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New York Hotel Charges Guests For Bad Reviews

$500 The Cost Of An Opinion

Gone are the days when picking a good hotel meant relying on recommendations from a friend, or leafing through old guides which talked about East Berlin and British Rhodesia. Now every establishment from the Ritz down to your local burger van is subject to pages of online reviews from customers both disgruntled and gruntled, and you can conduct hours of research on every aspect of your trip.

On the whole, this is a good thing: establishments which want to have any chance of surviving in an age when everyone with a smartphone can make their experience known to the world quickly realise that consistently good customer service can mean the difference between business booming and being turned into a Holiday Inn before you can even type Yelp.com.

The Union Street Guest House of Hudson, New York decided to try a different and rather innovative approach. They instituted a policy stating that any guest leaving a negative review online would have a $500 fine deducted from their deposit, subject to a refund once the offending piece was deleted.

This strategy, somewhat predictably, led to a degree of outrage on the part of unhappy guests. Once the hotel’s policy became known their Yelp profile was flooded with bad reviews, dropping their average rating to one and a half stars in a matter of days. Yelp deleted a number of the reviews, saying that ‘we encourage people to share their first-hand experiences; reviews that are contributed as a result of media attention and do not reflect first-hand experiences run counter to Yelp’s Terms of Service and will be removed from the site.’

Nonetheless people continued to attack the Guest House, with users like Elena V. of San Francisco expressing their outrage that ‘This hotel is charging $500 for each negative FREEDOM OF SPEECH.’ Articles on the hotel’s policy were soon being published across multiple outlets and at the time of writing there are plenty of available rooms to be booked through the hotel’s website, including the Gallery Suite at $425 per night. The offending paragraph has been removed from the hotel’s policy page, although they retain a warning that guests ‘CANCEL AT YOUR OWN RISK!’

The lessons here are clear. Maintaining, at the very least, an acceptable online profile is as fundamental an aspect of modern business management as making sure the water is running and keeping cockroaches out of the kitchen. Getting bad reviews is part and parcel of running a customer-facing institution, but the distinction comes in how one deals with them. Admitting the issue, apologising, and promising to make changes in the future (and ideally actually making said changes) is usually all it takes to make sure that people are satisfied. If there’s one thing people hate more than bad service it’s losing money, and to charge people extra for having a bad time seems like the quickest way to alienate the largest number of people short of actually stealing from them while they sleep.

Douglas is an English Literature graduate who has written about everything from music to food to theatre, now a content creator for Social Media Frontiers. No topic too large or too small. Follow him @DouglasAtSMF.

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New York Hotel Charges Guests For Bad Reviews Reviewed by Anonymous on Wednesday, August 06, 2014 Rating: 5
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