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Hotel owners fining customers for bad reviews

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Even if your bed is dirty, the shower doesn't work and the staff is rude - you might want to think twice before you fuss and fume about your hotel stay or your vacation rental on the internet.

(Photo courtesy Theogeo via Flickr)

Some owners and management companies are now fining customers who complain to the world on traveler review sites like trip-advisor or rental agency sites like vrbo.com. And the fine can be as much as $500.

How are they doing it? Either by charging your credit card or deducting it from a deposit refund you're owed.

Robert Krughoff is the president of checkbook.org, a consumer advocacy group in D.C. He urges travelers to read their contract carefully before making a down payment.

And if you do want to post a bad review, you might want to wait a bit.

“I might wait a few weeks before posting my review so if they have a deposit of mine they won't have access to that deposit anymore,” Krughoff says.

The folks at checkbook.org encourage anyone who does get hit with one of these fines, to contact their credit card company and dispute the charge.

On the other side of the coin - some hotel and vacation managers say they're just trying to protect themselves from guests who use the threat of a negative review to get a discount or complain online without giving the manager a chance to make things right.

Either way, many customers say it all comes down to unfair censorship.

“I think it's a free country. You're entitled to your opinion and I just find that an outrage,” says Silver Spring resident William Totten.

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