAdvisor reviews are trickier
While perusing some TripAdvisor reviews in recent days, I couldn’t help but feel like something was a bit off. The reviews seemed fake, but they also came from accounts that had some other activity. So then I started Googling, and noticed that there are all kinds of companies out there selling fake TripAdvisor reviews from more established accounts.
I mean, the concept makes sense — most hotels would gladly pay $10+ for a positive TripAdvisor review that comes from a legitimate-looking account.
My question is, how can you spot these kinds of fake reviews? I suspect the answer is similar to other fake reviews — they are either vague or share strange details, except they come from accounts with more activity. I’m curious what OMAAT readers think…
Are these online reviews real?
As some of you may have guessed, it’s the Aegon Mykonos that makes me bring this up. For those not up to date on the saga from earlier this summer, see these posts:
- Marriott Bonvoy Confirmed Suite Upgrade Downgrade
- I’d Like To Speak With The Marriott Manager!
- I’m Speechless: My Awful Marriott Check-In Experience
- My Four-Hour Stay At Marriott’s Aegon Mykonos
- Aegon Mykonos Responds To My TripAdvisor Review With Lies
- I Received An Apology From The Aegon Mykonos…
I’ve been keeping an eye on the hotel’s online reviews, both on TripAdvisor, Google Reviews, and on Marriott’s own website, to see if things are improving there. Many of the same issues I had during my stay are persisting, and are reflected in reviews.
There are some genuine negative review, some genuine positive reviews, and then some positive reviews that are… suspicious. Let’s start with the reviews on Marriott’s website, which in theory are verified. The Aegon Mykonos’ rating on Marriott’s website is pretty bad (3.8 stars, which is among the lowest scores I’ve seen at any hotel).
The third most recent review gives a five star rating, and is titled:
“A must try hidden gem”
The fifth most recent review gives a five star rating, and is titled:
“Hidden Gem in Mykonos”
Both reviews are vague on details, but there’s something I find weird about that. Seriously, there are many things I’d call a decent Marriott, but a “hidden gem” isn’t one of them — there’s nothing hidden about a hotel belonging to the world’s biggest hotel group. Is it just a coincidence that two reviews not far apart use the same language?
So I looked a bit further back on the reviews page to see if there was any other use of the term “hidden” or “gem.” Well, going back a couple of months, the general manager responded to a review, using the “gem” word as well:
“We are a team of professionals gathered for the first time to open this brand new gem of property and tries to implement all this experience in a pressurized time schedule with all of the new safety measure on board.”
I suppose this could be a coincidence, but that seems… unlikely.
Looking over at TripAdvisor, I can’t help but find the reviews to be suspicious as well. For example, the most recent review is titled:
“Beautiful resort!! Only pay attention to 5 star reviews.”
Isn’t that a bit strange? When I left my (negative) review of the hotel, I didn’t say “terrible resort, only pay attention to one star reviews.” The review continues:
“We arrived yesterday and simply excellent so far. Dismiss any review other than 5 star.
Being a Marriott Ambassador members we are very discerning when it comes to resort properties. The Aegon is beautiful complimented by a wonderful accommodating staff. The breakfast buffet was excellent and I’ll be surprised if we have dinner tonight we are so full!”
Another recent review was also allegedly written by a Bonvoy Ambassador member:
What an incredible stay! We are here for 7 nights and are in day 4. As a Marriott Ambassador I have to say the service is the best I have had! We recently stayed at the Cosmo in Las Vegas and the Marriott Villas in Newport Beach, but this is just as good or better than any service we have had. We have 3 rooms and we are welcomed with friendly smiles and service that goes above and beyond. We are staying in the Revive part of the property, steps away from the beach, and we have amazing views of the beach every morning. Disregard all the negative reviews, as a native of Los Angeles, I can say with full confidence this is the place to stay when you come to Mykonos! I follow up with more as we continue our stay!!!
This review is bizarre on so many levels:
- “Disregard all the negative reviews”
- Being “a native of Los Angeles” allows you to say “with full confidence this is the place to stay when you come to Mykonos?”
- You’re comparing this to… the Cosmo in Las Vegas and Marriott Villas in Newport Beach?
Those are just a couple of examples, but there’s something about so many of these reviews that just seems off. I’m not suggesting they’re all fake, I’m just wondering how others go about analyzing the legitimacy of these reviews.
And while I can’t say anything with certainty about the above reviews, I do know with certainty that this isn’t the hotel’s first time getting into the suspicious review business — on the hotel’s Google Reviews page, a family member of someone with a stake in the hotel leaves a review with her own name talking about how great the hotel is (at a time when the hotel had been closed for many months), and the general manager responds to thank her for the feedback, and say how much they’d love to welcome her again at the property.
TripAdvisor is a fantastic resource for travelers. That being said, there are no doubt a lot of fake reviews on the platform. Most of them are easy enough to spot, but as I’ve started to do some online research, it’s now becoming apparent that some of the fake reviews are more sophisticated than many may have previously assumed.
When looking at TripAdvisor reviews, how do you decide whether they’re trustworthy or not, especially for accounts that have multiple contributions?