How to NOT Handle a Negative Review

In our previous post we discussed the surprising benefits of negative reviews. But negative reviews still put many business owners on the defensive. While reacting angrily to poor reviews is a bad strategy, some business owners take a more proactive approach to handling these reviews...which is even worse.

Hotels That Fine Guests for Negative Reviews

More than one hotel has tried to manage negative reviews by telling guests that they will be fined for each negative review that they write. The Broadway Hotel in Blackpool, England, had a policy of fining guests £100 if they left a negative review. One couple who was charged for their review complained to trading standards officials about the policy. Officials found that it was an unfair business practice and the policy has since been removed.

Didn't Write the Review?

Meanwhile, the Union Street Guest House in New York will charge $500 for each negative review - even if you weren't the one who wrote it. Commonly booked for weddings, the Union Street Guest house notified guests that it would fine them $500 for each negative review left by anyone in their party:
After the story went viral, the Guest House responded by claiming that they were joking, and the rule was “meant to be tongue-in-cheek . . . We like to have fun." (Somehow, the threats and warnings that these guests received don't sound like they came from someone with a sense of humor.)

The Consequences

These hotels probably thought that their fines would discourage guests from writing negative reviews. Perhaps they deterred a few would-be reviewers. But overall, their strategy has backfired. A simple search for "Broadway Hotel Blackpool England" pulls up a page of negative reviews, as well as several news articles about how the hotel has fined guests for sharing their experiences. The same is true for a search of "Union Street Guest House NY". This is in addition to the initial public backlash when the New York Post first wrote about the hotel's policy. Keep in mind that these aren't even searches for reviews of the hotels - these are simply searches for the hotel name and location.
In summary, there are many good ways to deal with negative reviews. But threatening and fining your customers is not one of them.