25 April 2014

I travel a lot and like many people, I tend to use Tripadvisor when looking for hotels or restaurants in unfamiliar places. I also post a few reviews from time to time. However, what bugs me about it – and I’d tell Tripadvisor direct if I could find a means to do so on their website – is that their overall ratings do not discriminate between reviews posted five minutes ago and five years ago. Admittedly, they appear in date order, most recent first, but I suspect most of us glance at the star percentages – excellent, very good, average, poor, terrible – and may get no further if those don’t look good. Yet, digging deeper, I sometimes find that the “terrible” reviews that nearly put me off had all been accumulated several years previously under a previous owner.
As we all know, the quality of hotels and, particularly, restaurants can change dramatically in a very short time. The chef throws a strop – or a razor sharp kitchen knife – and bales out; the hotel owner is caught in bed with the receptionist or, to avoid allegations of sexism, the barman; the maitre d’, after twenty years of being teeth-grittingly polite to ignoramuses, finally cracks and punches one of them; a brilliantly gifted new chef takes over from someone whose gourmet experience was confined to the kitchens at Strangeways; a new owner spends millions on refitting and updating a hotel and even does some staff training too; and Hey Presto! what was once a palace of delights becomes a chamber of horrors instead, or vice versa.
So my suggestion – are you listening Tripadvisor? – would be that all reviews more than twelve months old should be consigned to the dustbin of history and I might then feel a little more confident that my booking for a room for the night or a damn good dinner will leave me feeling five-star rather than no-star.