Reviews Debacle by Travel India With Peace on TripAdvisor

Fake Reviews Alert - Travel India With Peace

Update 2019-07-29 13:35 IST: I think all of the reviews that I reported have been removed. I also took to the Owner’s Forum on TripAdvisor to share my thoughts on this whole situation

It breaks my heart to see someone who was trained under me to have resorted to fraud. Aman, who I hired back on March 2018 to handle our tour operations, was a gem employee and a top-performer. I trusted him with all the aspects of the business and gave him the full authority to make decisions. But then he was found cheating and conducting fraud and so was let go from the organization in December 2018.

He then started his own travel company with the name of Travel India With Peace and became our direct competitor. I knew they would provide a great tour service, just like he did when he was working with us. As of today, they have gathered nearly 85 reviews, with a new reviews post rate of nearly 10 a day.

However, it baffled me when I saw the rise of the rankings of their TripAdvisor page and what I found later distressed me.

At first, when I went through their reviews, I felt that I have seen that kind of language/tone of the reviews earlier. I read some more and could feel some similarities again. I then looked for more such phrases from their page and searched them on ours and wow, it was that easy!

They have been copying old reviews from our pages, changing a few details and then getting them posted on his own TripAdvisor page. It’s surprising to see how stupidly and naively the whole organized boosting operation has been conducted to increase the number of reviews to improve their ranking.

I found nearly 10 reviews in just under 15 minutes that were a partial or complete copy of our old reviews from last year. Looking beyond, I started to search phrases from their other reviews on Google and found that he was also copying reviews from other competitors.

A common theme behind the fake reviews

  • Nearly all the reviews are from new TripAdvisor accounts that have been created in July and have reviewed only one attraction, their own
  • He replaced a few elements here and there like the name of the company, tour names, cities and guide names
  • Most of the reviews seem to be submitted via the mobile app
  • There is a perceivable pattern of continuous mobile submitted or desktop submitted reviews
  • He even copied the way we at City On Pedals respond to reviews – eg. using the first character of the name to address a guest!

Here are the sources from where he copied the reviews, modified and submitted them using fake TripAdvisor accounts.

City On Pedals vs Travel India With Peace

Our TripAdvisor: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g303884-d13339409-Reviews-City_On_Pedals-Amritsar_Amritsar_District_Punjab.html

1. “I had the privilege to see the”

Original review on City On Pedals: https://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g303884-d13339409-r664882743-City_On_Pedals-Amritsar_Amritsar_District_Punjab.html

Fake review on Travel India With Peace: https://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g303884-d16726592-r688630862-Travel_India_With_Peace-Amritsar_Amritsar_District_Punjab.html (Update 2019-07-24 10:25 IST: This review has been removed)

Fake reviews by Travel India With Peace
Fake reviews by Travel India With Peace

2. “We would not have gained on our own, passionate”

Original review: https://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g303884-d13339409-r632322237-City_On_Pedals-Amritsar_Amritsar_District_Punjab.html

Fake review: https://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g303884-d16726592-r688827686-Travel_India_With_Peace-Amritsar_Amritsar_District_Punjab.html (Update 2019-07-24 10:25 IST: This review has been removed)

Fake reviews by Travel India With Peace
Fake reviews by Travel India With Peace

3. “Simply calling it a tour”, “absolutely”

Original review: https://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g303884-d13339409-r632357332-City_On_Pedals-Amritsar_Amritsar_District_Punjab.html

Fake review: https://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g303884-d16726592-r688827686-Travel_India_With_Peace-Amritsar_Amritsar_District_Punjab.html (Update 2019-07-24 10:25 IST: This review has been removed)

Fake reviews by Travel India With Peace
Fake reviews by Travel India With Peace

Tourist Hero vs Travel India With Peace

TripAdvisor: https://www.tripadvisor.in/Attraction_Review-g303884-d13551736-Reviews-Tourist_Hero-Amritsar_Amritsar_District_Punjab.html

1. “We were lucky to be referred to”

Original review on Tourist Hero: https://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g303884-d13551736-r657281079-Tourist_Hero-Amritsar_Amritsar_District_Punjab.html

Fake review on Travel India With Peace: https://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g303884-d16726592-r690915244-Travel_India_With_Peace-Amritsar_Amritsar_District_Punjab.html (Update 2019-07-24 10:25 IST: This review has been removed)

Fake reviews by Travel India With Peace
Fake reviews by Travel India With Peace

2. “I’m not exaggerating when I say this was one of the best days”

(added on 2019-07-20 20:07 IST)

Original review on Tourist Hero: https://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g303884-d13551736-r636196361-Tourist_Hero-Amritsar_Amritsar_District_Punjab.html

Fake review on Travel India With Peace: https://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g303884-d16726592-r690831207-Travel_India_With_Peace-Amritsar_Amritsar_District_Punjab.html (Update 2019-07-24 10:25 IST: This review has been removed)

Fake reviews by Travel India With Peace
Fake reviews by Travel India With Peace

3. “how the massive operation works around the clock”

Original review on Tourist Hero: https://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g303884-d13551736-r661201016-Tourist_Hero-Amritsar_Amritsar_District_Punjab.html

Fake review on Travel India With Peace: https://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g303884-d16726592-r690837123-Travel_India_With_Peace-Amritsar_Amritsar_District_Punjab.html (Update 2019-07-24 10:25 IST: This review has been removed)

Fake reviews by Travel India With Peace
Fake reviews by Travel India With Peace

I have a list of dozen more reviews which I took a side by side screenshot of with the source.

I have reported his page to TripAdvisor’s Content Integrity team and I am trying to follow up with them to look into this case of organized boosting. I hope to get a response from them soon.

Update 2019-07-24 10:25 IST Several of the reviews which were copied have been reported and removed from his page. Although the reviews still continue to pour in from new accounts, their sources are now hard to track since they are mix and blends of excerpts of many different reviews. Collectively, some of them don’t even make sense, but that’s that!

My thoughts on this whole situation

I feel Aman is the manifestation of some of the ethical issues that plague the commerce and businesses of our country. People are insanely unreliable and lack integrity. I don’t think there are no great job options, people are just not willing to work.

It was a very difficult decision for me to quit my job in Tokyo and come back home, I was warned many times about the possible consequences and losses of opportunities by being in India. But I returned to Amritsar in hopes to create meaningful organizations where people are passionate about their job where they trust the organization and the team to collectively achieve great things. Every individual has the authority and the responsibility to create great experiences for world travelers.

However, I have had a very bittersweet experience in building a team. My trust has been broken multiple times and so I resorted to pulling back the authority from my team slowly and cautiously.

I have been warned by many of my peers to not rely blindly on the team but I did otherwise. I still believe that there are many young individuals who are hungry for opportunities and have the desire to do great things. I continue to look for such enthusiasm and I am still very quick to make them part of my team.

I am extremely proud of my current team who have done nothing but worked very hard to help us reach the place where we are now. They have garnered rave reviews from our guests and have served the organization by giving their 200% at all times.

Rabia, Gurpreet, Karandeep, and Shreyaskar (and my ex-employees Rishabh, Jitan, Abhishek, Manmeet, Shubham, Naman, and Swati) are arguably few of the best people that world travelers can get a chance to be with if they are in Amritsar.

I will do all in my capacity to help my team achieve great things in life. And I am sure we are on the right path.

Rishabh Mahajan
Rishabh Mahajan
Ex-Japan expat. Returned to Amritsar to build meaningful organizations with global impact. Founder of @CityOnPedals, Co-founder of @Statusbrew. 日本語 OK.