Normally it’s Yelp that gets all the scorn from business owners who hate the company and platform, but this time it’s TripAdvisor that’s getting some bad press.** A husband and wife team that own a restaurant in Colorado want their listing removed from TripAdvisor. This sounds familiar, right? They probably have tons of negative reviews, TripAdvisor sales reps call all the time, manipulated reviews, just too much of a nuisance.
But that is not the case. They actually have a stellar rating on TripAdvisor. The issue is they received (in their opinion) untrue and hurtful comments from a visitor who left their review over a year after dining with them. And now they feel they have to constantly review their page for negative reviews so they can comment. And for a very small business, that overhead can be significant.
So, they decided they’d just rather not have a listing on TripAdvisor at all. But they can’t remove their page. TripAdvisor refuses to remove pages of valid businesses. So, who is right? Should you be able to remove your TripAdvisor page?
In the article, a TripAdvisor representative defends the company’s practices and says that TripAdvisor helps small businesses increase their visibility. But isn’t it the businesses choice whether or not they want that visibility? The rep goes on to say that their platform gives customers the ability to share their honest opinions, whether good or bad. But, how are they ensuring that the opinions are honest? This brings up several interesting questions and exposes the problem with all review sites:
- It makes sense that TripAdvisor and Yelp want to have an authoritative listing of all businesses, so removing businesses would be problematic for them. But, why couldn’t they allow a business owner to pay to not allow reviews on their page? In this particular case, the restaurant would still show up on TripAdvisor, and there could be a notice along the lines of “This business has chosen not to accept reviews at this time.”
- Don’t these review sites allow business owners to claim their page and be notified when somebody comments on their page? Wouldn’t it be easy to allow a business owner to ask to be notified immediately if they get a 3 star review or less? That way, these owners wouldn’t feel like they have to reactively monitor their page.
- This isn’t a simple discussion, but I really struggle with the “free speech” argument that review sites hold out as the rationale to allow consumers to say whatever they want with literally no recourse from the business owner. The article mentions one business owner that received a review that alleged the owner promoted the KKK. If that isn’t true, how can the review sites justify leaving that review on the site? There is no editorial process here, and they can claim they are just the host for comments, but if they aren’t allowing any fact checking, aren’t they a de-facto editor/publisher too? And doesn’t that come with some responsibility?
The sad reality is that very small business owners have limited time and want control over how to use that time. Review sites take that control away from them, and that’s likely the biggest reason they get a bad rap. If a small business wants to “standardize” all their customer interactions in one place, they have no way of doing it. So, it really does seem fair that they should be able to “opt out” of getting reviews if they really want to. I’m still not really sure why a good business would want to – the SEO benefits of reviews on multiple sites would certainly be positive – but I can’t argue forcefully that the way it works now is correct.
What do you think? Should business owners have the ability to remove their listing from review sites? Or simply to opt out? Or is it fine the way it is?
** – HT to @jpiekos for forwarding the article