Hotel Reviews: Is the Online Review System Broken?

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“The lighted sign that reads 'Hotel" on a roof against the cloudy sky.” by Søren Astrup Jørgensen on Unsplash

My work takes me around the world but as a self-employed consultant, my travel budget isn’t always first class. This isn’t a problem for me because I’m no travel snob.

As a result, I’m a big fan of the low-cost airlines. Cheap flights from Ryanair, easyJet, Wizz Air and Vueling have enabled me to work all across Europe, often traveling for less than the price of a train ticket to London from my home in the north of England.

I’m also a big fan of budget hotel accommodation. If all you want from a hotel is a bed for the night and a half-decent breakfast in the morning, you cannot go wrong with an IBIS or Holiday Inn Express. To be honest, when I have client meetings to attend and revenue targets to hit (these trips have to pay for themselves) — I like the lack of surprises a budget brand offers you.

When branded hotel accommodation isn’t available, I’m not averse to staying in smaller, privately-owned hotels. My only real requirements are that the room is clean, the bed is comfortable and the environment isn’t too noisy so that I can get some sleep.

While I realise that you get what you pay for, the first two requirements (at the very least) should be the bare minimum level of service a business offers in order to call itself a hotel. It doesn’t matter if you are paying £50 or £500 — this level of service should always be guaranteed. This isn’t always the case and as a result of bitter experience, I will never stay in a non-brand name hotel in London (a city where prices can be extortionate and quality and service are often lacking).

Online Reviews

Online reviews can be helpful. Experience has shown me it can be worth taking a risk with a cheap room if the comments are positive enough. Sometimes, it’s actually the negative reviews that will sell a hotel room for me. For example, the lack of a pool is not a problem for me on a short business trip. Not being near any nightlife and perhaps being too quiet (not suitable for families or teenagers) also sounds like a good option for a working trip to me. Naturally, if I was on vacation with my family — my opinion might well be very different.

But sometimes the reviews don’t paint the full picture and the accommodation on offer falls far shorter than even the most negative comments displayed.

Malta — Dodgy Wiring

Take the hotel I stayed at in Malta last year. I arrived at the hotel after midnight to find the reception closed. It was only thanks to luck that I met a fellow resident who told me that a neighbouring hotel would give me my keys. I almost wished they hadn’t. On finally gaining access to my room (at 2am), I found that the electrics were out, meaning I wasn’t able to charge my depleted smartphone or turn on the air conditioning. More worryingly (had the electrics worked), light fittings hung dangerously from the walls. To add insult to injury there were no towels in the bathroom to dry myself after a cold shower in the morning. My work schedule meant I had to leave the hotel before the reception would open — giving me no opportunity to complain directly to the management.

Barcelona — Dodgy Artwork

Then there was the hotel I stayed at in Barcelona earlier in the year. I’m not exaggerating when I say that hostages have probably been held in more comfortable conditions. The “Beast from the East” was taking its toll on the weather conditions across Europe and the hotel was freezing. The room had no heating and I was forced to wear more clothes to bed than I would normally wear out on the street. Previous guests had added their own artistic touches to the awful “thrift shop” artwork on the walls and there was a large “cock and balls” carved into the paintwork of the door. The carving didn’t look fresh — the hotel obviously thought it added to the ambiance of the room. I would have refused the room and checked into another hotel but with the Mobile World Congress being hosted in the city, rooms just weren’t available.

On returning home from both trips, Expedia greeted me with an email urging me to review my experience — which I duly did in great detail. Seriously, I wouldn’t wish anyone else to waste their money on these appalling “hotel” experiences — I didn’t hold back.

Further emails followed, first thanking me for the reviews and explaining they can take up to 72 hours before going live and then another sending me back to the site to read my published reviews.

Sadly, the reviews never appeared. Expedia also never saw fit to reply to a complaint I made about them selling sub-quality products.


So my question is: Is the review system on Expedia broken? Or perhaps worse: Is the review system skewed in favour of the site? Are negative reviews restricted to maintain levels of “acceptable” accommodation available in each destination?

I would also like to ask, is Expedia happy to offer hotel rooms for sale on its site which falls way below acceptable service?

Should Expedia Be More Like Amazon?

I cannot imagine a company like Amazon tolerating such shoddy practices from their retail partners. In fact, a third-party retailer on the Amazon platform only has to drop the ball a couple of times relating to customer service before their ability to sell is restricted. Should travel sites like Expedia do the same?

Written by

Marketing Strategist, Author of #BecomingTHEExpert, Content Marketing Trainer, and Cyclist. Check out my author profile:

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