How about some Trip Advice on Trout Point Lodge: A mostly guest post from comments by Finisterre.

“Sounds to me like Trout Point is beating TripAdvisor at their own game” ~ ChronicleHerald reporter Bill Powers after he picked up the Trout Point Lodge Privacy policy press release and ran it as a news story.

“Sold out and clueless does not begin to describe the media here.” ~ Nova Scotia resident on the Nova Scotia main stream media and the ChronicleHerald in particular.

“Since this post initially went up, I have gotten numerous emails, ranging from apologetic to threatening, from Charles Leary. He alleges bad behavior on my part. He also says the long-running lawsuit filed against Trout Point and him by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) has been settled. In addition, he says the man I talked to who was identified by his staff as Charles Leary was not, in fact, Charles Leary. But he will not produce the document showing the lawsuit was settled and he will not identify the man he claims I spoke to. Finally, he reaffirms his belief in his policy of attempting to own all his guests’ thoughts, observations and opinions about Trout Point.

(image)” ~ Story Worldwide CEO Kirk Cheyfitz, would be Trout Point Lodge guest, on his horrible experience trying to check into the Lodge. The link to Leary’s picture was broken by Charles Leary after Cheyfitz pointed out via the link that Leary lied to him about the person that treated him and his wife so badly was not Leary himself.

“The girls are doing a great job putting themselves out of business :-)” ~ Sop to an outraged reader in Nova Scotia regarding the glowing Canadian Main Stream Media reviews published in exchange for free visits to the Lodge.

From my post Thursday Music: This is why the girls are still trying to sell that bogus “privacy policy” Finisterre made some great observations:

From the “policy”: “In exchange and consideration for TPL protecting the privacy of TPL guests from unwanted publicity while on the property…”
Ok, what steps do they actually take to? If the person registering neither seeks nor needs nor, especially, receives such protections, isn’t the policy then null and void, without effect, unenforceable? Or, what do these protections consist of? Apparently this was not an issue when Millie Ball was on the property, then they were more than happy to advertise who was there.

Also, beyond all the other “stuff” this is actually an interesting issue: it would not surprise me to see this fine blog add cutting edge travel issues to its repertoire.

From social and modern technology perspectives – companies, corporations, individuals and even governments (local (such as JP) or national(Iran, China)) are seeking to block the use of 2.0 media such as travel sites or blogs like Trip Advisor but also facebook and twitter, news sites and political blogs, and other online and interactive capabilities for purposes of blocking near real time criticism and reporting via the power of communication on a larger yet individual scale. Tom Paine and Ben Franklin would certainly understand.

The lodge is pushing a meme, and so far they have few takers, in which B&B’s and small lodges or inns claim they have been the targets of unfair comments on travel sites like Trip Advisor. Here are examples:

So, why? (Let’s get past the idea for the sake of argument that they might also want to block any visitors, customers, from reporting who is actually there (say, investment bankers, ex or current politicos, who knows) or what they might be doing when such might be of public interest in any given place or sphere, and that is probably not limited to JP & LA.) The basic claim of sites like the above and others following the TPL meme is that mean competitors are secretly plugging in ugly reviews to hurt their business. Now anyone who has used such sites as Trip Advisor knows that some of the comments can be confusing – one poster loves it, it was beautiful, it was fantastic…. and the next poster says, it was horrible, a disappointment, etc. – really just reader beware and like everything else in a free capitalistic society use your judgement and see who makes the most sense or just don’t rely on it at all, it’s up to the reader to sort it out. In fact it is also a possibility that hotels, inns, B&B’s or hotels may be posting their own favorable reviews, who really knows and who cares. Alternatively, it might make sense for some of the larger hotels, no doubt the hotels and resorts of Cabo or Cancun or a number o other big resorts are posting some dubious things about each other.

But in Nova Scotia rural inn country? Who would be doing this? Thing is if you read the Trip Advisor comments about TPL – currently something like 15 out of 75 posters rate it as average, poor, or terrible (mostly the latter two) and there is also an eviscerating review for the smaller lodge.

Three (alleged) basic complaints over the years on the Trip Advisor site in these negative reviews: 1. absentee, disinterested or rude managers, 2. poor service (sometimes by teenagers), and 3. totally unexpected upcharges (typically an 18% add-on is mentioned, but also other fees like cancellation fees). People also go out of their way to say the site is beautiful, the setting gorgeous, the food wonderful (with some dissenters on that last point, even among the positive reviews). People also differ as to whether it is boring with nothing to do or serenely peaceful.
A little glimpse into the response of managers can be seen not just in Kirk Cheyfitz’s account, which is consistent with prior Trip Advisor accounts, but also in this response on Trip Advisor by the actual management team:

“We pay very close attention to any deficiencies in our guests’ experience, however in this case our conclusion is that Trout Point was simply not their kind of place.”

Not their kind of place. Yikes, way to assuage the hurt there. This is like going to an extremely nice, expensive restaurant, ordering the fish special du jour but it’s bad, and then the manager says in reply to the complaint, “Well maybe fish just isn’t your kind of dish.” Ok, regardless, from a business perspective, how does that go over? Like a Lead Zeppelin.

Here’s another reply:
“The 18% service fee is clearly indicated on our web site, on a large-print sign displayed at the reception desk, and the guest guide. It covers basic tipping, use of canoes, kayaks, hot tub, parking, local calls, soft drinks, coffee, tea, etc. It is not a hidden charge.”

Ok, so should visitors dare have the desire to share their experiences with the wider world they have to live with the threat of litigation harassment or they must personally check in with this management team? The concept is inherently anti-democratic. On a personal level…. well who does this? Who presumes to have control over another’s speech? Who presumes to say that anything critical is false, defamatory and ill-intentioned? Plus: The visitor could be from France, from Japan, from California, or even from Yarmouth itself, but two men living on the side of the Tobeatic Wilderness presume to have the right to control the expression of impressions of others with the definitive presumption further being that anything critical is a lie? On a business level it is a terrible, awful idea. In all of these responses on Trip Advisor it is clear that some decent, amenable behavior from the managers – and respectful communication – would have gone a long way to ameliorate much of the bad feeling obviously eventually evident in the postings: People had cobwebs? Too bad, you’re in the forest. Mouse droppings on the floor? That’s nature. No information on things to do? You’re not supposed to be doing anything. Upcharges or cancellation fees on the billing? It was clearly printed right in front of your face. Off you go then or you shall be taunted a second time.

For the sake of comparison, let’s look at two local competitors who get sterling reviews, both in nearby Yarmouth. [Yes these are B&B’s but upscale hotels and lodges are apparently almost non-existent in that near locality.]
82 reviews, 81 excellent, 1 poor, none average or terrible.
The comments about the owners/managers are glowing.
53 reviews, 1 very good, none average, poor or terrible.
Again, lovely comments about the owner manager, who indeed actually pops up on the board to express her thanks and welcome back, not merely appearing to attack the negative (of which there are none, but actually to say thanks for the positive, gee imagine that).

Now given the consistency in the 16 mediocre to terrible reviews for TPL and the lodge on site, I would really like to know which of the Trip Advisor reviews this TPL company feels were false, which statements were untrue. And who were these alleged mean competitors or disingenuous visitors seeking to hurt their business? The Halifax Hilton? Doubtful, c’mon Inspector Poirot, who?

Well, here is TPL itself explaining things, and you might find this really, really interesting, especially the comments at the bottom. The URL title itself is remarkable (again, presumption beyond the pale, and, so, wait, its hotelier critics are supposedly “anti-gay” too?), but to boil down the substance there is this:

“Trout Point management have tried having TripAdvisor remove defamatory material in the past—not only at the Lodge but also at another property they previously operated—but without success. TripAdvisor seemingly has little incentive to strip its site of useful and free third-party content, despite the statements on its “conditions” page. Such defamatory reviews are demoralizing not only to the Lodge’s owners, but also the staff and other guests. Online reviews are often replete with misstatements of fact as well as 1-5 star ratings that would tend to damage the hotel’s reputation, for instance a 1 star rating for “cleanliness.”

Now, this page is just chunk full of good stuff, from the open exposition of the thought process at work here, like th above, to the comments at the bottom. If you note, in one of the above links someone writes of finding “mouse droppings, lots of it” on the floor upon arrival.

The management response, there on the page? “We do not clean whole cottage rentals on a daily basis. Linens and towels are changed every 3 days.” Then later above elsewhere they raise the one-star cleanliness rating as an alleged lie. Well, there you go, basically this is an attempt to control political and even travel commentary from afar, for the essential reason that it displeases them to hear it, and, maybe more importantly, they are probably not the only ones who would so love to see that concept realized. Those far more powerful would so love to see it fulfilled as a general rule that is for sure. Well, heck what could possibly go wrong?

2 thoughts on “How about some Trip Advice on Trout Point Lodge: A mostly guest post from comments by Finisterre.”

  1. 2 things that are self evident to me that are worth pointing out: Until early this year RiverBend Lodge was owned by Aaron Broussard, who Leary claimed to not do business with in his remarks to the T-P's Rich Rainey. How interesting that Trip Advisor itself reveals Leary for the compulsive liar he is as not only did the girls service the cottages owned by politically connected former Jefferson parish politicos they also responded on their behalf to the bad reviews about the then Broussard owned River Bend.

    The other thing is that when it comes to promoting themselves the privacy of their guests does not matter to the girls one bit. For instance one of their former guests is a teacher in Michigan.

    Finally the bad service complaints square up with what I've been told by former employees about Leary and Perret not being service oriented people persons. Yeah they can make nice and con reporters with comps and such that amount to the print version of payola but service with a smile. Hard to do when you stayed up late drinking heavily and actually work the front desk wearing PJs.


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