If you’ve ever left a negative review of a place on Trip Advisor, hopefully you haven’t been hit with a fine for your efforts.
A couple in the UK weren’t so lucky. After posting a review on the site describing a hotel they’d stayed at as a “rotten stinking hovel,” Tony and Jan Jenkinson were alarmed to see an additional £100 ($155) charged to their credit card by the hotel.
Terms and conditions….
According to reports, the Broadway Hotel, a seaside establishment in Blackpool, north England, says in its booking terms and conditions that a fine will be imposed if it comes across a negative online review.
“Despite the fact that repeat customers and couples love our hotel, your friends and family may not,” the hotel’s terms state, adding, “For every bad review left on any website, the group organiser will be charged a maximum £100 per review.”
“I couldn’t believe it,” Jan told BBC radio on Tuesday. “I told them ‘you’re not allowed to do that.'” However, the hotel insisted it was in the right as she’d signed a form at check-in agreeing to the list of terms and conditions, which included the rule about critical reviews.
Local trading standards official John Greenbank said it was the first time he’d come across a case of a hotel fining guests for such behavior.
“The hotel management clearly thinks it’s come up with a novel way to prevent bad reviews, however, we believe this could be deemed an unfair trading practice,” Greenbank told The Mirror.
Ranked 858 out of 894 hotels in the area, the Broadway Hotel is clearly struggling to please its guests. A quick glance through the mainly one-star reviews makes for a grim read.
“I would rather stay in the Bates Motel than this joint,” wrote one recent patron.
However, among the 250 reviews, at least 15 spoke positively of the place. “Staff were great, breakfast was lovely and rooms cleaned daily,” said one five-star reviewer, although even for them it wasn’t perfect. “Could do with new wallpaper,” they added.
Make or break….
While online reviews can make or break a business these days, many companies and establishments use them to try to improve their service and even respond to reviewers directly if they write something particularly harsh.
While the Broadway Hotel appears to think fining guests is the way forward, it’s actually not the first to come up with such a scheme. A New York hotel made the news over the summer when it said it’d fine guests a whopping $500 for every bad review placed online.
Trip Advisor said at the time it was “completely against the spirit and policies of our site for any business owner to attempt to bully or intimidate reviewers who have had a negative experience.”