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Hotel Charges Guests $500 For Bad Online Reviews 183

Posted by timothy
from the may-require-substantial-deposit dept.
njnnja (2833511) writes In an incredibly misguided attempt to reduce the quantity of bad reviews (such as these), the Union Street Guest House, a hotel about 2 hours outside of New York City, had instituted a policy to charge groups such as wedding parties $500 for each bad review posted online. The policy has been removed from their webpage but the wayback machine has archived the policy. "If you have booked the Inn for a wedding or other type of event anywhere in the region and given us a deposit of any kind for guests to stay at USGH there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review of USGH placed on any internet site by anyone in your party and/or attending your wedding or event If you stay here to attend a wedding anywhere in the area and leave us a negative review on any internet site you agree to a $500. fine for each negative review."
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Hotel Charges Guests $500 For Bad Online Reviews

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  • by i kan reed (749298) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @03:25PM (#47608773) Homepage Journal

    How much will the class action lawsuit cost them, when they're brought to court for deceitful contracts?

  • by mythosaz (572040) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @03:31PM (#47608803)

    Except, they didn't actually charge anyone, they just threatened it.

    As usual, a good breakdown at Fatwallet:
    http://www.fatwallet.com/forum... [fatwallet.com]

    They've been spammed with bad reviews, Streisand effect and all...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @03:32PM (#47608811)

    When I looked last night there were more than 700 reviews. When I look now, there are only 100.

    The real story here is Yelp deleting negative reviews for this crappy hotel.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @03:37PM (#47608841)

    How much will the class action lawsuit cost them, when they're brought to court for deceitful contracts?

    Probably legal, just stupid. e.g. look here for a 1A specialist's take on it:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/08/04/volokh-conspiracy-marketing-genius-award-goes-to-the-union-street-guest-house-hudson-new-york/

    Apparently if you are aware of them, entering into a "non-disparagement" agreement isn't all that rare and is usually enforceable. Mind you, still an epic PR move in this particular case.

  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @03:54PM (#47608985) Journal

    Contracts that you voluntarily enter into to keep your yapper shit meet Supreme Court approval. Normally it would be "don't badmouth our mutual financial endeavor", not over a product purchase.

    The wisdom of such in a situation like this is something else. Other uses of free speech to lambaste them seem to be working fine.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @04:19PM (#47609237)

    This guy posted on Yelp last year that the hotel fined his friends for his review:

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/union-street-guest-house-hudson?hrid=_p-R59VY-c19Nmxt4r9X9w

  • by HornWumpus (783565) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @04:27PM (#47609285)

    Does anybody believe yelp and angieslist are anything other then paid advertising sites anymore?

    It's common knowledge that they extort business' to hide the bad reviews. Not trustworthy, simple as that.

  • by beltsbear (2489652) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @04:39PM (#47609379)

    I am not defending their stupidity but there is ZERO evidence that they have actually done this. They said it was a 'joke' and that they have never used that clause. Whether or not it is a 'joke', there is no real examples of people being charged for bad reviews.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @04:50PM (#47609459)

    Read the link. It looks like you are agreeing if any of your guests posts a review, you will be fined. You won't be fined if you convince them to take down the negative review. Crappy idea and awful PR? Sure. Enforceable if you enter into it willingly? Presumably

  • by Anubis IV (1279820) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @04:56PM (#47609517)

    http://www.bbb.org/upstate-new... [bbb.org]

    Just looking through the BBB complaints from years before this whole ordeal began, it's pretty apparent that the business has very little regard for its customers and does everything it can to leverage its policies so that it can keep the money. One quick example from the BBB complaints:

    I made a reservation that I then had to cancel. They advised [ed. note: in the policy] it would take up to 60 days to processes the cancellation less a $25 cancellation fee. I contacted them 9 months in advance of the reservation. I have not heard back. I have emailed the cancellation email address twice as well as the general information email and have received no response. On Yelp, you can see there are others who have had this issue where they do not return funds if the reservation is cancelled. They charged me the full value of the reservation up front, even when they say that they are only going to charge half at the time of the reservation and half at the time of the stay. The full price that they charged me was $812.00

    All she asked the BBB to help with was to get them to honor their policy and refund her the $812, less the $25 cancellation fee, which she figured was still reasonable, since at that point they were still 5 months before the reservation date. The business responded to the BBB by claiming that it never received the e-mails from the customer...and that was it. They didn't offer to go ahead and honor the cancellation request. So, since they had claimed they never received the request (and apparently the BBB complaint didn't count as a request either), she posted timestamped logs of all of the e-mails she had sent. Their response to that was:

    Once again. This person is not reading our "Cancel at your own Risk" policy despite the fact that she has cut and pasted it. It can be found again at:

    http://unionstreetguesthouse.c... [unionstree...thouse.com] [ed. note: the policy has obviously changed since then]

    After having the chance to read it she agreed to it by clicking the box and agreeing to a contract with us. That said if said cancelation was made AND accepted by us there would have been a refund.

    The customer pointed out that their policy doesn't mention anything about the cancellation needing to be "accepted" by them and that she perfectly followed the policy, giving them months of advance notice and contacting them via the one-and-only means that they make available. She repeated her request that they simply honor their own policy.

    The business never responded again and the BBB had to close it as an issue that the business failed to resolve. The business has since changed its cancellation policy to include that they need to accept the cancellation, which is utterly ludicrous, which is nearly as bad as having a no-cancellations-allowed policy for rooms booked for more than three days at a time, regardless of when you try to cancel them.

  • by Noah Haders (3621429) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @05:48PM (#47609913)
    you're not signing a contract on someone else's behalf - if a bad review is posted then you (the party to the contract) will be fined, not a third party. The only thing here that's a twist is you could be fined based on the actions of someone else in your group. This makes sense when you hold an event there that may involve urinating etc, but normally, once everybody has gone home the liability stops in the butt.

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