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Social media punishes hotel for threatening guests

An American hotel had such a customer unfriendly policy that it went viral last Monday, when The New York Post wrote about it. In the strange policy, couples getting married at the Union Street Guest House were threatened if any of their guests dared to post a negative review online:

“Please know that despite the fact that wedding couples love Hudson and our inn, your friends and families may not,” the hotel’s online policy, hastily removed on Monday afternoon, read. “If you have booked the inn for a wedding or other type of event and given us a deposit of any kind there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review placed on any internet site by anyone in your party.”

Yeah - we wish we’d made that one up. However, this example of unbelievably awful customer service is all too real. When the Union Street Guest House composed this fine piece of policy, it overlooked the fact that news travels fast on the global highway of social media.

Customers who are treated like criminals (we might as well be blunt about it) spit fire online, and the flames go viral in no time. It doesn’t surprise us that the past couple of days over 700 people wrote bad reviews about this hotel, giving it a vicious one star rating. Yelp.com removed most of these fake reviews, as they didn't reflect ‘first-hand experiences’. Fair enough, but they did reflect, however, what we’d like to call poetic justice by an online world that’s neither forgetful nor forgiving. casengo.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/threaten.jpg

Don’t want to wake up one day and find your business pummeled by CNN? Be aware of how important online reviewing is to your customers, so take it seriously. No one wants bad reviews, but blunt censorship is never the way forward. Instead, learn how to handle bad reviews gracefully. Social media is an unstoppable force. Trying to control people from talking about you is asking for serious trouble. If you screw up, expect people to talk about it, and take it from there. Social media encourages active talking about your business. You can run from responsibility, but in this day and age you most certainly can't hide.

The best way to avoid PR disasters like this is better customer service. Instead of imposing fines on your beloved customers, use their feedback to improve your business. As soon as their experiences with your business improve, they’ll do what you wanted them to do in the first place: post positive reviews about your business. True, happy reviews - any company’s dream!