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It’s only four-star if they say so online

Marketplace Staff Jan 3, 2008

It’s only four-star if they say so online

Marketplace Staff Jan 3, 2008


Scott Jagow: I know some people who won’t book at hotel unless it has a certain customer rating on the website TripAdvisor. The thing is, some of the reviews that bring down those ratings can be nitpicky, to say the least — and in some cases, vindictive-sounding. If you run a hotel, you’d better be aware of what’s being said about you. Lenora Chu has more.

Lenora Chu: You can ride a cable car to San Francisco’s Chancellor Hotel. It’s in the Top Ten in that market, according to TripAdvisor, the online review site.

But the hotel gets its share of wacky reviews. One guest wrote the hotel was haunted. Another insisted someone stole a shoe from his room.

Wes Tyler: Sometimes, people use TripAdvisor as a “get even” tool.

That’s the hotel’s general manager, Wes Tyler. He figures a savvy consumer takes the written reviews with a grain of salt. But what worries him is the dots that visitors can assign.

Tyler: The damage that that one-dot rating does to us is really kind of mean and unfair. It pulls us down. You pull us down, you hurt us.

A decade ago, Tyler spent his time supervising housekeepers. In the Internet era, he’s on TripAdvisor, managing the hotel’s reputation — even on vacation. He tells his side of the story on every negative review, and uses TripAdvisor to tell people what to expect. An intimate, European-style experience?

Tyler: We try and put it out there, what we really are. And now it’s if you select us and you don’t like it, that’s your fault, not ours. We are what we are.

Tyler has even asked TripAdvisor to take down inaccurate reviews. The site has obliged twice.

All businesses should be so savvy about their online presence, says L.A. Times consumer affairs columnist David Lazarus.

David Lazarus: It’s the stupid companies that are out there — and God knows there’s a lot of them — who don’t get it. Who think that they can ignore this chatter, this constant buzz and droning going on in the ether, and that somehow their business will thrive.

The folks at Yelp, another online review site, know the right buzz is critical. They even publish a handy guide for businesses. It says “Don’t try to bribe customers who post nasty reviews,” and “Show you listen and care.”

Consistently negative postings means something probably needs fixing, says Yelp co-founder Jeremy Stoppelman.

Stoppelman: And so you can shoot the messenger, or you can do something about it. If it’s legitimate, try and make a change.

Stoppelman also says don’t forget to thank your superfans. On the Internet, a teeny bit of goodwill travels at the speed of light.

In Los Angeles, I’m Lenora Chu for Marketplace.

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