A British hotel's controversial policy to charge guests up to £100 ($A182) every time they leave a negative review on TripAdvisor (which has now reportedly been reversed) illustrates just how powerful the website has become since it launched almost 15 years ago.
More than 300 million travellers use it to research their trip each month, more than 115 new contributions are posted every minute, and hoteliers insist that a handful of reviews can make or break their business.
Before this week's case, hotels had already been caught out leaving fake – and glowing, naturally – reviews, bribing guests to write good ones, and leaving negative write-ups about their rivals.
Here we look at the best and worst of TripAdvisor since the first review was left in February 2000.
Ten of the funniest reviews
Do not stay in this absolute dump of a hotel, and I use the term hotel very loosely. I cannot convey strongly enough how disgusting this place is.blood stained headboards that have clearly been up since the world war (the first one), rude staff, windows that won't close, no hot water, broken furniture, dirty utensils, broken light fixings and actual poo in the kettle. Pretty sure I'm going to end up with some sort of rash/ disease due to sanitation conditions similar to those of a homeless crack head. In summary...this place is a complete hole.
Well lets start at the day we arrived,our first night sitting on the outside pool area having a drink and unwinding from our travel, we got spewed upon from someone in their balcony, the staff did nothing to reassure us just asked if we knew where it came from, lucky enough it missed our heads but covered our table landed in our drinks and splattered on my partners legs and my hand bag.(not a good start)this was left till morning to be cleaned up, so everyone had to sit at other tables with the sick and smell there all night. We never got slept for 5 nights due to rowdy folks arguing slamming doors and kicking doors and shouting fowl language till about 3am echoing in the corridors. Then we had a streaker who lost his keys lol, then someone did a number 2 in the lift which was left till morning for the cleaners.Then one night someone decided to spit from their balcony onto people. Another night someone had a flood which poured out onto people sitting at the pool area tables and they got soaked.(I really feel sorry for the cleaners) although saying that their cleaning standards of rooms were not up to much, we wrote our date in the dust of the balcony rail when we arrived and it was still there when we left 2 weeks later did the same on the fridge. Entertainment for this time of year was awful, ballet for new year? No firework, just the grapes and a bag with hat,tooters,mask and streamers.The meals were ok but saying that I had a touch of food poison for 3 days. We did have a Freddy Mercury Tribute night and oh my god he was awful he was that bad we left after his first song.Bingo played with cocktail stick and prizes were 20% off drinks in nightclub. We were Al found out had to pay for zacuzzis on roof which were freezing,and pay for remote control for TV and for AC. Also had to pay for the free Wifi which was a rip off,if you bought for 24hr if you used 6hrs and logged off when you went back in it had kept on running so used up most of your time only way to benefit is to stay up for 24hrs lol(never done that).We were booked for 2weeks when first week ended they had booked us out so could not get into room, went to reception and they asked how long we were extending for, finally got it sorted out. Must say the girl Tammy in restaurant is lovely and the girls there are run off their feet but very polite and do a good job. We had no sun on our balcony and the pools were bitter cold all the time, we got told one was heated but don't think it ever was. Would I recommend this hotel.....Never in a million years...what a total waste of £2500...this was our fist experience of Xmas and New Year in Tenerife (we have been going to Tenerife during the year for past 9 years and have never had any problems) mostly people's faults but staff could do more to control them and reassure customers with problems. We also had a toilet which the sink gurgled when ever shower, toilet or sink was used by us and people above us, it gurgled and rattled the pipes very loudly also had an awful smell from the sink whenever this happened. so do not go to room 569.
Room Tip: Do not accept room 569 unless you want wakened most nights by noise from people and from drain.
stay out of it its haunted i saw the ghost in my room over my 4 yr boy i screamed and ran out my room we collected our thing and checked out in the middle of the night the rude man in the front desk wanted to charge us for a day while we only stayed 6 hrs after checking out my sister told me she heared water flushing in the toilet and my nanny saw the tv channels switching by it self while my kids watching tom and jerry but they didnt think that it really haunted our room# was 303
What a place! Its faulty towers alright, Harrassed to pay the bar bill the minute you surface in the morning. Towels like sand paper. Cock roaches and a list of charges for if you take or break anything.
Its the only hotel where the staff have walked out to my knowledge in the 11 years and 3 visits a year I have been going to Turkey.
The owner kept trying to sell me the hotel and asked if I knew anyone in England who would buy it. I dont think any tour opperator will do business with him again.
I booked it because it was cheaper than paying flight only and transferes, as we were staying with freinds.
I think he wanted me not to bother using the room all week so he could let it again . It was somewhere to put our heads down instead of driving when we had a drink. ( I have been breatherlised in Turkey and its zero tolerance for hire cars. )
I would have paid to move if I had had to stay there for my holiday as it would have spoiled it.
Hmmm, I was in Wolverhampton for a gig and really only wanted somewhere to put my head down, but I didn't expect to find cheese & onion pasties and a chocolate eclair left in the chest of drawers from the previous occupant of the room. When I tried to complain, the man just said "did you know Michael Barrymore is in town?" Bizarre doesn't describe it! The duvet covers had fag burns in them and the room that my friends stayed in had blood stains on the carpet.
Communal shower & toilets, only sinks in the room.
Basically a doss house - avoid (although the location is good & central, you do have to put up with the gangs of hoodies hanging around outside the Spar opposite).
Where do i start, well posotives, next to the number one bingo hall in Blackpool Las Vegas. And i am affraid that's where the fun ends with this place. Steped throught the door to a wall of smell. We came with the money agreed and he asked tor £20 each for a deposit. Needless to say we a 16 big fellas and we did not agree to his demands. Anyway we were a group of lads on stag so it would take more than a bad smell to put us off. Me and 3 other boys were put in a room for 4 people which consited of a bunk bed and a double. So looks like me and me mate were spooning for the weekend. Carpet was as filthy as Dirty den and had the gippers exposed, sink was coming off the wall and walls were covered in blood and sick. Looking through the draws there was evidence of drug taking with empty bags covered in a white substance. Having only seen drugs of the tele i persumed this is what this was. I made a complaint about this, he said sorry and if i wanted any drugs he would make a phone call.
Having had a long drive i decided to take a shower, i managed to get a cold trickle out of the hose not enough to wash my hair. For this i had to get on my knees and place my head under the taps. Having not realised the lock was broken i turned round to find the owner staring at me smiling. i swore at him and he ran out.
As i came out he was at the bottom of the stairs, he shouted up saying i was a big boy both in body and girth. He then went on to offer me drugs again, steriods this time. I said i don't do steriods it's 5 hours in a gym each day that keeps me like this.
In my friends froom the wall paper was coming off the walls and looked like it had been burnt, the lock was broken on his door and everything broken.
Anyway we went out and to give it its dues it is close to everything, and we made sure we got hammered so we would be able to sleep.
On our return we noticed what to appear to be a squat downstairs full of wrongans clearly being supplied with drugs by the owner. They were loud and agressive and we bearly got any sleep.
2nd day pretty much the same.
When we came to check out he asked us to pay for damages we had not
caused. Saying if we had paid the £20 deposit we would not of had to pay anything. When we refused he said he would call the police and we would not make it out of Blackpool.
Hearing this we flead for our live as he called some of his friends who chased us down with bats and sticks. It was like a scene out of Zulu or the totenham riots.
Room Tip: Go somewhere else
I visited this restaurant last night with my husband. We chose it in a sea of other restaurants as it had a chic exterior but this is all that is good about it.
We ordered 2 gin and tonics as we reviewed the menu. When they arrived, I noticed there was something floating in my drink. The restaurant is quite dark inside and I looked to see if there was anything similar in my husbands drink- there wasn't. On closer inspection I noticed to my horror that it was actually a dead cockroach floating in my drink. I was totally horrified and could not quite believe it! My husband showed it to the waitress who look shocked and went off to replace it. We swiftly left - there was no way we were eating there given this.
Please don't be fooled by this restaurants chic looks. I dread to think what the kitchens look like. Please stay clear.
I was most disappointed by the lack of cat paw in my room, but this was partly made up by the toilet which doubled as a floor power wash when flushed. The stained/burned duvet and Chester no drawers were as promised. To be fair to the place we survived.
I would advise to never go here, however hungry you are, however convenient it seems. The food is low quality and over priced. I think they prey on the tourists...
I had a terrible experience here with a jacket potato. How can you get a simple jacket wrong I hear you ask. Well, cook it earlier in the day and try to reheat it and see where you get. Although I sent it back, discretely and politely telling them it was cold and stone like...I received another in the same condition, with very bad grace. At this point, my boyfriend had realised his burger was no GBK, more pressed gristle.
My next jacket came and I descended with enthusiasm. CRUNCH. What was that? Oh! a rusty screw, of course! Most of the patrons saw my horror and left.
The staff still expected me to pay for our meals, which of course we didn't...burger being abandoned and screw being chewed. After an email to the company who own this delightful establishment, we were offered a free meal there. Without drinks.
Unless you like metal (rusty) in your food then avoid at all costs. If the incident had been handled with finesse then perhaps I wouldn't be so scathing. But as it is...I value my insides.
My girlfriend were having a romantic meal, however it was spoilt when an employee spat in my hair. CHEEKY OR WHAT?
Top five controversies
The hotel exec caught red handed
A senior executive at one of the world's biggest hotel groups admitted breaching TripAdvisor rules last year by posting dozens of glowing reviews about the firm's properties – and negative ones of its rivals. Peter Hook, who described himself on Twitter as "director of propaganda" for Accor hotels in Asia and the Pacific, was caught out by the introduction of TripAdvisor's new Facebook app. Unlike the TripAdvisor website, where reviewers are identified only by their username, the app displays a name, photograph and location, taken from each user's Facebook account, which allowed him to be identified.
The fake restaurant in Brixham, UK
TripAdvisor fraud detection systems failed to prevent a non-existent business becoming one of the most highly-rated restaurants in the popular seaside town of Brixham, UK, in 2013. Oscar's first appeared on the website in May, and after receiving a string of glowing reviews ("mind-blowing", "simply divine", "perfect", etc) climbed above 37 other establishments in the rankings. The listing for Oscar's remained in place until July 25, despite the appearance of two reviews posted on July 20 and 23 confirming that it did not actually exist.
The Chinese "super reviewers"
Earlier this year, TripAdvisor was under fire over "alarmingly prolific" reviewers on daodao, its Chinese website. One member was found to have posted 2,633 reviews since 2010, while another had posted 1,361 reviews since October 2013, including 51 in Paris in a single month, during which time they also reviewed 50 other hotels in several other countries.
The Hotel Telegraph
As part of an investigation into two authenticity of TripAdvisor's reviews back in 2010, London's Telegraph was able to upload a fictitious nine-bedroom guesthouse – the 111 Hotel – using the address of the Telegraph Media Group and a picture of the office canteen. Several "over-the-top" reviews (with blatant hyperbole and five-star ratings) were added, and it took 10 days of constant tinkering before it was finally spotted – time enough for it to be rated in London's top 70 guesthouses (out of more than 300).
Bribery in Cornwall
The Cove in Cornwall was temporarily blacklisted in 2011 after it was found to be offering discounts to guests that left good reviews. The hotel near Penzance provided guests with a letter asking them to post an "honest but positive" review on TripAdvisor in exchange to receive 10 percent off and a room upgrade during their next stay. At the time, all but two of the hotel's 26 reviews awarded top ratings.
Two top spoofs
The Inn, Bethlehem
The review gives The Inn in Judea, ranked number one for speciality lodging in Bethlehem, a five out of five rating and described a "memorable" stay.
Written by "Mechior", one of the three wise men, the post features on a webpage that is a mocked up version of the TripAdvisor website.
The inn is described as "small" and "unattractive" but welcome at the end of a long journey. Mechior also reveals that during his stay he met the parents of a baby boy. "Now that the trip is over and I am back home in my luxurious tent with my family, my wives and all my children, I find it's not possible to put into words why meeting that family at the inn was so memorable," he wrote.
Though he writes negatively about the "overcrowded" and "filthy" conditions he justifies his five-star verdict by saying the inn provided a "unique experience" that led to him giving away all of his gold.
The inn's overall rating is apparently 95 per cent, although some negative reviews also feature, including one from a tax collector who moans about the clamour of animals at 3am and someone, posting under the name Mary, complaining about the general lack of hygiene.
The webpage was sent to TripAdvisor via Twitter. TripAdvisor replied to the tweet saying "this made us smile".
The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Republic of Zubrowka
For a hotel that doesn't exist, the Grand Budapest has certainly provided its fictitious guests with plenty to write home about.
Take this comment, posted by chris2k: "I realised that this was an extraordinary establishment at first gaze. Everything was just right. The service was personal and attentive - that lobby boy knew what I needed even before I knew I needed it. However I noticed that old blonde ladies in their 80s seemed to get even better service. Made me almost wish to be one myself."
To date some 210 people have reviewed the hotel. But something doesn't quite add up. Perhaps the clue is in the fact that the hotel is located in the mysterious Republic of Zubrowka, another completely fictitious entity.
The real clue is in the name, though. The Grand Budapest Hotel was the magnificent establishment that featured in Wes Anderson's film of the same name, a hilarious romp through some of the tumultuous years of the last century as seen through the eyes of hotel concierge, Gustave H (played by Ralph Fiennes), and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend.
So powerful were their performances that some reviewers obviously felt they had got to know them for real.
Feb 2000: TripAdvisor founded by Stephen Kaufer. It started off as a portal for professional reviews and official advice. "We also had a button in the very beginning that said visitors add your own review and boy did that just take off," said Kaufer.
Mar 2004: Purchased by IAC/InterActiveCorp. A year later it grouped together its travel businesses under the Expedia name – including the likes of Expedia.com, Hotels.com and Hotwire.com. It was spun off from Expedia in 2011.
Apr 2009: Chinese site daodao.com launched.
Sep 2010: Becomes the world's largest travel website, and the first to register 40 million unique visitors in a single month. But doubts grow over the authenticity of its reviews as a group of 400 hotels launch legal action.
Dec 2011: TripAdvisor spun off from Expedia.
Feb 2012: Advertising Standards Authority completes a formal investigation into TripAdvisor. Website ordered to remove "reviews you can trust" slogan and banned from claiming its reviews are from "real" travellers.
Apr 2012: New ties with Facebook allow users to select reviews from "friends" and those in their "social graph"
Apr 2013: Canadian man sued over bad review of hotel in Quebec City.
Sep 2013: TripAdvisor confirms new policy that allows hoteliers to "wipe the slate clean", removing old reviews, when they renovate or update a property.
May 2014: Italian Competition Authority launches investigation following complaints about "fake" reviews.
TripAdvisor, the world's biggest travel website, was in the news this week after a Blackpool hotel fined guests £100 for leaving a bad review(a fine it later refunded).
Here we look at other interesting stats behind the company, which turns 15 next year.
TripAdvisor in numbers
Total number of "reviews and opinions" on TripAdvisor
115 a minute
Total number of new contributions – that's 6,900 an hour and 165,600 a day.
Number of reviews by Phil Blackett, supposedly Britain's most prolific member.
Countries in which it operates a website (in 28 languages). They are the U.S., the U.K., China, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Ireland, India, Japan, Brazil, Sweden, The Netherlands, Canada, Denmark, Turkey, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Australia, Singapore, Korea, Thailand, Russia, Greece, Indonesia, Argentina, Taiwan, Malaysia, Egypt, Venezuela, Peru, Chile, Colombia, South Africa, Philippines, New Zealand, Austria, Vietnam, Israel, Finland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Serbia.
Hotel reviews one Chinese member posted in less than a year, including 51 in Paris in a single month. They were later removed by TripAdvisor.
People employed by TripAdvisor.
People employed to prevent fraudulents reviews.
Businesses and properties listed in 145,000 destinations, including 890,000 hotels and 2,400,000 restaurants
Members around the world.
Unique monthly users.
Maximum time it takes for a review to be moderated.
Number of reviews that the majority (80 per cent) of people read before making a decision to book.
People who supposedly ignore "extreme" comments left on the website when researching a hotel.
Revenue in 2013.
TripAdvisor's current share price – up from 25 in January 2012, but down from a high of 110 last summer.
Photographs uploaded to TripAdvisor.
28 a minute
The number of times the TripAdvisor app is downloaded.
The Telegraph, London