Hotel Review Part II : Write About It Later AND Far, Far Away

So I started this series with a post about principle of hotel reviewing here. Now its all about the when and where of the actual posting of a hotel review. Let it be noted I am still reviewing my stays from last year and this should be the norm. You do not want to be one day into your stay casting a review online. Why? Well anything can happen during your stay. Your initial impression of the room may change. A poor introduction can be turned into a better experience. You could have a snafu while checking out. You also don't have anything to compare it to. Yes - you can't say that momentary stay is the best or worst because you need to have a variety of stays under your belt. Besides, no one trusts that sole reviewer that stayed last week and has something to say. People are looking to read reviews from well-traveled individuals who have many online postings and a ton of experience to back them up. Did I start out the traveling guru? Nope. However, after a few experiences good and bad I'm well prepared.

I chose to review my first major hotel booking just hours before I left. Frankly, I was unhappy with the hotel and it was a way to air my grievances. However, this was a private review by the hoteliers request via a courtesy email. The timing of the request was so off it seemed like the perfect time to complain. Do I regret that? Yes. After traveling quite a bit I realized there was a lot out of the hotels control. Also, when I researched future stays I saw comparable reviews and complaints similar to mine. If I had checked before I booked I probably would have avoided that hotel altogether. If I would have waited to review the hotel a few weeks to a month later I could have spoken more to its more positive attributes. Had I waited until this year and reviewed through a major site I could have saved some patrons a lot of Euros. Oddly enough that same hotel just emailed me with specials saying I was a "loyal customer". I guess I am because I didn't do them any wrong by emailing their management as requested versus publicly sharing my lackluster experience. Will I be returning? Probably not!

Now, I really do live and die by hotel reviews. I have a general understanding of the types of people who complete them and what sites offer the best selection of reviews. So here are some of the popular avenues in sharing your thoughts and reading the thoughts of others …

  • Hotel, hotelier and brand websites
  • Source sites like ExpediaOrbitz and Booking.com
  • Travel advice sites like TripAdvisor
  • Customer review sites like Yelp
  • Social pages like Facebook,Twitter and Google+
To show you how reviews work on all of these sites I'm going to search a hotel I personally stayed in - RoomMate Lola in Malaga, Spain - each link will provide a review for the same hotel

Most hotel and hoteliers own websites only show simple reviews. In these you can drop a line about your overall experience and select from a ranking system of stars or numbers. You won't be allowed to really elaborate on the entirety of your stay or a hotels expanded features. Your audience will be small and intended for those only seeking that particular hotel or hotelier brand. Reading reviews there will be more like skimming. If you chose to review on a hotels direct website there really are no guarantees anyone will see it and base their decision to stay on it. Example: Here

Sites that allow you to book hotels have varied reviewing systems. They usually rank hotels in a similar manner as the hotels themselves and promote more positive and current reviews. They also have analytics about specific amenities that align with certain types of guests. So a review posted here will be seen by a bigger, wider audience instead of just the hoteliers normal demographic. An objective site that is looking to support a community of people seeking similar accommodations will provide more details. They will ask questions about the type of traveler you are, who are you traveling with and what you are traveling for. Also these sites have links to other similar hotels that may meet identified needs. They are great resources for tourists and travelers with specific needs for family, business, romance etc. Remember these sites also offer other services like rentals, flights etc so they can be tedious to navigate. Example: Here and Here

Travel sites are the best choice for a frequent reviewer. If you post to these you will become apart of a community that shares the most insight. There will not only be rankings, analytics and reviews but there will be constant interaction between patrons and hotelier management. Sometimes you will get direct responses that consider your opinions and highlight opportunities for change. So you can return back after your review and see that the hotel has fed off your compliment or rectified an issue. These sites are also responsible for picking the best possible travel destinations and accommodations. They link reviews and maps to other local activities, businesses and resources. Reviewers who post on travel sites are more forward about complete experiences. So these sites allow more freedom in the posting process. You can post photos, type full paragraphs, highlight other attractions and get responses. They expect reviewers to weigh in well after their original stays. They are looking for varied perspectives and advice to other future travelers. In essence, they aim to please everyone - the patron, the future patron, the hotelier and the destination. Example: Here

Customer review sites or business complaint/compliment sites are not a great resource for travelers. They provide very one-sided reviews of lots of things not just hotels. The problem with reviewing here is that there really is no community. If one person gives a poor review there is no other information to back them up or allow the business to chime in. In that some pretty decent businesses get lost in one issue. Since there may not be more info to support someones poor review it could be deceiving to someone looking for advice. I personally don't like sites like these and only review on them for simpler things like local bars or restaurants not hotels or attractions. They work pretty well on figuring out who has the best pizza in town or dry cleaners but not necessarily for the best hotel. Besides these sites are very localized and do not have global reviews. I can't even give an example because the only cities in Spain Yelp offers are Barcelona and Madrid.

And we come full circle. Social sites are just like hotel websites. Here you are only getting perspective from people who are brand specific - fans, frequent customers, people associated with the brand. People have come to that unique page to voice an opinion and there is no comparison or contrast. A social media page is a great way to express a compliment - i.e. point out a great customer service experience or shout-out a specific employee that assisted you. However, they are not the best places to share more than that. You can't really write a full-on essay on a like page and there are no analytics to help someone browsing the page. You're just checking-in that you've been there and/or blindly leaving a statement about your experience no more no less. Besides businesses heavily monitor their own websites and social media, they moderate information posted. They can easily never look at the page, delete comments posted to it or get rid of the page entirely. If you are reviewing and want to voice a strong opinion and see results - use a dedicated reviewing site. If you are looking to hear more details about others experiences - go to an objective site that isn't moderated by that brand or its associates. RoomMate Lola doesn't have its own Facebook but the brand RoomMate does and some specific locations have "Like pages". The brand page here hasn't been updated since 2010! 

So now that you know where, how about when? Well, I stayed eleven different places in Europe. Since my trip I have also stayed in two hotels in the states. With each stay I have changed my timing a bit and for good reason. Firstly, my immediate reaction to a hotel can and will change throughout my stay. So I would encourage anyone to never review a hotel while staying there even as you are checking out - at least wait a full week. You also want to allow for all the business conducted to be fully completed. Allow your charges to be resolved, unpack and know you've left nothing behind etc. Why? Well a bad review that is seen by a hotelier that has your credit card on hold or is shipping you your abandoned eyeglasses may deserve a completed review. Not to be debbie downer but... You could never receive your glasses? You could be overcharged? These are things to have in mind when you leave a review. Also, a review left in haste can be negative or in poor taste. You really want to evaluate your fairness and if you had alternate ways to address a problem. Surely, if you haven't contacted someone about an overcharge but bitched about it publicly there can be repercussions. I know because it happened to me!

I left a review two days into a five day stay at a hotel. We had a dirty room, there was smoking nearby, a lot of high foot traffic and then I was being charged a different rate each day. I'd attempted to resolve it by speaking with the front desk and calling the corporate number. However, my complaints went unheard. Meanwhile, my debit card was being erratically charged, customer service was null and I couldn't up and leave. Basically hotel management had gotten spiteful about my review. So of course now the ordeal had become a bit of a legal woe and I was trying to contact someone who could help. Well, little did I know the place was a franchise! The hotel had changed hands so many times and was owned by so many subsidiary groups that the hotelier brand didn't even know who to call themselves. It was a mess and even when I was the bigger person and got things resolved the manager refused my full stay. I was ejected from this guys hotel the night before check-out! Of course, he didn't physically kick me out but said he wanted us out so we left. Oddly enough he'd double charged us several days. I had gotten him to return the money but then he claimed he'd given us too much! There was no way in hell I was giving him my debit card again. I was so upset by the experience I canceled my card the very next day. I've learned it pays to wait and sometimes that will benefit others. My original review for that hotel was quite nice in comparison to my overall experience. I should have waited until all business conducted was completed and over with. I'd like to think if I didn't cancel that card he would have been illegally charging it after I'd left. The hotelier brand never even got back to me and had the nerve to play phone tag about my claims. I couldn't go back and edit my review and I couldn't create another. So it really pays to wait!

Since then I have left more understanding and modest reviews for other stays via travel sites. I've also done them under a fictitious name. You couldn't pay me to say anything ever again via a social media account or using my real name on a hotel website. I'm certain my experience was far from normal but I'm not going to make myself a victim again. When I post reviews I've allowed myself time to be open, honest, fair and accurate. Most of my reviews are popular and have gotten positive management response. Now not of all my reviews are stars and sunshine, I say how I feel but leave out unwarranted information. I don't go into every detail about who, what, where - I simply focus on my needs and how they we're accommodated. I love to address things like noise, ambience and surroundings. I prefer to write from a place that helps future patrons and allows hotels to actively address issues and/or improve. Also, reviews left later allow for peak seasons in travel to start over again. Then a more needy audience has access to it. So places I have stayed in Spain are just now getting reviewed because now is the time people are booking to go. I also read all current reviews to make sure I'm not redundant or the hotelier has already taken note. 

Now I have a pretty photographic memory and I am in the midst of a travel memoir of sorts. Not everyone has the same ability to speak to a hotel stay six months to a year later. If you feel like you won't be able to retain information for that long you can…
  • take notes during your stays and create reviews at the end of your vacation/trip
  • choose to review the moment all conducted business is complete
  • only create positive reviews when an experience stands out and you're compelled
  • only create reviews that advise a hotel on improvement and you're compelled
Now if you have a valid complaint or a winning compliment - by all means go directly to the source. Don't waste time creating a crappy review or a one-liner. You really want to give a hotel an opportunity to address a major complaint privately. If you haven't done that while there make sure to apologize for bringing it up later and admit that fault. If you have something nice to say don't be passive. Go to that hotels main website contact page or their social media page and highlight the good work. You can drop a line to the general manager or just leave a nice comment. Only review because you want to express an opinion of your experience and you have the time and desire to do so. Don't make it a chore if you don't have to and make it something you can be proud of. Personally, I love it when a hotel manager contacts me and thanks me for my thoughts. It's like a win-win. For some just seeing a level of engagement makes them more inclined to stay. I know for me some places have completely redeemed themselves and others are now a no-go. 

So get to it! Click all those darn links and review away!

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