Do they ever add an extra star in the hope that no one notices? Is there a hotel star rating police out there punishing hotels for posting fake reviews? These are some head-scratchers. We tend not to question how a hotel gets its star rating, but a one-star difference might just be the difference-maker in our hotel searches. So do hotels fake their star ratings? Let’s get to the bottom of it.
Who dishes out the stars?
Hotels are rated by groups like AAA (AAA actually rates with diamonds, not stars) and large-scale travel sites like Travelocity, Orbitz, and Hotwire. These groups send hotel reviewers to individual hotels to scout things out and report back on their stay.
How can a hotel “fake it”?
Since the ratings come from the hotel reviewers, hotels would have to change things when a hotel reviewer checks in. However, the hotel might not know who the hotel reviewer is or when they’re coming, so this can be a tricky game.
Other ways of faking
A more common form of deception is posting fake reviews on travel sites. Travel sites try to filter these out, but some slip through the cracks. This is why you should always read a handful of reviews instead of taking just one for its word.
A trio of business school professors from USC, Yale and Dartmouth studied the world of fake hotel ratings and came to a few conclusions. Hotels tend to cheat when they’re faced with steep competition, when they’re non-chain or independent, and when they’re managed by a smaller management company.
How to find the truth
The more reviews you read, the more information you have. The more information you have, the harder it is for fake reviews to dominate your impression of the hotel.