Fruity and ostentatious, yet highly fictitious: Online restaurant, hotel reviews easy to fake


We all do it. When we're planning a trip to an unfamiliar city or we're looking for a new hole-in-the-wall for a dinner date near home, we poke around online for reviews of local restaurants.

But on some sites, reviews are serving up a steaming plate of B.S.

WalletPop told you about the hugely popular Yelp, which has been accused of extorting restaurants and shops that got received bad reviews. For a price, says a San Francisco CBS affiliate, Yelp will move the badmouthing blurb lower down the page, potentially out of sight. One sofa store owner paid Yelp $350 a month to bury her embarrassing reviews.

Last year, one New York City hotel was awarded a five-star review by an effusive reader of TripAdvisor. Except the hotel hadn't even completed construction yet. Public relations flacks were suspected.

This sort of stuff happens all the time. TripAdvisor says it tries to weed out these obviously false postings. But some readers allege it swerves too far even in that. One travel expert about Hawaii accuses TripAdvisor of twice killing reviews that conflicted with its paid sponsors. For sites like these, integrity is everything. Many publications, though, don't have the resources to do the follow-ups necessary. Increasingly, the phonies are not apparent.