A customer walks into a bar and says, "I'm a senior TripAdvisor reviewer." So what's the punchline? According to British hospitality officials, the joke is on restaurateurs and hotel owners who are blackmailed by such customers, the Telegraph reports. "People threatening restaurants and hotels with bad TripAdvisor reviews to extort free things is a problem which has been growing," says an executive at the British Hospitality Association. His solution: When problems arise, hotel owners and restaurant owners should contact TripAdvisor or his association.
TripAdvisor is trying to take action, but it's complicated. Blackmailers can be subtle, for one thing: "These so-called reviewers will complain about the meal or the service and when you ask how to put it right, you can guarantee it will be some sort of freebie," says a steakhouse owner. He's also seen negative reviews by customers who hadn't been there, but apparently expected an emailed apology and a free meal, the Daily Mail reports. How to avoid such reviews as a potential customer? Ignore ones by people who have only posted once or twice before, says the UK's top TripAdvisor reviewer: "You have to read between the lines," he tells the Star. (For more, read about a probe into "fake" TripAdvisor reviews.)