"He was shot dead in his squad car a couple months later."
November 5, 2017 1:07 PM   Subscribe

 
With TripAdvisor, you are the product, not the customer.
posted by fairmettle at 1:15 PM on November 5 [17 favorites]


Exactly. They are in the advertising business, not the advice business.
posted by Bee'sWing at 1:20 PM on November 5 [4 favorites]


He was shot dead in his squad car a couple months later.

If people are being killed over this, I understand why TripAdvisor employees might rather delete a comment than get murdered. I would not take a bullet for my job.

The US government already publishes travel advisories per country. Maybe they could expand that service to include resort-specific warnings?
posted by pracowity at 1:45 PM on November 5 [3 favorites]


TripAdvisor owns a frightening number of other websites and apps, all of them fairly crappy but they don’t care since they are largely their own competition.
posted by w0mbat at 1:57 PM on November 5


> The US government already publishes travel advisories per country. Maybe they could expand that service to include resort-specific warnings?

The US government is itself not particularly trustworthy.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:04 PM on November 5 [16 favorites]


Exactly. They are in the advertising business, not the advice business.

One issue that the article touches on is that they don't make this clear because they still advertise themselves as a site where you can get travel advice, even though their business model has changed. Here's some of the text at the bottom of their site:
With over 500 million candid traveler reviews, we can help you make the right choice when you shop for hotels, restaurants, and attractions.
The article points out that travel agents who failed to provide information about risks could be legally liable, and that TripAdvisor is neither a travel agent or just a booking tool.

With sites like TripAdvisor though, people are using travel agents less and less. At one point we thought that travelers deserved to be warned; what happened?

I don't think that pointing out that they're in advertising, not advice, is particularly helpful. Yes, that's true. But something is wrong when customers are told that they're getting "candid reviews," while reviews on the website where guests describe being raped by hotel employees are deleted. I mean, that's actively lying to your customers in a way that leads them into making choices based on dangerously inaccurate information. What should we be doing about it?

At the very least we should be spreading the knowledge that this is going on. (Keep in mind that a lot of people aren't as internet savvy and distrustful as us jaded MeFi types.) But maybe we should also be doing something else.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:09 PM on November 5 [43 favorites]


If people are being killed over this, I understand why TripAdvisor employees might rather delete a comment than get murdered. I would not take a bullet for my job.

I have some rather serious doubts that a resort owner (no matter how mobbed up) in Mexico is somehow going to figure out which Trip Advisor coworker failed to delete a nasty review about a hotel and come gunning for the coworker.
posted by frumiousb at 2:17 PM on November 5 [17 favorites]


How is TripAdvisor not liable for deceptive advertising? I am very much not a lawyer, but this seems like it should be...actionable. Like, extremely so.
posted by schadenfrau at 2:20 PM on November 5 [5 favorites]


The article touches on the fact that you can initiate booking through the site, for which the site receives a commission. So how isn't it a booking tool?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 2:22 PM on November 5 [4 favorites]


So how isn't it a booking tool?

It is. I said "just a booking tool," as in only a booking tool. It advertises itself more than that and, in my opinion, misrepresents what it does (and how it's paid) to its users.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:27 PM on November 5 [4 favorites]


It clearly feels it is the best of all possible worlds sites.
posted by sammyo at 3:47 PM on November 5 [4 favorites]


TripAdvisor has customer photos. Not saying it’s perfect but you often get a better sense of a hotel by looking at those.

We meet huge grains of salt with which to take the internet.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 3:52 PM on November 5 [2 favorites]


Customer photos are not in any way an adequate way to determine one's chances of being sexually assaulted while at a hotel or resort. A huge part of the problem is that glossy, attractive, safe-looking places are often not actually safe, and no matter how much you're taking things with a grain of salt, people tend to presume safety of places that look clean and attractive. This isn't like people are just failing to find out that the food isn't very good. These places have serious problems with sexual assault that are being covered up. It is not actually reasonable to expect "take it with a grain of salt" to include "assume every possible vacation destination is a place where you can't safely consume a single alcoholic beverage because even the bartender may be trying to drug you".
posted by Sequence at 4:03 PM on November 5 [27 favorites]


TripAdvisor has customer photos. Not saying it’s perfect but you often get a better sense of a hotel by looking at those.

But that doesn't address any of the issues raised here.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:16 PM on November 5 [5 favorites]


“To me it’s like censoring,” said Wendy Avery-Swanson of Phoenix, whose recent review of a Mexican resort — describing how she blacked out from a small amount of alcohol served at the swim-up bar — was removed from the website.
To me, it's like enabling, if not complicity.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:28 PM on November 5 [12 favorites]


smarttraveller.gov.au page on Mexico.

Official advice:
High degree of caution


I'd be wary of taking travel advice to dangerous areas from any organisation with a profit motive.

Smarttraveller is run by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and they have heaps of official advice there, from insurance and vaccinations to LGBTQI rights and more. It's free for anyone around the world to use.
posted by adept256 at 4:29 PM on November 5 [40 favorites]


I keep going to TripAdvisor out of reflex only to remember why I end up giving up. It's unusable. It's pure shit. It is unnavigable and unmanageable and should be drowned in a shallow pond. Reading this just makes me certain of their eventual demise.
posted by docpops at 4:53 PM on November 5


I hope they sue the pants off these fuckers.
posted by corb at 5:41 PM on November 5 [6 favorites]


I am very much not a lawyer, but this seems like it should be...actionable. Like, extremely so.

This looks very much like, "you knew there was a danger and you went out of your way to hide that danger to increase profits." Looks like an opening for either a serious lawsuit if someone can claim they went to a location based on TA reviews and got hurt there, or a class-action suit by a lot of people who had minor hassles (harassment, petty thefts, etc.) that, again, would've been mitigated by TA leaving the negative reviews alone.

Or maybe someone went to a place that had glowing reviews, and just had a lousy time. If TA removed less-than-glowing reviews, that's also potentially actionable.

There's a reason Facebook and Twitter are very very touchy about removing user content even when it's offensive. Once you start curating content, you run the risk of losing your safe harbor status - and can be sued based on any of the content on the site.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 5:49 PM on November 5 [7 favorites]


Smarttraveller is run by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and they have heaps of official advice there, from insurance and vaccinations to LGBTQI rights and more. It's free for anyone around the world to use.

Smart traveler is extremely conservative and seems prone to somewhat reflect the diplomatic priorities of the Australian government as well as actual safety. It is useful but also needs its pinch of salt.
posted by deadwax at 5:51 PM on November 5 [1 favorite]


Smart traveler is extremely conservative and seems prone to somewhat reflect the diplomatic priorities of the Australian government as well as actual safety.

The same is true of the US government service. The other issue is that the resolution isn't that great. They can provide warnings by country and region, but they don't report on more specific, local threats like employees at a resort assaulting guests. I don't think they collect that kind of information systematically - and in many places it wouldn't be easy to.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:06 PM on November 5 [3 favorites]


I've been hearing stories about blackout drugs in booze at Mexican resorts for a year now, and yet people I know still keep going. They tell me "Well you're safe as long as you stay on resort property!"

The idea that you can stay inside a resort and be safe from violence affecting the rest of the country has always seemed pretty short-sighted to me, and every time someone I know comes back from there safely I'm both relieved and angry that they put themselves in harm's way for a cheap beach vacation and some shitty drinks. It's not fucking worth it.
posted by emjaybee at 6:12 PM on November 5 [18 favorites]


It's not blackout drugs -- it's cheap distilled alcohol that contains methanol and probably other distillation byproducts, and yeah those will cause people to pass out and throw up faster than with properly distilled alcohol. But it's not really intentional, other than the resort owners just cheaping out on ingredients.

I don't know if it's fair to blame TripAdvisor. They're not set up to deal with crimes. But someone should be collecting these reports and figuring out what the risk is. Maybe TripAdvisor could set up a nonprofit arm to do this.
posted by miyabo at 8:05 PM on November 5 [3 favorites]


I don't know if it's fair to blame TripAdvisor.

For deleting reviews specifically describing these incidents??!
posted by invitapriore at 8:45 PM on November 5 [22 favorites]


You don't get methanol from cheap/home distillation. You get methanol from liquor cut with industrial solvents.
posted by ryanrs at 8:45 PM on November 5


Yelp got in trouble early on for similar reasons, they were said to be shaking down small business owners to ensure only the positive reviews showed at the top. Trip Advisor, Facebook, don't most of these reviewing websites suffer from a relentlessly positive built-in bias? You can't flag something posted there with a thumbs down! Yelp allows only Useful, Funny or Cool -- why not include also, the possible choice of "Wrong"? Especially at that site I'd like the ability to flag reviews with a contrary "Not Useful".
posted by Rash at 8:52 PM on November 5 [6 favorites]


I don't know if it's fair to blame TripAdvisor.

For deleting reviews specifically describing these incidents??!


I know. I miss being on the timeline where that information stayed posted, got upvoted, and led to safety improvements at the problematic resorts. Instead we have a thread that starts out with jaded comments about how you can't trust what you read on the internet. I mean, Amazon exists to sell things, but they allow negative comments. They even let you filter for the most helpful negative comment.
posted by salvia at 11:13 PM on November 5 [4 favorites]


RTFA and it was horrifying. No longer a trip advisor fan. Thanks for posting.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:55 PM on November 5 [3 favorites]


The hardest part is reconciling with people who want to go to a vacation resort. Because I'm an enormous snob and the idea of going to a 'foreign' country just to stay in some bubble and not actually go out into the country, experience it, is something I just don't fucking get. Like going on a cruise ships, why the hell would you do that? I am being a jerk, I know that. My parents have been on a cruise ship and they said it was nice.

OK, that said (your favorite vacation resort doesn't only suck but is a blight on humanity) it seems very very likely/possible that cheap/fake alcohol, counterfeit alcohol (think counterfeit honey or olive oil) could be the culprit for at least some percentage of the poisoning. Horrible, human malice would comfortably cover the rest.

Also, TripAdvisor is remarkable for how thoroughly inept it is at it's presumed mission.
posted by From Bklyn at 3:53 AM on November 6 [2 favorites]


The hardest part is reconciling with people who want to go to a vacation resort.

For me, at least, it's because I don't particularly care about going to Mexico. What I want to do is relax on a beach and read a book in the sun while someone brings me drinks. We call this a "beach" vacation though the relaxing and lack of activity is the main feature rather than the beach specifically.

Mrs. VTX and I typically go on vacation one of two ways. The first what I described above. Beach, ocean, relaxing, and not a lot of activity. The second is a lot more active where we go to someplace in order to see that place. We end up seeing a doing a ton of stuff and log a lot of miles on the pedometer. We refer to this as a "metropolitan" vacation.

One of Mrs. VTX's relatives works for the state department and is assigned to Mexico city for the next few years so we're probably going to end up going to Mexico city to stay with them for a few days while we run around seeing the city and then all of us will jaunt over to Cabo San Lucas for a few days of relaxing on the beach.

It'll be nice to be getting my safety information directly from someone at the state department and I'm hopeful that that information is useful in choosing a resort in Cabo too because otherwise I'll have to wade through Tripadvisor data to come up with some useful information. I had used Tripadvisor to figure out resorts for a few vacations and used to really like the site but it's been years since I first used it. It has seemed like the information I want has gotten harder and harder to find and the information on it less and less useful.

The next time I have to do research for a vacation, I don't think Tripadvisor will be getting any of my clicks.
posted by VTX at 5:52 AM on November 6 [1 favorite]


For me, at least, it's because I don't particularly care about going to Mexico. What I want to do is relax on a beach and read a book in the sun while someone brings me drinks.

"I don't particularly care about your country, I just want to use your beach" miiiiigght just be part of the larger issue here.
posted by aspersioncast at 6:11 AM on November 6 [10 favorites]


The idea that you can stay inside a resort and be safe from violence affecting the rest of the country has always seemed pretty short-sighted to me

Whether it seems short sighted or not, it's pretty much true anywhere with a big tourism economy, a stableish government and a lack of strong institutional controls. While crime overall is often tolerated, serious crime against tourists, especially in touristy areas is treated..harshly. It's usually not just the government. People who make many times the average income just from tips want to keep the gravy train running, also.

Being lily white and only speaking English well, living like a local isn't much of an option for me, but to the extent I've been able to, it has made it very clear to me how things work in most of our popular vacation destinations.
posted by wierdo at 6:32 AM on November 6


That's rather uncharitable. I care about everyone in every country. But GOING TO that country is not necessarily what's important to me about my VACATION. That's why I said that I don't care about GOING TO Mexico rather than "I don't care about Mexico". I'm pretty sure I can care about things and people without having to go see them, thanks.

I don't have to be enthusiastic about exploring every piece of every country that I visit. My caring or not caring about the people of any particular country is completely and totally separate from my decisions about where to go on vacation.

All I'm saying is that the decision about where to go on vacation starts with "beach" or "metro". Once we've landed on "beach" I start looking for the closest beach where it'll be warm when we want to go. Typically that beach is in Mexico.

Or am I not allowed to go on vacation unless I run around getting absorbed in the culture? Am I allowed to stay in the "touristy" parts or do I have to travel deep into the interior and talk to "real" people. Do I have to learn the native language? Are there tests I need to pass before I can go to prove I'm going to have an authentic enough time?
posted by VTX at 6:55 AM on November 6 [14 favorites]


Wanting to go 'beach' is certainly understandable - my best experiences going 'beach' have been outside of vacation resort areas as then you aren't just holiday meat circulating through, you're some other creature. Also you're not swilling around in the hot-tub/cesspool of your fellow citizen tourists holiday fantasies.
posted by From Bklyn at 7:20 AM on November 6


This is why I used AskMe to help plan my recent trip to Peru and my upcoming trip to Paris. I feel like I actually know you people and can trust your advice.
posted by orrnyereg at 7:36 AM on November 6 [4 favorites]


Yeah, but if you just want to listen to the surf, read a book, and be served cocktails all day, resorts are much better than most public beaches I've been to. (And I've been to some fine public beaches! It's just different)
posted by wierdo at 8:22 AM on November 6 [3 favorites]


Or am I not allowed to go on vacation unless I run around getting absorbed in the culture? Am I allowed to stay in the "touristy" parts or do I have to travel deep into the interior and talk to "real" people. Do I have to learn the native language? Are there tests I need to pass before I can go to prove I'm going to have an authentic enough time?

There are beaches and relaxation everywhere - Florida and California both exist. Part of the reason people go to Mexico is because the price of labour is much cheaper, and the input costs (food, booze, etc.) are depressed and therefore you can live like a king or queen for a week and afford to have people wait on you hand and foot which you probably could not do in Florida or California. All this makes it hard for people in tourist towns to survive, let alone go on their own VACATION from time to time.

In Costa Rica, many of the locals in the surf town we go to lament that, in order for prices to be kept cheaper for tourists, Guatamalans are brought in to perform jobs that have put Costa Ricans out of work in their own towns.

Not shockingly, all this depression can and does create risks for people who choose to benefit from it, and it does not shock me that Trip Advisor is playing the game by trying to protect the fantasy and suppress the real world consequences.

Resorts are an artificial experience created for you that has real world impacts on locals in many ways (positive and negative) - if you can reconcile and/or ignore those and have a great time on the beach, you don't need a permission slip from anyone here to live your life your own way. Nobody's your parent.
posted by notorious medium at 8:34 AM on November 6 [11 favorites]


Nobody's your parent.

Well. Presumably their parents are?
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:40 AM on November 6 [1 favorite]


notorious medium: "There are beaches and relaxation everywhere - Florida and California both exist. "

Which involves travelling to the states; always a chancy proposition if they'll even let you in.
posted by Mitheral at 8:51 AM on November 6 [4 favorites]


Plus, I don't think there's any beach in California that's warm enough to substitute for a beach in Mexico.
posted by crazy with stars at 8:59 AM on November 6 [3 favorites]


Nobody's your parent.

And yet someone else in the thread is lecturing me as if they are, which is what I was reacting to.
posted by VTX at 9:34 AM on November 6


Plus, I don't think there's any beach in California that's warm enough to substitute for a beach in Mexico.


No doubt, although Floridian beaches certainly are, but the commenter specifically identified that the beach is not actually as important as relaxing and a lack of activity. My point is that resorts are not the only place to have a relaxing vacation with sun and sand.
posted by notorious medium at 9:47 AM on November 6


This is so disheartening and outrageous and I'm glad it was posted. I would never had known otherwise. I used Trip Advisor very heavily in researching my Cuba vacation. I chose my family's resort and Havana tour exclusively because of their user reviews, of which I read hundreds. Luckily, everything bore out.

I will certainly be more conscious of how I use it in future.
posted by kitcat at 9:50 AM on November 6 [1 favorite]


All this makes it hard for people in tourist towns to survive, let alone go on their own VACATION from time to time.

...wouldn't it be harder for people in tourist towns to survive without, you know... tourists?

many of these resorts DO underpay and mistreat their staff, absolutely. but i'm not sure arguing for the end of international beach tourism is really going to be helpful with that.
posted by halation at 10:35 AM on November 6


As Victor, a pool-side attendant that we got to know a little bit during one of our trips to a Mexican beach resort was that his job and jobs in the resort industry generally (or perhaps just that resort in particular) are highly sought after. Jobs in and around the resorts tend to pay better.

He used to live in California where he learned and developed his fluency in english but he moved back to Mexico because he was able to save more money for his family that way and speaking english is a major advantage for resort jobs.

I'm sure he was still very much underpaid for that type of work but relative to what else is available, it's a pretty good job according to at least one employee.
posted by VTX at 11:30 AM on November 6


That's rather uncharitable.
Hence the username.

But to respond more directly to TFA, I wonder how many other companies are doing the same sort of thing to one extent or another.
posted by aspersioncast at 4:59 PM on November 6


Another instance of Metafilter: Your favorite vacation sucks.
posted by hwyengr at 5:36 PM on November 6


My wife and I recently booked a holiday at a resort in Cancun, based heavily on the recommendation a travel agent made to my parents and without doing a lot of research on TripAdvisor or elsewhere beforehand.

Later Googling revealed that this resort has been dubbed "Murder Hotel" by the tabloid press in Scotland after a couple of mysterious deaths at the resort over the years.

We're still going though.

My take is that anywhere you vacation can be dangerous, especially if you do things like get drunk and try to crawl back into a resort's nightclub by scaling a 3-story building, get involved in a love triangle with a local, buy drugs on the beach, etc.

As well, some of these resorts put through thousands of guests per year and probably still have less accidental/suspicious deaths than a city with a similar population to what the hotels are putting through each year.

So in my view, for 99.9% of people visiting resorts in Mexico/Cuba/Dominican Republic/Jamaica/etc., you are perfectly safe and the biggest danger is a sun burn and possibly paying too much for souvenirs -- as long as you follow the same precautions that you would at home to ensure your personal safety.

As well, I truly believe that any resorts that had serious ongoing issues with sexual assaults, drugging clients, etc. would have the word get out - through Trip Advisor or if not there, via other means, online and otherwise - and would see a drop in business as a result (admittedly, says the guy booked to go to "Murder Hotel" this winter.)

Even on TripAdvisor, hotels get rated based on aggregate of reviews and some resort is always going to come in last place. If someone chooses to go to a lower ranked resort, yes, they are probably more likely to run into issues ranging from mild to serious than if they stay at one rated near the top of TripAdvisor's ratings.

With all of that said, I have a love-hate relationship with Trip Advisor at the best of times and wish they would let *all* reviews stand, especially ones drawing attention to serious issues including allegations of criminal incidents.
posted by Jaybo at 11:03 PM on November 6


I truly believe that any resorts that had serious ongoing issues with sexual assaults, drugging clients, etc. would have the word get out - through Trip Advisor or if not there, via other means, online and otherwise - and would see a drop in business as a result (admittedly, says the guy booked to go to "Murder Hotel" this winter.)

Now I need to be hooked into the whisper network for fucking *resorts*?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 8:15 AM on November 7 [5 favorites]


As Victor, a pool-side attendant that we got to know a little bit during one of our trips to a Mexican beach resort was that his job and jobs in the resort industry generally (or perhaps just that resort in particular) are highly sought after. Jobs in and around the resorts tend to pay better.

The thing that you find out when you leave the resort is - employees of resorts are forced to say this. They're fired if they complain to guests about hours, pay, or any other thing - in part because guests do not want the illusion of their fantasy world to be broken. Guests expect friendly, happy, bubbly people and slagging off one's employer to a guest is automatic termination.

I mean think about it - would you slag off your employer to a client while on work time? Not if you wanted to keep your job.

many of these resorts DO underpay and mistreat their staff, absolutely. but i'm not sure arguing for the end of international beach tourism is really going to be helpful with that.

Who argued for the end of international beach tourism? There are lots of ways to be a tourist in a beach location than the resort model.
posted by notorious medium at 10:31 AM on November 7


Now I need to be hooked into the whisper network for fucking *resorts*?

You're in a thread started with a link about "fucking resorts" where people are talking about some of the potential risks of "fucking resorts" and in my comment, I said a quick Google search revealed a newspaper article about a "fucking resort" that has a couple mysterious murders over the past decade.

So I don't know - maybe you're already "hooked into that whisper network" and you're just not paying enough attention to realise it?
posted by Jaybo at 10:59 AM on November 7


I don't know what that's supposed to mean. I think you're saying "yes, but how can that be bad when you know about it now"?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 11:18 PM on November 7


TripAdvisor, under fire for removing claims of rape, will now flag hotels with reported incidents, Marwa Eltagouri and Rachel Siegel, Washington Post:
In response to widespread criticism for removing claims of sexual assault from its forums to keep them “family friendly,” TripAdvisor has started placing warning symbols — or “badges” — on the review pages of hotels and businesses where rape and other safety incidents have been reported.
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 6:24 PM on November 9 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the update, Sockin'inthefreeworld. To be clear, I'm favoriting your post but not the fact that TripAdvisor decided to care about this only now that it has become a public relations problem for them. JFC.
posted by salvia at 1:04 AM on November 10 [1 favorite]


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