Last updated at 1:02PM, November 19 2014
A couple were charged an extra £100 on their credit card by their hotel after they left a negative review about a stay on TripAdvisor.
Tony Jenkinson, a retired van driver, and his wife Jan spent one night at the three star Broadway Hotel in August, and were so unimpressed that they described it on the travel website as a “filthy, dirty rotten stinking hovel run by muppets”.
The room rate was £36, but the Jenkinsons discovered that the hotel, in Blackpool, had later billed their credit card for a surcharge of £100.
When they queried it, the hotel pointed to small print in their booking document, which read: “Despite the fact that repeat customers and couples love our hotel, your friends and family may not. For every bad review left on any website, the group organiser will be charged a maximum £100 per review.”
Mr Jenkinson said that his wife did not have her glasses on and signed the booking agreement without reading it in full.
After widespread publicity about the surcharge, however, the hotel today backed down and has reportedly promised to refund the money.
The Jenkinsons wrote in their review that when they checked in they found that their room was dirty, with peeling wallpaper, filthy curtains and a stained carpet, the bed springs were broken, the hot tap and the kettle did not work, the drawer fronts fell off when they tried to open them and the full English breakfast was far from appetising.
They were outraged at the unexpected extra charge.
“Annoyed is not strong enough for how I feel about this. What happened to freedom of speech?” Mr Jenkinson told the BBC.
“Everybody we have spoken to says they are not allowed to do this.”
The Jenkinsons were trying to get their money back from their credit card company when the hotel underwent a change of heart, and said it would cancel its “no bad reviews” policy.
Gillian Campbell, the cabinet member responsible for public protection at Blackpool council, said: “Our trading standards team became aware of this issue last week.
“As a result, we have spoken to the hotel owner and asked for the policy to be removed, which has now happened. This is a unique case.”
No-one was available at the Broadway Hotel to comment.
The Jenkinsons’ review is far from the only negative feedback on
TripAdvisor about the premises, which is ranked 858th of Blackpool’s 894 bed and breakfasts and inns, and has attracted 147 comments ranking it at the lowest rating of one star.
“By far the worst place I have ever stayed in,” wrote a reviewer called Albert, three weeks before the Jenkinsons checked in.
Other reviewers described staff swigging from a can of Strongbow while serving breakfast, stained sheets, filthy showers and mould on the bedroom walls. The boiler supplying hot water to guests appears to have been out of order for some time.
The latest review, filed three days ago, is simply titled: “Don’t go there.”
It is not clear how much the hotel has earned by surcharging its customers for their negative comments.
James Kay, a spokesman for TripAdvisor, said: “While, thankfully, such instances are very rare, it is completely against the spirit and policies of our site for any business owner to attempt to bully or intimidate reviewers who have had a negative experience.
“Where we find evidence of a business doing so, we will take action to protect the integrity of our site.”
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