Dear Hotels: Stop Charging for Bad Reviews

Dear Hotels: Stop Charging for Bad Reviews

Regardless of how much a hotel ‘fines’ guests for a bad review, it will never make up for the lost business.

I’m sure you’ve heard at least one story of these hotels (or restaurants, or ay other establishment for that matter) threatening to ‘fine’ guests for negative reviews on social review sites, like Yelp! or TripAdvisor. In fact, some of these businesses go so far as to include this provision in the terms and conditions of a guest’s stay. (That’s the case in one of the more recent examples below.)

Well, for your own benefit, stop doing this. The amount of business that you stand to lose from this backhanded technique is significantly more than the ‘fine’ will generate.

Social review sites are simply a way we, as consumers, conduct our research. There might have been a time when all we could do was bad-mouth a hotel to a friend or the Better Business Bureau, but these social review sites and other mass, social media have made it much easier to share the truth about an experience. And in some cases, the truth of the aftermath.

Here’s What Happened

There are plenty of stories like this, but the most recent one (and the inspiration for this article) revolves around the Jenkinsons.

Tony and Jan Jenkinson are your average tourist, and a few weeks ago, they stayed at the Broadway Hotel Blackpool in England. The hotel wasn’t particularly expensive (roughly $60 per night with the exchange rate), and when they arrived, they soon realized why they booked the hotel at such a good deal.

Broadway Hotel Blackpool

Taken from the video posted to the Facebook page of Tony Jenkinson.

As any media-savvy traveler would do, and in an effort to protect others from the negative experience, Jenkinson took to TripAdvisor to post a long, detailed and scathing review of their experience. Here is some of what was shared in the review entitled ‘FILTHY, DIRTY ROTTEN STINKING HOVEL RUN BY MUPPETS!’:

“Couldn’t believe the state of the room. The hot tap didn’t work, when we reported it we were told they knew about it and it would be fixed in the morning (we were only there for one night.) The drawer fronts fell off when we opened the chest of drawers. Again, they knew about this and it was supposed to be dealt with in the morning. The kettle wouldn’t work, were told you had to switch on the socket it was plugged into, also switch on another socket to make it work. This was because the whole place was rewired wrongly according to the member of staff who dealt with us, and they couldn’t afford to have it put right. There were instructions on how to make a phone call, we would have had a job as there was no phone!!”

And it doesn’t get much better than that. And neither does the story.

It turns out that the hotel anticipated these kinds of reviews (considering most of the reviews online are rather negative) so in a dark corner of the terms and conditions, the hotel actually charges for negative reviews:

Despite the fact that repeat customers and couples love our hotel, your friends and family may not. For every bad review left on any website, the group organizer will be charged a maximum £100 per review.

Sure enough, when the couple shared this story with friends, family and the Internet, it went viral. The hotel ultimately refunded the charge and will now be doing away with the policy, but that came long after terrible reviews circulated the web, local news agencies all over the world reported the story and officials from Trading Standards in the UK announced that they will be investigating the hotel.

Let It Go

Just as the award-winning song from Frozen goes, hotels need to let it go. As anyone in the service business will tell you, you can’t win ’em all.

For as hard as you try, there is always a chance that someone is going to be dissatisfied. That holds true for the rundown shacks of the world, like the Broadway Hotel Blackpool, and the five-star resorts that pride themselves on perfection.

Reviews like this are excellent opportunities to reach out to unhappy customers, show them that you listen and care, and potentially turn them into brand advocates. People not only look ay reviews, but also at how hotels handle these issues. That goes a very long way.

When you bully and blackmail guests into keeping their opinions to themselves, it gives them all the more reason to take to the web and post to these social review sites. And ultimately, this is going to cost you a lot more business than hiding the bad review ever would have saved, or the fine ever would have generated. Do you think that the lost business as a result of this story is worth the £100 charged by the Broadway? I think not.

Again, instead of trying to falsely improve your ratings, look at these as twofold opportunities to both improve your establishment based on what guests are saying they want, and a change to cultivate new brand advocates that can lead to a fast-growing audience both online and in your hotel.

If you would like to learn more about how the hotel and hospitality industry can benefit from these kinds of experiences, come and join me in London in February for the International Casino Conference at ICE!

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Corey Padveen is a data-oriented marketing professional with a focus on statistical analyses of human behavior. This specialization has led him to speak and present at dozens of conferences around the world, to write for a variety of reputable online and print publications, and recently, to publish ‘Marketing to Millennials For Dummies’ as part of the world-renowned ‘For Dummies’ series. He regularly shares real world examples and findings from his research, and discusses how members of society are evolving as consumers, communicators, and a global network as a whole.

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