Tripadvisor reviewers just love the high ceilings and innovate cuisine at the Le Nouveau Duluth in downtown Montreal, according to 85 customers who gave it a five-star review. Trouble is, it is impossible to get a table there, because it doesn’t actually exist.
The restaurant shot to fame last year after comedian Charles Deschamps and a friend decided to carry out a prank—and prove that Tripadvisor and other rating websites don’t always vet what is posted. Deschamps told CBC Canada that he put his own phone number and used photos from a friend’s basement on the Tripadvisor entry.
“I received one call a month to book,” Deschamps told CBC Canada. “I said we were full for the next two months. When people would ask for the menu, I would respond with: we make tapas!’”
He and his friends posted many of the top ratings, but he said others just appeared out of nowhere, which he says means people rate restaurants they clearly have never been to.
He came up with the idea when a friend of his had her own restaurant fall under attack by bad reviewers, likely from a rival establishment. “One person destroyed a friend’s spot on social media,” Deschamps said. “She asked 22 people to leave a one-star review just because a wine glass was spilled on a dress.”
Restaurateur Graziella Battista, who owns Restaurant Graziella in Montreal, told CBC Canada that she fears such fake entries damage real establishments. “Of course it’s worrisome. People who travel rely on these sites that review restaurants and any type of place that tourists visit,” she said.
Tripadvisor says it cannot held be responsible for pranks and has taken the entry off line.
“On this occasion, a failure in human moderation practices meant the fake listing remained live on the platform longer than it should have,” Tripadvisor said in a statement published by The Guardian. “The listings—including the reviews and photos associated with the listing—are now inactive.”