Genuine positive reviews are blocked by TripAdvisor
Guests who stayed in July (our wonderful locum Nicole was standing in for me while I was away), sent this email about their stay.
The review mentioned above was never published by Tripadvisor. This is another example of where genuine positive reviews are withheld by TripAdvisor with no reason given – either to the reviewer or the establishment. As the owner and manager of Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse, Craighall Park I have been aware of this practice for many years. In several cases I am notified by the guest (as with Guy and Melanie’s review above), but there must have been times when I have not been notified and so am none the wiser. A full decade ago a guest from the U.S., let’s call him “Jim”, emailed to say he had posted a review on Tripadvisor but that it had not been published. Jim was remarkable in his persistent follow up with TripAdvisor. Each time he submitted/re-submitted the review he received an automated reply email notifying him that his review had been received by TripAdvisor. Jim was not to be fobbed off and on 13th June 2012 he wrote to the Content Integrity Director of TripAdvisor (copied to me):
As a banking professional dealing with payments I understand the analytics around dealing with fraud protection and scanning for things such as AML, OFAC, etc. One of the products that I manage is Oracle Financial Services Analytical Applications (OFSSA). My recent (personal) experience in dealing with Trip Advisor shows that there seems to be an issue in dealing with the area of false positives that are generated by the Trip Advisor screening process.
1st – It would appear that the operational process of reviewing the false positives that are being generated by the process is backlogged, or simply not happening.
2nd – the process is not transparent. I provided independent and unbiased reviews (x3 including repeat postings) for a B&B that I stayed at (never had contact prior to staying there). While I did receive acknowledgement that the reviews had been accepted, I was never informed that the system had rejected my review post or given a reason why the review post had rejected.
3rd – I have had contact with Tamora (on your team?) who simply replies with the same pre-canned response (very frustrating).
Despite Jim receiving a reply to his email of 13th June from the Content Integrity Manager of TripAdvisor in which he assured Jim that the issues with his review had been resolved and that the team would ‘go over any root causes and make the appropriate adjustments’, TripAdvisor subsequently withheld a further review by Jim of Liz at Lancaster. On following up with TripAdvisor and providing documentation (booking confirmation, invoice, proof of payment for the stay, etc. ), Tripadvisor finally published the review. One cannot expect other guests to be so tenacious!
But it gets worse: The misleading default “best value” sort button/ window
Initially Tripadvisor started as a genuine Traveller Review site. If you Googled Best BnB Johannesburg up would come Liz at Lancaster as no 1 of 406 BnBs in Johannebsurg, occasionally moving down the ranking a little, (depending on number of reviews accepted by Tripadvisor).
From “Traveller Ranked” to so-called “Best Value”
However, probably as a result of the upheaval in the accommodation industry with the arrival and swift growth of AirBnB, Tripadvisor had to adapt to the different pricing structure enabled by the very different business model of this newcomer into the arena. So they changed their default search button to “Best Value” as seen below. The search results are subject to random changes with each visit to the site.
Rates taken from often outdated 3rd Party websites
There are further negative impacts on established accommodation providers, as the so-called “best value” rate is taken from third-party websites as opposed to the establishments’ own informative and updated websites. Under the “Best value” search as seen below, Liz at Lancaster comes up at number 12 with a rate of R1390 a night.
The rate of R1390 quoted from Booking.com differs from the rate of Liz at Lancaster’s Best Value room itemized in detail on our website.
So it would be helpful if Tripadvisor were to re-assess its screening process of so-called “false positives” as well as clarifying that it is no longer first and foremost a “traveller review” site.
Resistance to divulging personal details
Many people do not like to go onto review sites where they have to register so giving their email addresses for further marketing communications. This review from one such guest came directly to Liz at Lancaster:
My son and I stayed at Liz at Lancaster for 10 days in August 2022 – what a wonderful place. Only in Africa – it was like home away from home. The staff were always pleasant and helpful, the breakfast specific to your tastes and the room warm, comfy and very clean. Underfloor heating makes such a great difference. If you need a safe and lovely place to stay in a very central part of Joburg – I’d recommend it fully.
A huge thank you to our family of guests
Thank you to all our guests who have stayed over the last 28 years (yes, twenty eight years it has been since we started with one room). Many of you are have returned for multiple stays over the years and so many of you have recommended us to others via word of mouth. You loyalty is greatly appreciated.