This is the story of how a back garden shed became the number one rated restaurant in London according to TripAdvisor.
The guy who did this did lots of jobs including writing fake reviews on TripAdvisor for restaurant owners who paid him £10 a time. One day, sitting in his shed, he wondered if it was possible to create a fake restaurant on Trip Advisor and push it up the rankings to number one.
Setting Up the Shed – April 2017
To get your restaurant on Trip Advisor you just fill in the details online and give a phone number, address, description etc. – all easily done. He didn’t give the proper address – just the street where he lived and described The Shed as an appointment-only restaurant.
Next he bought a suitable Internet domain name and setup a website for the non-existent restaurant called The Shed.
He knew that to create interest he needed something original and pretentious – such as naming all of the dishes after moods. So, he created pretentious descriptions of the restaurant and the food with ridiculous photos of these mood dishes using shaving foam and anything to hand. One photo is of a fried egg on his bare foot. Clipped so you cannot tell it’s a foot. Crazy stuff.
Getting the Shed to Number One
At first on Trip Advisor it was ranked at 18,149 i.e. the bottom of the list.
He got friends to start adding rave reviews of The Shed and that’s how Trip Adviser works so The Shed started to rise up the ranks despite the fact that no-one had ever eaten a meal there – it was just his garden shed.
People started to phone to make bookings – and were told it was fully booked for months ahead. People were attracted by the fact it was brand new, little was known about it and it seemed to be difficult to get a table there.
People in his street would stop him and ask for directions to The Shed and the phone kept ringing with people keen to make bookings.
Six months after he started his fake restaurant, The Shed achieved number one status on Trip Advisor.
He did tell TripAdvisor of his ‘experiment’ and their response by email was:- “Generally, the only people who create fake restaurant listings are journalists in misguided attempts to test us. As there is no incentive for anyone in the real world to create a fake restaurant it is not a problem we experience with our regular community – therefore this ‘test’ is not a real world example.”
Fair enough. But do beware of reviews that may have been written for less than honest reasons.
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