How to Avoid being Scammed by a Hotel

The advent of the internet has improved the lives of travelers immeasurably. We can wire money instantly from home, email important documents to ourselves so that we can reach them from anywhere, compare prices on plane tickets and hotel rooms and talk to our friends online if we get homesick. The problem is that the part when we interact with businesses online, specifically when reserving hotel rooms, we can be easily manipulated by false advertising that can have us overpaying or even getting scammed out of our rooms by hostile or incompetent employees.

Educate yourself

If you’re coming to visit San Francisco the first thing you’ll want to do is find a site that reviews hotels like this San Francisco hotel guide. Ignore the rankings and look through the entire list. Keep an eye on the prices to see what seems to be a normal rate for the area. You’ll quickly notice that rankings don’t correlate to pricing very well. You can narrow down your search pretty easily by ignoring any hotels with very low rankings overall. Don’t ignore hotels with so-so ratings, because they might well turn out to be better than the highly ranked ones.

Watch out for Polarized Ratings

Start looking through the hotels that catch your eye. Always read the actual reviews. Ignore the overall reviewed x out of 5 star rating. If you click on one and find 4 scathing reviews in a row preceded by one glowing 5 star gusher you can be pretty sure that the hotel staff is writing reviews for themselves. Even if the hotel looks fairly decent otherwise this kind of behavior indicates that there is something wrong with the company and is a sign of dishonest management. If they’re willing to cheat in their review process you can’t really trust them to serve you fresh food or put clean sheets on your bed either.

Look for Strange Wording and Clichés and repeat posts

Fake reviewers working for SEO companies have to write hundreds of reviews every day. They might include strange and awkward keyword phrases and links to websites in their posts. People simply seeking to raise a review rating will leave gushing 5 star reviews with no complaints. The most obvious tells for these ridiculous posts are incredibly cliché phrases like “home away from home”, or descriptions that read like a tourist guide like “has a gorgeous must-see view of the city best enjoyed at night”. Additionally you might find two identically worded reviews for two different hotels (usually owned by the same larger chain) as you browse reviews.

Low-star Reviews Count

These are the ones to read. If someone gives a hotel 2 stars because it’s got a draft you’ve got yourself a pretty nice hotel. If someone gives it 2 stars because it has bedbugs or the staff is hostile you can feel good about eliminating it from your list. If customers are complaining because of noise outside, small room size, dim lighting, or expensive parking you can feel secure in the knowledge that you won’t be getting any surprises involving much more worrisome issues that you can run into at a poorly run hotel.

Wesley McDonald has lived in San Francisco for almost 20 years. He is passionate about life in the city, travel and the hospitality industry, and writes reviews and guest blog posts for travel blogs.