Sunday, November 12, 2006

Reviews scam

Here’s something really interesting; something really interesting I’m surprised it’s taken so long to be exposed. “The Sunday Times” reports today on a “scam” whereby reviews of hotels and restaurants are posted onto various websites, not by discerning guests but by owners or marketing companies operating on their behalf, or by those with an axe to grind or to knock the competition. Well, tell me something surprising.

Among the sites mentioned is TripAdvisor, one of the biggest. The shock - to me - is that anyone is shocked, except of course that biased info is being offered, which isn’t always fair in love, war and business. There are sites, like HolidayTruths, which - it seems to me - do their utmost to weed out unreliable posts and stick to those from the punter. But of course even those aren’t really that reliable. One man’s meat is another’s vomit, or something like that.

I have an interest in all this. On the main websites, as linked here, such as, comments can be made about named establishments. There are also forums. Frankly, and maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but I have always been a tad wary of forums as they can be abused, so one has to watch posts like a hawk. And that’s the thing. If you’re going to go down the route that Amazon set in train all those years ago, and accept reviews or comments you have to be prepared to scrutinise every one. And that I do, though even then you can’t be entirely sure, except if something is so gushing or so critical, you have to question it. That’s why, for instance, I email back - I suspect not everyone knows their email address can be accessed (as with the charmer who said of one restaurant’s chefs that they were all pigs and working illegally) - and sometimes it bounces, or sometimes it is anonymous, or sometimes you just know ...

Most sites will claim to be moderated, but there is moderation, and there is automation and moderation. I practise no automation. I won’t say that nothing will get past me, but I’ll do my damnedest to stop it.

Weather check: after several days of glorious weather, a shift to a bit of grey, but still pretty pleasant for the time of year.

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