Hotel Fines Guests for Negative Reviews

So much for embracing feedback. The Union Street Guest House in Hudson, NY, implemented a policy of fining wedding bookers $500 for negative reviews. 

The Guest House seems to miss the point about social media, and the policy itself is silly: couples are responsible for each negative review posted by their guests. Imagine a wedding gone bad, which could, theoretically, inspire hundreds of guests to post to TripAdvisor or Yelp. There goes the new house fund. 

The policy was as follows: 

"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."

A scan of the Guest House's Yelp reviews indicates a service issue, with an average of 2 stars out of 5.


The owners haven't handled these reviews very well, on one occasion replying, "I know you guys wanted to hang out and get drunk for 2 days and that is fine. I was really really sorry that you showed up in the summer when it was 105 degrees . . . I was so so so sorry that our ice maker and fridge were not working and not accessible."

The Guest House fares better on TripAdvisor (4 out of 5), but the reviews are still spotty.

After some backlash about the policy, the owners posted on Facebook (since removed) that the policy was a "tongue-in-cheek response to a wedding many years ago." This is almost as good as Amy's Baking Company claiming that its Facebook page was hacked and was being investigated by the FBI.  

Discussion Starters: 

  • What advice would you give the owners of the Guest House about managing social media and, specifically, about responding to negative online reviews? (See Chapter 7 for tips.) 
  • Practice responding to reviews on behalf of the owner. Choose two or three on Yelp and draft responses.