Consumers have long relied on recommendations from friends and family before buying products and services, and businesses have risen and fallen like empires on this tradition of word of mouth. Then, the Internet brought about the ability to broadcast your opinion of a business to practically everyone in the world, and to see reviews by people you’ve never met. The potential benefits to businesses of this have to be weighed against the potential detriment when people post negative reviews. Generally, people are only motivated to leave a review if they had a very positive or very negative experience, leaving a skewed perspective of the business on the world wide web.
Some businesses have tried to fight back by including language in their terms of agreement which punishes customers for posting negative reviews online. While the legality of such a measure is in question, consumers all over the Internet have made their displeasure known.
Recently, the Union Street Guest House (USGH), a New York hotel, took it a step further by allegedly including a clause which punishes customers if another customer posts a negative review of the hotel anywhere on the internet. According to the hotel’s 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.” The policy further noted that the $500 charge would be removed once a negative review was taken down, and that the policy only applied to wedding parties and events. Continue reading ›