An ‘outraged’ visitor has accused Wakehurst Place of trying to ‘wriggle out’ of blame after a report that its staff made Trip Advisor delete negative reviews.
On June 21 a national newspaper published an article implying that RBG Kew employees directly led to the removal last week of more than 200 reviews from the Wakehurst Trip Advisor page.
But a spokesman for Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, said it was inaccurate to imply that RBG Kew had direct communication with Trip Advisor because it had only used the site’s automated flagging system to flag reviews to Trip Advisor’s attention.
He said over a year RBG Kew used the flagging system to highlight a handful of reviews that did not adhere to Trip Advisor’s own guidelines.
He said: “There has not been direct communication between RBG Kew and Trip Advisor requesting the removal of reviews. The flagging system is an automated service in which RBG Kew’s digital team do not have verbal or written interactions with Trip Advisor.
“In line with Trip Advisor’s own guidelines, we flag those reviews that make no reference to an individual’s experience of Wakehurst. Only Trip Advisor has the authority and independence to remove reviews that they deem are in breach of their own guidelines.”
But regular visitor Mike Joyce, who wrote some of the reviews which were deleted, found this response ‘outrageous’.
He said: “It’s outrageous. I find it amazing that an organisation the size of Kew could try to wriggle out on a technicality. It’s contact whether it’s verbal or written or by any method.”
A spokesperson for Trip Advisor has also emphasised that it would only take down comments its own content team regarded as a breach of its guidelines.
However it hasn’t yet revealed the reasons the reviews were considered a breach of its guidelines.
The spokesperson said: “We never remove reviews simply at a property’s request – that goes against everything we stand for as a site. We only ever remove reviews if we determine that they breach our guidelines following an investigation by our content team.
“In this case, we removed a number of reviews for Wakehurst Place from our site because we determined they did not relate to a relevant first-hand experience.
“Our guidelines state that reviews must be written following a personal experience of a business or location, they cannot be based on second or third-hand commentary about a place from other people or within the media.
“We encourage visitors to Wakehurst Place to continue to share their genuine first-hand experiences on Trip Advisor, whether positive or negative.”
Mr Joyce said his review was definitely first-hand as he regularly visits. He added that some of his reviews complained about the high car parking charges introduced in April last year.
“If they removed them because of car parking comments, that’s outrageous aswell.
“Often people get to the barriers and turn around because they realise they are going to be charged so I think people have a right to know.”
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