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A Hotel in New York Allegedly Threatened Guests With a $500 Fine If They Wrote Bad Reviews on Yelp

Union Street Guest House, Yelp Review Yelp

Here are two separate, though not necessarily equal, ways to get good reviews for your hotel:

1. Address the complaints expressed in the review to improve the quality of service provided at your hotel. Apologize to the customer for the issues and, if need be, offer to reimburse the cost of their stay or otherwise compensate them for their troubles.

2. Threaten every guest who posts a bad review with a $500 fine.

The Union Street Guest House in Hudson, N.Y., apparently went with the latter. Though it has now been removed from their website, Page Six reports the website policy used to include a passage saying:

Please know that despite the fact that wedding couples love Hudson and our inn, your friends and families may not...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.

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Union Street Guest House, Yelp Review Yelp

Owner Chris Wagoner responded to the accusations, claiming, "The policy regarding wedding fines was put on our site as a tongue-in-cheek response to a wedding many years ago. It was meant to be taken down long ago and certainly was never enforced." 

And perhaps no fines every were levied, but at least one former customer left a one-star Yelp review (above) saying that the owner "had the gall to email us twice to threaten us financially about the negative review."

Meanwhile, the Union Street Guest House's Yelp page has been flooded with non-guests leaving addition one-star, spam reviews based on Page Six's story. One such review says:

Is it even legal to extort people for posting bad reviews online? Well, at any rate, here you go, and please send the bill to 123 Main St, Anytown, USA, 12345 And I'll be sure to mail you a check right away!

And now, with over 450 reviews, the hotel has a grand total of one star on Yelp, and has been flagged as "permanently closed" on Google Maps, even though it is still very much in business. 

They say all publicity is good publicity. We're not so sure that's the case here.

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