A Cure for the Hotel Website Review Blues
By Tema Frank CEO, Frank Reactions | November 05, 2017
You get to work, coffee in hand, fire up Trip Advisor to see if any new reviews of your property have come in. There, amid all the 4 and 5 star glowing reviews, you see a 1 star from a grumpy, impossible-to-please recent guest. It’s going to pull your average down, and you won’t show up as high in the rankings. Even worse, the customer has also Tweeted about how upset he was with your service, bashed you on Yelp, and told his friends and followers on Facebook. You start to panic. It’s the 2nd bad review in a week; you have to contain the damage!
What Should You Do?
The proprietors of the Union Street Guest House decided to fight fire with fire: they wrote into the fine print in their contract that customers would be charged $500 for bad reviews. They felt that the reviews were unfair, and that customers shouldn’t be able to slander them in this way.
Legally, they may have been right, but the approach they took killed their business. The first reviewer they tried to ding went public, and a media uproar ensued. The owner tried to claim the fine was a joke, but the evidence didn't support his claim, and it came way too late to save the business.
In fact, thanks to the number of hoteliers and restaurant owners trying to fine or sue people over bad reviews, the US House of Representatives last year passed the Consumer Review Fairness Act, which makes it illegal for businesses to force customers to sign agreements giving up their rights to make honest negative statements. It also makes it illegal to sue them or to threaten harm for honest negative reviews.
That said, you could potentially go to court arguing that the customer’s comments were not “honest”, but to be totally honest with you, the odds of winning such a case wouldn’t seem to be very good. Even if you did win the battle, you’d lose the war: as we’ve seen with the Union Street Guest House and other similar cases, if you attack a customer who left a review, that is likely to spell the end of your business.
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