TripAdvisor rocked by bribery claims

JUST how reliable are the rankings on popular hotel review giant TripAdvisor?

While hundreds of millions of global travellers rely on its reviews, the website has been rocked by claims that Australia’s biggest apartment developer has been fudging the system, allegedly offering bribes to customers to bump up their ratings.

Emails leaked to the ABC contain explosive allegations that Meriton Apartments, which is owned by Australia’s third-richest citizen Harry Triguboff, offered financial incentives to guests to change their rating from a low score to a high score.

And a former staff member told the broadcaster the management had pressured them to purposely misspell the email addresses of customers who had made complaints during their stay — a technique referred to as “masking”— to ensure that the standard form inviting them to rate their stay on TripAdvisor would bounce back. Both alleged practices are against the website’s rules.

The ABC has published an email it says was sent by a Meriton manager to a former employee, chastising them for failing to “mask” accounts of unsatisfied customers.

“This guest was stuck in their shower and then had to pull the door off to get out. This should definitely be masked,” the email reads.

“I need each of you to ensure that you are being proactive to prevent these comments reaching TA [TripAdvisor].”

Another email reveals an alleged attempt to bribe a customer into removing a negative review with a $100 discount voucher — an offer that was met with disgust.