Sham Reviews Put Irish Hotel Group in the Spotlight

Sham Reviews Put Irish Hotel Group in the Spotlight

Ireland’s popular Carlton Hotel Group has gotten itself quite a bit of attention lately, although it may not be the attention they were looking for.  An email sent to more than 25 employees at the luxury hotel chain suggested employees take a “more proactive management of the reviews on TripAdvisor”.  

The email was sent by Jean O’Connell, the company’s sales and marketing manager.  She requested that each of the managers emailed take the time to choose five employees  from their respective hotels and have them post fabricated reviews.  The note suggested that managers instruct their employees to post the reviews from home, in order to “give better flexibility and IP addresses will be from across the country,” thus fooling Trip Advisor into thinking the reviews are authentic.

Eversheds, legal representation for the company, claim that the error in this theory was seen immediately, and employees were contacted and told not to follow the instructions.   They go on to state that management was “unaware of any such posts being made on the TripAdvisor website by employees in the manner suggested”.

Hmm, okay.  Sometimes these things happen.  A seemingly well-intentioned employee tries to help out and ends up doing something they shouldn’t.  A quick apology and an excellent teaching opportunity, right?

Unfortunately, hotel employees are singing a different tune.  Both past and present employees claim that upon expressing concern about the policy were told that it would be implemented, regardless of any uncertainty they may have with it.

In September of 2010, hotel managers and the board of directors received an email including a “TripAdvisor Posting Schedule”.  The email originated in the hotel’s head office in Dublin, and stated “To date I have requested 24 TA Posters to write reviews and only 11 have responded to my emails” it went on to say  “I am currently outstanding 13 TA Posters to respond which I have chased 3 times.”  The email went on to explain the urgency in the matter, mentioning that the publishing of positive reviews directly benefited the managers’ online position.

This does not look like a conversation between people unaware of posts being made on TripAdvisor to me.    Anyone else get the feeling that something stinks here?

Suddenly, in November of 2010, another email went out to the managers by O’Connell.  This one contained a new company Trip Advisor policy.  A policy which made no mentioon of fabricated reviews from staff members.  Good news, right?  She finally saw the light.

Wrong.  The email went on to instruct all managers to delete the previous email with the plan for construing reviews.  And instruction to contact her when this task had been accomplished.  What’s next? Paying happy customers to post reviews?  Bribing unhappy customers not to?

Here’s a little piece of advice from me to Ms O’Connell.  If you don’t want anyone to find out, don’t do it.  It really is that simple!