A hotel in New York, is going to new lengths to avoid bad online reviews: It's fining guests who leave them.
The Union Street Guest House, which hosts weddings and events, has a clause in its reservation policy stating that US$500 of a couple's deposit would be held for every bad review from their event's attendees.
Online review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor are important to service providers, as more and more potential guests check reviews before booking a location.
The clause in the Union Street Guest House policy reads: "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."
But if the review is taken down, all is forgiven.
The hotel's website also states that the charge also applies to any guests: "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."
However, there is no clear way for the hotel to enforce this. "Please note we will not charge this fee and/or will refund this fee once the review is taken down," the policy continues.
The strategy isn't helping the hotel's Yelp score, which is currently at 1.5 stars, in part because of one-star reviews in response to the policy.
The hotel says that its vintage look and "hip" decor are sometimes unpopular with guests. "If your guests are looking for a Marriott type hotel, they may not like it here," the hotel's website reads.
The hotel then posted to its Facebook wall saying that the $500 fine policy was just a joke.
Several commenters pointed to a Yelp review left in November 2013 from a guest who said the hotel emailed him trying to collect.
The Yelp reviewer wrote:
"The management of this hotel had the gall to email us twice to threaten us financially about the negative review! Here is an excerpt from their first email:
Please note that your recent on-line review of our Inn will cost the wedding party that left us a deposit $500. This money be charged via the deposit they have left us unless/until it is removed. Any other or future reviews will also be charged to the wedding party (bride & groom) from the guarantee they have provided us.
Disgusting! Instead of taking responsibility and striving to improve their customer service, they instead resort to intimidation!"
The hotel has now removed the Facebook post saying the policy was a joke.