Why I don't trust Trip Advisor - and you shouldn't either

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If I had a dollar for every time someone has asked me to review them on Trip Advisor... well, to start, I probably would have eaten dinner tonight.

I've never been a Trip Advisor gal.  My reason is simple: I hate tourists. I don't want to hear how they rank things.  In a world where some bozo can rate a hostel one star for not having free soap, you can't take people have the time to write reviews online seriously.  

Yet, everywhere I've been - from New York, to Turkey, Vietnam, Bosnia, ect - Trip Advisor rules.

However, as I travel further off the path where restaurants and attractions can be found through magazine articles and blogs, Trip Advisor has become the only source of travel information.

This wouldn't bother me if I hadn't discovered the poisonous culture connected to it.  

mui ne, vietnam - m.quigley

mui ne, vietnam - m.quigley

In areas where Trip Advisor rules, rankings and reviews have less to do with customers autonomously deciding to write a review, and more with businesses guilting everyone to, "Write a review on Trip Advisor! 5 stars!"

In the same way people will chase you down in the street to buy trinkets, businesses are incredibly persistent in asking you to write a review on Trip Advisor.  Why?  The more reviews (no matter the type), the higher the business is ranked.  

Restaurants and hostels proudly display their rank on their walls and in their windows.

In my experience, it's rare that a top Trip Advisor spot ends up being all it is cracked up to be.  

If businesses focus on getting a mass amount of reviews, their ranking will improve.  Of course they also want 5 stars (and aren't shy about asking for it), but that part doesn't matter as much as getting the number of reviews.  

If you have made it to the top spot on Trip Advisor in some countries, it's not because you've created such a transformative experience that everyone feels compelled to write a review.  It's probably because you're a bully.

With so many businesses playing this game, everyone has to play along to stay on top.  If businesses waited for people to write reviews of their own, their spot would be overtaken. 

If a business is sitting on the top of the Trip Advisor ranking, it is because they have made it their mission to be there, not because people loved it.  There are too many places playing the, "Write a review! Write a review!" game for those who are not playing to be ranked highly. 

pongour falls, vietnam - m.quigley

pongour falls, vietnam - m.quigley

I know what you're thinking.  It is one thing to convince someone to write a review, and another to convince someone to write a glowing review.

Well, this is not necessarily the case. It is common practice for businesses to buy locals beers in exchange for a positive review on Trip Advisor.  My motorbike driver told me this.  He works independently and doesn't have a Trip Advisor page, aka a horse in this race.  

Secondly, there is the controversy that you can pay to remove/alter reviews.  I don't have much to say about this, as it is a lot of speculation, but you can read about it here (get ready for an insane website).

Finally, I know from personal experience.  I had a terrible motorbike Trip from Hue to Hoi An. Before I went, he told me to go on his Trip Advisor page and read the reviews.

They were all 5 stars, and all reviews glowing.

When the ride was over, I couldn't have disagreed more.  

My experience was 3 stars AT BEST. When the driver dropped me off, of course the last thing he said to me was, "Don't forget to rate me 5 stars!"

Later that week I received a facebook message from him asking to rate him 5 stars.  I did genuinely feel compelled to write a review after all his pestering, but I didn't feel comfortable posting 5 stars. 

I stewed on it for a few days.  Then, I went on another motorbike ride and realized how bad mine had been in comparison.  I decided I needed to write a negative review, so I did.  I blocked him on facebook and wrote a 3 star review (more than he deserved), commenting on his performance and posted it.

20 mins later I was searching, "How to delete a trip advisor review."  Something didn't seem right. I was afraid.  How did he have all 5 stars?  Was I overreacting to the situation? Was it my fault? Maybe I shouldn't post the review... Was he paying Trip Advisor off? Was he approaching those who wrote bad reviews? He had my full name... 

mui ne, vietnam - m.quigley

mui ne, vietnam - m.quigley

I was too afraid and didn't want to be associated so I deleted my review.  Just like that, of my own accord, I removed a negative review.  Too many glowing reviews just isn't natural and makes it very hard to have the courage to write a negative review.

This is a system where business that put their energy into creating a great experience, rather than jusy appearing to do so, suffer.

So what can you do to find places?  Read my guide to 25 Ways to Get Off the Beaten Path

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