/ Travel & Leisure

Have you been penalised for writing a hotel review?

Man working on laptop on hotel bed

Here’s something new – a hotel in Blackpool charged a guest £100 for leaving a negative review on TripAdvisor. The money has since been refunded, but has anything similar happened to you?

Online reviews are becoming increasingly valuable for businesses in the tourism industry.

More and more tourists are frequenting websites like TripAdvisor to see what previous customers think of certain holiday accommodations before deciding where to stay. So, it makes sense that many hotels, hostels and B&Bs are doing all they can to ensure customers leave positive reviews. But at least one hotel has taken this concept to an unexpected extreme.

A £100 fine for your views

It’s emerged that The Broadway Hotel in Blackpool charged a couple an extra £100 for leaving a bad review online after their stay. This charge was reportedly listed in the hotel’s booking policy document.

The couple furiously campaigned to get their money back. Tony and Jan Jenkinson from Whitehaven sought a refund via their credit card company after they were fined for describing the hotel as a ‘rotten stinking hovel’ on TripAdvisor. The hotel has since refunded the £100.

The hotel has also removed the policy after Blackpool Trading Standards warned it could breach unfair trading practice regulations. I imagine all the media attention that has stemmed from this will do far more damage to the hotel than a bad review could ever do.

In a statement to the BBC, the hotel said:

‘We exercised this policy with Mr and Mrs Jenkinson as we felt extremely upset by their actions and insulting comments towards our staff.

‘We agree there is room for improvement at our establishment and we desperately want to turn things around.’

Fined for a bad review

Which? lawyers have said that any clause in terms and conditions giving a hotel the right to charge a customer for writing a bad review could be challenged as unfair. In addition, if the policy is not part of the T&Cs then it was not part of the contact, so a hotel would have no right to do it.

We’ll be looking at this issue more thoroughly in the January issue of Which? Travel magazine. In the meantime, we’re keen to discover if any other hotels or B&Bs are adopting similar practices. Have you ever felt pressured to keep your (re)views to yourself? How about being incentivised to leave a positive review?

Comments
Guest
Julian Beirne says:
22 November 2014

The idea behind Trip Advisor is that you review the hotel BEFORE you book it. That way you never enter a bad hotel.

This couple obviously only went onto the site after the based experience. I always stay in the top B&Bs and hotels. Never had a bad experience.

Guest

I often send e-mails to hotels before I arrive. I ask for a nice quiet room on a high floor away from the lifts etc, and crucially I give a link to my Tripadvisor profile, where they can see all the (mostly good) reviews I’ve written for every hotel I’ve stayed at in the last few years. Consequently I’m often upgraded and receive excellent service, with the result that my subsequent review is truthfully favourable.

Guest

I think that sending the hotel the link to your trip advisor profile is really brilliant, and will do it in future. Many thanks.

Guest

I think the murky world of hotel review sites needs a bit more detailed examination. I have read allegations that establishments can ‘buy’ the positioning of reviews on the websites so that none of the unfavourable ones appear in the first few pages, or, at all even. Hotels and guest houses are now in competition for ‘rewards’ from the review websites that will lead to their premises being given greater prominence in the search facility so they press customers to leave top-rate reviews. I have to say that many guests also leave a lot to be desired by their trashing of establishments both physically and verbally; they expect the Ritz at a bog-standard back-street boarding-house and then moan on a website if they don’t get it.

I go along with NFH – prior contact often leads to a better experience. I would prefer it if there were a completely disinterested organisation along the lines of Which? doing hotel reviews – the commercial connexions between the existing websites and the establishments means they are are always compromised. We used to be able to trust the star rating system but that has fallen into disrepute because places can administer their own scheme and award themselves as many stars as they think fit. In the UK, unless it has an official AA, RAC or national tourist board sign up the rating is meaningless, and evn then I question the judgments – given that only a handful of top hotels can achieve five stars, how can there be so many four-star hotels? The four-star band is far too wide between the worst and the best to be much of a guide these days. We rarely leave reviews as we usually find we are fully satisfied and get exactly what we ordered and paid for. On a very few occasions, however, we have submitted adverse reviews when the hotel fell well below the standards we were expecting and which they were advertising [and which was not apparent from reading any reviews]. The manager of one particular hotel in Kensington, part of one of the better international hotel groups, did actually respond to my comments with promises of improvement but we went somewhere else on the next occasion and have found a better place, in the same area, and have gone back there several times since. That has also been advantageous in terms of accommodation and prices. I hope this comment is not a hostage to fortune – we’re going there again in a couple of weeks’ time.

Guest

No, Like tipping, I only write a review if the service is excellent. As regards hotels, I always stay at the highest price I can afford – like so many things in life, you only get what you pay for. Oh, an exception to the latter rule is in cosmetics/skin-care where the cheapest is usually the best if it contains glycerol. or other humectant. High prices are “necessary” in this area because, here, people think the price means quality and it doesn’t..
Sorry if I miss the main point but I.m a newby.

Guest

Why not also write a review if the hotel is bad? Why not warn others to avoid the hotel or to avoid specific problematic rooms or floors? If everyone followed your approach, then Tripadvisor would only contains good reviews, which would mean that potential customers would be unable to identify bad hotels.

Guest

Also write a review if the Hotel is mediocre or just okay.
TA and othe rreview sites tend to be populated with superb and terrible reviews not much help when looking for a good value 1 night stay anywhere as long as it is “okay” and “nothing special”.

I am always suspicious of peoples reviews when their profile shows nothing but 5* ratings or 2* reviews.

Guest

I just wonder whether my review would make a difference to people in these days of hardship. Anyway, I never book on-line from advisors and in these days of hardship people do or have to seek “cheapest ” deal they can get. Sorry but I don’t use Tripadvisor, never heard of it. I book a hotel direct to the hotel without trawling for “best deals”- I just seek hotels where I want to go and then contact my choices. As regards helping others, that boils down to “caveat emptor”: let the buyer beware.
I have no comments re: Tripadvisor so I cannot comment plus or minus as regards their service..
I repeat I am a newby and think I’m out of my depth here.
I’ll just add a general comment which I think was said by the late Bob Monkhouse: “It’s not a bargain if you don’t need it”.
I cannot quote “am I my brother’ keeper” ‘cos the answer would be “yes” but I don’t think it refers to hotel choice.
Sorry, that’s the best I can do on this topic.

Guest

No hotel has asked me to write a favourable review, but where an online retailer asks me to give them five stars or make favourable comments, I make a point of mentioning this, along with other comments.