GHOTW CEO insinuates all reviewers and complainers are freeloaders oh and it’s okay to overcharge too!

Those of you who have been following this blog for some time will know that complaining is not all about getting freebies. For me, it is always the principle of the thing; I complain about the smallest of things, principle of the thing, I complain in person to politicians, principle of the thing, I take Tesco to court which pounds per hour was nothing to do with getting freebies that’s for sure(!) but was certainly about the principle of the thing, I get refunds for friends when they are out of pocket, principle of the thing, I help people out on social media with advice on getting refunds and redress, principle of the thing. Some people may see this as time poorly spent and that complainers are sad etc etc., if that’s you, then you tell that to the people who have been helped and remember your stance when you make an expensive purchase and want your money back because the thing is faulty. Oh and don’t complain about fat cats either, because some of the reason they get paid so much is because people don’t complain about their services.

So with that in mind I was astounded when my latest complaint elicited the rudest response I have ever received from a CEO. (Up until now, the rudest CEOS have just been the ones such as Clarke who just ignored customers). Admittedly I have never complained to Ryanair CEO but even he has apparently seen the error of his ways.

Now, I am a reviewer for What’s Good to Do. A great site reviewing lots of products and services around the country, check them out. As such I offered to review a variety of places over a number of different dates with Great Hotels of The World. GHOTW is a global sales and marketing alliance. The Iberostar in Majorca was offered for 3 nights in October. I had asked how much an upgrade from B & B would be to all inclusive. (i.e. I wanted to pay for the upgrade) I was offered €122.40 a night per room on All Inclusive. The offer had already included B & B and one dinner for one night. So obviously one night upgrade from B & B plus dinner would be less than the other 2 nights of upgrade form just B & B. I pointed out the following:

“1)     On the Iberostar own website for those nights B & B = €186.66 AI = €296.82 a difference of €110.16 therefore the difference is €110.82 not €122.40

2)     One night dinner is provided for the review. Therefore an upgrade from to all inclusive is certainly not €122.”

After a ridiculous email exchange including telling GHOTW PR team the same thing 6 times and each of those 6 times that I was not asking for anything extra free, I was asking not to be overcharged, I gave up.

The director of What’s Good to Do tried to speak to staff and explain the same, that the website said a lower price and that the dinner would not be free if paying the same extra rate for each of the 3 nights so that the hotel was in effect overcharging. But I received another email to say that the rate was correct and another email with the offer previously received. I was even told that the review must be a positive one!!!

So, I emailed the GHOTW CEO. I explained that it is usual for a reviewer to be offered a discounted rate for extra nights or upgrades to the stay on offer. I wasn’t even asking for this! I just wanted to upgrade. I did however object to being overcharged twice over. Once, telling me that the price was more than advertised on the website and secondly charging me the same for an upgrade from B & B to AI as from B, B & dinner to AI. This is the response I received:

Helen

I have read your email with interest.

I get many of these emails and whilst on many occasions i have great sympathy with the genuine concerns expressed. In this case i would like to suggest that you really need to get a life and stop bothering well meaning busy people with this sad self indulgent rambling.

If you and your freeloading friends on these various websites are not happy with a price quoted then you should perhaps seek alternative accommodation?

I hope this helps. With the kindest regards and best wishes

Regards

Peter Gould
CEO
Big Worldwide
www.big-worldwide.com

(Typos are his not mine)

Remember, I was not asking for a freebie, I was merely pointing out that that I was being overcharged. So it would appear from this email that:

  1. Mr Gould feels that people on these websites (I mentioned review sites, blogs and my own) are also freeloaders. So if you are a reviewer or journalist that has ever reviewed something and got the item or service for free before taking the time to write a review then that’s you!
  2. If you have ever used the information on my site to gain refunds and redress I guess he means you too!
  3. If you have bought my book to gain refunds and redress I suppose he means you as well!
  4. I guess if you have liked my Facebook and certainly if you interact with me on there then he includes you as a free loading friend on these websites!
  5. The reviewer receives a couple of hundred pounds worth of stay (no travel) – The hotel receives much free advertisement. I would suggest that several thousand people reading a review is worth slightly more than the couple of hundred pounds that the reviewer “saves” before writing up the piece. No advertisement costs, not even having to pay anyone to design the advert. So as a PR company GHOTW is doing a great job huh?

Wonder what the other hotels in this group think of the way that the PR company handles publicity?!

So who is the freeloader? The person who seeks refunds and redress when put out of pocket/the reviewer who undertakes some work in return for a free service or product, or the company that uses reviews as a cheaper method of traditional advertising and then insults anyone who evidences overcharging?

Should you be a reviewer, blogger or journalist that undertakes reviews and doesn’t take kindly to the above you can contact Peter Gould here.

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Consumer reviews pros, cons and who uses them?

Recently I was asked if I used review sites. Yup. Of course I do. I was also asked if I thought people did generally and if so which ones. Interesting question I thought, so I did some extensive scientific research over a couple of days and asked a few friends, family, and those who follow me on Twitter and those who like my page on Facebook. So here are my findings….

Background to review sites

It takes longer to look up reviews than it does to write a letter of complaint. So few people put a complaint in writing. The rest one assumes are content with accepting poor food, faulty goods and poor service for which they have paid! But more people appear to spend far more time looking at what a best buy might be. Reviews are being written and read more as other sites spring up all the time.

What sites get used the most?

Even what must arguably be the most well known and most used review site Trip Advisor was used by only 35% of respondents to my survey and less than 10% post reviews. Amazon was also popular with 30% using it and of course Which? with a surprisingly low score of 20% of respondents using it.

Other sites getting a mention were, AV Forums, Gsmarena.com, Argos, Review Centre, Yelp, Ciao, DooYoo, Checkatrade, B & Q and new on the scene BizAdvisor. One or two of those I hadn’t even heard of and I use review sites! But! More people went by the name of a product than used these sites.

Amazon reviews are good because if you are already on the site looking to buy it takes no extra clicks to see the review. Some of the reviews are  very funny too. Take a look at my mate Iain Duncan Smith’s first (and last?!) novel on there. (Check out the “All I know series too!)

Reliability

How much can you depend on sites anyway? Anything less than having 5 reviews you are going to disregard. There isn’t nearly enough reliable information. Let’s take Trip Advisor. Now I do write reviews there! Lots of ’em! Not just bad ones either (I know you were thinking that!)  but I do take just as much delight in being given a “found this helpful” vote on reviews which clearly would stop someone staying somewhere as I do with ones where extra business will be gained. I think writing reviews helps people and it doesn’t take that long. Part of my principles – if people complained more then service would have to improve, it’s the same thing really, the more we share good and bad service the more accountable businesses become and the more people will use review sites. A good review site will allow businesses to comment on reviews. It happens surprisingly little on Trip Advisor. A site where businesses are able to have the last word when someone criticises them on one of the (if not the) largest reviews sites out there and still very few businesses use their right to reply. So the business is missing many a trick a) to thank customers to encourage them to return and b) risk other people accepting a review that may not be wholly true.

I’ve also known people ask people for fake good reviews for themselves or friends. Bad move, makes them look very dishonest, mainly because it is!

Spotting the fake reviews good and bad

The point about relying on reviews was picked up by people who said they didn’t use review sites citing them to be unreliable. That why I advise the following

  1. Only really take on board reviews where there are at least 5 entries so you can discount the top and bottom.
  2. If someone is saying that an item has this great part and that superb element but the majority of the reviews say otherwise, be dubious!
  3. Likewise, if someone says they find a product useless or similar and the majority of other reviews are positive, it’s likely to be fake. Not necessarily a paid for review, but a competitor or a troll, many of them exist on the Internet!
  4. Check out the reviewer. Click on the reviewer and their other reviews, see if there are any similar patterns. Are they all 5*?
  5. If the reviewer has all their reviews hidden that is unusual. If they are leaving bad reviews it could well be a troll or a competitor
  6. Look at dates. Lots in a short amount of time, particularly at point of launch or after lots of low scores.
  7. Someone who undertakes honest reviews for companies such as bloggers will state that they were given the item for free.

Word of warning about Trustpilot

“Ah” said someone “TrustPilot is good because you have to verify that you were a real customer” You’d think that would be good wouldn’t you? Not necessarily. Last year a company tweeted that they would give people a £20 M & S voucher to the first 10 people (may have been 20) who wrote a good review. Totally backfired, people retweeted this and it did them no favours. They deleted the tweet later but the damage was done. Some of it by me it has to be said. I felt it my duty. Me being me tried to do something about it and I contacted Trust Pilot. I left a review stating what this company had done and the business got the review removed within an hour because I was not a real customer. I did it again and got abuse from the company! I contacted Trust Pilot and told them what had happened and they asked for my customer reference clearly not having read my email stating that I wasn’t a customer! Followers of this blog know how much that sort of thing annoys me so I emailed again, and again they came back with the same thing! I got really cross and made myself very clear but so did they, that they would do nothing about the company which had attempted to buy reviews, a clear breach of their own rules. I have never trusted this review site since.

Update 22/10/15 Interesting article regarding Amazon suing people for fake reviews and some pointers on spotting the fake reviews.

Further warnings about fake reviews

Update 18/10/18 Which? goes undercover to expose fake and paid-for reviews

Should you use review sites when purchasing an item?

So, given the above my opinion on review sites remain the same. It is a good guide but should only play a small part in your purchasing decision until more people start writing reviews.

How much do you write and or use review sites?

 

If you have received poor quality good or services you should certainly complain and you can threaten leaving an honest review on forums etc. if necessary. See Top 20 Tips How to Complain! for more help.

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For masses of information and help with asserting your legal rights including template letters GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to GettingREFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

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