I recently spent a week in Normandy in France on holiday! (OK I did do some research for a feature too.) It gave me another opportunity to use the web to research a trip and another opportunity to learn how poor the experience can sometimes be.
The Moulin Du Vey looks pretty perfect on its website.
Your calm and peaceful stopover in the countryside by the river... Our rooms, all personalized, are small and intimate or bigger, with style. Prices from: 76 € to 108 €. Full board and half-board also available. Breakfast is served outside as soon as the fine summer days arrive, or cosily in your room.
According to the home page it's also a member of Chateaux and Hotels De France - which is a pretty decent indicator of quality.
I checked the Trip Advisor review too. There was only the one review - dated January 2009 - a bit old, but not years out of date. And it was pretty positive - titled The Best Stay You Can Have.
[UPDATE: Guillaume from Trip Advisor has just informed me that they have now taken the hotel review page down from the site. See his comments below. You can see the review in the cache of the page on Google.]
We didn't book ahead - intentionally - as we wanted to just see where we ended up. But as it happened we were close to the place at about 5pm after a long day of driving so it seemed like it would be well worth the detour.
Except when we got there it was closed.
There was one other small hotel nearby and we were really tired. So I called them and managed to get a room. When we got there I asked the owner about Moulin Du Vey. "Yes, we get quite a lot of people here as a result of that," he smiled. "It's been closed nearly 4 years now but the owner has never taken the website down."
Was the Trip Advisor review just a joke? Maybe the person who wrote the review dated Jan 2009 added their review a couple of years after they actally stayed at the property?
One way or another this really highlighted the danger of relying on the web alone for holiday research. Sure, I could have been more organised and called ahead, but the website is very convincing. It even says: Closed between December 1st and December 28th. Telephone answering service available between those dates. There are details of special menus for Valentines' Day on the restaurant pages and it offers an email link too.
What I find interesting about this is the way the web propagates and distributes errors. A few examples of review sites that include the Moulin Du Vey with varying degrees of UGC and other information:
Once something is online it never dies.
The place might have closed years ago, but it lives on in myriad - usually really poor quality - websites all scraping content from wherever they can to to try and fill up their sites. I think the owner of the hotel is seriously at fault for not taking down the website and if I were Chateaux and Hotels De France I'd be insisting he took down the logo immediately.
Should TripAdvisor and other review and booking sites be responsible for taking down pages refering to places that are no longer in business? Is that even possible these days with so many of these review sites out there?