How To Interpret TripAdvisor Reviews So They Can Help Your Research

by SharonKurheg

Running since February 2000, TripAdvisor is well known for comparing prices from 200+ booking sites to help you find the lowest price on the right hotel for you. However, they also tout themselves as the world’s largest travel site, with over a billion unbiased traveler reviews of hotels, flights, restaurants, vacation rentals, and things to do. But can you trust all those reviews? Read on…

From the research I’ve done, it appears that, overall, TripAdvisor can be trusted to give you relatively (note the emphasis) unbiased reviews from its members. Maybe that’s why they’re listed as one of the 8 most trusted travel brands in the U.S. this year. But beyond that:

  • They take the possibility of fake reviews very seriously since they’re potentially damaging to the trust factor of the TripAdvisor brand. There’s a lag between when a review is written and posted, which allows for investigation as needed.  Also, a business owner can report a potentially fake review, in which case TripAdvisor will review it and may take it down if it violates their terms of content (I think that’s why what may have been the most uncomfortable review ever seen on TripAdvisor, was removed).
  • TripAdvisor will also remove reviews if they’re no longer relevant, as they did with one of the reviews my husband Joe wrote (Note: Joe is still very relevant. Just that one review of his no longer was LOL).

All that being said, if you’re using TripAdvisor to help you with your research of where to stay, overall, you should take reviews with complaints or praise with a grain of salt – you just have to keep a couple of things in mind:

Are The Praises/Complaints About Things That Affect You?

Joe and I have been in a decent amount of hotels in our lives. However, we never use the gym/health room/whatever they call it. So we don’t let whatever reviewers say about that room have an effect on whether or not we stay there…if they have one, if it’s too warm or too cold, if there’s no good view from the Elliptical, if the equipment they have is old, etc. – what people have to say about the gym will have no effect on our time there. The same may or may not be true for other aspects of the hotel, such as a pool, business center, self-laundry, etc. So if people are specifically complaining about those things, I don’t care, since I would never use those amenities anyway.

Are The People Making A Complaint Frequent Complainers?

Some people are just never happy and never have anything good to say. Others are just trolls. So sometimes I’ll look at all the reviews someone has written to see what they’ve said about other establishments besides the one I’m looking at. Have they been upset about the noise/decor/staff speed/etc. everywhere? Are they continually looking for 5-star service at a 3-star place? If so, I don’t think the problem is just that one place you’re looking at…it’s that reviewer.

Is There A Pattern?

Some places will get lots of awesome reviews and then all of a sudden the majority of their reviews go downhill fast. It’s dirty. The food was bad. The staff was rude. What happened? Did the Executive Chef or Hotel Manager change? Or did someone with a lot of friends get mad at the place and try to submarine it? Sometimes reading bad reviews takes a little extra investigating….including looking at other review sites to see what’s been said there.

Does Someone From The Establishment Reply?

As you read reviews on TripAdvisor, you’ll sometimes see replies from the place in question that may or may not give you a better idea of how they handle situations. Sometimes the responses may be, essentially, “We remember very well when you were there and our front desk staff and managers tried to help you the best we could but you were unreasonable in your request of…,” but other times it sounds as if the manager (or whoever replies) seems truly interested in fixing problems. Or maybe they never answer anyone. I take all of that into consideration when making choices.

What’s The Best Approach?

  • When you’re looking at reviews, focus on the aspects that interest you.
  • Be aware of what people are complaining about and see if they have a pattern.
  • Don’t exactly discredit, but certainly put less faith in the reviews that praise too much or are overly accusatory; both are most likely further from the truth than the middle of the road reviews.
  • Look for patterns and investigate as needed.
  • Check out other review sites and see what was written there.
  • See if someone from the establishment replies to said complaints and what the response was.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


N Palm Springs June 29, 2019 - 4:10 pm

Other tips:

Click on the reviewer to read their other reviews. Look at the scope of their travels and the quality of their other reviews. When they complain about horrible service and the other reviewers praise the service, we figure that it’s a personality problem on the part of the guest. Or they are Brits visiting a former part of the Commonwealth and are offended that the hotel or restaurant does not serve a proper brand of breakfast tea. (Seriously, I’ve read this complaint many times.)

When looking for a nearby restaurant, do not depend on Trip Advisor’s “Near me now” filter. So many times we have found that some of the best local restaurants do not show up. If, however, you just start searching the names of interesting restaurants you see, they often show up with very high ratings and a lot of reviews. It makes we wonder whether restaurants have to pay TA to show up on “Near me now.”

Don’t trust the restaurant ratings near tourist sites because people who eat there are lemmings who will repeat the high ratings of all the previous tourists that don’t know good local food. It’s the Instagram effect of food ratings. Instead, walk two or more blocks away from the tourist site into a local neighborhood and start searching the specific names of interesting restaurants that are filled with locals. Locals don’t waste their money on bad, overly priced foods.

Boris Tv June 29, 2019 - 4:37 pm

Also watch out for reviews that mention “Review collected in partnership with this hotel”. This means that the hotel went out of their way to get these reviews from guests. Asking the guests for example on checkout to write a review about the hotel on tripadvisor. These reviews are always positive. The hotels have special app that tripadvisor give them to make it easier for guests to create a review. View these reviews suspiciously.

Rjb June 29, 2019 - 6:22 pm

Trip Advisor sucks. If you puts a critical review they frequently don’t post it or make up some BS reason why they won’t post it. It’s fake news

James June 29, 2019 - 11:02 pm

There should be a emoji by the reviewers name. It should reflect what kind of reviews people leave. Mostly negative review sad face. Trip advisor is better than most sites since they sort my most recent reviews; however, they still get a lot of review from people who only leave negative reviews. Reviewer’s should also have a star ranking based upon the reviews they leave.

Billy Bob July 6, 2019 - 2:28 pm

That would lead to a bunch of manipulation — unintended consequences.

Christian June 30, 2019 - 12:54 am

One pet peeve for me is when a hotel gives a canned response to your problems. A good hotel will actually read about your problem and notify you about a course of action unless you’re that rare person who just wants to be unhappy. Just because I left a comparatively good review doesn’t mean there are no problems. As a guest, let me know that you see the problem and will address it for future guests.

A June 30, 2019 - 1:03 am

There’s a lot of companies that leave tons of fake positive reviews. I’ve had legitimate negative reviews removed for BS. Watch out for positive reviews that are from people who only had left one or two reviews total.

CMH June 30, 2019 - 11:15 am will analyze TripAdvisor reviews and rate whether they are fake or not, as well as to give you a rating without fake reviews.

Beth July 2, 2019 - 3:12 pm

I always filter to read the bad reviews and see if there is pattern, but, more importantly, I want to see how the hotel, restaurant etc. responded. Did they apologize and try to fix it, or is it a canned response. Are they obnoxious in the review.
I ignored this once and booked a guide who had responded to a negative review in a not great way. He had thousands of reviews and only 5 or 6 were bad so I just shrugged it off. I had a not great experience, he blew me off in the moment, and, when I wrote a review, he responded by saying I must just be having a bad day and wanted to take it out on him. Now I pay close attention to responses to gauge just how interested a place is in correcting or explaining an issue.


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