While there are many things I like about TripAdvisor, it is completely untrustable. While a person can write a good review, there’s something not to trust about group mentality. Still you can read between the lines.
We’re all above average aren’t we?
Also, I’m very certain that most all reviews are above average. Yes, most stays are above average. Make whatever sense of that you want. And this is despite the fact that people see these review sites as an outlet to vent.
Here are four randomly selected profiles to show that people are more inclined to write 4 and 5 star reviews:
These were the first four random profiles I saw on Trip Advisor that had more than 10 reviews. Most of these reviews are 5 star, or split between four and 5 star. What does this say about people? People are easily pleased? Everyone makes the best choice no matter what the choice? 3.5 is the new 1?
It’s all relative to what you pay!
One of the worst expensive hotels I’ve stayed at was the Park Inn in Houston… I mean, I’ve stayed at some pretty bad hotels. In Cusco, Peru I asked a guy how much for a room and he said $2. Then he thought and then asked (in spanish), “are you staying the entire night or just a little bit?” at which point I decided to find another hotel. But at a $2 hotel your standards and expectations are different… which is exactly what’s wrong with TripAdvisor.
Where was I?
Oh right, Houston. So this Park Inn was gross. I mean it- it smelled like burnt rubber, carpet was stained, the entire place was shabby, etc… Seriously it was about motel 6 quality. We actually had four rooms for two couples for the 50k promo and they were all equally bad. At first I thought I was treating my parents and then I felt bad for subjecting my parents to this for 200,000 points. Ashamed.
This is just the first example of a hotel that came up that was just terrible. The TripAdvisor rating? 3.5
You know what other hotel in Houston is rated 3.5?
And what else? The Econo Lodge…
Ok, in all honesty, I would rather stay at the Econo Lodge than that Park Inn again. But, The Westin. We’re comparing apples to durian here. How could they all have the same ratings? I don’t need Trip Advisor to tell me that the Westin is much, much, much nicer. Yet, according to Trip Advisor, it’s not nicer.
Search by Star Rating first
Of course, how much you pay impacts how good the stay was. It’s the entire flaw of user ratings. I’ve stayed at $10/night hotels in different parts of the world and have enjoyed them. I’ve also stayed at an InterContinental and thought it was terrible… mostly because of the price compared to what you get.
My fix is Kayak, just like the screenshots above. It shows first the star rating and then the trip advisor rating. I can usually assume that while people who stay at Westin hotels aren’t generally rating Econo Lodges (or they at least consider price), they probably are comparing other 4 star hotels. Kayak just lets me compare all those things at once.
Or just search FlyerTalk
I’ll search google for a hotel and flyertalk, like this, “intercontinental budapest flyertalk”. I can usually find what I want to know on the latest page or two. I find the hotel pages to be the most accurate threads in the entire forum. The people posting know hotels more than the average person, are often on point stays or are regulars to the hotel, often have status, etc…
What I really want to know is this:
- Overall rating of the hotel
- Is there a club lounge and what can I expect in terms of food?
- Will I have access to it?
- Location and transportation
I don’t trust the rating on TripAdvisor and the rest of the info is hard to come by.
What I love about Trip Advisor
On occasions I do switch over to Trip Advisor. Ultimately, Trip Advisor is a better idea than the forum style FlyerTalk offers since it has ratings, organization, the ability for the hotel manager to reply, etc…
But my favorite part is user photos. Nothing gets real like the photos.
For example, let’s compare photos for the Park Inn that I stayed at in Houston with the few user photos. Here is a photo that the hotel has up:
And here are some photos that the users have up for the same Park Inn:
Although those pictures don’t capture the smell it much more closely resembles my experience.
But sometimes all the user photos are great as well, and that’s a good sign.
Look for red flag themes
Here are a few reviews of the Park Inn North Houston. See if you can find a theme:
My favorite line of all of them, “Room Tip: make sure you do not get a room that is moldy or that smells of urine”. What a good room tip! Mmm… Pass!