By Rahul Odedra
Rahul Odedra on one hotel's response to negative feedback
In an age when websites like Tripadvisor and Yelp can make or break a property, one American hotel implemented an unconventional way of deterring negative reviews: fining guests.
Located in Hudson in the US, Union Street Guest House (USGH) prides itself on its spacious rooms, historic building and the privacy it offers guests.
However, what caught our attention, and we have to thank the New York Post for pointing it out, is the way it tried to handle bad reviews.
The policy affects bookings for events and weddings, where a deposit would be put down. In no uncertain terms, the hotel’s website explained how negative reviews would be handled.
“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.”
Now to give credit to the hotel, it did say that it would refund any fines once the negative reviews has been taken down, and it also goes to the effort of explaining the rationale behind the policy.
“Your guests may not understand what we offer - therefore we expect you to explain that to them. USGH & Hudson are historic. The buildings here are old (but restored). Our bathrooms and kitchens are designed to look old in an artistic "vintage" way.
“Our furniture is mostly hip, period furniture that you would see in many design magazines. (Although comfortable and functional - obviously all beds are brand new). If your guests are looking for a Marriott type hotel they may not like it here.”
And, if the feedback on Tripadvisor was anything to go by, plenty of guests seem to have come away from Union Street Guest House with a positive experience. The vast majority of reviews rate it as ‘excellent’.
However, even here, signs of the hotel’s willingness to stand up to digital threats are apparent. Many negative reviews were met with bullish responses from management.
UPDATE (August 5): The threat of fines has now been removed from the hotel's website, after the story gained traction around the world. In a post on Facebook, also since removed, it described the policy as a "tongue-in-cheek response to a wedding many years ago" which "certainly was never enforced".