Vindictive postings not easy to erase, says hostel operator

PORT Campbell Hostel general manager Tony McAuliffe believes that TripAdvisor is an excellent tool for both tourists and businesses. But experience tells him the website can also throw up a few flaws. 

Mr McAuliffe said the website helps tourists with basic research into destinations which they may not have any knowledge about in an easy to use forum. 

“In the main, the breadth and depth of user-generated narrative is incredible and testimony to what I understand TripAdvisor’s purpose is,” Mr McAuliffe told The Standard.

But he said the nature of the site also meant there could be some major issues for operators. “TripAdvisor is not a transactional site — there is no need for anybody posting a review to prove they actually availed themselves of the product, or service they can then comment on,” he said. 

Mr McAuliffe said the process by which businesses are able to challenge comments on TripAdvisor is cumbersome and laborious. 

“I suspect it provides a significant disincentive for businesses to challenge statements.” he said. 

“In July last year we received an appalling review left by a guest using a pseudonym, with comments that were at complete odds with the typical postings about the hostel.” 

Mr McAuliffe said the poster had also left comments on 70 other businesses and attractions throughout Australia. 

“The bulk of those reviews were extremely critical and derogatory,” he said. “I contacted TripAdvisor and their initial response was ‘we are leaving the comments on the site for now’. I contacted them for a second time but received a similar response.” 

Mr McAuliffe said after the second attempt he joined with a number of other businesses from around Australia who had also been the victims of the posts from the same poster, to again try and get the posts removed. 

“That process, while ultimately successful, took until the 14th of August for TA to remove not only the reviews, but the user’s whole posting history,” he said. 

“Of course, for almost one month the acidic comments remained online before they were removed by TripAdvisor. 

“It could be probable that if we hadn’t have challenged, those comments would still be on the site for everyone to see.” 

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