Did yet another fake review slip past TripAdvisor?

By | December 8th, 2009

showerSara Jensen had such an awful stay at the Hotel Toshi in New York that she decided to write about it on TripAdvisor. Little did she know that a hotel representative pretending to be a satisfied guest would promptly post a positive review to counter her comments. Or that TripAdvisor would allow it.

This is just the latest in a series of developments that have called into question the reliability of user-generated reviews on TripAdvisor. (Since my latest post about the company, it has stopped responding to my requests for comments. I have, however, asked for its side of the story.)

Here’s an excerpt of the letter Jensen wrote to the hotel after her stay. The couple and their child had to be moved to another room because of unsafe conditions. This is what awaited them in the second room:

I walked into the kitchen and found the spring-loaded mousetrap in the doorway to the bedroom.

The couch was not a nice leathery shiny couch as depicted in the flickr photos sent to us by the office, it was a dirty misshapen futon type thing, kinda different!

We proceeded to unpack and give our son a bath, it was late and we were very tired. Mid-bath, we noticed water dripping from the bathroom ceiling and fragments of the sheetrock began falling on our heads, stripes of wall were hanging down. Once more we called the office, to the usual routine of whoever answered the phone incessantly interrupting and talking over us instead of letting us explain the situation. Our son was asleep and they again suggested that we move to another unit, as if we were gypsies. We had just unpacked, again!

The super came down to the apartment, ripped a chunk of the ceiling off and left. We waited around for some time as the leak slowed and eventually stopped, not knowing if the super would return. Eventually we had to call the office to discover that he would not.

OK, so the place was a little run down. So the Jensens were unhappy with the Hotel Toshi.

It’s safe to say the hotel was unhappy with the Jensens, too. Here’s what a hotel representative had to say when I inquired about their visit:

Sara Jensen and her husband were a real disaster for us. We have thousands of bookings each year at Hotel Toshi and having one toxic customer can be ruinous for a small business. Our entire staff were traumatized by the whole experience and absolutely nothing we did would appease them.

Indeed. At checkout, she voiced her dissatisfaction with their accommodations.

Hotel Toshi’s response was initially “We can’t give you back your payment, that would be unfair to us.”

Then, as we were leaving the premises, they agreed to give us back half of our payment but we would have to agree to not say anything publicly about our stay as that would “not be a settlement” and they would only pay it by PayPal (which would allow them to cancel the payment if we did).

  • colorado wanderer

    Who’s really advising your trip? These days it could be a corporate shill receiving perks and free upgrades for what they post in the forums on Tripadvisor. This “stealth marketing” is apparent to even some new posters but those who read for years know who really is behind these posts and recommendations. Speaking up earned my account being disabled after almost 7 years of real, unbiased reviews from an honest traveler.

    For those who need someone to hold his/her hand about any vacation decision, these forums are ripe to take advantage of naive vacationers who will spend thousands because someone on Tripadvisor told them to.