At the moment there is a story running around the internet about a hotel in Blackpool, the Broadway Hotel, that has (or perhaps had) a policy of fining customers up to £100 for leaving negative reviews on “any website”. They charged a couple whose credit card details they had on file from the booking they made two days after the couple checked out and left the negative review on TripAdvisor.
Now this is clearly a preposterous policy and the latest update is that Blackpool Trading Standards have spoken to the hotel who have agreed to abandon the policy (still no word on whether the couple who were fined £100 for describing the hotel as a “filthy hovel” on TripAdvisor are to be reimbursed, though).
What is so silly about all this though is that the hotel is trying to fix the symptom not the cause and surely that is not what they should be doing.
Before I continue, I am going to assume that the review for which the unlucky couple were fined is vaguely accurate (there is no reason not to, looking at the other reviews on Trip Adviser).
Surely the hotel management need to realise that trying to fine people for a negative review is not the answer. The negative impact of a review as bad as the ones that the hotel is receiving must massively outweigh the money that they would receive from the fines, even if they fined everyone, which I am going to assume they didn’t.
But more importantly, it is worth noting that fining people for leaving a negative review on “any website” involves checking sites like TripAdvisor to see who has left a negative review so that they can be fined. In the case of the Broadway Hotel, this means that someone has been reading dozens, if not hundreds, of negative reviews.
It is pretty shocking then, that with such a barrage of negativity, the hotel has not elected to clean the place up and deal with the issues of dilapidation that almost all of the negative (and in fact most of the rare positive) reviews refer to.
There will always be people who try to use the threat of negative reviews to get something that they want that is not reasonable. But businesses need to accept that there will always be people like that and the truth is that if a business is doing everything it can to deliver the best possible service or product (or both) then that will be obvious to anyone looking for a review. A hotel with 267 positive reviews and one or two negative reviews is probably a good place to stay unless you have totally unreasonable expectations. A hotel with 170 ‘poor’ or ‘terrible’ reviews and only 17 ‘excellent’ reviews is probably worth steering clear of.
So don’t worry about dealing with criticism on the web. Concentrate on being the best you can and the positive sentiment about your business will outweigh any unreasonable comments by a huge margin.