Nearly every morning, over his second cup of coffee, Tom Brady, general manager at the Affinia Chicago, logs onto his computer and surfs over to TripAdvisor.com to see if there are any new postings about his hotel.

?It?s an obsession,? he said. If the review is positive he moves on. If it?s unfavorable ? like the complaint posted in March from a guest who had received a $90 parking ticket because of a valet?s error ? he?s on it immediately. In that case, he marched straight out to the valet to find out what had happened. After identifying the guest, he made sure that the company issued an apology and a reimbursement for the ticket.

?This is all over the world,? he said, describing his concern about any negative comment on TripAdvisor. ?Everyone is looking at this. I?ve got to make sure it?s solved quickly, so God forbid someone else doesn?t have the same problem.?

The individual traveler?s word is weightier than ever. Before the advent of travel review sites like TripAdvisor, IgoUgo.com and MyTravelGuide.com, customer complaints about dirty showers or threadbare sheets typically went to hotels directly and discreetly in the form of comment cards, phone calls or e-mail messages. But as review sites have become more popular, customer feedback that was once viewed only by a hotel?s staff is increasingly being posted online for all to see, enabling guests to share their praise or air their gripes publicly.

?We love it and we hate it,? said Steven Pipes, vice president at the Jack Parker Corporation, which owns the Parker Meridien in New York and the Parker Palm Springs in California. He regularly checks TripAdvisor. ?We love it because we really look for feedback and want to know what people are thinking about, and we know they don?t always tell us to our faces,? he said. ?We hate it because it?s anonymous.? The anonymity of the comments makes it difficult to respond to guests and find out exactly what happened, he said, or to know if they truly stayed at the hotel.

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