The Internet is a powerful thing. Occasionally, the misguided try to control it. No, not North Korea, we are talking about a tiny hospitality center in New York. A place called the Union Street Guest House.
It appears that the Guest House was concerned that some guests might not like their house. They were worried that these grumpy guests may try to use the big INTERNET contraption to tell others about their displeasure.
Rather than spend time and money to make sure that guests received a fabulous experience, the ‘Mensa’s’ at Union would just charge those guests five hundred bucks for writing about an unpleasant trip.
This genius idea was included in the expansive fine print policies of the Union Street Guest House back in 2012. The early draft read –
If you stay here to attend a wedding and leave us a negative review on any internet site you agree to a $500 fine for each negative review.
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 (this is due to the fact that your guests may not understand what we offer and we expect you to explain that to them).
It is clear that the folks at USGH (so easy to misspell it simply as Ugh!) were serious about this customer service brainchild. By the time this policy caught the eye of a reporter at the NY Post (http://pagesix.com/2014/08/04/hotel-charges-500-for-every-bad-review-posted-online/) the warm welcome said it this way, with the requisite header –
Please know that despite the fact that wedding couples love Hudson and our Inn, your friends and families may not. This is due to the fact that 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.
Therefore: 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. (Please NOTE we will not charge this fee &/or will refund this fee once the review is taken down). Also, please note that we only request this of wedding parties and for the reasons explained above.
Now, a thing about the Internet, it seems to be as controllable as a hose-soaked feral cat. (Not that I condone soaking feral cats, or any cats for that matter. In fact, I love feral cats. Many of my best friends are feral cats)
But I digress. The point is, ever since Al Gore invented the Internet, it has been a free roaming, uncontrollable thing. Kind of like the Blob.
So trying to command positive responses with the threat of a penalty is going to achieve the exact opposite, and it did. Yelp, Trip Advisor, and other Travel sites predictably blew up.
Even more inexcusable, USGH’s own Facebook reviews trashed the company. Turn off the site people! Most that have never stayed at the property are saying things like –
“hey Union Street Guest House Owners…now now ….don’t let all this negativity get you down, buck up chaps….just change the signs outside get rid of the name and pretend you never heard of the union Street Guest house…”
“I recently stayed at a competing hotel, the Inn at Hudson, for a local wedding. The service was excellent and upon leaving, I left a very positive review for the Inn at Hudson. Somehow, the Union Street Guest House learned about my positive review for a competitor, hired a Russian hacker to compromise my bank’s security and access my savings account, and took $500.”
“I wish I could rate you less than 1 star for your “negative review” policy.”
So, this is where the people at UGH went completely crazy. Someone at the ‘House’ decided to borrow from quick response political hacks. You know the ones who react when their private posts of private parts somehow become public.
You guessed it. The Union Street Guest House PR team misspoke, fibbed or just plain lied. Here is what they posted on the their Facebook site –
“The policy regarding wedding fines was put on our site as a tongue-in-cheek response to a wedding many years ago. It was meant to be taken down long ago and certainly was never enforced.”
Really, that is why it existed from at least 2012. That is why it was rewritten? Or maybe all of their policies are meant to be tongue-in-cheek. Here are a few that are just hilarious –
- We reserve the right to hold deposit[s] until we feel that all charges, taxes, fees, damages, or any other financial obligation has been resolved regarding you and anyone in your party.
- Cancellations made within 15 days will be charged for the entire length of stay. 100% of your reserved stay will be billed to your credit card when we accept your online booking.
- Children are welcome although we would ask you to watch over them as all of the furnishings are one of a kind.
Their legal team should do stand-up.
On a serious note, we sympathize with small businesses trying desperately to make a living by offering a great product for a great value. We understand how hard it is to try to do it all, but when you make a mistake, own it. Apologize. Ask for forgiveness.
The idea of holding cash captive to coerce positive feedback was misguided and mean. It was a huge miss.
Tell the truth.
Some people don’t get your lodging. It bugs you. You wish they appreciated what you offer. If they don’t, you can’t help it, and you certainly can’t control it.