A Holiday Inn attempts bribery to gain positive reviews!

We have probably all seen signs in hotels and restaurants we have visited asking if we would be kind enough to recommend them on TripAdvisor or similar sites if we enjoyed our visit.

One Head for Points reader recently found that a Holiday Inn in San Francisco was stooping to outright bribery in order to get positive feedback on internal IHG surveys:


Yes, you got 1000 IHG Rewards Club points for scoring the hotel 10 out of 10.  That is a bribe of £4 – £5.

I know from conversations with IHG staff that the company takes the questionnaire scores very seriously – I’m not sure how seriously it takes attempts to game the system!

What is slightly concerning is that the leaflet implies that the hotel is told the score you give it (how else could they award the 1000 points?).  You may think you are making a confidential submission to Head Office but that is clearly not the case.

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Is there any point getting a Diners Club card, the card that time forgot?
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  1. IMHO, it’s questionable that this can be termed a bribe, especially in legal terms. The offer is a reward of 10K points “…thanking you for your time…”, and, “…our way of a saying “Thank You” for choosing to stay…”.

    It doesn’t state that the points won’t be paid if the recipient leaves a score below 10/10.

    Are there any further T&C attached to the email, or a link to them?

    • Sorry, typo, 1K points, not 10K.

      • “if…then” condition = if you do this (give us 10), then we’ll do that (give you 1000 points)

      • Genghis says:

        I think it clearly is. Giving the points is conditional upon scoring a 10; a financial (or equivalent) advantage to influence the performance of a supposed impartial review.

        • Agreed, it would be 1000 points just for completing the survey.

          This also raises issues over hotels being able to award points directly surely doing it too often would lead to Head Office asking questions.

          • It clearly says the points will only be awarded if you give a score of 10/10!

  2. Stayed at a Best Western in Central London overnight on the way to Dubai. Horrible stay. A closet was larger than the room they gave me. After much discussion with the front desk, they gave me a larger room – but still quite poor by any standard.

    Left a poor review only to have them call me in Dubai asking me to change my review and they would give me a special rate or even a free night in exchange.

    Hotel was so cra*…that I told them to keep their room and the review would stay.

  3. IHG and Marriott do know the account holder who make the review.
    If they are marked below 8 in any area they have to respond.
    For both brands when marking below 8, I have been questioned by staff on repeat visits as to why the mark was below the threshold.

    • That would explain why I was given 15,000 bonus points at the IC Abu Dhabi when, casually asked at check-out how I would rate the hotel (they didn’t mention the survey, it was just in the general context of how good are we?), I said ‘7’!

      • Genghis says:

        Now we’re talking! Well, there’s always something any IHG hotel can improve…

      • I was asked this too, by the Customer Relations Manager at the HI Glenmarie, was even given her business card. I said an 8, wish i hadn’t been so generous now!

        That contrasted with check in, after a day sweating my way around KL i turned up in shorts n t shirt to check in amongst the many suited types. Whilst in the queue for check in one of the staff asked if she could help, said i wanted to check in, she then walked off without saying anything and stood behind her desk and didn’t assist anyone. Once I got to start check in they spotted my Spire status and then i had 3 staff all check me in!

      • 15k point is very generous as the hotel has to pay for the bonus points.

        • My profile still shows that I work for one of their biggest corporate customers which may have impacted it ……

          Hotel is a disgrace as per my review. 90% of rooms seem to be being sold to package holidaymakers as it has lost business guests to more modern properties so when you arrive expecting a business hotel and business environment you’re in for a big surprise.

          They even gave me a fake Ambassador upgrade to ‘club floor without club access’ whilst dishing out better rooms to non-status package holiday people paying literally a third of what I would have been paying.

          People who think I get any sort of special treatment because I run this site need only read a few of my hotel reviews to realise that isn’t true. I have been massively legged over by IHG, Marriott and Carlson in the last 12 months, although none surpassed my Rocco Forte experience of 18 months ago.

          • David Devine says:

            Do you have the links to these reviews,? …would be a good reminder. I did read your IC visit recently.

            It’s good to see that even someone as experienced as yourself can still get a dud. Can be a bad day/poor staff for a good hotel. Sharing these online is always good info.

            btw, stayed at the Columbus Motor Inn last time I was in SF. Had free parking under the hotel as was doing a fly/drive. Good independent option as SF hotels are expensive

    • The same applies to Hilton, I had a stay at a doubletree and called them out on poor service, status not being recognised and general failings through the stay.

      The manager called me, apologised and said it wouldn’t happen again. No goodwill points or anything but I was concerned as the form I filled out was meant to be anonymous which I raised separately through other channels.

      Subsequent stays have been a lot nicer in fairness to them mind.

    • Hmm – therein lies the fallibility of such a process – I would say that 8/10 is actually a very good score, 7/10 good, and 5-6/10 average. I mark accordingly. Hotel managers probably don’t like me much!

  4. Does anyone actually take any notice of tripadviser reviews anyway, most are by a person who has left reviews for the one property only, meaning they are staff friends or management.
    One hotel in St Louis has a fixed placard saying ‘No1 on TA in St Louis’ – how do they know unless the reviews are fixed. TA also lets hotels scan the reviews first and not publish (under a spurious term or condition) if anything negative is said

    • Genghis says:

      I certainly take note of TA reviews but generally avoid if there are loads of reviews by people who have only given one review.

    • This is for the internal IHG review, not TA.

    • I read the 1star reviews and if there is a pattern then I won’t stay.

  5. Harry Holden says:

    Well every time I submit a bad review they reject it. My record is 100% published if good, 100% rejected if bad.

    So I no longer bother but thankfully there is always Tripadvisor.

  6. They always reply to my positive reviews, but not the ones where I had issues or complain about anything. I stopped reviewing their hotels after stays. Pointless.

  7. At a HIE in Glasgow are I was given a feedback card at reception and scored it 8. I was then confronted by the manager when trying to leave and asked to explain why!! Clearly not confidential.

  8. At the IC TS every time the WiFi logged me out (1x a day) it asked me to rate my check-in experience. I just put 10 so they would leave me alone. The staff were so miserable I was desperate to keep interaction to a minimum.

  9. JamesWag says:

    That is an absolute disgrace.

  10. Different, and not bribery – a hotel indigo we stayed at in Berlin had a good idea which I havent seen elsewhere – they gave a voucher for bar credit if you skipped having your room cleaned one day. Most hotels hope you’ll put out the sign to skip housekeeping but this was a good little incentive which wouldn’t have cost them much to provide.

    • hmm….

      I’m going to guess that the cost of servicing a room at an indigo is in the region of £30. About 20% of that will be wages. You’re getting a £5 beer out of it.

      The hotel saves £30 and some poor chambermaid who is probably working two jobs just to get by is suddenly 1hr down in terms of work.

      Great for the shareholders, until you get the disenfranchised underclass hitting back like we saw last week.

      • That’s a good point – my own experiences have only been of housekeepers looking pleased/relieved when told they skip doing our room, I didn’t realise they would prefer people to leave them messy and time consuming.

      • Also, tony, as you’re so astute about these things – how much you leave housekeepers as a tip? Do you do the $1/day, the $1/guest/day, or more?

        • I don’t tip them. They are paid by the hotel for performing that service. In much the same way as a pilot is when I buy an air ticket.

          The point is the hotel is saving way more than you get in compensation for not having the room serviced. Yes the environment benefits because there’s no more small soaps going into circulation and your towels don’t get washed, but If they can get 15 people doing this every day then that’s a housekeeper out of a job!

          • Odd logic you employ there, Tony…

            Let’s leave it there, maybe :)

          • Blimey I never thought I would agree with Harry on anything…. unusual times indeed!

          • You’ll probably find that per room they have a set time. 17 minutes to clean an en-suite king room for example. This includes changing all the linens etc.

            If the room is a mess and they spend more time cleaning it, it just puts them behind, and I’ll bet getting paid for running past their allowed time is not an option.

    • ankomonkey says:

      SPG have been giving points for skipping a room clean in certain hotels for years…

    • Crowne Plaza Heathrow offered bonus points for not having room cleaned on stays of more than 2 nights I think? Can’t remember the exact details. I’m guessing they mainly have ppl staying for 1 night though and its an attempt to try and reduce the number of rooms to clean than save money.. they argue the ‘green’ aspects of it

    • The Crowne Plaza in Copenhagen will give you a Kr75 F&B credit for passing on one day’s cleaning. I was only there for 2 nights and didn’t notice this until the second day, so I missed out on a drink.

  11. Hotels.com offered me a double rewards voucher for a review on our recent stay – as it was I did score it high as it was a lovely place. Voucher now received.

    • I use hotels.com a fair bit, say 40 nights per year, and always leave honest reveiws. I left one very honest review of a decent hotel and an appaling room and they didn’t publish it, first review they’d failed to publish. Completely changed my view of the value of reviews, since previously my reviews had been neutral to good, and all published. I’m easily pleased and fairly undemanding, so long as things are honest. I like hotels that offer small incentives to skip housekeeping, not something I ever need anyway.

      • Lady London says:

        I always expect to see some negative reviews and I look at the so-so ones too. I expect to see a balance otherwise I’m very wary. I contribute a lot of reviews on various things but mostly only when I feel I’ve something to add or a different take on things – but only on websites and for products I care about.

        Like most of us even if I’ve got something not so good to say about a hotel or restaurant experience the one thing I will always do is I really try to protect the staff and be as positive as possible about them. After all, they’re only trying to earn a living and I always think ‘that could be me, if I wasn’t so lucky as I am ‘ so I’m as helpful as possible to them.

  12. Sam Wardill says:

    Well done Rob for raising this. I think it is really important to highlight this sort of thing. I never put much trust in IHG ratings. I always focus on Tripadvisor. Tripadvisor regards this as fraud but is not always particularly diligent in eradicating it. Luckily other journalists also try to hold Tripadvisor to account. See http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/business/money/Consumer/article1623014.ece

  13. As I’m reading this article an email from TA popped up saying how good a reviewer I am keep up the good reviews blah blah. Coincidence or some kind of magic algorithms?! Or maybe rob is in on it all along

    • Lady London says:

      You can blame Google. They’re watching you. They’re the best at it. Even Yahoo is not too bad at tracking you, drawing conclusions and up pops the relevant ad.

  14. Tom Murray says:

    On a recent trip to Nova Scotia we needed to pull our accommodation forward as we decided to skip a day as the loads on our return to the UK were looking better the day before.

    No problem with one B&B inn, but the other ‘could’ do it but hoped in advance that we could leave an ‘Excellent’ TA review on departure……

    We didn’t, because we really couldn’t. It was just not warranted.

  15. Yes, this reminds me of reviews I left for items on Tesco to stop other people from being tricked by their misleading product presentation. The description was massively misleading and my review sort to clarify this. Because the review was poor, it didn’t get published.

    Last week Argos asked for feedback three times. Annoyingly, they did this after I provided feedback at the first time of asking. I subsequent wrote to them asking them why they kept bombarding me with this spam.. and then an hour later another request for feedback.

    How can these companies operate in this way. Big business doesn’t know what it’s doing while it pursues £

  16. I remember a while ago searching on trip advisor for a curry house in London and the best rated one had several bad reviews saying they’d been offered free things to write a good review before eating…

  17. I booked a hotel in Kampala on Booking.com earlier this year. After I had checked in Booking.com sent me an email asking how the check-in went. I indicated it was fine. Next morning at breakfast, the receptionist approached me to thank me for my fantastic review. I didn’t know what she was talking about until I remembered the smiley face I’d clicked on in Booking.com’s email. I was a bit concerned that they were aware of this so soon and could identify me. If I’d given them a bad check-in review who knows what would have gone in my breakfast. Poisoning is common in Uganda, I’m told!!

    • Peter K says:

      I booked a hotel for a week’s holiday in the Algarve via Expedia. Had the same type of email asking for a review of check-in the day after I arrived. I did not give it as was suspicious that it would be given straight to the hotel staff…seems I was right to do so!

      RE: TA. I’ve always found my trip advisor reviews have been published. Good, bad and downright ugly!

  18. ElectroGoblin says:

    I think that none of these surveys are anonimous. I gave a poor rating on the satisfaction survey after my stay at Mercure Randburg (South Africa) just following the link received, not entering my email anywhere, and next day I was emailed by property manager to excuse themselves (but no points offered).


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