Dec 092013

Back in the days of yore, if you went on vacation or a trip to someplace, your only guides were maybe some dated travel book, a magazine, or word of mouth.  If you wanted to know anything about places to stay, things to do, and where to eat, it was pretty much a crap shoot until you got there.  But nowadays, thanks to the magic of the interwebs, there are many resources to find out what places and things are the best, and which ones to avoid.  Topping that list of resources is Trip Advisor.

Yes, there are others, like Yelp, and individual forums, but for the most detailed, and somewhat accurate description of things like lodgings, activities, and eatin’ places, Trip Advisor continues to set the standard.

It’s pretty simple really, a business is listed on Trip Advisor, and patrons can go there to express their opinions of their experiences with said business, be it good, bad, or otherwise.  In addition to the reviews by customers, Trip Advisor also ranks businesses in a certain area, according to the quality and quantity of their reviews.  So a business that gets all 5 star reviews ranks at or near the top, and those with bad reviews wind up at the bottom.  It’s a pretty decent system but it does have it’s flaws as I will point out in a moment.

Virtually every tourist related business here in the Keys relies on Trip Advisor to stay alive, so to speak.  Just about everyone will encourage their customers and patrons to go onto Trip Advisor to write a review, provided that is, that the experience was a positive one.  Those who did not have the experience of a lifetime, or were dissatisfied with some service, are quickly administered to by management to soothe over what ever little thing might have upset them.  Avoiding bad reviews is important.  A bad review will drop one in the rankings, and may dissuade others from doing business with you.  At least around Key West, where the competition for the tourist dollar is fierce, keeping your Trip Advisor clean of bad reviews and staying at the top of the rankings in your particular field, is vital.

You may have experienced similar requests in other industries.  You know, when you contact tech support because your computer is on the fritz, or you need to get some clarification on a bill from your cell phone provider.  At the end, at some point, you will be asked to fill out a survey to rank your experience with the representative who had to sit there and listen to your pissy ass little problem.  Many of these reps will encourage you to complete the survey as it affects their job performance, pay, and sometimes their job itself.  Get enough bad surveys and the rep is now an ex rep.  It sucks but it does provide management a way to see if their worker bees are doing their jobs.

Trip Advisor works the same way as those surveys, but as I said, there are some pitfalls with such a system.

The first question that comes to mind is, “How accurate and truthful are these reviews?”.  And indeed that is a fair question.

Trip Advisor relies on honest and fair play when you write a review about some business.  And we all know how well honesty and fair play work out around these parts.  The trouble is it is fairly easy to go on Trip Advisor, under an assumed name and email, and write up a false review, good or bad.  And it’s not uncommon for a business to get some friends to write up a bunch of glowing reviews to skew the results.  It’s also not uncommon for a competing business to go on under a false name and write a bad review, just to cause a competitor’s rankings to drop.  And it’s very difficult to get a review erased from one’s Trip Advisor page.

A business does have some recourse in the event of a bad review.  The owner, or whomever is in charge of the business site, can go on and offer a rebuttal, apology, or tell the whiny ass sissy to go piss up a rope.  It doesn’t change the review but it does give two of the three sides of the story.

Remember, there are always three sides to any story:  His side, her side, and the truth.  And the truth shall never be known.

But, overall, most reviews that come through on Trip Advisor can be relied upon to provide an accurate picture of how well a business is run and whether or not it is worth your while to spend your hard earned vacation money with said business.

If you are looking around at the list of businesses that are in the area you are going to, take some time and read through the reviews.  Pay special attention to any bad ones.  If you see a similar theme, like the business will not offer refunds for bad weather, or something along that lines, and there are enough of them, then it may be a red flag to find somebody else to do business with.  By the same token, a business with no bad reviews, may also indicate inaccurate or padded reviews.  Nobody is perfect, and tourists being the whiny ass bunches that they are, are bound to be pissed off about something during their trip.  Take it all with a grain of salt, and a shot of tequila.

Trip Advisor ain’t perfect, but it is one of the more better ways to determine whom you wish to spend your vacation money on.

Capt. Fritter