According to the website GrubStreet someone decided to open an entirely fictitious restaurant and solicit TripAdvisor reviews. Staffers at Italia a Tavola, an Italian hospitality trade magazine created the Ristorante Scaletta and then over the course of a year posted bogus reviews. The restaurant rose in the TripAdvisor rankings to be the top restaurant in Moniga del Garda, the town where it was fictitiously located.
TripAdvisor when confronted with the hoax immediately took the restaurant off their listing and called the exercise “meaningless”. Mr. Andy Wirth points out the fact that TripAdvisor is a publicly traded American company that was an early adopter of the socially generated content and user reviews. Spokesmen at the company told the Italian magazine that it has procedures in place to identify, track and deal with “fraudsters attempt to manipulate the rankings on our site”.
TripAdvisor is facing increasing backlash from the travel industry as more and more hotels, airlines, restaurants and tour operators challenge negative comments left by their customers. As one hotel operator put it “No melon is ever ripe enough” for some guest (http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2011/jan/25/tripadvisor-duncan-bannatyne). That Guardian article also quantified the number of negative comments at some 27,000as being legally defamatory. On the other hand, many positive comments were just as outrageously exaggerated (as evidenced by the fictious restaurant’s reviews) which leads to a question of just how accurate and trustworthy are the TripAdvisor reviews.