Is IHG surpressing negative reviews on its website?

IHG, the parent of Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, InterContinental etc, publishes traveller reviews on its website for each of its hotels.

For some time there have been rumblings on Flyertalk about bad reviews mysteriously disappearing after being submitted.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a HFP reader contact me.  He had stayed at the new – well, rebadged from Kensington Close Hotel – Holiday Inn Kensington High Street.  My understanding is that this hotel – room photo below, although I believe refurbishment is underway – could not be more of a dog if it had four legs and barked.  (I told this to an IHG executive at Christmas, this comment will not surprise them.)  It still averages 3.9 out of 5, however, from reader reviews.

Kensington Close Hotel

According to our reader:

I had a terrible stay at the Kensington High Street HI and wrote a suitably scathing review once the automated system asked for it after my stay.  They then deleted it. Refused to publish it. Refused to send it back to me. Just want the whole thing to “disappear”. They deny it is censorship, but can’t find an alternative word to describe their actions. I am escalating a complaint with them that they cannot do this and have to take the bad with the good if they host a review service. It is is very dishonest practice to delete the bad ones and just leave the good reviews.

One Flyertalker, who submits regular reviews, stated that he never grades below a ‘3’ because that is likely to see the review disappear.  His own grading of rankings is:

Overall score of 4.6 is great
Overall score of 4.3-4.5 is ‘nothing special’
Overall score of 4.0-4.2 is ‘hit or miss’
Overall score of 3.9 or below is ‘avoid at any cost’

On this scale, the Holiday Inn Kensington High Street is correctly positioned – it averages ‘3.9 or below’ – but the casual reader of ihg.com may not see it that way.

Another Flyertalk member submitted a positive review of a property but did mention that it had bedbugs.  He got the following response:

Your review has been rejected.

As a valued guest, your concerns are of the utmost priority. Therefore, rather than posting your review, we have alerted our Customer Care Team. One of our agents will be reaching out to you immediately. We apologize for the experience you had at our hotel, and thank you for bringing it to our attention.

Here is a report from a Flyertalk reader who wrote two reviews back to back:

Holiday Inn – Birmingham – 1 star Review (IMO) – Still Pending 2 days.
Staybridge Suites Birmingham – 5 Star Review Submitted 10:45 – Approved and Live 14:00

It isn’t certain that IHG is filtering out bad reviews from its website.  You don’t need to be a sceptic, however, to believe that you shouldn’t take everything that appears on a corporate website with a grain of salt.

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Comments

  1. I suggest that removing bad reviews while leaving good reviews, which are then misleadingly presented as the totality of reviews, could be a breach of Regulations 5 and/or 6 of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. Regulation 5 governs misleading actions and Regulation 6 governs misleading omissions. This could be worth reporting en-masse to Trading Standards to prompt an investigation. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2008/1277/contents/made

    • Sam Wardill says:

      I would if I thought Trading Standards would do anything. Unfortunately they are seriously underfunded and have bigger fish to fry

      • Would also be something that the Advertising Standards Authority may want to look at (they cover websites).

        Unlikley to make a major impact but worth a shot.

    • Talay says:

      As a fairly litigious sort of person, I believe I would probably sue if I had evidence a hotel chain was deleting poor reviews and thus displaying a biased appraisal of their property which directly enticed me to book to stay with them.

      Probably only a money claim (MCOL) in the UK but I’d relish them attempting to conjour up a response to get out of jail without letting the cat out of the bag.

      If we don’t fight back, they’ll do it every time.

  2. I submitted a negative review on hotels com, where I have gold status for whatever that might be worth. Didn’t get posted. Contacted them and said it was completely honest, why not post? Some general rubbish response, It was eventually posted but a considerable time later than my generally positive reviews are. As someone above said you need to read the out of step ones. The whole rating system is flawed, when you rate a HI Express are you rating against a common standard, or against what you’d expect from a HIE?

    • Well that’s the question behind the question. When I rate hotels I rate on my level of satisfaction within my expectations – it’s entirely subjective. If an IC is mediocre I will say so and give it a 2. If I think a HI was excellent I’ll give it a 5. I try to rate a hotel within its own category as it were. But you are right – I have no idea how people rate hotels on either hotel sites or TA as in what is the standard they are using. I do get really cross when someone will give a 1 star review on TA because of a particular thing which went wrong during a stay without being objective about everything else at the hotel.

      • Barry cutters says:

        I was looking st one the other day and someone gave a hotel in Mexico 1* because they had a 14h delay on flight

  3. Do they give you the option of opting out of making your feedback public? This seems important to me if they’re rigging the site.

    Maybe worth submitting all reviews as 1 star (regardless of content) until it’s resolved?

  4. Post review on Tripadvisor, and state that your review on IHG has been deleted. Im certain most hotels look at TA as well, and it would doubly piss them off to find that they have been called out.

    • James A says:

      I’ve had a tripadvisor review deleted after being ‘contested by the hotel’ too. Most specifically, the Le Meridien Limassol.

      • I’ve had the same on TA with an IHG hotel. Gave up arguing with TA eventually but it’s definitely made me more wary of overall ratings for hotels

  5. Always copy your review to TripAdvisor too.

  6. MATTHEW says:

    Why not just rate them poorly on sites like google maps? Google will alert you if your review has been flagged and allow you to unflag it.

  7. the_real_a says:

    Don’t assume tripadvisor will publish your poor review. I have made several submissions of a hotel with bedbugs and each review has been deleted.

    You simply cannot trust review sites anymore

  8. I’ve never had a review turned down on TA. I have left negative reviews – but not that often because the research I’ve done beforehand seems to have largely paid off. I did review negatively the Hilton in Mallorca (which HfP likes as do many others from the reviews) and that was accepted no problem. I’d always be sceptical about reviews on the IHG site because I wouldn’t really be surprised if they did cherry pick them. I did once have a non IHG hotel manager from Cambridge telephone me after I left a somewhat negative review asking whether I could adjust the review. Whilst he was nice about it the call had the opposite from intended effect.

    • Ditto. I don’t leave many negative reviews, but actually my ‘most read’ one (according to TA) is my most negative one, for a hotel in California. I tried to remain balanced in it and it seems folk find that useful when reading the reviews.

  9. Jonathan says:

    This is where I derive real value from HfP.

    I am cancelling all my IHG bookings and will not be giving another penny to this unscrupulous excuse of a company.

    Thank you Rob for bringing this to our attention. It’s high time these silly companies realised that unethical practices will come back to bite them in such a highly competitive industry where the consumer has a myriad of alternative properties to choose from.

  10. Sorry to raise this – but have we just seen exactly this kind of thing happen on HfP today?

    This morning there were multiple people calling rob out on his HK intercontinental article due to its recommendation which supported going to see caged dolphins perform at ocean world. But now that article seems to have disappeared entirely?!

  11. In response to Jonathan I’d be inclined to agree with you.

    In general I’ve no problems with Hotels surpressing bad reviews, it’s the methods here that’s so wrong.

    There’s been a number of times that I felt I’d experienced below par service with DoubleTree/Hiltobs that if not addressed I’d have left a potentially negative review.

    However, I’ve often found if you raise the issue during the stay, 9/10 they choose to put right anything that goes wrong with such grace and humility that you feel the issue has been dealt with sincerity and genuine concern.

    Hence all the fire in your belly to write them up has been replaced with appreciation and respect.

    For me this is the mark of a good hotel or any other customer service company. BA would do well to take note….!

    • I must have been the 10% were this fails…

      Stayed at the HiX in Lancaster last year as part of a family roadtrip to Scotland. Laying in the top of our wardrobe was the robe hook from the back of the bathroom door, screws still protruding and all. This clearly meant that housekeeping was not doing their job properly and so i reported it upon checkout.

      Five days later we stayed again and they put us in the same room. You guessed it, the hook was still there un-repaired. I even joked when we checked out that it would be embarrassing for them if they didn’t sort it before we returned.
      Clearly Spire elite status counts for nothing!

      • Peter K says:

        But you were in an IHG property and Triprep was on about Hilton brand properties….

        • True, but seeing as he was responding to @Jonathan commenting about IHG on an article about IHG, I’m not sure why your interjection on such a minor point was relevant?

  12. Sorry to be pedantic – but I take it you mean ‘suppress’ – or is ‘surpress’ a new word I haven’t come across? :))

  13. Frank Hoyle says:

    I left a negative review for an IHG hotel and it was rejected twice a being not relevant to the hotel. I edited to be a little kinder. Same result.

  14. Craig Vassie says:

    They always weed out negative reviews. its been going on ever since they offered the opportunity to leave a review!

  15. lostantipod says:

    My most recent review of an IHG property in London has posted: I had some gripes , rated the property a 3 overall (staff got a 2 from me but other aspects got 5). So clearly not all reviews with negative comments are being removed.

  16. Brasov says:

    Surpressing?

  17. Without any prejudice – positive or negative – towards IHG, I think that the problem with negative reviews is that they are not always adequate and fair. People often write them in anger and one hiccup of a stay could make them rank the hotel with 1 or 2, even if other aspects of their experience were ok. This often happens with TripAdvisor and other similar ‘independent’ review websites. I remember when someone on TA gave a five star property (non-IHG) 1 point because a toy vending machine in the lobby was broken and his child was unhappy about that. Fair? Obviously not.

    So, perhaps, the IHG customer experience team rightfully tries to reach out to dissatisfied customers to address their concerns first and not simply publish their reviews? At the end of the day, this is the job of a customer service, no? And after the matter is settled, the customers who used their reviews just to flag their problem, would no longer need to get it published or would like to amend it.

  18. Andrew says:

    I really don’t like or trust 1* reviews.

    Every time I read one, I can’t help but wonder why the guest wasn’t more assertive at the time of the stay (in a major brand hotel) and what they are hoping to achieve with the review.

    Many times, over the years, I’ve found myself standing at reception asking the staff for a vacuum cleaner and cleaning materials in order I can clean the room properly – on each occasion, I’ve found myself enjoying a few drinks at the bar whilst a member of staff does what should have been done after the last check-out.

  19. Wobbly Wings says:

    A coupe of mildly negative reviews I left a couple of years ago never made it to IHG. All positive reviews were posted. I stopped contributing and do not much trust the reviews on the site. It’s probably true that anything under 4 should be seen as suspicious.

    They are a PR exercise and a way to try and contrast TA (which has lots of problems itself). It’s their site – they can do what they like and they are under no obligation at all to post what the users submit.