Inn Consultants and Brokers Since 1993

The B&B Team

Rick Wolf and Peter Scherman (that’s Rick on the left and Peter on the right) are both experienced speakers who have presented on a range of innkeeping related topics at the state, regional, and national level. They gather and analyze research for the Innkeeping industry and welcome the opportunity to share it with others. Contact Us

Posts Tagged ‘Trip Advisor’

Blackmail! What You Can Do Before It Happens?

May 1st, 2017 by Janet Wolf


Blackmail! In today’s world of social media.

Just say the word, blackmail, and it brings to mind evil images and dark thoughts.

The definition of blackmail: ‘…the action, treated as a criminal offense, of demanding money from a person in return for not revealing compromising or injurious information about that person.’

For innkeepers today, it isn’t the demand for money. Blackmail in today’s world of social media and transparency means a threat of a bad review! Yes, evildoers with the opportunity of damaging  your good reputation.

Rick and I were invited to TripAdvisor’s headquarters recently to meet with multiple groups of TripAdvisor employees in different departments. We were pleased that The B&B Team had the opportunity to represent the interests of B&Bs at these meetings.

Among many subjects discussed relating to issues B&Bs have with TripAdvisor, the issue of blackmail came up.  A few years ago TripAdvisor added a way for business owners to report blackmail threats. In our canvasing of innkeepers only one innkeeper brought up this topic. I thought I would share this information for those of you who may not be aware of this tool.

As a business representative, how can I report that a guest threatened me with a bad review?  “Here are some best practices for submitting reports of potential blackmail to TripAdvisor before the review is submitted.”

The key word here is before. Being proactive is important. If you get a threat, report it immediately. Save the paper trail of emails and voicemails. As much detailed information you can report, the better.

What if a fraudulent review is posted and you were not aware of any threats? This can and has happened and unfortunately can be a bit more difficult to prove. It must violate TripAdvisor’s review guidelines.

As an owner or manager, how do I report a review that violates your guidelines?

As innkeepers, working through the process of reporting blackmail or fraudulent reviews can be frustrating and time consuming. But at least there is a process with guidelines provided by TripAdvisor. And if the results end with a removal of the review, definitely worth it!

Tip: Posting a management response to a fraudulent review is also very important. Respond as soon as possible!

As an owner or manager, how do I respond to a review on my listing?

Even if you have not had a threat of blackmail or received a fraudulent review, it is a good idea to read through these guidelines. Have the knowledge before, and you have the opportunity to head the evildoers off at the pass!

Thanks for Listening,

Janet Wolf


Trip Advisor-The Hate/Love Relationship Continues or Does It?

November 16th, 2015 by Janet Wolf



In the beginning there was Trip Advisor, the review site. A hate/love relationship flourished within the lodging industry including bed and breakfasts. No big news here.

‘Slowly I turned…step by step..inch by inch’… and Trip Advisor became the largest travel related website in the world. For those who could see into the future it became inevitable that Trip Advisor would become a travel ‘seller’, going up against the hotel metasearch engines, vying for their position.

That is just what has happened. Here are  two stats to illustrate Trip Advisor’s huge influence in the metasearch marketplace.

TA   68,378,830

Expedia   32,976,218

October 2015 data which includes mobile web and desktop PC visits. For the complete lists of stats see ‘TripAdvisor dominates web visits, so no wonder everyone is scared’, a very eye opening (pun intended) article by Kevin May, a co-founder of Tnooz.

For bed and breakfasts and other small lodging properties, with the emergence of Trip Advisor’s  TripConnect, the love/hate relationship continues. Or does it?

I decided to ask some innkeepers who are participating in the program to weigh in on their experiences.

From the Afton Mountain B&B, Virginia.

“We are enrolled only on the pay-per-click side of TripConnect, not instant booking. We’ve actually received a good response (and bookings) from it and will definitely continue. One interesting note is that you don’t need a business listing to be enrolled in TripConnect (at least not the PPC side). Because we are in a less competitive market, our PPC cost is quite low. So our return is extremely good.”

This innkeeper is referring to the TripConnect™ cost-per-click campaign. When you see that in just one month there were over 68 million visitors to Trip Advisor, getting involved with the action appears to be pretty compelling.  The CPC campaign allows the guests to book directly with you using TA’s ‘official site’ logo button that links to your website. This is a nice feature, one that innkeepers can possibly love?

Another possible love-in. “Unlike most other travel website “instant booking” options, Trip Advisor’s auction (CPC) model is making it affordable for independent properties and small chains to compete against other travel websites.” Kevin May.

Trip Advisor Instant Booking is in all manner of speaking, another OTA. With a few twists and turns to set itself apart. With seemingly competitive commission rates, plus upgrading to Trip Advisor Business, it can becomes pricy for small businesses.

Like any marketing tool, TripConnect cost-per-click campaign is available to help put heads in beds. It is the return on your investment that is the determining factor. Having the ability to budget and track your clicks is something innkeepers can control.

From the Brewster House Inn, Freeport, Maine.

“We participated for a few months (maybe a year ago) and never even went through our $50/ month experimental pay-per-click budget. We quit, as we felt no business came from it, but that Trip Advisor was really only being used for vetting us, albeit with excellent results.”

Trip Advisor is still the 900 pound gorilla in the room, now we know he is gaining weight. As  independent innkeeper business owners you can choose and create our own marketing campaigns. As technology grows it becomes more complicated and challenging, there is no doubt. But…

With Trip Advisor’s increased dominance in the travel world, love or leave it, their huge influence cannot be ignored.

Thanks for Listening,

Janet Wolf


Guest Complaints:Face to Face or Facebook

June 25th, 2012 by Janet Wolf

complaint dept

Remember William Buckley Jr., the conservative political commentator and author? He had a command for the English language unlike no other. Here is what he wrote in an essay about why people don’t complain face to face.

“…we are all increasingly anxious in America to be unobtrusive, we are reluctant to make our voices heard, hesitant about claiming our right; we are afraid that our cause is unjust, or that if it is not unjust, that it is ambiguous; or if not even that, that it is too trivial to justify the horrors of a confrontation with authority; we will sit in an oven or endure a racking headache before undertaking a head-on, I’m-here-to-tell-you complaint. That tendency to passive compliance, to a heedless endurance, is something to keep one’s eyes on — in sharp focus.” 1961 Essay ‘Why Don’t We Complain’ by William F. Buckley Jr.

Remember this was 1961, decades before social media and all the outlets we have for anonymous complaining. I wonder what he would have thought about Trip Advisor and Facebook?

As consultants, The B&B Team has the opportunity to listen to innkeeper’s stories about guests who have checked out and appear happy as can be. Then a few days go by and they receive an alert about a new review posting. Behold those happy guests were really NOT happy and their complaints get posted and go out there for all to read. It hits you up side of the head and in your gut, right? So why didn’t these folks just tell the innkeepers about their issues during their stay? Most innkeepers would gladly do everything in their power to rectify any negative situation.

Just like Mr. Buckley writes, most people don’t like to complain face to face because it feels confrontational. Is this a bit cowardly? I don’t think so, just human nature. The dis-satisfied guest will leave your inn feeling they have not received a good value for what they have paid for. Remember, true or false, their perception is their reality. Is the complaint legit or an emotional rant?

Let’s go back a few years before the social media phenomenon. A piece of paper in a guest room with a title ‘Guest Questionnaire’. Many innkeepers still provide this outlet, certainly hotels and airlines do. This may not be face to face communication but it is still a more direct guest to innkeeper approach. Your response can also be more direct and personal. Note: This should not take the place of encouraging your guests to post on social media outlets. Those glowing reviews pilling up help your business and help you manage your reputation which can result in bookings. This non tech suggestion is just another way of receiving customer feedback.

Some suggestions for survey questions:

  • Was check-in prompt and courteous?
  • Was the cleanliness of your room satisfactory?
  • Was the room temperature comfortable and controllable?
  • Was the lighting adequate?
  • Further suggestions welcomed.
  • Would you choose to stay with us again?

After receiving a negative (or positive) comment from a questionnaire you can then email or call and discuss the complaint and then take action. Communication is key. Listen and respond and set emotion aside.

Another author who has a good insight into the subject of complaints is Janelle Barlow. Her book ‘A Complaint is a Gift’ is a classic and great read. A few basics from her:

“You don’t know how to improve your product or service if you don’t know what’s wrong.”

“Complaints can give you valuable information on what is important to people, what they are willing to spend money on.”

In conclusion the reality is there will always be complaints and dis-satisfied customers. This is human nature and the nature of doing business. In general complaints are also a normal part of being in relationships with people. Our bed and breakfast world of the hospitality business is very personal and face to face. The key to success is in the perceptions (there is that word again) of your guests. If you can recognize during their stay any hints of dissatisfaction you can then ask them face to face if there is anything you can do to make their stay better. By understanding them better you can move forward and take action towards an improved and ‘Better Way to Stay’ inn.


ORM is for Online Reputation Management

December 12th, 2011 by Janet Wolf



A simple definition (thanks once again to Wikipedia) is: The practice of monitoring the internet reputation of a person, brand or business with the goal of suppressing negative mentions entirely, or pushing them lower on search engine results pages.

I remember in High School it was not a good thing when there was talk about someone having a ‘bad rep’. In the ‘boomer’ generation it was only talk, no Facebook or tweets. So what did one do to quell the gossip?  Ignore it and the talk would hopefully go away.

Times change, you have matured and so has WOM, word of mouth. You are in a business that is highly personalized and managing your ‘rep’ is an important and integral part of your marketing strategies. Monitoring your ORM includes not only the popular review sights like Trip Advisor (often referred to as the 900 pound gorilla) but all the other social media tools available to the travelling consumer.

Your friend?

In my research I came across a fabulous article about ORM published by Tourism BC, the tourism organization for British Columbia, Canada. It is chocked full of information and worth a read. I was also pleased to see that Ian MacPhee of Abbeymore Manor in Victoria BC was interviewed and quoted in this report. Innkeepers Anne, Ian and Michelle are active members and proponents of PAII and frequently post on the PAII Forum. Ian says he actively monitors reviews on Trip Advisor, Yelp and, not only for his inn but for his location. What a smart and thoughtful strategy! He not only actively monitors the reviews of his inn but of his town.  He firmly believes that; “A great website coupled with a solid online reputation brings business.” We at The B&B Team could not agree more. A positive approach in managing your online reputation goes along way versus the negative ‘refusal to face the facts’ attitude that so many innkeepers took when Trip Advisor emerged. The results say it all, Abbeymore Manor is ranked #1 of 117 B&B/Inns in Victoria by TA as well as a Traveller’s Choice 2011 Winner.  Ian says that TA is their #1 referral source. Staying on top takes disiplne and time. Ian advises that innkeepers should :”Find the time and you’ll reap the awards”. His week includes ‘Facebook Fridays, Trip Advisor Tuesdays and Website Wednesdays’. I love it!

Of course just like in High School, you have to have a good ‘rep’ in order for your WOM to be positive. You must be confident in who you are and how you run your property. Another great quote from Ian; “Be sure your property is the best it can be and go out of your way for every guest.”

Of course we don’t live in a perfect B&B world and despite your hard work there are guests that believe their expectations were not met (true or not true!) and they feel a need to vent. A negative review rears its ugly head. What to do? Don’t ignore it, it won’t just go away. A short manager’s response to respectfully set the record straight is the best plan of action. Here are some suggested rules of action:

  •      Draft a reply and sleep on it.
  •      Be brief, a long response comes off as a lecture.
  •      Always respond to the complaint, not the person complaining.
  •      Use a friendly, conversational tone.
  •      Explain what you are doing to improve or fix the problem.
  •      Don’t make BIG excuses or pass the blame onto others, staff etc.
  •      Don’t wait too long to respond, a negative review sitting unacknowledged has more time to damage your reputation.
  •      Last but not least, check your spelling and grammar.

A question many innkeepers ask is:  What if the complaint is false? The best way is to set the record straight without engaging in ‘he said, she said’. You have the option to contact the review site if you seriously believe you have been falsely accused and work with them to get the review removed. First read the review site’s rules and guidelines before you proceed.  Review removal can be a long and possibly frustrating process and you may not be successful in its removal  but it may be in your best interest to try.

An important component in managing your reputation is encouraging your guests to be an advocate for your Inn. The check-out process is a great time to engage with your guests. If they have expressed satisfaction with their stay you can easily direct the conversation into asking them to post a review. Make it easy for them. Have something printed with a nice Thank You note that include the link(s) to your review site(s) of choice. Many innkeepers prefer to send follow-up emails inviting guests to post a review, with direct links to your property’s review page, again making it easy and seamless for them. This is just another way of engaging with your guests and providing them with great service.

Social networking, including online reviews is not going away. Becoming engaged in social networking by managing your reviews will reap its rewards.  Real travel decisions are being made on review sites right now! That is a very powerful reason to engage.  Being on top of your game and working hard to reach a high ranking on Trip Advisor’s popularity index can bring those guests to your website, just where you want them. Take a hold of that 900 pound gorilla with confidence, make him your friend, he is not going away.



Inn Tune-Up – Better Way to Improve

April 15th, 2011 by Janet Wolf

If you check out your Thesaurus (thanks to Microsoft Word it is just a few clicks away) the word ‘better’ offers a few similar adjectives and one is ‘Improved’. Innkeepers are constantly improving their properties, at least they should be. In Jay Karen’s recent Key Notes article in the Winter IQ magazine he boldly and justly spoke of the below average B&B’s. It is unfortunate but oh so true when he said…”there are a lot of B&B’s out there that might not be a better way to stay.”  The Inns that are not constantly searching for ways to improve usually end up on the below average list.

In my research for this writing I decided to read reviews on Trip Advisor from a random choice of Inns. I wanted to come up with the top 10 complaints.  I didn’t have to go very far before I realized the complaints were the same ones we see and talk about all the time. No need for a list of 10.

No.1 complaint is still lack of cleanliness!

 No. 2 complaint is still inhospitable innkeepers!

 Another complaint is outdated décor which usually is accompanied with phrases like, ‘run down’,’ worn carpets’ and one I really thought was revealing , ‘…antique bureau drawers were hard to open and impossible to close’.  The outdated décor is usually not the real issue; it is the underlying fact that the décor is old, tired and not well kept.

The B&B Team has been consulting with innkeepers on how to improve their overall business for years. Recently we decided to put a title to what we do. We call it our ‘Inn Tune-up’. We created a very extensive check-list that starts with the property’s first impression when you drive up and continues through the Inn looking at guest rooms, marketing, and operations.  We have outlined over 250 check points. The final analysis comes with a report with suggestions for improvements.  We strive to be honest and forthright (oh I just checked out the word forthright and the adjective’ blunt’ came up). Many innkeepers we have worked with have thanked us for being blunt! They have told us they just needed another set of eyes. The old saying, ‘can’t see the forest for the trees’, we believe we can look up, down and around those trees and give innkeepers a complete picture of their valued forest.

The B&B Team realistically visits dozens and dozens of properties nationaly a year. That would include all six of us on the team. I believe this gives us a good perspective from which to work  when doing our ‘Inn Tune-up’. We believe we can offer innkeepers a Better Way to Improve.

To conclude I would like to make another observation from a review I read for an Inn with new owners that had recently completed an entire makeover. A quote from the review was…”we were looking for an experience, not just a bed. The living room was more like a lobby”. I found this comment very telling, because one can go too far opposite  from broken antique bureaus and dusty doilies. Decor can be minimalist with clean lines but not at the expense of becoming stark and cold. Again quoting Jay, “…we are posing ourselves to tell the world that B&Bs are better than hotels.”  A hotel lobby look is not what B&B’s need either.

So thanks Jay for being blunt and for your continued care and upkeep of our industry. We all need a new set of eyes and a good ‘kick in the gas’ with a tune-up once in a while. Ha!

Janet Wolf

Eastport…Downeast Maine’s Must See Destination!

September 18th, 2009 by Janet Wolf

One of the joys of being part of The B&B Team is the opportunity we have to work with great Innkeepers at great Inns in great locations.  Many of the locations are in well known ‘destination locations’ and some are in less known ‘undiscovered’ locales. 

Eastport, Maine is a small town on an island accessible by a causeway and is touted as the eastern most US city, where the sun rises first.  Just northeast of Bar Harbor off US Route 1, definitely worth the journey.

So…what’s new in Eastport and what makes it the newest must see destination?  To start with there is The Pickled Herring, Eastport’s newest upscale dining venue.  But don’t let the word upscale turn you away.  More like innovative…clam martini!… that got my attention.  Here are a few excerpts from Trip Advisor reviews that tell it all.

“A most wonderful surprise in a beautiful but under visited Maine seacoast town.  If in the area of Eastport, it is definitely worth the detour.”

“A great meal in an interesting little town, I would recommend a trip to Eastport anyway, but the addition of The Pickled Herring means you can now get an excellent meal while you are there.”

“Eastport has come of age with the recent opening of The Pickled Herring Restaurant.  Everything is fresh, prepared to order and the wood fired grill imparts a wonderful flavor.”

These reviews not only praise a wonderful new restaurant but they also give the reader a glimpse into a most interesting town.  To go back a few years , a 2005 article from Fodor’s Travel News describes Eastport as “still undiscovered by the sunburnt crowds that jam Mt. Desert Island and Bar Harbor every summer, Eastport’s surroundings are as scenic as the more popular downeast destinations.”   Eastport may still be undiscovered in 2009 but for those that work and have businesses there they know there is plenty of ‘downeast Eastport’ to share with the lucky visitors that ‘discover’ their part of the world.  The wealth that the town and surrounding area offers is unique.  Another quote from the Fodor’s article describes the town as having a “wonderfully eccentric vibe”.  With many of the 2,000 locals being artists, writers, filmmakers and now innovative restaurateurs, the creative atmosphere could be catching.

Another way to see Eastport is from the viewpoint of someone that has been vacationing there for almost half a century!

“Let me start by saying I have been going to this island city since the 1960’s. Not a lot has changed in all those years (not a bad thing) we have made a lot of friends here and always look forward to our next trip back.  The sunrise over Campobello is amazing, gotta get up early though.  So much to see:  the Old Sow whirlpool, the tremendous tides, life in the slow lane for sure.”

So whether you stay at a turn of the century campground (as these folks did) or a lovingly renovated, elegant Bed and Breakfast like The Chadbourne House, Eastport’s unparalleled scenery, home grown traditional festivals and events and creative locals welcome you to ‘discover’ them.  Come with an explorer’s heart and you won’t be disappointed!

Janet Wolf

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