TripAdvisor is an anonymous, user-generated website designed to provide travel-related reviews and opinions for tourists – and is now over a decade old. But how much damage can this anonymity cause for restaurants and other businesses in Manchester?
The owner of vegetarian restaurant The Good Life in Shrewsbury recently found out.
Joanna Langfield recently had her restaurant’s reputation targeted on this website, which led to a 25% fall in profits.
Helen Griffiths, a business consultant from Salford, targeted The Good Life on TripAdvisor, posting a torrent of fake reviews condemning Joanna’s restaurant.
Griffiths later admitted that she had never even been to the restaurant and publically apologised to Joanna, whose ex-partner is Griffiths’ husband.
Griffiths’ apology said: “My reviews have misrepresented the quality of the food and service of the restaurant which from others reviews and nominations, does indicate an exemplary track record.”
TripAdvisor is an open forum that allows users to post anonymously.
Manager of Manchester’s popular Bouzouki By Night on Princess Street, Kiki Vatikiots, found a damning review of the Greek restaurant on TripAdvisor.
He thoroughly checked the details that were described in the post and found they were inconsistent with his records; the food that was claimed to have been eaten was not on the menu the night the poster claimed he was there.
Mr Vatikiotis is unable to take the comments down, despite finding that the comments were bad for business.
He said: “It hasn’t drastically affected business but it is a thorn in the side when we have had emails and letters sent from customers who found us on other opinion websites complimenting us.”
He suspects an ex staff member may be behind some of the posts as there is a lot of competition between the restaurants in Manchester.
Forums such as TripAdvisor are a quick and convenient way of letting tourists leave comments of their past experiences, and they encourage travelers to explore places off the beaten track.
Other similar websites do require users to leave a contact detail and send the company being reviewed a notification asking permission to place the comments.
Andrea Buma, manager of The Twisted Med found that TripAdvisor is a useful tool for monitoring the Mediterranean-themed restaurants performance.
He said: “Every comment is important so we learn and don’t make the same mistakes again.”
Without a basic contact email address and over 40 contributions being posted per minute, it is all too easy for internet trolls to hide behind anonymity when writing on TripAdvisor.
There is little in the way to regulate content and so those who wish to harm the reputation of a company can simply sit back and watch the effects take their very serious toll on their target.