Hotel fines $500 for every bad review posted online, served some street justice by Reddit

Yelp-LogoA small hotel in Hudson, NY thought it would be a great idea to threaten wedding couples with a $500 fee for any negative reviews posted by their wedding attendees.  From the Page Six article:

A hotel in tony Hudson, NY, has found a novel way to keep negative reviews off Yelpand other sites — fine any grousing guests.

The Union Street Guest House, near Catskills estates built by the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers, charges couples who book weddings at the venue $500 for every bad review posted online by their guests.

“Please know that despite the fact that wedding couples love Hudson and our inn, your friends and families may not,” reads an online policy. “If you have booked the inn for a wedding or other type of event . . . and given us a deposit of any kind . . . there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review . . . placed on any internet site by anyone in your party.”

If you take down the nasty review, you’ll get your money back. Continue reading

The Telepgraph – Hotels ‘hostage to TripAdvisor blackmailers’

We’ve heard a little chatter over the years about guests blackmailing hotels to remove negative reviews.  Our hoteliers from across the pond have been apparently experiencing the same problems.  From the Telegraph:

Hotels and restaurants are being targeted by “blackmailers” who demand free meals and stays in exchange for not writing bad reviews on the TripAdvisor website, hospitality chiefs have warned.

Guests are warning staff that they will post bad comments on the review website if they are not given better service, meals or upgrades.

Restaurant, hotel and B&B owners in Britain have reported a huge rise in the number of customers using the site as a threat. They say the guests often make a complaint and say they will post a bad review unless given a free bottle of wine, dessert or a bill reduction.

Other “gastronomic blackmailers” even claim that they work for TripAdvisor and will post a series of negative comments unless they get free upgrades.

Hopefully, a solution is on the way.  From the article:

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Great Comment Card Scores Through Bribery

We found a good laugh.  In the ‘Goofs, Glitches, Gotchas’ section of the newest Consumer Reports, a reader sent in a hotel’s attempt to bribe them to be happy.  The hotel included the following message on their folio:

“For every guest that rates their stay as VERY SATISFIED, we will issue 20,000 points to your priority club card”

The reader asked the manager who said that his intent was to thank people for completing the survey.  Consumer reports adds ‘but not, it seems, for completing it honestly.’

What are you doing to bribe your guests?

Hilton to Devalue Honors Points in 2010

Hilton HonorsHilton is taking a lot of heat after announcing they will change the number of points required to book a free night stay, essentially devaluing their Hilton Honors points by about 20 percent.  Check out the full USA Today article and the nasty comments, here.

Our take:  We agree with the travel industry analyst who said ‘it is absolutely the wrong decision to make at a time when hotel demand is down from corporate business, conferences, and leisure.”  It will save cash, but the timing is very poor.

In a follow-up post, found here, three other brands seemed to distance themselves from Hilton’s strategy.

Our favorite comment was from IHG’s Jim Abrahamson who said that rewards members are twice as profitable and elite-level members are 12 times as profitable.  He goes on to say “if one platinum-level member leaves us, we’d have to go out and find 12 new customers just to replace that one.”

New Study Says Hotels Only Respond to 4 Percent of Negative Reviews!

trip-advisor-logoWe have been saying for years that one of the most important things to do is to maintain your hotel’s internet reputation.  If you missed some of our articles, click here.

Market Metrix and TripAdvisor did a recent study and found that “85 percent of hotels have no guidelines for monitoring, responding to or acting on guest reviews.”  85 percent!  They also state that “only 4 percent of negative reviews are responded to!”  The entire article can be read here.

The article suggests many of the same techniques that we do for maintaining your hotel’s internet reputation.  You wouldn’t ignore a bad comment card, right?  Then why would you ignore a bad internet review of your hotel?  Get a plan in place today!

Unsatisfied Guest Takes Revenge

This story really shows the power of the internet when it comes to poor customer service.  We have reported before how sites such as TripAdvisor, Expedia, and Yahoo Travel give power to guests to sway future guests from staying or not staying at your property.  This story takes it to a new level.

Back in the spring of 2008, a musician named Dave Carroll was on a United Airlines flight and witnessed the baggage handlers throw his guitar case.  When he arrived at his destination, his $3500 guitar was severely damaged.  He spent 9 months trying to get reimbursement for the damaged guitar and was treated poorly by United Airlines’ customer service department.  After getting the runaround for 9 months, he promised the last customer service representative that he spoke to that he would write and produce 3 songs about his experience with United Airlines and post them online.

He posted his first song and funny video on July 6, 2009.  Check out the video here:

The video called ‘United Breaks Guitars’ has already been watched by over 3.2 MILLION PEOPLE in only a week.  The story has also been picked up by many major news networks such as CNN.

It just goes to show the power of the internet and why every single guest complaint must be resolved.

You can also check out Dave’s story on his website here.

WSJ Catches Hotels Piling on Fees

In a new article posted on the Wall Street Journal’s website, the author catches hotels piling on extra fees to make up for a loss in room revenue.  Some of the fees that they have found are mandatory valet parking fees, increased resort fees, housekeeping and bellman mandatory gratuities, and other fees such as a mandatory fee for in-room safes.

Should you be adding fees like these to make up for a loss in room revenues?  Absolutely not.

First off, mandatory fees are often illegal.  The article describes how Wyndham Worldwide and Marriott were sued and settled with Florida’s Attorney General over adding mandatory surcharges.  The Florida AG also has six ongoing investigations.  Undisclosed energy surcharges (we all remember those) and in-room safe fees are among the issues being investigated.

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USA Today Article About Guests Noticing Hotel Cutbacks

USA Today posted a pretty good article titled ‘As Hotels Struggle For Business, Some Guests Find An Upside’. Click on the link to read the entire article on their website.

The article talks about how guests are finding much better deals on hotel rooms now than ever before, especially at luxury hotels.  But the most important part of the article is the section titled ‘Guests Notice Cutbacks’.  From the article: Hotels cannot hide all the cutbacks. Some frequent travelers say they’re starting to notice little things.  From the article:

usatodaySome amenities — such as a bottle of water in the room or a newspaper delivered to the door — are gone. The quality of complimentary food and beverages has diminished in some club rooms or lobbies, or at hotel managers’ guest receptions, they say.

Because many hotels have cut their staffs, frequent travelers say they’re waiting longer to check in and out, have rooms made up and have cars retrieved by valets.

“There are fewer people to provide basic services, answer questions and make suggestions for restaurants and activities,” says Howard Knoff, an education consultant in Little Rock.

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Hotel ‘Hidden Charges’ Under Attack This Summer

Parking Picture

Maybe it is just a sign of the weakening economy, but the major news outlets are attacking hotel hidden charges this summer. Just last week, I saw two different morning news channels run pieces on how to avoid hidden hotel fees.  This article has appeared in the main section on MSN as well.

Hotels have been notorious for high fees since the beginning of time.  Who doesn’t know that picking up a phone in the hotel room is disastrous for your wallet?  I remember once staying at a resort and calling to reserve a time to go horseback riding.  The hotel charged over $18 for the 2-minute phone call…. and the horse stable was on the resort’s property!

How badly do these ‘hidden fees’ impact your guest service?  More than you can imagine.  The $18 phone call was almost 10 years ago and I am still a bit bitter today.  The real reason for my anger was that not only was I taken for $18 but then I was insulted when I asked about the fee at check out.  The snobby GSA responded with ‘phone calls come at a real premium at the resort.’

Charges for parking, internet access, phone calls, and resort fees are part of hotel life.  How can your hotel charge the fees without hurting guest service?

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