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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Bad New Idea - Fining Customers for Bad Reviews on Yelp

This post is about the Travel in our Time.

Get this - if you book The Union Street Guest House in New York City, you must sign a contract that requires the wedding party - whoever books the venue - to make sure that no one gives the Guest House a bad review.

If anyone posts a bad review on a site like Yelp or TripAdvisor, the Guest House imposes a $500 fine per bad review on the person or family that hires them.

So if three guests post a total of five bad reviews, you agree to persuade the guests to retract the review, if that is possible (some sites don't let anyone do that) or you pay a fine of $2,500. It's in the contract.

The Abbey Inn in Indiana is reported in the Comments to the following post as having the same policy with a $350 fine.

Here is the post with the above information: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/20l7LC/8F2uf92!:h3sTWLQN/www.geek.com/news/new-york-hotel-demands-500-for-every-bad-online-review-1601102/

I went to the Union Street Guest House site and did not find the wedding contract in full. But what they do post is consistent with the post. Here is their policy regarding payment and refund policies (sounds as though they have a lot of discontented customers):
If we have not worked out a mutual agreement for a credit within 29 days from the date or your reservation we will no longer honor any type of refund. We do not refund any fees that may have been added to your charge.
NOTE: If your stay is longer than 3 days we do not accept cancelations of any kind.
Holding more than one room or up to the entire Guest House for WEDDING guests requires a deposit. We reserve the right to hold deposit until we feel that all charges, taxes, fees, damages, or any other financial obligation has [sic] been resolved regarding you and anyone in your party. 
This includes credit card disputes, chargebacks, or any question regarding anything to do with billing with you or anyone in your party, or anyone of your guests. The deposit will not be refunded until we feel that everything is 100% resolved.
The only thing missing from this Bad Idea is a scale of fines. A really bad review is fined $500, but maybe if the review says one thing is good (say the muffins), then the fine is reduced to $400. Two good things, only $300.

If the Guest House considers this a Bad Review, so be it.

On the other hand, turn this around and it might be more promising. How about Frequent Traveler miles for good reviews? A free drink? Who knows, maybe some places are already doing this.