Those of us who prefer to book cheaper hotels often face a problem when deciding. The guest reviews on sites like TripAdvisor are often quite bad, but often they are unfair or manipulated to get that way. We have to be honest with ourselves when we book an all-inclusive resort in, say, Puerto Plata for US$130 per night in that we aren’t going to get a 4-star resort that everyone loves.
Yes, if you want to book something at the lower end of the money scale, you will be getting a room at a resort that can’t compete on quality with the US$200 per night hotels, or they would be charging that much too. So the trick is to find one that is acceptable as well as cheap, and guest reviews sometimes make that even more difficult.
Ax-grinders ruin it for the rest of us
When looking at guest reviews for modestly priced hotels, you’ll often see a majority of ratings around 3 stars out of 5, which is exactly what you’d expect in that price range. The problem comes when you have an unusual number of “ax-grinders” who give 1 star, often because of one problem that might even be their own fault.
For example, you might have a resort that has cheap rooms with ceiling fans instead of air conditioners. If you’ve spent much time in the Tropics you’ll probably know that ceiling fans are often preferable to air conditioners, but many people freak out and don’t even try them. So imagine someone who booked a very cheap room at a nice beach hotel, but who didn’t notice that they don’t offer air conditioning.
I’ve seen people like this check in and then storm back to the front desk demanding they be moved to a room with A/C. When told there are none in that resort, the people get nasty and blame the resort for the fact that they didn’t read the listing properly. This happens all the time where someone books the cheapest place possible and then goes nuts when it’s not as nice as the place next door.
The problem comes when these people write a guest review. Instead of writing “I didn’t pay attention to the listing” they will write “The place is filthy with mice running around and the worst food I’ve ever been served.” They figure they can get revenge on the resort by making up fake problems to hurt future business. Sometimes they’ll even have friends who weren’t even there add their own review saying the same thing, and this is where it really gets unfair to everyone else.
Verified reviews have fewer of these problems
As you may know, booking sites like Expedia and Agoda have what they call Verified Reviews that are only from guests who’ve actually completed a stay at the hotel. For reviews of this nature it’s much less common to see 1-star reviews (or even 5-star reviews that aren’t trustworthy either). When people are signed into a verified account, they tend to be more honest and realistic when giving a review.
So in the end, when booking a cheap hotel it’s best to concentrate on the verified reviews for a more accurate picture of the weaknesses of the resort. Again, the cheapest places are cheap for a reason, but they can still be a great choice for the right guests as long as they know what to watch out for. If a hotel is cheap because it’s across the street from the beach instead of right on it, that might be a great way to save money if you prefer the pool anyway.