Can We Trust Hotel Ratings and Reviews? Maybe.
When you’re planning a trip and looking for just the right hotel, do you—like me—consider the ratings that on-line travel agencies like Priceline or Travelocity award the various properties? I’ve been looking at a 3-star hotel with a $200 rate, but then I come across a hotel with 4-stars that’s got a rate of only $210! Helluva deal! Maybe, but maybe not. I ran across an interesting story the other day in which the writer discovered that some of those web sites give higher marks to some hotels than do their competing web sites. Obviously, that raises the specter of hanky-panky, doesn’t it … “Bump my commission by half-a-point and I’ll change your rating from three-and-a-half stars to four.” Ya just can’t trust anybody anymore!
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And that, in turn, leads us back to the issue of fake reviews for hotels and restaurants. Supposedly, web sites like TripAdvisor have computer algorithms to weed out the fake reviews, both good and bad. Maybe, but I do think I can spot the real ones … with perhaps a couple of small grammatical mistakes or a colloquial expression or maybe it’s just an awkwardly constructed sentence. But wait a minute! If that’s true, then it must also mean I could write fake reviews that would fool their computers. Damn!
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When I’m looking for a hotel, a web site like booking.com is very helpful in filtering all the possibilities and coming up with three or four properties that look promising. It also provides a kind of benchmark for the rates. When I find one that looks right, I check photos of the property taken by actual guests. Then I go to the hotel’s own web site and compare the rates and the terms. That can make a difference, too, because sometimes I’ve gotten a rate that’s refundable from booking.com, but is non-refundable if booked direct with the hotel.
Oh, yes … I do one more thing: I use MapQuest to see how far the hotel is from the railroad station!
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By the way, I mentioned here a few days ago that American Airlines had changed the departure time of a flight I’m taking in June, creating a layover in Dallas of more than five hours. I complained (tongue in cheek) in an email to American, pointing out if it had been me changing flights, they would have hit me with a $200 fee. The airline responded with a polite note and, as a nice gesture, added 5,000 miles to my Advantage account for the inconvenience. Then, yesterday, I got an email from American about yet another schedule change in my flight to DFW: the new departure time is 10 minutes later than the original one. Go figure! And, if you’re wondering, no … I am not giving them their 5,000 miles back!