Reviews are the life-blood of restaurants and hotels. Avid travelers and food bloggers always recommend checking reviews and ratings on apps, like TripAdvisor to decide whether or not a new place is worth the penny. The rule of thumb is the more positive reviews left by customers, the better the place is; the more negative reviews it gets, the less trustworthy it is.
But do you know how to differentiate a real review from a fake one? Can you spot whether or not the commenter is a legitimate customer or a freelance writer, hired to post a positive (or negative) review for a few dollars?
Just a quick test: Can you determine which of the following hotel reviews are genuine and which one is fake?
- Great stay at Holiday Inn, check-in was great but $17 a night to park. It’s worth it given the fees at Westfield nearby. The staff was great and I was surprised at how good it was. Beds super comfy, service great, and breakfast very good that caters for Asian fare as well. Only a few minutes walk to Westfield giant mall with a great pub across the road. I recommend this place and liked the smoking area outside with nice seating. Great spot for a parra stay.
- My husband and I stayed at Holiday Inn Parramatta Hotel for our anniversary. This hotel was fantastic! We knew as soon as we arrived that we made the right choice. The hotel room and amenities were so clean and comfortable! It’s conveniently located near shopping centres. All of the staff were extremely friendly and helpful. We couldn’t ask for more! Would definitely recommend staying here when in Parramatta.
Admit it: you can’t. Or you probably have a hunch but you’re still unsure. It’s quite a challenge since some fake reviews sound too real and convincing to make anyone doubt its legitimacy. So for the question above, the first one is real while the second one is phony.
Let’s dig deeper into the words used and the nature of the poster to find out.
1. Heavy use of superlatives
Deceptive writing tends to contain exaggerated language. Instead of being purely descriptive, fake hotel reviews depend more on superlative adjectives to describe experiences. You can find words such as “extremely”, “couldn’t ask for more”, “really good”, “super”, “best”, and “extraordinary” to name a few. Fake negative reviews often rely on superlatives to put the hotel down.
2. Watch out for vague reviews
Aside from the use of flowery adjectives, you should also look out for reviews that lack the deets. Okay, so they said that the hotel’s location is “perfect”, but were they able to outline how? If the writer was truly impressed, they’ll have a lot of things to say about their visit. They might say the location is perfect because it’s only a 10-minute walk to a cultural hub, with fine restaurants, bars, museums, and shopping centers.
3. If it sounds like they work at the hotel, they probably do
Does the review sound like a hotel employee wrote it? Does it sound like a promotional material you see from a hotel brochure or website? Did you find the following words:
- Conveniently located near (train station, shopping center, restaurants)
- Room was clean and comfortable
- Food was delicious/ plenty of options/ a wide array of options
- Staff were friendly and helpful
Well if the review is flawless, with these common keywords used seamlessly, they’re probably an insider. There’s a fine line between a descriptive review from a guest’s perspective and a well-written “copy” from a hotel employee. Plus: they might even post staged photos that look too good to be true.
4. Nothing but five-star/one-star reviews
No hotel is perfect all the time – and customers don’t have the same standards with regards to the hotels deemed as “perfect.” Even great hotels receive four and three stars. So if the hotel has nothing but perfect five-star reviews, that’s a bright red flag that something’s staged. The same thing is true for hotels with nothing but negative reviews.
Check the user’s previous reviews too. If they’re all positive, five-star ratings (or negative, one-star ratings), they are probably paid to write for multiple properties to lift them or put them down.
5. See if they are first-time reviewers
If the “too good to be true”, five-star responses came from a first-time reviewer, there’s a great chance that it’s not genuine. The same goes for one-star, harsh negative reviews. There’s a possibility that some people are so impressed (or utterly disappointed) by the hotel they’re inspired to write a review for the first time, but this rarely occurs. However, it’s better to read more reviews and seek those who have more contributions in the past.
6 Something’s fishy on the date and time
According to a freelance writer hired by a review factory to produce Amazon reviews, hired reviewers may be given 48 hours to complete their reviews. If anywhere from 10-50 (or more) reviews are posted within the same 48-hour period, that’s a sign the posts are not from genuine patrons.
7. They emphasize how “human” they are
Words “I”, “me”, “we”, “my husband/wife”, “our anniversary”, and references to external factors that have nothing to do with the hotel per se, are often used by deceivers to enhance their credibility, They haven’t actually been there so they emphasize how “lovely their vacation was” and NOT how modern the hotel interiors are.
These are merely guidelines. There’ll be instances when a genuine hotel guest is not good with words, so they can’t properly describe their previous experiences without using superlatives and vague terms.
When in doubt, read as many reviews as possible. The more you read, the more likely you’ll get honest responses. Then, compare reviews across multiple sites to find the common ground. Lastly, balance customer reviews with published recommendations and suggestions from people you know.
Author Bio: Carmina Natividad is one of the seasoned writers for Holiday Inn Parramatta Hotel, a modern hotel located in the heart of Western Sydney, delivering top-class Parramatta accommodation. She has always been passionate about traveling, taking photos, and writing travel tips and tricks.