HOTEL AND RESTAURANT BLACKMAIL BY BOOKING AGENCIES. |
Trip Advisor - Trivago - Booking.com Giant Monopolies which are anything but impartial.
Questionable tactics by market manipulators or downright malicious practices ?
For good or for bad, the information revolution gathers speed with an amazing capacity to surprise, help - and increasingly, fool. Is this now a challenge to the very institutions that highly evolved states grew from ? Is it perhaps the death knell of consumer protection and the civic right to protection from rampant uncontrolled cartels out to carve lucrative market slices at any cost ? The issue is a difficult one since the law, is slow and reticent when it comes to tackling restrictive business tactics on the net. However, be that as it may, the end results of a well placed lawsuit may well measure up to the effort. Compensation for damages resulting from the delinquent practices of many of the so called leaders in their fields attract lawyers out for a share.
Whilst market leaders may not always be monopolies, it is becoming abundantly clear that the internet service provider is out to remove all competition by buying out the smaller competitor and in doing so sharpen their talons on those clients who attempt to break away from them.
The matter becomes quite clear with respect to sales tactics by booking and evaluation agencies that team up to isolate those who are reluctant, for whatever reason, to work with such a blind, conflict ridden system. A case in point is the high percentage charge these agencies work on and their covert ownership of numbers of ex competitors and which turns them into virtual cartels. Hotels, in particular working against a 15% booking charge are surrendering what is equivalent to up to 30% of their after tax profits for the dubious return of professionally unfiltered clients out to get their money´s worth. Increasing cries of helplessness arise from the hotel industry faced with damages and loss of fittings without taking into account the insult to injury of the lowering of their hospitality and catering images by calculated and malicious criticism in the pages of the so called independent evaluation agencies. Had they come from professional and independent surveyors, they could even become acceptable, but coming from delinquents out to maximize their vandalism,(or worse still sent by competitors) it is malicious practice at its worst. The perpetrators of these publicly consulted critiques are the very agencies purporting to protect client interests. What could be praiseworthy as independent advise is no more than a measure of further indulgence by these robotic and ultimately dangerous booking and evaluation agencies who invite these ruffians. These "unhappy clients" in turn, set out to bare their teeth either by paid persuasion in exchange for a free meal or hotel room for free somewhere else or simply for the fun that many bitter people appear to find in unbridled license.
Such access to criticisms which are avidly published by the very agencies pretending to supply a service to the targeted hotels and catering establishments, can only be termed an aberration since bad runs much faster than good. Whilst Tripadvisor offers establishments under fire a right of reply, the disgustingly monopolistic Booking.com does not and even, amazingly encourages total anonymity so that the service provider does not know whether that particular client will come in again for a further dose. Hotels, faced with the predictable results of such "so called" balanced opinion not only suffer the consequences of feeding or roofing them,but are unaware who they are. They can return for another laugh at their hosts´expense and do another calculated "critique". The trade is therefore unable to defend its legitimate interests and immediate loss of prestige. Under normal circumstances defamation is punishable by law, yet these booking and evaluation agencies get away with it carte blanche.
Ultimately, the very agency told where to go by angry hoteliers,even succumb to the malice of these monopolies when faced with the channeling of potential clients to other hotels. In one case, a popular hotel found the tripadvisor entry within the listings of local hotels tagged "full for the season" and potential clients channelled elsewhere via the affiliated Booking.com and sister Agoda. Despite threats of legal action by the hotel in question, the only alternative offered by tripadvisor was an opportunity to pay a princely yearly sum to have the hotels´ email address and telephone accessible to visitors to their pages. When asked to remove the hotel page from their listings and avoid this dangerous piece of blackmail, the reply was that this was not up to them but to the critique contributors who placed it there in the first place. On examination, this was found out to be much less than true and it had in fact been placed there by booking.com who appears to be able to tell Tripadvisor not only what to do, but to bypass the hotel and channel its clients in their direction. They in turn pass the responsibility of these actions to the agencies they claim as “affiliated”. On asking tripadvisor whether perhaps these booking agencies could be removed if the hotel in question paid the monthly ransom, our investigators were told that this would be very difficult. The ugly shadow of collusion appeared to be rearing its very ugly head. One of the worrying aspects of this implantation of a manipulated and obviously illegal method of public advise manipulation is that the traditional filtering by professional hotel and catering staff of undesirables is tainted with fear of a confrontation with liberty takers who could easily have been planted by competitors out to create the pathetic criticisms that could sink them. This is not just a likelihood but a certainty as a quick read through these critical compositions on websites like Tripadvisor, Booking.com, Trivago etc. so clearly shows. One disgruntled "client" who appears to write to different agencies, calls one hotel incapable and of very low standards, a restaurant – a recycler of leftovers and an NH hotel in Amsterdam both racist and child-hater. All these are published under a pseudonym and, it would seem, as a result of discussions with the various establishments concerned that the “clients” were of educational standards hardly likely to have been able to put together any more than a few basic words.
How such vandalism – paid or not – can be allowed to find homes in so called consumer friendly agencies, is beyond belief. The agencies on whose “so called” quality reference pages find themselves, appear to be more concerned with the colour of their critical collections than the loyalty to the very establishments, like hotels, which provide them with such lucrative gains. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that the system enables the booking and evaluation agencies to work together and channel clients in the direction the consider in their own interests. It needs little imagination to see that the whole things is an elaborate piece of restrictive practice bordering on blackmail since it represents a form of inverse advertising bordering on a childish power game or protection racket.
Monopolies have never been consumer friendly, but in these instances, they are blatantly destructive. These practices are doubtlessly punishable by law as prima facie cases of defamation, market manipulation and restrictive practices purely for starters. In some areas of consumer complaint, like mobile phone lines, internet connections, airline and banking much has been achieved against these clever blackmailers. But in the catering and hospitality area however it is only just coming to a head. These booking agencies are abusing internet shopper confidence in "friendly advise" and whilst they are now being criticized seriously by the hotel industry in self defence, it is unlikely that the consumer will take action for some time.
Both Hoteliers and Restauranteurs who value their standards, cannot allow themselves to be blackened by the likes of Tripadvisor, Trivago, Booking.com, Agoda - (all interconnected) – and should pursue the issue through the law courts however long it may take. The results will always be favourable to the complainant. Alternatively, they could face the lurid and sleezy outcome of having to accept whatever standards are imposed on them by these cynical robots purely out to cash in (like so many bloggers) by manipulating opinions to support their own.
Client selection is a must in all areas of the catering industry and no ramshackle peddler of false standards should be allowed to play a role in this at the expense of the catering and hospitality trade which has worked hard over a long time to build its reputations. The carefully guarded door to a selected clientele which has worked so well for so many prestigious and legendary establishments has now been blown open by these crude merchants. The trade now faces the banality of rampant ignoramuses capable of writing whatever they choose. One thing is ultimately obvious - the use of unsolicited and encouraged critical reports add up to no more than a misguided view of what most intelligent patrons would find out for themselves. One "written" by a rebuked hotel client could easily push business down the line to an inferior and even more expensive hotel. These attempts to channel unwary visitors through this seedy provision of manipulated evaluations is nothing more than quackery and neither the good nor the bad in these tainted columns is worth any more than a note of the establishments concerned. A direct call to the hotel or restaurant to iron out any doubts of the capability to provide what they want is a much healthier and beneficial exercise. The proof of the pudding is in the eating....or so it should be.
The catering trade is sensitive to unintelligent complaint and will more than likely bend over backwards to provide value for money to sensible and appreciative clients, as it has always done.
The message going out today therefore is to avoid the Booking agencies and get a likely discount from the establishments themselves. More and more people are doing that, but whilst standards will determine whether a client will visit an establishment again, there is no healthier way of doing things than to register discomfort there and then with a genuine complaint instead of allowing less than competent people to taint whatever they choose for fun.
Since this article was written numerous complaints against these market manipulators have been registered including possible banning in some countries. It is beginning to emerge that they are linked via a cartel system and therefore cause establishments to be boycotted which do not pander to their high commissions and questionable tactics. Competitors now freely utilize agents to write any amount of defamatory critiques to dissuade clients from using establishments which are not registered with them. Monopolies are illegal in most democratic countries yet net providers are abusing the consumer protection system to achieve total control of markets.
Since this article was written, the exploits of these shady organisations, have been called to heel by some European countries and publicly denounced by some touristical agencies. Their claims to bring order and standards to the market have been seen to be no more than monopolistic and market warping exercises based entirely on their personal gain.Most of these agencies have merged for the purpose. Their vindictiveness with respect to those refusing to pay to get attention, has damaged the marketing prospects of many restaurants and hotels whose net client access were blocked by them for refusing to be baited into their systems.
TODAY, SOME YEARS LATER, THE SITUATION WORSENS AND THE MONOPOLISTIC NATURE OF WHAT HAS EMMERGED IS NOW CAPABLE OF ELIMINATING ANY HOTEL OR RESTAURANT FROM THE MARKET SIMPLY BY PUBLISHING, AS IT DOES, THE DRIVEL AND HATRED OF MALICIOUSLY INCLINED SO CALLED "GUESTS". WHETHER THEY ARE SENT BY THE COMPETITION OR ARE SIMPLY ENJOYING THE VICARIOIUS THRILL OF MARKET POWER THAT THE AGENCIES, FOR SOME SINISTER REASON SEEM TO SUPPORT,IT IS OBVIOUS THAT TRADITIONAL VALUES ARE BEING INFRINGED
THANKFULLY, THE NET ITSELF IS BUILDING UP A STRONG RESENTMENT AGAINST THEM AND HOPEFULLY, AS WITH OTHER LICENTIOUS CARTELS, THEY WILL BE FORCED TO BOW DOWN TO HEALTHY BUSINESS PRACTICES OR GET BANNED.
---------------------------------------------------- Michael Mifsud was a House of Commons Commonwealth correspondent at the age of 16. He published Britain´s first trade journal for Drivers and became the youngest full member of the Commonwealth Press Union sharing platforms with the press barons of the day. He traveled with the Royal family for over a decade as a member of a press team,becoming much sought after on matters of Monarchy by the media. He had his own TV programme on culture and art (as a keen art collector and investigator)in Marbella,Spain and has recently published a very successful book on the nature of the unique people of Andalusia,called, Al Andalus - a trail of Discovery. He has been the subject of TV interviews in Spain and the UK on Princess Diana (whom he knew before she married)the Templars of which he became a very senior executive and royal exiles whom he met regularly as a director of the Monarchist League of Great Britain. Reuters recently featured him in an exclusive interview on Templars on the eve of the da Vinci premiere which was seen worldwide and was a an important contributor to the controversial books, Holy Blood and Holy Grail and The Messianic Legacy in which he is also interviewed. He is mentioned in others like The Sword and the Grail as an interpreter of the real meaning behind the Templar battle cry. His research over 30 years on the Knights and the symbolism is disquieting and unpublished. He was included in the 500 most "inspirative" people in the world - according to the American Academic BWW society for the advancement of Peace and which has gone into official political agency and government libraries throughout the world. He delivered a paper on the failing role of the world press in Paris as an official delegate of the organisation and published two well received papers on Culture and Globalisation. He has been offered an editorial seat on the board which advises its academic members throughout the world. He is a proud Freeman of the City of London and holds Polish, Serbian and Afghanistani decorations gleaned during his early Templar life in London. Pre-retirement business interests included publishing,professional academies, airline operating, airport carparks and hotels. retirement will be spent on getting all outstanding books out on the market.
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