In the olden days - which weren’t really that long ago - there was only one way to book a holiday. You toddled off to the travel agent’s and sat for an age, waiting for one of the harassed reps to find just the right hotel on the Isle of Wight for the fusspots ahead of you in the queue. “Yes, with free afternoon tea, Mrs Butterworth. Complete with doilies. And a free pre-dinner aperitif before the Peters and Lee cabaret.
“It’ll definitely be cotton bedsheets not bri from Brentford Nylon’s, Mr Butterworth, and the room does indeed have a Goblin teasmade...”
One ear idly cocked to someone else’s exacting holiday requirements being hatched and matched, you could mentally list your own while thumbing through a stack of brochures each promising something gorgeously, impossibly glossy.
Bright blue skies, aqua oceans, silvered beaches, Colgate Ring Of Confidence families who surely didn’t squabble all the way to the airport, or threaten to bury each other up the neck in the sand during a row over whose turn it was to fetch the shandies...
Now we simply head for TripAdvisor. No queues and stacks of warts-and-all accounts from real people... Simples.
Erm, no, Sergé. You can trust a Trippie review about as much as you can those glowing promises and retouched images. One holidaymaker’s heaven is another’s hell. The worst hotel Witchypoo has ever stayed in turns out to be Cosytoes54’s ideal retreat. But has Cosy previously only ever stayed in a two-star? Does Witchy normally frequent glitzy five-stars? You don’t know a thing about either of these people; therefore you have no perspective.
All you can do is read between lines, spelling and punctuation mistakes in, say, a dozen reviews, then try to work out which author is the owner and which is the competitor across the road - and out of the rest, who is relatively sane.
After all that, have you thought of this, though? Maybe the venue might not actually exist.
Imagine the poor folk trekking to the Trippies’ choice in Glasgow. The Bellgrove Hotel sounds smashing, what with its posh restaurant, spa and pool. But actually, it’s a hostel for the homeless. Last week, some wag thought it a jolly jape to bull it up. Let’s hope it didn’t do some needy soul out of a bed for the night.
I’ll keep scanning TripAdvisor. It’s more entertaining, though probably no quicker, than the travel agent queue. Though I won’t bother to post. I don’t know a soul who does. I mean, do YOU know anyone called Witchypoo?