Tripadvisor posting guidelines a mess

tripadvisor-esclamazioneTripadvisor banned my ip along with others with no explanation. I thought was perhaps a mistake and I sent an email. Here is what followed:

To: support@tripadvisor.com

IT seems that the maintenance on your site has possibly caused an issue with my account. I can no longer log on or access my owners listings and management response area. I have built a new id and cannot post on the forums indicating that my ip is being blocked. Can you please look into the matter and have my account reactivated? It seems that Dec 2nd, all of my posts and entries disappeared at once, and I am getting a lot of personal emails from other TA members asking what has happened. A.K.A. Owee

Further to my message about Owee’s account being disabled, I noticed that a thread that I started listing the new visa fees copied from a memorandum was removed. Could this have breeched a rule in some way? Can I please have the account reactivated? Owee

From: “TripAdvisor Support” <support@tripadvisor.com>

Hi, Thank you for contacting us. After reviewing your account, I see that we have removed your account for advertising.  You provide a link to your business site within every post, which is against our posting guidelines. Best Regards, Beth TripAdvisor Support Team

Advertising? Huh?

To: support@tripadvisor.com

Hi Beth, In this case I believe TA is in error. This also happened once in the past by a person complaints but was found in the end to be unjustified, and his ip was banned.I have never tried to sell on either the forums, or the blog, however, I do know there are some out there that might talk about what I do as it is a blog after all, but very little The link I provide is not to a business, but my personal blog that talks about life and travel in Vietnam and how I adjusted to it. It also offers the viewpoint of an expat that lives and works with tourism and can provide information that no other can such as the passport issue question in the top question about Vietnam area. IF TA feels that the blog link should not be attached to my signature, all they had to do is ask or give warning and I have no problem not adding it, however, in the past, I have received communication that posting links to the helpful information on my blog was allowed and within the guidelines. Please review the link I provided on all of my posts and if you find it does not link to or sell my product in any way. If you look in the owners center, you will find that I run a hotel in Nha Trang and nowhere in your forums will you ever see me refer to that fact or self promote, so how it can be removed for advertising, I cannot understand. Please review your decision and hopefully you will reactivate my account. Owee

From: “TripAdvisor Support” <support@tripadvisor.com>

Hi, Your account was deactivated due to having multiple screen names and for advertising your blog within our forums.  While we do allow members to place their personal blog in their signature line, we do not allow members to refer to their blog within the forum post. Best Regards, Beth TripAdvisor Support Team

OK…. so you do allow blog signatures but how is linking to information a person is looking for be called advertising? Sounds like you have no idea.

To: support@tripadvisor.com

Ok Beth………… Whatever, however, I DO NOT!! and have NEVER!! had multiple screen names. I only registered RIPTideNhaTrang as a new one after the only screen name I had was deactivated.  Furthermore, there are no commercial links or direct advertising on the site. Have you even looked?  I have received many hundreds of letters from TA members and other experts that have no issue and actually appreciate my 6000 posts that that are facts and not just guesses like many of your so called Destination Experts. At any time in the past 4 years, you could have asked me to stop with a warning, if Tripadvisor thought I was linking to advertising. I had communication with moderator Jane in the past that the links to blogs were totally acceptable, however she thought that linking in my signature was too much, but not enough to cause breaking guideline rules. Now all of a sudden, without a warning, my ip is banned due to advertising????? Have you even looked at the site in question? I removed the single link to my business to comply with TripAdvisor request 1 year ago in November. Since that day there has not been an issue.”While we do allow members to place their personal blog in their signature line, we do not allow members to refer to their blog within the forum post.” OK fine. This is contrary to what I was told in the past and under that policy it looks like you will have hundreds of members to also ban. Had there been any indication that this was going to be a new policy all you needed to do is notify me and I would have complied. TA members I have been in contact with so far are also at a loss why this is happening (even though I know a couple of Hanoi fans that would love to see me gone) I ask again…. Please reactivate my account and I will comply! I feel it is not a good policy to blacklist somebody without any warning or notice. Owee

That was the last I heard from Beth…. In fact, I was getting no help with this matter so I decided to write to one of the Tripadvisor executives.

To: xxxx@tripadvisor.com Subject: Moderator gone too far?

Dear Mr. Charron,

Please accept my apology if I am sending this to the wrong person, however, I am not sure where to direct this mail. I am writing in regards to an action taken by TA moderators responsible for the Vietnam forum section of your site. My name is Owen a.k.a. Owee on the Vietnam forums and have been contributing to the forum for 4 years with 6000 posts. Over those years, I have befriended many of fellow forum contributors and have found TA has also become a friends network for me. In all of my posts, I link to my travel blog in the signature. The blog gives more detailed information about travel and culture in the destination and to most that use it, becomes a useful tool to be used in conjunction with their TA queries. On Dec 2nd, without notice or warning, my ip was blocked from making further posts on the Vietnam forums. A woman by the name of Beth (who I have never dealt with before) gave reason in a response that I was linking to direct advertising, secondly, I was falsely accused of posting with dual personas. The blog has no direct advertising at all and Jane (TA moderator) made me aware 1 year ago about a single link to my business that I then removed. It looks like there is some kind of personal vendetta that I am unaware of that is happening. I would appreciate your attention in this matter, or perhaps have another look into it. Part of the reason I wish to continue, is until now, I have always thought TA one of the best resources for travel information in this country. Travel in Vietnam can be very limited because of old no longer enforced government rules and there are few such as myself that live here and understand the tourism business. Most of the Designated Experts (some my friends) only know the surface of the old touristy trail. Part of the reason I enjoy posting, is I can often answer or correct advice and help a person enjoy this place as much as I do. I have kept transcripts of the falsely accusing emails. Please help to reactivate my account if you see ( which I believe you will) that their actions are unjustified and if linking to my blog ( after 4 years of it being allowed) is now inappropriate due to new policy changes, please advise and I will cease.

Thank you for your help in this matter.

Owee

Magically I received a very fast response

From: mailto:support@tripadvisor.com

Sent: Saturday, December 08, 2012 1:11 AM

Subject: RE: FW: Moderator gone too far?

 

Hi, We have reviewed your account and see that there was a misunderstanding somewhere along the line regarding those links. We will restore your account. Please be sure not to refer to your blog anywhere in the text of your posts.  We do allow personal blogs as part of your signature. Thanks for your cooperation on this going forward. Please refrain from opening any other account with us to avoid any interruption to your account. Best Regards, Diane TripAdvisor Support Team

To: support@tripadvisor.com Subject: Re: Moderator gone too far?

Thank you. Now I have only one question.

I will cease referring to my blog with my signature and I want to be clear. I often answer questions with a link to one of my blog pages that have detailed information useful to a poster such as weather statistics, and distance charts, security, train schedules, and other information that is difficult to answer in a forum. In the past I was told that links within the post body was acceptable. Is this still the case, or is linking to 3rd party information no longer allowed under the new guidelines?

Owee

 

OhOh….. Beth is back!

Subject: Re: Moderator gone too far? [ ref:_00DA0I0Rf._500F0DBu5x:ref ]

 

Hi, Posting a link to your blog within the post is against our guidelines. Best Regards, Beth TripAdvisor Support Team

HUH? In your last email to me you said and I quote “While we do allow members to place their personal blog in their signature line, we do not allow members to refer to their blog within the forum post.” This is a 100% flip flop in one week.

 

To: support@tripadvisor.com Subject: Re: Moderator gone too far?

Beth,

“Posting a link to your blog within the post is against our guidelines. “  Since when and for what possible reason?

So nobody is allowed to post a link to outside travel information, or just me? Shall we all start marking as inappropriate anyone who links as such? All of the pages I link to exist because of TA questions, many times mine and sometimes others. So your guidelines have changed? (I assume they are new since I was allowed under the ones prior to Dec 2nd) I will consider what you have said however, such a policy is a large disappointment. It seems that it is not your reader’s best interest that you have at heart.

Owee

Sadly, they had no answer for me. It seems that this whole affair has nothing to do with policy guidelines but perhaps about my blog being a threat to them in some fashion.

 

Sent: 12/12/2012 12:43 PM To: support@tripadvisor.com Subject: Re: Moderator gone too far? [ ref:_00DA0I0Rf._500F0DBu5x:ref ]

I have logged onto my re-activated account but my message center is still disabled. Please enable so I can be in contact with the many TA patrons and TA Advisors that often contact me.

Please!!!! Beth….. Diane…. Marc…. and anybody else following this thread…… let us get these differences worked out. I am trying very hard to be patient.

Owee

Hi, We have reviewed your account and see that your private message center was turned off and must not have been reactivated when we reinstated your account.  We have turned your messaging on and have tested your account to be sure it works.  In the future, if you find that your messaging is turned off, you can turn it back on from your profile.  Sorry about the confusion. Best Regards, Beth\ TripAdvisor Support Team

 

OK….. So I thought we had finally worked everything out. As you can see above, they seemed to be very confused about their own guidelines. If you look on the Tripadvisor forums for Vietnam, you will see many posts violating the above rules not enforced. There are many obvious tauters and people cheerleading in the guise of promoting ones business.

I returned to the forums and started giving advice as before but my very first post was deleted because I was giving advice on a tour. I still had no links as I do now on my site that I offered tours, however, it was not hard to find that I did. I tried again wit hotel advice…….. Deleted!!  Whaaaaa??????? I saw and still see people who put links in the body of the post (not allowed by emails sent to me) So I linked to a page other than my own that had some usefull information that would help a Tripadvisor patron…. AGAIN DELETED!!!!!! AARRGGHH!!! What the heck is going on? Are the moderators on some kind of revenge thing because of me contacting their boss? Or is it perhaps a few  Tripadvisor anti Owee contributors that were marking my posts as inappropriate? I do not know why but here it is 2 years later and still almost anything I post is deleted.

 

To me, the Tripadvisor forum has now become irrelevant. A person might as well purchase one of the outdated copies of the mainstream travel books. All true destination experts for Vietnam have been banned from even logging onto the site. I have my own thoughts on that. It is my belief that in December 2012 after a period of site maintenance, Tripadvisor began offering booking services. It is now in their best interest for a person never to leave their website and look elsewhere for information. I might have made the same decision if I was CEO for financial reasons, but this is very unfair to YOU!

I used to taut Tripadvisor as a person’s best resource for information when traveling to Vietnam and I guess it is still ok if you want general information of the main tourist trail from other travelers answering from their perspective right or wrong. In Vietnam you will end staying and eating in places altered to the foreigner and not representative of “real” Vietnam. There are so many fun, interesting, and beautiful destinations to visit but you will not find your answers on Tripadvisor. If you want help and information from those that understand this country and can offer the perspective of one who actually truly knows, search for blogs. There are a number of them that are very good and will give you excellent travel ideas but do not expect them to get any mention in Tripadvisor. Some of them have business interests and perhaps can offer you the vacation that you are looking for……. Perhaps not…. I say again Tripadvisor…… WHO CARES!!

In conclusion, I would suggest that the Vietnam Tripadvisor forum has degraded from a useful source of information into a site that does not really care for you to get the answers you want and mislead you in the hopes you will book through their online system. The term Destination Expert is misleading and in most cases an out right lie. A Tripadvisor chosen volunteer is a more accurate term. Please keep this in mind when using their resource. It saddens me when I encounter people traveling Vietnam that want something beyond what the travel guides and now Tripadvisor offer, but cannot find it.

Please Tripadvisor…….. Return to your old ways, cut the BS and live up Stephan Kaufer’s mission to help travelers around the world plan and have the perfect trip. Now you are just part of the tired old machine.

www.airfarewatchdog.com, www.bookingbuddy.com, www.cruisecritic.com, www.everytrail.com, www.familyvacationcritic.com, www.flipkey.com, www.gateguru.com, www.holidaylettings.co.uk, www.holidaywatchdog.com, www.independenttraveler.com, www.jetsetter.com, www.lafourchette.com, www.niumba.com, www.onetime.com, www.oyster.com, www.seatguru.com, www.smartertravel.com, www.tingo.com, www.travelpod.com, www.tripbod.com, www.vacationhomerentals.com, www.viator.com, www.virtualtourist.com, and www.kuxun.cn. are all operated by TripAdvisor

 

Merry Christmas everybody

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Owee

Tour designer and Guide specializing in off the beaten track tours of Vietnam

10 thoughts on “Tripadvisor posting guidelines a mess

  1. Hello owee, I was reading your post because i needed to find someone with a similar problem , as TA hasnt contact me yet, and I have decided to just delete my account! i was wondering whta;t wrong with them lately? I had ocassions where the so called “destination experts” had been rude to me in an unexpected way and I reported them, but all I got instead was all my forums had been removed, the ones I had links to my posts , and I had loads of comments that readers found it really helpful !
    SO I wanted to thank you for this post, and please , Can you tell me what is allowed with your blog links ? Thanks a lot !

    1. Like yourself I have this blog with travel information. TripAdvisor now sees us as competition. They do not want anybody to leave their site for information as that are now only about bookings. I used to post links to my blogs for information but it is no longer allowed even though they had told me it was ok before. The best you can do is try to give your best opinions and hope that people find your information as an alternative source.

  2. thank you for your TA observation, I have wondered what’s up with them periodically, I go to Cuba, Vietnam, Ukraine and Venezuela and have seen the same in the Cuba forums good old regulars being banned then having to change names sometimes to come back until the ban was lifted, as a normal reader I never saw any reason for the bannings, but I see obvious ones on the Vietnam by those in country travel agents, for starters there english gives them away quickly
    good advice on checking for travel blogs and I will check for them

    1. I am glad that some people become aware of the problems. I am back to posting on TripAdvisor again only because I see so many with good intentions offering mistaken or down right bad advice.

  3. In the immortal words of former U.S. President Bill Clinton, “I feel your pain.”

    Unfortunately, life is often unfair. Like many things that initially begin as a good idea, TA apparently has sold out to big business and/or hired unthinking robots for staff.

    Before moving to Nha Trang from China in December 2014, your Blog, and later our exchange of emails, was a great source of information combined with my six-months of extensive research on Vietnam and Nha Trang. All of this contributed to me not just visiting Nha Trang, but deciding to live here.

    I have never read anything in your reviews on TA or anywhere else that overtly pushed your business interests.

    However, I have read numerous reviews on TA that appear to be either shills touting their own business or dumping crap on their competition. After reading some reviews, I’m asking myself did these people visit the same place as I did?

    Your readers might be interested in this news article pertaining to TA: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/23/tripadvisor-fined_n_6373242.html

    My only suggestions for your Blog are, time permitting, update some of the sections on local prices and maybe create your own section on yours or others opinions of best restaurants, bars, shopping venues, etc. to visit or patronize and those to avoid. This would allow other locals like me or former visitors to comment and possibly help others planning to visit or live here.

    Anyway, keep up the good work and it’s been great to meet you and your wife since my arrival and enjoy some cold beer and fresh seafood together!

    1. Thanks. I can update prices and such but for me to comment on restaurants would end me in deep water as I live here and complimenting or criticizing would be difficult. I also very rarely eat in tourist restaurants so my tastes are different. I am probably a good judge of local Vietnamese venues, however, not western style places. I also enjoyed the beers, seafood, and company.

  4. Hi Owen
    Thanks for the heads up on TripAdvisor. I am just planning another trip to Vietnam and will be more aware of TA’s possible restrictive policy.

    My tour with you in 2012 was great, the recommendation of V’Explore in 2014 was brilliant, any ideas for who could assist me plan a few days in Cambodia (where, what, how long) in March 2015 before attending my conference in Hoi An..not sure I want to trust TA now?

    Interestingly I wanted to post a comment in March 2014 to alert travellers to the significant delays on the Hanoi Lao Cai train due to track upgrades but was told it wasn’t possible.

    1. I can offer limited advice for Cambodia and V’Explore has a partner company there that is decent, however, if you want my style of off the beaten track kind of tour, we can talk through email. When it comes to travel in Asia, anyting is possible. You just have to find the right peiople.

  5. I thing you have a good point there Owen, its now much more than just a forum for like-minded travels to swap information and travel experiences and review accommodation.

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