One New York hotel is learning the hard way that you can’t control what people say about you on the Internet.
Hudson, New York-based Union Street Guest House has had a long-standing policy of fining customers if they post a negative review on Yelp YELP +0.13% or other hotel review sites. Specifically, the hotel warns couples who book weddings there, that it will fine them $500 if anyone in their party disparages them online. From the hotel’s website, here’s the policy:
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.
Apparently the hotel would refund the fine if the offending review was deleted.
Customers had been complaining for at least a year about this policy on Yelp, but things really got heated when two media outlets outed the hotel on this issue. The story became a viral sensation after appearing on the front page of Reddit. The hotel tried to address the PR nightmare by deleting the policy from the hotel’s website (archive of it here) and issuing the following statement on it’s Facebook page (which they also then deleted):
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.
Read the full article here.