by Maxine Pinson
Over a cup of coffee, an innkeeper and I swap B&B experiences. After a moment of silence, she says: “I’m glad you like our inn, and I appreciate your positive comments. Our bed and breakfast inn is like our baby, and that’s why having an inaccurate, negative review posted online about our inn is so hurtful.”
“Was it posted on Trip Advisor?” I ask.
“Yes. How did you know?
“Just an educated guess,” I respond.
After returning home, I read the review of the inn on TripAdvisor.com. In an attempt to negate the totally unwarranted comments, I post a glowing review (not a rebuttal to the negative posting) about this inn in hopes it will appear directly above the negative review on Trip Advisor. I carefully adhere to the guidelines outlined for submitters, but my review never appears.
A few months later, I receive a call from BedandBreakfast.com asking if I am familiar with another B&B (located close to my home) which has just received a derogatory review submitted to BedandBreakfast.com; the editor wants to check out the questionable validity of the review before posting it. I notify the editor that I am not familiar with the B&B in question, nor am I interested in visiting it based upon its review on TripAdvisor’s message board.
The next day, the editor of BedandBreakfast.com forwards me a follow-up response written by the owner/innkeeper of the B&B whose review I read on TripAdvisor. After reading the innkeeper’s credible and well-written response. I decide I want to meet her and experience the inn for myself. She is receptive to hosting me for a night, and we schedule a time convenient for each of us.
TripAdvisor’s black cloud review of this inn proves to be one with a silver lining. Not only do I decide to include this charming inn in my next B&B newsletter, but it also receives my top rating. I notify the editor of BedandBreakfast.com about my findings, and the negative review is not posted on their site. I then post a positive review of this inn on TripAdvisor, following the same guidelines followed for the aforementioned review that was never posted; this review appears two days later (right above the negative one).
My reward arrives via e-mail a few days after visiting the inn. The message from the delightful innkeeper of the new inn states: “Thank you for restoring my faith in my decision to make being an innkeeper my new life.”
Reflecting upon these two incidents, it seems as though the second one fortuitously happened to provide me with a “personal experience lesson” to share with other innkeepers who have been hurt by unfair or damaging online reviews. From these experiences, I have learned that even though an individual may not submit a direct rebuttal to another individual’s review on TripAdvisor, the owner or innkeeper of the property may.
Referring to the second incident, Sandy Soule, editor of BedandBreakfast.com, says: “A non-response by her would have added credibility to his claims; her response (and it was excellent) defused them.” She continues, “BedandBreakfast.com will be reinstating its review program in September 2005. However, unlike reviews posted to TripAdvisor, negative inn reviews submitted to BedandBreakfast.com will be verified. The complainant will be asked for proof of their stay; if the complaint seems valid, it will be posted. Otherwise, it will not be posted. Innkeepers will be notified when reviews are posted about their inn, and they will have the opportunity to reply to all reviews.”
More and more online review programs are appearing where guests can post their travel experiences and provide ratings of inns in various categories. Furthermore, consumers are making their desire for this service emphatically clear. These reviews can serve as excellent resources for travelers, and are being used by more and more travelers who want first-hand information about places they are interested in visiting. However, they can also promote damaging results that are totally unwarranted. When such a situation arises, innkeepers are encouraged to write a response which is factual rather than overly defensive—and that can be a challenging task when feeling hurt and unfairly attacked. An angry response only adds credibility to the accuser, whereas a calm factual one will likely have the opposite effect.
To keep tabs about what’s showing up about your inn online, sign up for “Google alerts” at www.googlecom/alerts. You cannot respond to reviews you do not know about. In addition, check websites with travel reviews (like TripAdvisor and Yahoo!) on a regular basis.
Maxine Pinson is Publisher/Editor of The INNside Scoop (www.innsidescoop.com), a bi-annual B&B newsletter reviewing inns throughout the U.S. and Canada. She is also the author of INNside Scoop: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Bed & Breakfast Inns and co-author of Lowcountry Delights Cookbook & Travel Guide. Maxine lives in Savannah, “Georgia’s B&B Capitol,” and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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