What’s it like to stay at the Mar-a-Lago, the Palm Beach estate owned by President Trump? If you can’t afford the members-only club’s initiation fee, recently raised to $200,000, you can at least consult the ratings on Yelp (2.0 stars), Google (2.6 stars), or Tripadvisor (4.5 stars).
Or you could until recently. Because of a surge of interest in the Mar-a-Lago, some review websites have taken steps to limit new reviews of the club that President Trump calls his “winter White House.”
After Trump spent the weekend hosting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Mar-a-Lago, it wasn’t possible to find the club on TripAdvisor, where until recently it was listed as the No. 1 spa and wellness facility in Palm Beach, Florida, according to Google’s cached version of the club’s review page, from Feb. 5.
A TripAdvisor spokesperson explained to me that the page was taken down earlier in the month. “The facility does not have a listing because our content integrity team recently discovered that the location is open to ‘members only’ and not the general public, so therefore does not meet TripAdvisor's listing guidelines.”
What can you learn about the Mar-a-Lago on Yelp? The most recent review of the club, from Saturday, is decidedly political in tone.
I asked Yelp if they had removed any reviews over the weekend, and whether their moderation team was making any special efforts to monitor reviews of the president’s businesses. A spokesperson said the Mar-a-Lago’s page had been placed on an “active alert” earlier Monday and that the company had previously placed similar alerts on other Trump properties, including Trump SoHo New York, Trump International D.C., and Trump Las Vegas.
“Businesses under a high level of scrutiny and media attention will often receive an active cleanup alert to let users know about our policy to remove reviews that violate our Terms of Service, including ones that aren’t about a firsthand experience with the business. Our goal is to be transparent with the actions we take to protect the quality of content on our site, preserve consumers’ freedom of speech, and shield businesses from online harassment,” the spokesperson wrote in an email. “These media storms are complicated situations that create a dilemma for Yelp, but we’ve chosen to take a strong and consistent stance on managing them.” You can read more about Yelp’s approach here.
And what of Google? There was an apparent surge of search activity for the Mar-a-Lago over the weekend.
Depending on your political stripe, you may or may not find the most recent reviews helpful.
Google didn’t reply to a question about how actively it’s moderating new ratings of the club.