Reviews of Hotels on Travel Sites...

I’ve been looking to book a hotel and have started reading travelers’ reviews, and I am stunned.

First, I understand that everyone is different and has different opinions on what is nice and what isn’t. Maybe I didn’t like the food at a restaurant, but you were satisfied, but this is night and day.

Same hotel, Oct 18, 2009:

“Disgusting! Staff was rude, room smelled, and they didn’t care when we wanted ot change. Toilet leaked and bed was too hard. Bad neighborhood! Do not recommend!”

Oct 30, 2009:

“VERY good value for the money! Clean, comfortable room, and probably the best continental breakfast at a mid level hotel. Friendly staff and relaxing, quiet atmosphere. PLUS, PLUS!”

This is just one example. How could those two people have possibly been staying at the same hotel?

Well, i guess it depends on what people expect. I have a tendency to check out reviews after booking a hotel (if you book through the internets it’s kind of hard to miss them) and often these ‘contradictory’ reviews all have valid points.

In the example above, the first reviewer clearly had higher expectations. Also, they had were unhappy, went to the staff and got to experience customer service. the second reviewer seems to realise he didn’t book a room at the Hilton* and pretty much says that they got what they payed for. Also, they probably didn’t experience the customer service since everything was fine.

In this case I would expect a reasonable breakfast, the hotel to be in a less then upscale neighbourhood and that it is probably better if you aren’t too fussy (and often ask for specific service - which you have every right to do).
*Note that I - off course - have no idea if any of these reviwers are either unrealistic about what to expect or very easily staisfied.

People have vastly different expectations; some travelers want to be treated like a prince/princess and pay rock-bottom rates for it. Others are thrilled with a bare-bones room and service and aren’t concerned with the price. Getting totally opposite customer reviews for essentially the same service isn’t all that unusual.

It could also be the case that this hotel is great at standard everything-going-smoothly operation, but has horrible staff or procedures when it comes to handling issues and complaints. I’ve seen it on the desk at the hotel I work at; we have had some staff that are grossly incompetent at dealing with upset guests.

Because they came to the hotel with different expectations. Some people book a mid-level hotel expecting first-class accommodations and get upset when they get what they pay for. Others know they’re getting mid-level accommodations and appreciate what they got.

Also, some people are just very demanding and difficult; if you behave that way, the staff will probably not respond as well as if you’re more polite.

There are other expectations, too. If you’re just staying for the night and moving on, the bad neighborhood may not bother you (or it may not be as bad as others think), but if you plan to walk from the hotel to downtown, then it’s a more important factor.

Another occasional issue is that the good reviews are written by the hotel staff and their friends. The sites try to root this out, but sometimes these slip through.

I stayed a few months ago at a nice little hotel in France, and loved the place, but when I went to write a review, I found people thinking it was run-down (it was an old building, but kept up just fine), that is was too far from the center of town (a 15 minute walk, or you could drive and park there) and the staff was rude (*we *were rude – or, at least, my father was – and they took it all very calmly, even trying to book us in another hotel).

What you have to do on the review sites is look at the consensus. There will be some people who hate the place. Are they the plurality? Then you’re on to something. Same if the general ratings are pretty good (given more than just a handful of them). Good rule: the more reviews, the better.

They weren’t necessarily staying in the same room. Some rooms might be cleaner than others.

They might not have the same sense of smell, or be offended by the same smells. Maybe the second reviewer was a smoker and therefore wasn’t bothered by cigarette smoke, while the first reviewer was a non-smoker and intensely disliked the smell of smoke.

They might not have been dealing with the same staff members. It’s possible that the rude staff member got fired between October 18 and October 30. Or maybe the second reviewer just happened to not be there when the rude person was working. Or maybe the “rude staff” was actually just a nice person having an off day. Or the first reviewer might have been one of those people who complains about trivial things in an attempt to get upgraded, and the staff member called their bluff. Or maybe the first reviewer is one of those people who gets off on being an asshole to people working in service industries. Or maybe the first reviewer has unrealistic ideas of what to expect from hotel staff.

Maybe the neighborhood is noisier at some times than at others. Maybe the nearby university was having a big football game when the first reviewer was staying there, and the neighborhood was very noisy. But then when the second reviewer was staying there, there was no game. This is the same reason why you want to check out a house or apartment you’re considering moving into at different times of the day and week.

We stayed in a hotel that was down a dark alley in an iffy neighborhood and the rooms had no windows that faced outside. The smell of moth balls permeated the bathroom. I gave the hotel a 5/5 rating on Tripadvisor.

I went into a bit more detail than most reviews about the full experience. Two or three sentences focusing on just a couple things is not a sufficient review. I am also very cautious about reviews that only say negative things or only positive things. The former being a guest who had a horrible experience and their mind is completely tainted by it and the latter by a possible employee of the hotel.

The biggest problem is that a lot of folks are complete idiots when it comes to the “star rating system”. The stars do not indicate the quality of the hotel, they indicate the amenities of the hotel.

I’m afraid I’m one of those idiots then. All the star ratings I have given on TripAdvisor have been for been for what I have thought of the hotel overall. I can’t find anything on the site that indicates which they are for. Where did you find out it is for amenities?

“Stars” != “ratings.” Note stpauler’s linked review is for a three-star hotel, which has nothing to do with the 5/5 rating he gave.

When booking our last vacation, I read the reviews for one older hotel.
A number of the reviews raved about the charming decor, the great location, the wonderful staff.
Another set of reviews ranted about how dingy and small the rooms were, how loud the outside noise was, and that the AC didn’t work well.

We stayed there, and both sets were actually right.
It was a charming hotel with a great location. The decor was marble columns and polished brass. The staff was good.
But it was also a 150 year old hotel. By today’s standards, the rooms were small, especially after bathrooms have been carved out of them (not original). The windows were too old to be sound proof. The bathroom probably hadn’t been overhauled since it was put in, and was showing it’s age.

I gave it a good review, but with the caveat that anyone staying there had to remember just what it is they were booking. A room in a 150 year old hotel.

Here’s a long answer to the question. Typically, the stars I’ve found are related to amenities.

So you weren’t talking about TripAdvisor’s star system?

I stop reading Tripadvisor reviews for beach locations when they mention how their trip was ruined b/c there were ants in the bathroom. Then housekeeping sprayed but the ants came back, then they got another room and there were more ants.

Roaches, understandable, but ants? In Hawaii / Mexico / the Caribbean, on the beach? C’mon, people.

Maybe different rooms? Maybe one person arrived after a horrible trip, and the other arrived refreshed?

I’m very suspicious of reviews, good and bad. We stayed at a Holiday Inn in NY which got some terrible reviews. It was the right price, and it turned out to be fabulous. We checked out reviews when we drove across the country last year, and they had very little in common with the actual hotel. The only really bad place we stayed had no bad reviews. Basically, I think the sample size and the bias towards bad review makes them very not worth worrying about.

I’ve read a lot of cruise reviews also, but there there are often enough reviewers so if you get a common theme you might learn something.

I think there are just a lot of whiners and complainers on those review sites. When we travel, we tend to stay in very nice hotels. We therefore have high expectations. Usually the expectations are met, sometimes they aren’t; that’s life. However, when I read the reviews of the places we’ve stayed including very high end places that handily exceeded our expectations, I’m almost always amazed. There is invariably at least one review that makes the place sound like an absolute dump. Bad enough that if I didn’t know better, I’d probably avoid booking a room at that hotel. In fact, the first couple of times I checked out online reviews of a hotel after I booked it, I very nearly canceled my reservation because of the horror stories. In both cases, the hotels were excellent (not just “good for the price”). After that, I mostly stopped looking, and when I do, I take it all with a grain of salt.

When I’m looking at hotel reviews, I always look at the bad ones - the good ones tend to all be the same - or I look for a single aspect of the rating that is much lower than the others. These kinds of reviews, making allowances for over-entitled idiots, can alert you to issues that may be of concern that you wouldn’t find out otherwise. Examples: the restaurant is closed for remodeling (check the date of the review to see if that might still be relevant) or there is construction on the streets making it difficult to get to and from the hotel. Or the swimming pool is noisy (I can request a room on the other side of the hotel). Things like that.

This is not specifically related to hotels, but:

I was reading a Disney message board one day, looking at various peoples’ trip reports. One guy said his entire Walt Disney World vacation was a bust. Why, you may ask? Because the lettuce in his salads was shredded too finely.

Yup, this guy will never go to WDW again because they shred the lettuce too finely in their salads.

I’ve only posted one review on TripAdvisor–because they offered a free shutterfly photobook for my time. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have bothered.

I gave a 4-star review of the Tioga Pass Resort. The Resort can accurately be described as “rustic”, but the location is fantastic (there was a creek running right past my front deck). Because of the location, the prices are not cheap–and I noted that in my review. My cabin had recently been remodeled, everything worked, and the linens and towels were clean. The woman at the front desk even warned me to shower in the evening, since they were expecting a hard freeze that night.

It more than met MY expectations, it was perfect for what I had in mind. I imagine others might think it’s horribly overpriced, and I couldn’t really argue with them. The reviews that complained about shared bathrooms, no TV or internet–they just had unrealistic expectations.

I agree about different expectations. Some people like a large, fancy room with gym privileges, full breakfast, and ocean views. Some people like something clean and quiet, where they can stow their luggage, shower, and sleep and that’s it. Depending on what you think you’re getting you might get not nearly enough, or find yourself with major bonuses.

Other advice I’d offer:

1-Look for a consensus. If there are 60 reviews, and 28 of them are one star, there may be some accuracy.

2-Look for specifics. If the review mentions (for example) pubic hairs in the shower, smears on the mirror, and zero tp, there may be some truth there.

3-How recent are the reviews? Anything over 6 months old, a lot can change. Policies change and staff turns over and since these have a significant effect on the guest experience, older reviews may not be valid or relevant any more.

This leads me to another question. The Hotel Carter in NYC is almost notorious for being a horrible hotel. Especially on TripAdvisor, which has pictures and accounts of their stays. They invariably complain about bed bugs, inattentive staff, filthy rooms, etc.

So, in order to post these photos and accounts on TripAdvisor, I’d imagine most of them knew about TripAdvisor. So why didn’t they read up about the hotel before they stayed there?

I guess some might’ve figured “At that price, maybe it won’t be so bad to stay there between 11pm and 7am” or “Hey, I need to warn people about this hotel, anyone got a site I can use?”

First of all remember people that have good experiences don’t really take the time to write good reviews.

I’ve worked in hotels almost my whole life, and I’ve had some pretty bad stays in nice hotels. A lot depends on customer service. Being employee I got cheap or free rooms, so a lot of hotels treated me like garbage.

I had one hotel tell me, “you’re getting an employee rate, you don’t need your room cleaned everyday.” Unfortunately for them, I was working for the CEO of the company, and when I complained, it brought the house down on that property.

Some people don’t know things. I stayed in a hotel with a guy and we left when we got back at 6pm the room wasn’t made up yet. I said “that’s weird.” Then I discovered as we left he put the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door. He said, “I didn’t think it applied to maids.”

And all hotels have certain rooms that are worse than others. For instance, the rooms by the elevators most people don’t like 'cause they get traffic and noise.

I had one guy complain because he wanted a lake view, which he got. But this is Chicago, so between the lake and the hotel is Michigan Avenue a VERY busy street. So he’s bitching he wants a quiet room that overlooks the lake. I was like, “Sir, I can move you to the back where you can’t hear the traffic, but you can’t have both. It’s physically impossible.”

Another unreasonable person was when I worked in Florida. She prepaid for a room. We gave her a room, turns out she was afraid of elevators. She was an older woman. I said, the lowest floor we have is the fifth floor. (It was 14 floors total, and the first 4 floors were offices and banquet rooms). She was angry 'cause she couldn’t walk up that many flights of stairs and she couldn’t take the elevator. I told her I would be happy to refund her money and get her a room at a sister property. But she was adamant she wanted to stay at our hotel, 'cause it was on the beach, and the other properties we owned were in town.

She was still yelling when I turned her over to the General Manager.


Lastly when Priceline, or AAA or Mobil would inspect our hotel they would always give advance warning so we could alway present the “best” things we had. That is something else to think about, you’re not really getting a true picture a lot of times