Consumer Reports: Confusing hotel ratings

December 14, 2010 8:29:17 PM PST
It's high season for holiday travel, and if you needed to find a hotel, no doubt you found it confusing. Hotel ratings can vary significantly depending on which travel site or guide book you use.

Take the famous Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. Travelocity gives the Fontainebleau five stars. But Forbes gives it a mere three. And if you check Frommer's, it gives the Fontainebleau only one star out of three.

Who's right? Consumer Reports says it's important to know how hotel stars are assigned. Travelocity sometimes conducts on-site inspections, but that's not always the case. When Expedia does an inspection, it alerts the hotel that someone is coming. And Fodor's actually allows its reviewers to accept free rooms and discounts, with the caveat that they have to inform the hotel that it won't affect their rating. The Michelin guide, in contrast, does all of its hotel visits anonymously and pays for the reviewer's rooms.

Before you book a room, Consumer Reports advises, check a hotel's website to see what the rooms look like, the services being offered, and check hotel policies. You should also take advantage of user-review sites. Best are those aggregator sites that lump together reviews from a whole group of different travel sources. is a good aggregator site. So is

Look for the most recent user comments because they're apt to have the most up-to-date information about a property. Maybe there are renovations or construction going on.

Consumer Reports says ignore extreme reviews?good and bad. They may have been posted by people with a vested interest or by someone who has an axe to grind.

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