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Union Street Guest House woes
August 4, 2014 8:26 AM   Subscribe

A NY hotel fines guests $500 for negative reviews. The press notices. Yelpers take revenge -- a dozen or so reviews this morning have turned into more than 200 at the moment, warning of, among other things, a "MAJOR SPIDER INFESTATION."
posted by daisyace (153 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
What could go wrong?
Needs streisandeffect tag
posted by slater at 8:28 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


The hotel has changed their review policy, apparently. This is how it reads now:

Please know that despite the fact that wedding couples love Hudson and our Inn, your friends and families may not. This is due to the fact that your guests may not understand what we offer - therefore we expect you to explain that to them. USGH & Hudson are historic. The buildings here are old (but restored). Our bathrooms and kitchens are designed to look old in an artistic "vintage" way. Our furniture is mostly hip, period furniture that you would see in many design magazines. (although comfortable and functional - obviously all beds are brand new) If your guests are looking for a Marriott type hotel they may not like it here.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:34 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


See also, Palmer v. Kleargear.com.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:34 AM on August 4 [5 favorites]


How would that even work? They fine the couple $500 from their deposit...but aren't they already paid up in full by the time the event is over? Are they charging a credit card left on file, or sending a bill for the overdue amount? "You still owe us $1000 because Aunt Edna and Uncle Don said they didn't like our towels"
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:34 AM on August 4 [3 favorites]


Let the righteous indignation begin
posted by Flood at 8:35 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


How would that even work? They fine the couple $500 from their deposit...but aren't they already paid up in full by the time the event is over?

The bill for my wedding wasn't settled up for a few days (exact numbers, post-event cleaning, etc.) -- plenty long enough for people to have Yelped about it if it hadn't been in 2001.
posted by Etrigan at 8:37 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


internet squad:

attack
posted by entropone at 8:38 AM on August 4 [5 favorites]


What a coincidence! My frivolous bill charge is $500!
posted by Salvor Hardin at 8:39 AM on August 4 [10 favorites]


It's like some sort of reverse protection racket.

"You got a nice, big deposit here. It would be a shame if a negative review were posted and something were to happen to it."
posted by griphus at 8:40 AM on August 4 [10 favorites]


As of this posting, the Union St Guest House has 1 star with 367 reviews on Yelp. I'd say justice has been served, and lessons have been (probably temporarily) learned.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 8:41 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


It's a surprise their in-house tech is up to date enough to read online reviews.
posted by Wordshore at 8:43 AM on August 4 [17 favorites]


Related: San Francisco Magazine has a feature this month on the 10th anniversary of Yelp and how it has affected the restaurant business: The Toxic, Abusive, Addictive, Supportive, Codependent Relationship Between Chefs and Yelpers.
posted by zarq at 8:45 AM on August 4 [9 favorites]


How would that even work? They fine the couple $500 from their deposit...but aren't they already paid up in full by the time the event is over?

Not to mention that they would need some way to tell whose wedding the bad review was from. Yelp only uses first name + last initial, so not exactly a smoking gun there.
posted by smackfu at 8:46 AM on August 4


I can kind of see where they're coming from though, if this is indicitive of the type of complaints they were getting:
If your guests are looking for a Marriott type hotel they may not like it here.

The $500 thing, sure that's incredibly douchey (though was it ever actually levied?), but I also don't think they deserve to be trashed so totally.
There ain't no justice like mob justice.
posted by Flashman at 8:46 AM on August 4


That hotel's policy is ridiculous, but the subtext of the policy is laid bare by the constant berating of small businesses who try hard by ignoramus Yelpers who get all in a huff if their $40 room or their $10 meal isn't fit for the royalty that they think they are. Yelp has hurt way too many businesses this way, and rode their creepy business model all the way to the bank.

All that's left now is for some Yelp salesperson (i.e. extortionist) to phone the owner of said hotel, offering to "make your bad reviews disappear if you advertise with us". Yelp is little more than an extortion racket, and I wish it would die or get class action sued into oblivion.
posted by Vibrissae at 8:48 AM on August 4 [17 favorites]


Posted on their Facebook page six minutes ago: 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.
posted by DanSachs at 8:49 AM on August 4 [3 favorites]


Wordshore, it's designed to look old in an artistic "vintage" way.
posted by delegeferenda at 8:49 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


Please know that despite the fact that wedding couples love Hudson and our Inn, your friends and families may not. This is due to the fact that your guests may not understand what we offer. Our hotel is a gateway to the unutterable madness of the universe beyond the stars. Obscene architecture spirals about, like the light, infernal touches of a feasting succubus. Stone-wrought runes whisper hideous truths to the innocent. Whirling vortices open into silent, yawning infernos of freezing flame. Non-Euclidian geometries shape our rooms into impossible labyrinths, in which you may be trapped for an eternity which shall seem only a moment, or for a second which shall actually stretch forever. No design magazine can prepare you for the nightmares we shall show you of the infinite history of the world. No hip furniture will protect you from the horny carapaces of the extradimensional guardians. If you are looking for a Marriott type hotel, then you are already too late. Merely reading this far has already created a door into your mind, through which the spirits of the hotel can enter at any time. Whenever you close your eyes, you shall see our Continental breakfast, with its unspeakable bagels. Whenever you feel a brush against your spine, like being whipped with a fine lace made of razor-sharp ice, you shall know that you are being charged for Wi-Fi. Please enjoy your stay.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:50 AM on August 4 [190 favorites]


I'm just waiting for a bed and breakfast somewhere to demand my Yelp screen name so they can check my posting history before agreeing to rent me a room.
posted by Naberius at 8:50 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


There are other absurdities scattered throughout the hotel's website. For example, if you stay there while attending a wedding anywhere in the area, a two-night minimum applies:
Whether you have booked the entire Inn or just 1 room because you are attending a wedding in the area the following rules apply:

TWO NIGHT MINIMUM FOR ANYONE ATTENDING A WEDDING ANYWHERE IN THE AREA. NO EARLY CHECK-INS. We are very sorry but cannot offer early check-ins as we need time to clean rooms, and we know guests need time to get ready so this is one reason why there is a 2 night minimum for all wedding guests. Our front desk opens at 3PM every day.

CANCEL AT YOUR OWN RISK, WE DO NOT ACCEPT ALL CANCELLATION REQUESTS
If you are staying in our Inn to attend a wedding or event here or anywhere else in the area cancellations must be made via email and you must receive a response from us for a cancellation to be accepted at all.
posted by beagle at 8:50 AM on August 4 [6 favorites]


It's a tough situation. Imagine you go to a B&B, and go to take a shower, and they are out of hot water, and you complain and the front desk says "oh, well, it's an old building, sorry." Is that a legitimate complaint or not?
posted by smackfu at 8:50 AM on August 4


The fact that some yelpers are referring to this as "censorship" and a "freedom of speech" issue almost almost makes me want to take the hotel's side.

Almost.
posted by elizardbits at 8:51 AM on August 4 [17 favorites]


For example, if you stay there while attending a wedding anywhere in the area, a two-night minimum applies:

I don't. What. How do they find out you are attending a wedding? Do they follow you to your destination when you leave in fancy clothing? What if it was a funeral? What if you just want to get dressed up and then bone down in the fucking woods?
posted by elizardbits at 8:53 AM on August 4 [27 favorites]


There are other absurdities scattered throughout the hotel's website.

I've been to places like this. They think that the answer to all of life's problems is more rules and procedures. If you complain, then they can just point to the rules that you didn't read, so they're not wrong. They also love signs, because again, the solution to any complaints is just to tell you about the sign.

I can imagine someone with this philosophy running into negative Yelp reviews... and this $500 fee is exactly the kind of solution they would think up.
posted by smackfu at 8:54 AM on August 4 [9 favorites]


Yeah, the only thing worse than Yelp is businesses who respond to Yelp this way.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:54 AM on August 4 [7 favorites]


I'm on the hotel's side.

They attempted to battle idiocy. The only fault here is that you cannot battle idiocy - there is too much of it. This Yelp campaign provides the perfect example.

But, if this ends up keeping more idiots away, the hotel has achieved their goal.
posted by vacapinta at 8:54 AM on August 4


Reading these articles about business owners totally losing their shit over Yelp is like getting a glimpse directly into the primal id of the petite bourgeoisie, it's better than any work of economics or sociology.
posted by enn at 8:56 AM on August 4 [23 favorites]


Imagine you go to a B&B, and go to take a shower, and they are out of hot water, and you complain and the front desk says "oh, well, it's an old building, sorry." Is that a legitimate complaint or not?

I got that answer when I told the front desk at a hotel in Philadelphia about the mice who ate my snacks overnight.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:56 AM on August 4 [3 favorites]


I thought Basil Fawlty got out of hospitality.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:57 AM on August 4 [29 favorites]


Posted on their Facebook page six minutes ago: 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.


From Yelp:
Rabih Z.
Alexandria, VA
11/21/2013

The management of this hotel had the gall to email us twice to threaten us financially about the negative review! Here is an excerpt from their first email:

"please note that your recent on-line review of our Inn will cost the wedding party that left us a deposit $500. This money be charged via the deposit they have left us unless/until it is removed. Any other or future reviews will also be charged to the wedding party (bride & groom) from the guarantee they have provided us. "

Disgusting! Instead of taking responsibility and striving to improve their customer service, they instead resort to intimidation!
On the internet, everyone can tell when you're lying.
posted by zarq at 8:59 AM on August 4 [45 favorites]


Is this the same hotel I saw on Facebook where there was a body hidden under one of the beds and they didn't find it for 5 years?
posted by TedW at 9:00 AM on August 4


We should not let one hotel's PR missteps obscure the fact that Yelp is a thinly-veiled extortion scheme.
posted by mhoye at 9:00 AM on August 4 [3 favorites]


What if you just want to get dressed up and then bone down in the fucking woods?

Tree-humping in finery. That'll be $500.
posted by zarq at 9:01 AM on August 4 [11 favorites]


The correct response to a guest's complaint: "He's from Barcelona"
posted by Flashman at 9:01 AM on August 4 [25 favorites]


From another review made prior to this dustup:
"Every business has a reason for their policies. The beautiful thing about our great State of New York is that we can have any policy that we want as long as it is written on our website. It's up to you to decide whether you want to adhere to it or not before you make a reservation."
I don't use Yelp very often, and I take all online reviews, especially negative ones, with a grain of salt, but it does not seem to me like complaints about customer service or the owner's attitude are out-of-character. I don't think there are "sides" to this fight, so I'm not going to say I'm on the "side" of Yelpers, but it does seem to me like the hotel at best is being disingenuous.
posted by muddgirl at 9:08 AM on August 4 [5 favorites]


10th anniversary of Yelp and how it has affected the restaurant business

oh my god don't even get me started on the idiocy that occurs among restaurant management when even a less-than-100%-positive-but-not-actually-bad review appears on Yelp. It is the worst thing.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:09 AM on August 4 [9 favorites]


Also, what's the countdown until this hotel appears on Ramsay's Hotel Hell?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:10 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


I could have a tiny bit of sympathy for the hotel, in that it can be hard if you are a B&B type place and people critique you for services you never claimed to provide, but yeah, no, they seem like precious assholes. Also, B&B doesn't mean the place has to feel rundown or chintzy; I have stayed at a number of B&Bs around the country, and apart from not having things like room service or a business service room, the good ones were as were as nice as any chain hotel. Most people can tell the difference between "deliberately cosy and old fashioned" and "dirty and ill-maintained".
posted by tavella at 9:10 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


I think they had what started as a legitimate, relatable problem: they're not a conventional hotel, weddings were booking them for grandpas and crotchety aunts and cousins who didn't get that, and they were getting slagged on Yelp and the like. I get that. I understand that. I empathize with that.

There seems little question though that charging $500 per negative review and going online after reviewers to insult them is asshattery of a pretty high order. Add that to some of the other demonstrable shittiness (their weird, "you cancel if we feel like it" policy), and it's pretty easy to stop giving a shit about this hotel and just enjoy their downfall.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:11 AM on August 4 [9 favorites]


I'm just waiting for a bed and breakfast somewhere to demand my Yelp screen name so they can check my posting history before agreeing to rent me a room.
posted by Naberius


Good thinking, Naberius -- if Yelp itself isn't already offering this service to hotels and others they are passing up a huge business opportunity.
posted by jamjam at 9:13 AM on August 4


MAJOR SPIDER INFESTATION

Let's go Headlighting for Spiders! Perhaps this is just a ploy to cater to a different sort of customer?
posted by filthy light thief at 9:15 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


A hotel cannot "fine" someone. They are not a court of law. Who do these people think they are?
posted by thelonius at 9:19 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


I'm just waiting for a bed and breakfast somewhere to demand my Yelp screen name so they can check my posting history before agreeing to rent me a room.

Isn't this sort of what AirBNB and Uber do already? You have a rating, the other party has a rating, and you both get to see the other's rating and put in your own two cents at the conclusion of the deal. I could see Yelp doing that.

That doesn't seem entirely unfair for B&Bs either. I'm sure there are guests who are just goddamn terrible, entirely out of proportion to what they're going to pay for a room. In other words, so bad that you're better off leaving a room empty than renting to them. Leaving bad reviews is just the tip of the iceberg — I'm thinking about people who trash rooms, or steal stuff, or are terrible to the other guests. You could probably get a lot of small inns to sign up for a pre-screening service that basically acted like a crowdsourced blacklist of complete asshats.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:19 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


elizardbits: "I don't. What. How do they find out you are attending a wedding? Do they follow you to your destination when you leave in fancy clothing? What if it was a funeral? What if you just want to get dressed up and then bone down in the fucking woods?"

I'd bet your average hotelier can spot a single night stay wedding guest 999/1000 times because of the things that has the hotel wanting a 2 day minimum. The guest wants an _early_ check in (like pre check out time check in) so they can get ready for the wedding. Then they return to their room in the late afternoon and then leave until very late returning drunk and often disorderly. They then push the limits of the check out time if they even check out on time because they didn't get to bed till 3AM after a night of heavy drinking. People attending a funeral don't stay out late. People banging in the woods don't need the super early check in. And while guys wedding and funeral attire may be the same dark suit most women are dressed differently for a wedding than a funeral.
posted by Mitheral at 9:20 AM on August 4 [8 favorites]


Yelp does have a lot of douchey people leaving vindictive reviews, but it's nice if customers/consumers are somewhat empowered through online reviewing. That's what's great about the Internet. In the old days, businesses run by assholes would get away with completely shitty behavior because they weren't held accountable by mass awareness of their practices.
posted by ChuckRamone at 9:21 AM on August 4 [5 favorites]


Kadin2048: " You could probably get a lot of small inns to sign up for a pre-screening service that basically acted like a crowdsourced blacklist of complete asshats."

A lot of jurisdictions have this for long term rentals already. Get listed as a bad tenant and suddenly you can't rent an apartment anywhere in town.
posted by Mitheral at 9:22 AM on August 4


We reserve the right to cancel a reservation at any time for any reason.

You cannot cancel, of course, but they can.
posted by jeather at 9:23 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


The way they wrote the 2-night "wedding" policy is just stupid. If they bothered to look at other B&Bs' sites, they would have realized that the conventional way to do this is just to say that Saturday nights require a 2-night minimum during the peak season. Nothing specific to weddings, because that's not really what matters — it's that a room rented for Saturday night in an area that is really heavy with weddings probably isn't going to get rented the rest of the weekend.

So you just say, "hey, if you want this room for Saturday night, you're going to have to take it either for Sunday night or Friday night too" and then you don't have to try and figure out what the hell people are doing in the woods in a tux and an Empire-waist gown.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:23 AM on August 4 [12 favorites]



The $500 thing, sure that's incredibly douchey (though was it ever actually levied?), but I also don't think they deserve to be trashed so totally.


if yrrr running a glass hotel, don't throw bricks at people
posted by philip-random at 9:24 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


to demand my Yelp screen name so they can check my posting history before agreeing to rent me a room

Isn't this basically the point of the "check in with Yelp for a free beverage with your meal" kind of promotion from the business owner's point of view? You get the online review crowd to identify themselves up front, and you also start the interaction off by making them feel like they're getting a special deal. Kind of the perfect inverse of this hotel's policy, which more or less seems to be trying as hard as it can to get off on the wrong foot with the exact customers who are going to be the most predictably, damagingly vocal about it.
posted by RogerB at 9:24 AM on August 4 [3 favorites]


A hotel cannot "fine" someone. They are not a court of law. Who do these people think they are?

I disagree with this, though. What if you steal something or damage the room?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:25 AM on August 4


The whole situation is a bit sad because the real solution is for people not to take Yelp very seriously. A bit seriously, maybe, based on a large number of consistent reviews, but not too seriously overall. But we do. We don't want to look at a reviewer's other reviews and do a mini-profile of them, we want a quick thumbs-up/down, which is exactly the opposite of how Yelp could work well. And my sympathies naturally lie with small business owners with little margin for weathering Internet storms, especially after missing Zumanity in Vegas because a bunch of twats from Oklahoma said it wasn't very good. WTF? It's circus acrobats circusly expressing and exploring sex! But, you know, not the sort of thing that Oklahomans' find to be quality entertainment, for some inexplicable reason.
posted by fatbird at 9:25 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


I've been to places like this. They think that the answer to all of life's problems is more rules and procedures.

Nail on the head. $500 or not, the hell with businesses like this. Rules, rules, rules, instead of common sense and customer service.

Having said that...

Yelp has hurt way too many businesses this way

I dunno, I'm skeptical. Yelp has certainly helped many businesses via positive ratings. Does it really hurt all that many? I see a lot of news articles published about this but not much actual data. In my area at least, there are plenty of low-rated-by-Yelp businesses that thrive.

I used to do political work, and I had to talk a couple politicians out of engaging in edit wars on Wikipedia. (I didn't always succeed.) The thing that was difficult was overcoming the perception that it actually mattered what Wikipedia said about them, when of course it doesn't. Yelp can definitely help a business by drawing at least one-time customers—I love finding new restaurants via the Yelp map and "sort by highest rating"—but if a business is being run well, I'm skeptical that a rotten Yelp rating will actually hurt them all that much.
posted by cribcage at 9:27 AM on August 4 [6 favorites]


That'd be covered by ordinary hotel policies about damage to their actual property, is my guess.

Fining someone for saying "I didn't like this place because___" is just so bizarre I can't even wrap my head around how someone even came up with the idea.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:27 AM on August 4


I think they had what started as a legitimate, relatable problem: they're not a conventional hotel, weddings were booking them for grandpas and crotchety aunts and cousins who didn't get that, and they were getting slagged on Yelp and the like. I get that. I understand that. I empathize with that.

That just seems like a shitty elitist way of dealing with criticism though. If enough people are unhappy with their stay in the hotel that it ends up generating a lot of Yelp reviews, it seems like that's pretty good information for someone who is considering booking their hotel to know when researching hotels. The root of the problem is that if a lot of people don't like staying at your hotel, you don't really deserve to have a flawless Yelp page full of only positive reviews. The only reason why Yelp is useful at all is that it includes negative reviews, otherwise it would just be a bunch of ads.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:29 AM on August 4 [5 favorites]


You know, as wrong as the B&B seems to be, these online anonymous gang-takedowns by idle people who have no actual interest in the case or any real information aside from a newspaper article and, maybe, 1.5 minutes of googling, really, really rub me the wrong way.
It's just mob mentality amplified. Bleh.
posted by signal at 9:29 AM on August 4 [4 favorites]


The whole situation is a bit sad because the real solution is for people not to take Yelp very seriously. A bit seriously, maybe, based on a large number of consistent reviews, but not too seriously overall. But we do. We don't want to look at a reviewer's other reviews and do a mini-profile of them, we want a quick thumbs-up/down, which is exactly the opposite of how Yelp could work well.

Seems like it worked fantastically well in this case. Hotel establishes extortion policy. Reviewers post to Yelp, warning people that said policy exists. Hotel gets flooded with feedback regarding said policy. Backtracks. Claims policy was never enforced. Gets caught in a lie.

Unfiltered online reviews can help people decide whether a business is worth patronizing. This is a good thing.
posted by zarq at 9:30 AM on August 4 [7 favorites]


Isn't this basically the point of the "check in with Yelp for a free beverage with your meal" kind of promotion from the business owner's point of view?

I was exposed to this for the first time this weekend, although when we went to go claim our free drink, the bartender was so wasted she muttered something about how we could drink there all night before wandering off. I left that part out of my (positive) review of the hotel, but for some reason TripAdvisor doesn't seem to want to post it. Maybe because I pointed out how the Night Hotel in NYC is run by Draculas, for Draculas. THE SECRET IS OUT BELA, JUST POST THE REVIEW.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:30 AM on August 4


especially after missing Zumanity in Vegas because a bunch of twats from Oklahoma said it wasn't very good

This sounds like an interesting story. Would you mind elaborating?
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:30 AM on August 4


I'm just waiting for a bed and breakfast somewhere to demand my Yelp screen name so they can check my posting history before agreeing to rent me a room

How will they know if you even have a Yelp screen name unless you tell them.

"Yelp? What's that, something like Twitter for dogs?"
posted by Gev at 9:31 AM on August 4 [3 favorites]


Sorry, maybe I've had a sheltered upbringing (I'm from England), but reading this thread do people in America really frequent hotels so they can indulge in what I presume are the nocturnal delights of "banging in the woods"? Why would you pay a substantial amount of money for a nice comfy bed, and instead of using it end up with a bunch of leaves and twigs in your arse(UK) / ass(US) instead? Is this an American, or a MetaFilter, thing?
posted by Wordshore at 9:31 AM on August 4 [4 favorites]


the Night Hotel in NYC is run by Draculas, for Draculas

is this literally true im asking for a friend
posted by uncleozzy at 9:32 AM on August 4 [3 favorites]


You want a vision of the future? I'll tell you:

Imagine a feedback loop stamping on a human face, forever.
posted by aramaic at 9:34 AM on August 4 [6 favorites]


Yelp has certainly helped many businesses via positive ratings. Does it really hurt all that many?

It can. Depending on how the owner works, Yelp reviews of restaurants can cause really mindbogglingly stupid decisions to be made. As in, decisions that actually lose the restaurant a chunk of money--but when you point it out to them, including actual breakdowns of the costs involved, you get "But the review on Yelp said..." Case in point being the introduction of menu items that not only were a net loss for the restaurant after labour was factored in, but then cost the restaurant even more money because people went for those items instead of the stuff there was actually a margin on. "But the Yelp review said..."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:35 AM on August 4 [3 favorites]


There have been a lot of stories in the pres recently about corporations actively penalizing people for criticizing their service or otherwise trying to curtail people's rights to share information about the quality of services they're receiving. A family got yanked off a flight for complaining about their service on Twitter, a blogger got fined for a bad restaurant review, and the reporters who reported on the use of the so-called "pink slime" meat filler adulterants in hamburger meat are being subpoenaed in a defamation suit.

I like to joke to myself that it's the "don't ask, don't tell" policy equivalent for the rule of caveat emptor. Buyer beware--but don't tell anyone else how you got screwed because that's a trade secret.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:36 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


Night Hotel in NYC is run by Draculas, for Draculas

The preferred nomenclature for more than one Dracula is Draculim, thankyouverymuch.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:37 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


Draculae!
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:38 AM on August 4 [8 favorites]


Sorry, maybe I've had a sheltered upbringing (I'm from England), but reading this thread do people in America really frequent hotels so they can indulge in the nocturnal delights of "banging in the woods"?

Nocturnal?
posted by zarq at 9:38 AM on August 4 [4 favorites]


is this literally true im asking for a friend

100% true. Small rooms (big enough for a coffin), big beds (can fit 3 undead brides comfortable), sushi restaurant (no garlic), no windows (take that, rosy-fingered dawn), pale staff who get wasted on one drink (blood loss), dim lighting, pictures of sad orgies all over the place, lots of black coach parking, and no lights in the showers.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:39 AM on August 4 [7 favorites]


feckless fecal fear mongering: It can. Depending on how the owner works, Yelp reviews of restaurants can cause really mindbogglingly stupid decisions to be made. As in, decisions that actually lose the restaurant a chunk of money--but when you point it out to them, including actual breakdowns of the costs involved, you get "But the review on Yelp said..." Case in point being the introduction of menu items that not only were a net loss for the restaurant after labour was factored in, but then cost the restaurant even more money because people went for those items instead of the stuff there was actually a margin on. "But the Yelp review said..."

The solution to people making shitty decisions because of feedback isn't to eliminate the feedback.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:39 AM on August 4 [12 favorites]


I disagree with [my claim that a hotel cannot "fine" people], though. What if you steal something or damage the room?

Well, I guess it's not ridiculous to call that a "fine", but it seems more like a "charge" to me: you damaged the room, and the rental contract probably says that you agree to pay in that case. "Fine" just sounds so....high-handed.
posted by thelonius at 9:40 AM on August 4


Imagine you go to a B&B, and go to take a shower, and they are out of hot water, and you complain and the front desk says "oh, well, it's an old building, sorry." Is that a legitimate complaint or not?

I got that answer when I told the front desk at a hotel in Philadelphia about the mice who ate my snacks overnight.


As they should. There are mice in philly. Its kind of a fact of life and little that can be done about it.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:45 AM on August 4


I've stayed at too many crappy hotels and eaten (or paid for and not eaten) too many crappy meals with no response but a shrug from an asshole manager, in pre-Yelp days, to reject one of the only tools a consumer has to level the playing field. NYC restaurants and hotels often act like you should be lucky and honored they are willing to serve middle class people at all, with the budget version of basic courtesy. Especially in Manhattan, a lot of places hit you with attitude if you dare complain.

Or they used to.

The mere hint (ok, threat) of a bad Yelp or TripAdvisor review has gotten me many properly contrite responses and refunds I certainly felt were appropriate for utter crap service or product, all over the country and abroad. Once, at an inexplicably horrid major mid-level chain hotel in the Midwest, I was told my room could not be changed despite roaches/busted AC on a 90 degree day/bikers making a porn film between meth deals in the next room (ok, I exaggerate). So I posted a Yelp review right from the lobby (since the wifi in my room also didn't work) and found myself in that supposedly unavailable new and pleasant enough room within the hour. I've had a NYC restaurant manager who literally laughed in my face at a very polite complaint about inedible (literally) food (and offer a free fucking iced tea, self-evidently a dis) call back to offer a full refund (my number was on the credit card recipt, where I had written "check Yelp tomorrow" and my contact info, and a proffer of a comped second chance (lol, never went back, schmuck) the next day.

I don't abuse it, but if don't take as much shit as I used to lying down. I give the manager/business owner a chance to make it right first. If they make it right only after I review, I take down the review or add a note that the problems were handled in the review.

If you can own a multi-million dollar building in NYC and wish to serve the public, deal with your upset customers or dance to my words, motherfucker. This valorizing of the heroic "small business" owner is bullshit. There's no secret to good reviews: run a good business and handle complaints well. I have written glowing reviews of places that have done well to address initial complaints.

Yelp should sever all links between advertising and ratings and investigate serious complaints for veracity. But it's generally proved pretty accurate in the aggregate in my experience, especially as someone who travels 20 or more times a year. I find TripAdvisor much better for hotels, though.

Competition is a good thing, and keeps prices fair and service attentive. Information makes competition possible. My friend who owns a few good restaurants in odd locations has seen his business aided significantly by Yelp reviewers discovering his places, too.

Don't love Yelp either, but the principle of social reviewing is one of the few forms of power the average consumer has, for restaurants especially. USGS is not some mom and pop bodega or non-profit foundation.

I've been behind the scenes in the food servce business in many capacities, and have no illusions about the contempt so many in that industry actually have for customers. Of course it varies. And social reviewing exposes that variance once you have a large enough sample of reviews. One bad review could be malicious. Dozens, except in an unusual viral case like his one, are rarely off the mark. Customers being able to put a place on notice or out of business makes room for someone who gives a fuck.
posted by spitbull at 9:49 AM on August 4 [39 favorites]


The solution to people making shitty decisions because of feedback isn't to eliminate the feedback.

Eliminating the owner was not, unfortunately, a reasonable proposition.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:54 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


No, but a stupid owner's stupid judgment isn't really something you can lay at Yelp's door.
posted by cribcage at 9:57 AM on August 4


As they should. There are mice in philly. Its kind of a fact of life and little that can be done about it.

Oh, hell no. Mice exist everywhere. Not just in Philly. But businesses (especially ones that serve food) can do quite a lot to control and get rid of vermin: bugs and rodents, and need to or the health department will rightfully shut them down. Rodents can potentially carry disease. They're a health hazard.
posted by zarq at 9:57 AM on August 4 [10 favorites]


feckless fecal fear mongering: Eliminating the owner was not, unfortunately, a reasonable proposition.

Well, maybe not there, but it happens all the time. It's called 'going out of business' and it makes room for someone else who might use better judgment.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:02 AM on August 4


they exist everywhere but they run rampant in philly for a variety of philly-specific reasons. One of which is our shitty sewer infrastructure that lets rats and mice run around freely. A poor cafe got the social media hate after people on the street took pictures of it at night with rats on the tables. turns out a sewer broke and rats ran into the cafe. there's really nothing an owner can do about that.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:03 AM on August 4


So you just say, "hey, if you want this room for Saturday night, you're going to have to take it either for Sunday night or Friday night too" and then you don't have to try and figure out what the hell people are doing in the woods in a tux and an Empire-waist gown.

What's the fun in that, though? And the obvious answer to "why book a room if you are going to bang in the woods" is: showers. Just cause you bang in the woods in your Empire gown doesn't mean you want to sleep there all night with the bugs.

I've stayed at many B&Bs, and most of them were great (although there was one in England memorable for featuring a shower in the bedroom, less than 2 feet from the bed. You had to be careful not to get the furniture wet. But even that one had nice breakfasts and was otherwise pleasant). Most of them are very accomodating for reasonable things.

I don't doubt that serving the public can lead to hatred of said public, but that's what comes with running a hotel or B&B. If you can't do so without engaging in petty running battles over internet reviews, then maybe that business isn't for you.
posted by emjaybee at 10:06 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


Wordshore: "Why would you pay a substantial amount of money for a nice comfy bed, and instead of using it end up with a bunch of leaves and twigs in your arse(UK) / ass(US) instead?"

The bed is for post woods recovery and activities. And a blanket is the traditional way of avoiding twigs in uncomfortable places. Though around here at least going to the right sorts of woods and looking around a bit will net you large patches of ground covered with inches of soft moss.

Or, uh, so I've heard.
posted by Mitheral at 10:09 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


God, do I miss Philly.
posted by boo_radley at 10:10 AM on August 4


I thought Yelp was long-ago discredited as a believable source of useful info? I mean, I don't know anyone who doesn't roll their eyes when Yelp is mentioned. It's, like, the canonical example of why online reviews are useless.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:14 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


My 'favorite' thing about Yelp is that the extortion narrative got so bad they now put up notices on their website saying PLEASE TRUST US.
posted by Carillon at 10:16 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


Nocturnal?

"My motto's always been; when it's right, it's right. Why wait until the middle of a cold dark night?" -- Starland Vocal Band
posted by Talez at 10:19 AM on August 4 [5 favorites]


And the negative reviews are often the most helpful. You can essentially distinguish between hey wasn't the greatest time and I hated this place because I'm a horrible and entitled person. It's a good way to make a decision.
posted by Carillon at 10:19 AM on August 4 [15 favorites]


I thought Yelp was long-ago discredited as a believable source of useful info? I mean, I don't know anyone who doesn't roll their eyes when Yelp is mentioned. It's, like, the canonical example of why online reviews are useless.

They've helped me a lot. Pre-Yelp, I stayed at a few places where the owners had exactly this attitude-- basically, that running a B&B would be great if it weren't for all these damn guests. Looking those places up on Yelp I see some very accurate descriptions-- and often arguments posted by owners who continue to not have a clue. Some people are willing to put up with these kinds of things in a B&B, because of location or price of they find them charming or whatever, but Yelp would have saved me a lot of problems.
posted by BibiRose at 10:20 AM on August 4


I thought Yelp was long-ago discredited as a believable source of useful info?

I don't think anything can be said about Yelp generally. I was pretty shocked to go to the Bay Area and see places with thousands of Yelp reviews. Around here, a place with a hundred would be insanely popular.
posted by smackfu at 10:21 AM on August 4


People banging in the woods don't need the super early check in.

Speak for yourself.
posted by palomar at 10:22 AM on August 4


The place I work at recently hit some threshold number of Yelp reviews or views or something so now a Yelp representative is calling me like three times a day so that we'll pay them to decorate our Yelp page.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:23 AM on August 4


I thought Yelp was long-ago discredited as a believable source of useful info? I mean, I don't know anyone who doesn't roll their eyes when Yelp is mentioned. It's, like, the canonical example of why online reviews are useless.

I've rarely gone to Yelp directly. But I have used it a lot unintentionally because Apple's iOS Maps application pulls the reviews and rating right into the search results. When I'm in an unfamiliar place I will go to a 4 star cafe over a 2 star one.
posted by sbutler at 10:27 AM on August 4


I don't abuse it, but if don't take as much shit as I used to lying down.

I guess the objection would be that people who abuse Yelp don't believe they're abusing Yelp, so a self-declarative statement about exercising restraint carries limited weight to strangers. If a person was abusing Yelp, of course they'd say they weren't.

In Rhode Island there's a privately owned restaurant that is similar to Fleming's or Ruth's Chris. It's not a steakhouse, but that same tier. One of its negative Yelp reviews includes a complaint that the servers neglected to fold the napkin and place it on the reviewer's lap. I have literally never seen a Michelin-starred restaurant do this, let alone some random (granted, nice) suburban restaurant in Rhode Island that shares a parking lot with Cold Stone Creamery. That's typical, in my experience reading Yelp. The negative reviews tend to be more revealing of unrealistic expectations.

I dine out a lot, and although I've occasionally been tempted to slam a business on Yelp, I've very rarely had an experience that—after a few hours and deep breaths—warranted it. And I've never actually done it. I've walked out of restaurants, but never because of something that was so structural that it couldn't be chalked up to somebody having a bad day. If I'm going to ding a business, I want to be sure it's a consistent problem...and let's face it, if I have that kind of problem once, I'm not going back to find out if it's consistent.
posted by cribcage at 10:32 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


Seems like this whole "reputation economy" thing is not quite working out. I mean when you reduce something that is so subjective to some kind of pac-man-like high score number it should not be surprising that people start coming up with all kinds of odd ways to juice the stats.

Lots of sites with reputation indicators seem to only have vendors with 99-100% ratings because otherwise they are seen as bad actors. This may help getting to a certain baseline with service but it makes the number itself pretty meaningless. I have had some bad experiences where I had to threaten the provider with a bad review in order to resolve things. After a heated argument I get a discount and he gets a positive review. Fair enough but that means that the review is not really accurate.

It also does not help that the real business of the website owners is selling ads, which means they don't care too much about quality as long as click volume is high.

I guess I put way more stock in asking around and trusting my own experience and instincts than in any supposed "wisdom of the crowd" which privileges those who shout loudest. Old fashioned reviews from somebody I trust are also way better in situations where I'm ignorant. But I'm a grumpy old man of the internet.
posted by mr.ersatz at 10:35 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


No, but a stupid owner's stupid judgment isn't really something you can lay at Yelp's door.

The ease by which uninformed idiots can whine about a restaurant (thus precipitating stupid decisions) can, though. There was one review in particular that drove me round the twist. Someone had been in the night before, ordered a dish, and then proceeded to order so many modifications to the dish that it was something entirely new. Which they didn't like (it was a pasta dish and was actually quite tasty; both chef and I re-tasted it when it was sent back to the kitchen, as did the manager). I want to be clear, the guest got exactly what was ordered.

So the next day, this review appears on Yelp whining and complaining that this thing that was ordered was just AWFUL and you should NEVER GO THERE and also Hitler. Failing to mention of course all the modifications and changes. Also failing to mention management bending over backwards to assuage the special snowflake's feelings and write off a large chunk of their bill, complimentary desserts, etc. I got a bollocking from the owner for it until I figured out wtf he was talking about and explained what had actually happened.

So, yeah, Yelp reviews really can be problematic in a bunch of ways, and those aren't limited to owners making stupid decisions based on them. People writing negative reviews on Yelp basically never, ever, mention anything about their own participation in a bad situation or ordering highly modified items (while still using the menu name for them). This gives people who actually use Yelp as a way to find places to eat the wrong impression--and unfortunately pretty much the only response you (as an owner/operator) can give is "I'm sorry we didn't live up to your expectations, can we invite you back for dinner on us to fix the problem?" Anything else and you get tarred and feathered for it.

Meaning you can't fight back against unjustifiably bad reviews without Streisanding yourself. The San Francisco Magazine article goes into all these problems in more depth. It's a really damned if you do, damned if you don't kind of thing.

Also, from experience, when reviews talk about good food and bad service? A lot of the time the bad service is entirely in the guest's head and/or is them whining about an ugly situation they caused. Without ever admitting so, obvs. Not always, of course; there are definitely restaurants I've been to (and would return to!) where the food is sublime but the service is bad.

Add in competitors writing bad reviews of your place to make themselves look better, or owners using sockpuppets to boost their own ratings and seriously, just take off and nuke the site from orbit.

Yelp. Sucks.

Sure, negative reviews can be very useful if there is an actual problem; it lets either the kitchen or the dining room fix an oversight, and that is a fantastically valuable tool. I have seen good decisions made on the basis of informed but negative Yelp reviews. The best ones will say "Okay, so I didn't like this because XYZ. If they tried ABC instead, I would have been happy" or something similar. Those are great! However.

Most of the time, in my experience, there isn't an actual problem. It's an uniformed idiot whining. Like multiple reviews (from restaurants I've worked in) complaining that steak wasn't done correctly, for example. In at least three cases at two different restaurants, the problem wasn't the steaks--they were cooked precisely as ordered (by me, and checked by chef at the pass before going out, and checked again when sent back). The problem was guests who actually had no idea what different levels of doneness are called--and then took to Yelp to whine and complain that it was the restaurant's fault. Which, again, means negative press that the restaurant cannot fight back against. Or complaining that they weren't getting the right cut of steak (they were, just had no idea what they were talking about), that was another 'fun' one.

The negative reviews tend to be more revealing of unrealistic expectations.

YES. THIS. SO MUCH THIS.

Well, maybe not there, but it happens all the time. It's called 'going out of business' and it makes room for someone else who might use better judgment.

Unfortunately it's one of those places that just kind of lurches from crisis to crisis and is still always busy. Zombie restaurant.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:39 AM on August 4 [6 favorites]


Was this review …?

Useful: 8
Funny: 6
Helpful: 3
Written by a person no one can stand: 1,902
posted by 23skidoo at 10:41 AM on August 4 [10 favorites]


I wrote a raving review on Yelp for a wine bar in Southern California the boss and I visited last year.

Too raving it seems because it got filtered out by some filtering software that Yelp claims to have to weed out insincere or suspect reviews (i.e. from the owner or friends of the owner).

And there was no way to remove my review from the filtered category, even if I edited it.
posted by bitteroldman at 10:42 AM on August 4


TripAdvisor allows establishments to respond to reviews, which I always thought was great.

So if someone said something bad about you, you have the opportunity to give your side of the story. If someone says something good about you, you have the opportunity to reach out to say thanks!
posted by bitteroldman at 10:46 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


So the next day, this review appears on Yelp whining and complaining that this thing that was ordered was just AWFUL and you should NEVER GO THERE and also Hitler. Failing to mention of course all the modifications and changes. Also failing to mention management bending over backwards to assuage the special snowflake's feelings and write off a large chunk of their bill, complimentary desserts, etc. I got a bollocking from the owner for it until I figured out wtf he was talking about and explained what had actually happened.

Well, so? If the rest of the reviews are rational-sounding and positive, one ranting bad review doesn't affect how I perceived anything as a consumer, much less sometimes as low-investment as eating a meal at a restaurant. People who read Yelp, generally, are not idiots.

Instead of worrying about positive reviews, then, it seems to me like business owners should worry about getting accurate, rational, positive reviews from customers who have a good experience rather than punishing people who had a bad experience (even if that bad experience was entirely in their mind).
posted by muddgirl at 10:48 AM on August 4 [6 favorites]


There are mice in philly. Its kind of a fact of life and little that can be done about it.

Introduce velociraptors. Proper chicken/turkey sized ones, not deinonychuses.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:48 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


Punishing? You're referring to the hotel, I'm guessing?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:51 AM on August 4


The ease by which uninformed idiots can whine about a restaurant (thus precipitating stupid decisions) can, though. There was one review in particular that drove me round the twist.

The thing is, though, that the uninformed idiots go to all the restaurants. So, sure, if you only read one restaurant's reviews ever, or only care about one restaurant's reviews, you are going to see some odd stuff. If you actually look at multiple restaurants reviews, you quickly see a pattern. And, oddly enough, certain establishments get way more uniformed idiots than others. Or maybe some establishments are not quite so good as others?

It's easy to point at this review or that and say "Look, Yelp sucks!". However, anyone who uses it for even a little bit quickly learns to scan the actual reviews and discount the crazy ones. They also learn to use it comparatively, not absolute.
posted by Bovine Love at 10:52 AM on August 4 [18 favorites]


In this specific case, yes, but you could also take my comment to refer to owners going out of their way to reduce one-off negative reviews at the expense of satisfied clientele, if you'd like, rather than to punishment.
posted by muddgirl at 10:52 AM on August 4


ffm that makes a lot of sense and it sucks. But when you read the reviews you can often see hey that person is borderline crazy, why would they care about say the napkin folding or there not being a bread basket. Negative reviews I would say are even more helpful, that way you get a sense of the potential 'cons' and if those match up to things you think are important then you know not to go. The star rating is usually not the helpful bit in yelp reviews, the comments are much more revealing. Same issue with rotten tomato and other review aggregators.
posted by Carillon at 10:56 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


If you actually look at multiple restaurants reviews, you quickly see a pattern. And, oddly enough, certain establishments get way more uniformed idiots then others. Or maybe some establishments are not quite so good as others?

Exactly. It's like amazon reviews.

There are ridiculously easy patterns to spot when reading amazon reviews. I go first to the 1-star reviews, then read the 5-star reviews. If the 5-stars are written by PR flacks or the producer's family, it stands out against the 1-star reviews, and vice versa if the 1-star reviews are written by idiots who don't understand how to read a user manual. Only if I'm still on the fence do I need to read the middle tiers of reviews to determine which crowd of weirdos is closer to reality.
posted by winna at 10:57 AM on August 4 [7 favorites]


I got a bollocking from the owner for it

We're going in circles. You're blaming Yelp reviews for third parties' volitional actions that, you argue, were "precipitated." Okay, agree to disagree. It sounds like we mostly agree about how shitty, uninformed, and unreasonable many negative reviews are. I just don't see the consequence. It sucks that you got chewed out, but shouldn't the dude have opened by asking you what happened? Some GM reading Yelp as gospel is a problem separate from Yelp sucking.
posted by cribcage at 10:57 AM on August 4 [8 favorites]


Negative reviews I would say are even more helpful, that way you get a sense of the potential 'cons' and if those match up to things you think are important then you know not to go.

Or even the reverse. I once saw a low-star review that was like, "This dive bar has a broken jukebox and a strict ID policy! Avoid!" and I was like, "Sweet, a dive bar that's not full of college kids!"
posted by muddgirl at 11:02 AM on August 4 [14 favorites]


I like Yelp but use it a bit off-label:

1. To find clusters of "stuff" in new places. I just moved, so I can zoom to a neighborhood to find where cafés, boutiques, etc. live. I may or may not read the reviews.
2. The sheer entertainment value of the entitled, "napkin folding" types of reviews referenced above. We just spent an fun time the other day reading all the reviews complaining about the bar we always go to while at that same bar.
posted by sfkiddo at 11:13 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


I've always thought that the problem in general with online reviews is that it's the people who feel they've been wronged that feel the need to complain and tell everybody about it; the 95% of people who were satisfied just don't go to the trouble. So the average ends up being skewed to the negative and doesn't reflect the experience of *everybody* who ate at a restaurant or stayed at a resort, only of the small percentage of the total who bothered to go online and post a review.
posted by Flashman at 11:14 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


Or maybe some establishments are not quite so good as others?

Never said otherwise. Just giving the perspective from the kitchen, relating to incidents I personally know about. If I talked to a bunch of friends I could probably give you dozens more.

you could also take my comment to refer to owners going out of their way to reduce one-off negative reviews at the expense of satisfied clientele

In one case, it was actually the owner doing that at the expense of his own bottom line. But I get what you mean.

You're blaming Yelp reviews for third parties' volitional actions that, you argue, were "precipitated."

Oh I didn't care much about the bollocking. I cared about the potential hit to the business from a scathing but dishonest review, because if the business faltered I was no longer as secure in receiving a paycheque, you know?

It sounds like we mostly agree about how shitty, uninformed, and unreasonable many negative reviews are

Yes, for sure.

shouldn't the dude have opened by asking you what happened?

Yeah, but I think it's possible that the owner thought we were all as invested in reading Yelp reviews as he was, so he assumed I knew what he was talking about. As far as I (and chef, and the manager) knew, the special snowflake situation had been resolved to everyone's satisfaction. Neither here nor there, in any event. Like I said, I didn't much care about being chewed out; if I had done anything wrong chef or the manager would have made sure I knew about it right quick.

Not that I'm disputing what you're saying about effective management techniques at all, because yes that should have been the way to approach the discussion.

I dunno. It just bugs me that businesses get hurt by uninformed negative reviews. That directly impacts peoples' livelihoods, for no fault of their own. I don't think we're arguing here. Sure, the actions people choose to take are theirs to own, no dispute. I'm talking more about the effects of undeservedly bad reviews when it comes to the general public reading them. Idiots write uninformed crud on Yelp, meaning idiots read it too. That's where the problem really lies, not with the people who open a large box of salt anytime they read something on Yelp.

Anyway, I don't think we're disagreeing at all. Looking at the same situation from different sides maybe. In conclusion, Yelp is a land of contrasts.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:16 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


Idiots write uninformed crud on Yelp, meaning idiots read it too.

If idiots write bad reviews, idiots avoiding a good place of business because of a bad review from another idiot sounds like a good thing.
posted by muddgirl at 11:21 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


It impacts the bottom line of that business, though, which is mainly my point. I mean, I get where you're coming from; it's one less idiot to write another uninformed review, and that's a benefit for sure.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:25 AM on August 4


decorate our Yelp page

Tell them you've already done it and then send them a screenshot that you have Blingee'd to excess. Profess total incomprehension when they attempt to explain that they mean something different.
posted by elizardbits at 11:40 AM on August 4 [5 favorites]


I dunno, I think that the "wisdom of crowds" tends to be overstated by certain rah-rah technocrat types, but it's still useful. You just have to understand, particularly with Yelp reviews, that the overall score represents the collective opinions of a rather Archie Bunker-esque "average" consumer.

The ultimate Yelp restaurant would probably be a stealth version of the Cheesecake Factory by another name. Palatable food, stupidly large portions, blandly polite service, no surprises.

Any restaurant doing anything remotely interesting is, practically by definition, going to offend somebody. And some of those somebodys are going to leave really stupid one-star reviews. (Unfortunately, Yelp doesn't seem to have an option to give bonus points in your personal view of restaurants' ratings to "treats idiots without mercy".)

Hotels don't seem to generate quite as much controversy as restaurants do, but B&Bs somehow manage to attract the worst of both. Maybe because staying overnight is more of a commitment than spending a few hours in a restaurant, and in some cases can cost more, there are a lot of people who really want to be in the local Marriott Courtyard who end up in the local B&B leaving a crappy review at the end of the weekend for daring to not be the Marriott. Meh.

None of that excuses the proprietors of the Union Street Guest House, though. Dealing with morons is part of the business they have chosen. Perhaps they chose poorly.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:41 AM on August 4 [4 favorites]


They took their explanation off their facebook page, though to my surprise they have left a lot of the negative comments on other posts.
posted by jeather at 11:50 AM on August 4


Hiding a post is easy. Carefully deleting dozens of comments when they keep flooding is slightly more difficult.

They should consider shutting down their FB page for a while. Or better yet, making an honest, apologetic retraction of the policy. Providing people with a public place to vent is not going well for them.
posted by zarq at 12:05 PM on August 4


Hiding a post is easy. Carefully deleting dozens of comments when they keep flooding is slightly more difficult.

Oh sure, but they haven't even tried to do that. The comments on earlier posts go back for hours.

They should consider shutting down their FB page for a while. Or better yet, making an honest, apologetic retraction of the policy. Providing people with a public place to vent is not going well for them.

I don't think they entirely grasp social media strategy.
posted by jeather at 12:09 PM on August 4 [2 favorites]


It impacts the bottom line of that business, though

This is where we disagree. It's often repeated in the media, and business owners are constantly complaining about it. I just don't buy it. There have been a few studies, but I question their methodologies. They haven't been great about establishing causality. As I recall, one study found that a one-star increase results in a 4–5 percent increase in revenue—and setting aside my issues with those calculations, the finding was promptly flipped to claim that a one-star decrease resulted in a 4–5 percent loss in revenue. Well, no. That's not the same thing.

One study (it may have been the same one) noted that chain restaurants were resistant to Yelp effects because they control their image through other means. I think this is more true of smaller businesses than people—including the owners of those businesses—allow credit for. If you run a good business, I am supremely skeptical that even a deliberate campaign to lower your Yelp rating by one star will result in an appreciable drop in revenue. I'm perfectly willing to believe that encouraging your customers to share their experiences on Yelp can result in a boost of 4–5 percent, but again, that's quite different.
posted by cribcage at 12:15 PM on August 4


I don't think they entirely grasp social media strategy.

They're probably leaving facebook negative comments up so they can contact each person individually to shrilly threaten them into posting a retraction.
posted by elizardbits at 12:17 PM on August 4 [3 favorites]


They are saying it was all just a joke now anyway. But apparently, one of the main points of the article is that the service provider is perfectly constitutionally within their right to charge such penalties if they wanted to. Sigh. That's not how it's supposed to work. Government authorized entities shouldn't be allowed to curtail people's constitutional rights even by supplementary agreement.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:37 PM on August 4


They are saying it was all just a joke now anyway.

Funny, that.

But apparently, one of the main points of the article is that the service provider is perfectly constitutionally within their right to charge such penalties if they wanted to.

Probably not in this case. Such a clause would be arguably unconscionable. This particular business also apparently tried to assess a "fine" against people for the actions of third parties: a wedding party guest left a bad review, so the hotel tried to claim a "fine" against the bride and groom.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:43 PM on August 4 [2 favorites]


the constant berating of small businesses who try hard by ignoramus Yelpers who get all in a huff if their $40 room or their $10 meal isn't fit for the royalty that they think they are
I typically have exactly the opposite problem:

I see a 5-star review of a cheap piece of junk. (did I just peg myself as "too poor to choose restaurants and hotels frequently but not too poor for Amazon"?). This review isn't dishonest, because in the reviewer's head the product had much higher than average quality for that cheap price, and the reviewer doesn't want to be an ignoramus who doesn't take expectations into account. But E[X-E[X]]=0 ∀ X. Thanks to these high reviews, and the converse low reviews from people who get upset when their expensive choices turned out to be merely far better than the cheap version rather than perfect, sorting by number-of-stars is always a risky proposition. So instead of comparing 10 numbers when shopping, I have to dig into the details of 100 reviews to sort out the real complaints and praise from the mere excessively heightened or lowered expectations.
posted by roystgnr at 12:53 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]


The worst thing to come of this is the number of people who think they're Yelp comedians.
posted by peripathetic at 1:03 PM on August 4 [11 favorites]


I stayed at a hotel the other day that was clean, reasonably priced, had an attentive staff, an owner that lived there and interacted with all the customers, an excellent free breakfast and was involved in the local community. I had planned to stay in town for one night, and instead stayed for three, mostly because it was so nice staying there. They're the number 1 rated hotel in their city, and for good reason. However, even they had bad reviews!

I always skim through the worst reviews for a place to see if there's a major issue with it, but I don't think bad reviews matter very much. Most bad reviews for nice places have to do with expectations for service and quality that are out of line with the price, or people who tried to get stuff for free that failed.

It's the good reviews that matter most, imo. If you're getting so many bad reviews that it's affecting your rating, the problem is with *you*. You are not setting expectations properly, charging too much or otherwise not communicating with your guests.

As someone who travels a lot and stays in some out of the way hostels and bed and breakfasts, tripadvisor has been amazing -- I think a lot of these places never had very much incentive for quality -- they could be dirty, rude, etc, and it wouldn't matter because they were low-profile and backpackers didn't have much of a way of communicating with each other beyond some word of mouth and guide books. I've noticed that places that have good trip advisor ratings run the gamut from $10 bare-bones hostels to luxury resorts, and almost without exception offer excellent value for the price and hands-on service.
posted by empath at 1:32 PM on August 4 [2 favorites]


I frequently order from a nearby restaurant partly because it's cool and I like the food and everything, but also because the owner publicly called out Yelp on their extortionist sales tactics. They told him they could make sure his negative reviews stayed near the bottom for a price; he told them where they could stick the negative reviews for free.
posted by Spatch at 1:36 PM on August 4


Stitcherbeast: Thanks for that link. Missed the comments up-thread, but I don't believe the mealy-mouthed "just kidding" explanations for a second. It seems insane to me that we've reached a point where companies actually feel this entitled. And the idea that corporations have the authority to write private law (contract provisions) that aren't required to be consistent with basic constitutional right guarantees is an ugly, ugly status quo we are probably going to live to regret. Corporations literally have more power to curtail basic freedoms than the Federal government has now, because they're free to write contracts that aren't constrained by the constitution. If a party to an agreement has enough economic leverage to force a person to sign away particular rights, the law increasingly takes the view that that's just fine. That makes all the rights we guarantee in law so nearly meaningless as to be quaint.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:37 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]


This is one of those things that was a bad idea no matter how it was intended. If it was a serious policy, they should have expected the backlash; if it was a joke they should have been aware that jokes on the internet are really easy to misunderstand (and result in essentially the same backlash). Either way it wouldn't have gotten past a jaundiced eye on the consequences, which means nobody with a properly jaundiced eye looked at it first.

And, like numerous commenters above, I read the bad reviews first no matter where I'm going. It's pretty easy to suss out whether a person writing a bad review is just a crackpot or if multiple bad reviews mention the same sort of problem. I recognize that pattern and I don't run a hotel, I'm just some guy on the internet. If you're running a hotel and haven't yet learned that some bad reviews are worth a response and others should just be written off, the better approach for you is to get out of the hotel business.
posted by fedward at 2:35 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]


Yeah, something you get from reading lots of Amazon and Yelp reviews is that people will complain about everything. For a business with a small number of reviews, that might be a bit of a problem, but a business with a small number of reviews probably isn't too dependent on online customer reviews anyway. For a business with lots of reviews, it's pretty easy to distinguish between "one crazy guy bitched about the service", "service isn't this place's strong suit but they offer X Y Z", and "this place really does not give a shit about service, do not go."
posted by leopard at 2:50 PM on August 4 [2 favorites]


the Night Hotel in NYC is run by Draculas, for Draculas

is this literally true im asking for a friend




I too have a friend who would be very interested to learn more about this intriguing lodging-house.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:01 PM on August 4


a bitey friend
posted by elizardbits at 3:03 PM on August 4 [2 favorites]


This friend would also like to know more about the various opportunities for nocturnal activities in the woods.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:18 PM on August 4


The worst thing to come of this is the number of people who think they're Yelp comedians.

See also: every novelty Amazon review pile-on.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 4:29 PM on August 4 [3 favorites]


I wanted to order a bunch of binders from Amazon a short while ago, and it was impossible to use the reviews, because ha ha Mitt Romney. This was pretty frustrating... until I remembered that I was just ordering binders.
posted by leopard at 4:56 PM on August 4


Yelp is little more than an extortion racket, and I wish it would die or get class action sued into oblivion.

This is a commonly expressed notion...often by businesses with bad Yelp reviews. I do have more reading to do, as my previous experiences reading these were often framed as "overly touchy primadonna chef is rude, gets called out, gets mad at Yelp" or "total rube posts crappy review." OK, this is convincing and award-winning journalism right here. I had no idea it went that far, deleting positive reviews, and all.

I was going to argue that it was "more than" "little more than an extortion racket" but it's pretty much their business model prima facie so uhhhhhh well put.
posted by aydeejones at 5:49 PM on August 4


oh my god don't even get me started on the idiocy that occurs among restaurant management when even a less-than-100%-positive-but-not-actually-bad review appears on Yelp. It is the worst thing.

I know more than one person who has been fired over a bad yelp review. And no, there wasn't more to that story nor was it some camel-straw situation. Some awful customer didn't like them, and they got canned from a job they were otherwise doing fine at or even had regulars who liked them.

Fuck the world. It's similar to a friend who didn't get hired at a job because they didn't believe her that she didn't have a facebook, and thought she was trying to hide it from them.
posted by emptythought at 6:45 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]


I thought Yelp was long-ago discredited as a believable source of useful info? I mean, I don't know anyone who doesn't roll their eyes when Yelp is mentioned. It's, like, the canonical example of why online reviews are useless.

Amazon is the canonical example and it's still useful, you just have to take a huge sample size and have a grain of salt to swallow it down. It has to be worth the effort, so if you're dropping $1K on something, goods or services, it is worth the effort. For me it scales all the way down to around $50 -- I'll read at least some reviews and compare them against others if the item is around that price range or up.

Everything I said about extortion is true IMHO, if Yelp's source of revenue is advertising and they use advertising deals to blackmail "customers" so that positive reviews don't disappear or negative ones aren't promoted (or created!) then that's pretty bad.

On the other hand, it is useful to me, it has proved useful when you read enough reviews (again, cost/benefit) and I do write reviews on it, but I've never pulled the "I'm going to give you a bad review" card yet. It definitely does suck not to give the management a chance but I've also had some service experiences that were so egregious I didn't have the energy (yet) to describe them. Honestly I tip well, at least 20%, I'm a super non-demanding customer, I learn my server's name and ask for them by name, and still find the service industry to be incredibly "entitled" and shitty. Like the whole attitude about "oh, your $10 meal isn't to your liking..." To be honest I wouldn't Yelp about your average $10 meal but if it was some hyped up badass thing and it sucked or the service sucked, well you're in the business of taking my money, and you delivered shit, no matter how shitty you think your shit is, I was expected to pay for it, and it sucks, so there you go. Usually you can suss out the rubes in reviews who have crazy expectations.

Star ratings are typically useless until they drop into the 1-2 range. I think a lot of reading comprehension and analysis is necessary to use Yelp and to that extent it probably doesn't do a lot of service to people who don't want to put forth the effort to construct a world view about a place they might eat at once while in town.
posted by aydeejones at 6:49 PM on August 4


I did give the manager a chance on the more egregious example, BTW. He basically argued that a server who took a pretty complex order without paper was correct in assuming that we wanted an appetizer served with our meal when in fact the server [consortium] got that wrong along with five other things, precisely because she insisted on not writing it down. It wasn't super picky, but it did consist of one person wanting a soup and salad, with the salad first...the shittiest service is at places (usually shitty restaurants, but still) where no single person is "serving" you, it's this half-assed team effort nobody gives a shit.

In this example:

No silverware, ask person bringing salads (person #3 to serve us) and they repeat "you need silverware," scoff and walk away, never to bring it

Salads served on extremely hot out of the dishwasher plates ("watch out, that plate is hot!")

Server shoves plate of food over table into my face and says "take this! it's too heavy, my wrist is sore!" (OK, chill the fuck out, #5 person to serve me today; maybe you could've been the one to bring me my silverware)

Appetizer served with extremely late meal

Wrong sides

It was only at the last step that I finally complained and had a manager argue with me about how I must've really wanted the appetizer served with the meal. Fuck you dude, I guess I should just copy and paste this sucker into Yelp.

Fuck that restaurant and everyone in it, was the feeling I walked out with, and it's increasingly common to experience this, no matter how I try never to be a pain in the ass customer. I gave them three weeks before returning (kids love it, don't you dare guess what it is) and it's almost completely turned over, staff-wise. Seriously I do feel a sense of entitlement when I lay out money that I earned working on a meal prepared by someone else -- don't be contemptuous dicks and if you don't respect your customers, even the totally innocent wide-eyed ones who are terrified of anything happening to their food, service might not be the career for you.
posted by aydeejones at 6:58 PM on August 4


(I know it's often not a career too, just a temporary station, hence the rapid turnover, and having someone else prepare and serve your food is still badass -- OK no moar comments).
posted by aydeejones at 7:02 PM on August 4


Sorry for my previous tone-deaf anticorporate monomania. I'm realizing now I just never paid enough attention to Yelp to care about the actual subject under discussion and have been using the thread as an excuse to grind my axe probably out of a misplaced sense of horror and duty. I still think, though, that anyone running a business has to accept that they can't expect to be able to control the whole world just to ensure they stay in business, and it seems to me that, implicitly, that's the kind of thinking being done here.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:11 PM on August 4


OK, for real last comment regarding mentions of wanting to see a class action (again, I am mercurially pro and anti-Yelp in different ways), from this article's comments, you might be able to help this individual even simply by passing on the email address to businesses that have been negatively affected. If this sort of thing is real it's sort of like the equivalent of Yelp spitting on your food all of the time behind your back except they're just deliberately destroying your reputation for getting onto their radar and offending them:

I am a respectable physician and for 20 years we help people with life and death situations. Unfortunately I was talked into paid advertising with Yelp and when I noticed it was not worthwhile, all my positive reviews were deleted and continue to be and only the negative ones are coming up. I am planning to complain to the DA's office for CRIMINAL charges against yelp and with the help of all of Yelp's victims bring a class action lawsuit against them. Please contact me directly so we can get rid of this unethical company for good. Healmed1@yahoo.com
13 likes, 0 dislikes

And more on topic, regarding Bed and Breakfasts...my wife and I wanted to use a relatively decent-looking one in Estes Park, CO for my wedding. After giving them a deposit months in advance because we liked the whole property they had, landscaped intentionally for special occasions but not super elaborate and "sweeping," they took it upon themselves to back-hoe the shit out of that property into demolition alley and transformed it into a complete dump just before our wedding, after my wife and I insistently argued with her mother that this is where we wanted the wedding to be. They assured us everything would be in order at the time of the wedding, but did not get their shit together, and each interaction with them was increasingly negative. Man, that sucked. They have one motherfucking 5 star review on Yelp, no others. I'll let them have it. Like, literally, not "IT IS MY TIME TO DESTROY THEM" but man they were unprofessional dicks who let it all hang out once they had the deposit, just fucking reeking of cigarette smoke and booze and WTF!

AND FIN
posted by aydeejones at 7:33 PM on August 4


The B&B management sounds like an asshat. Yelp has questionable utility. The two are not mutually exclusive.
posted by arcticseal at 8:40 PM on August 4 [2 favorites]


I don't disregard a place that has negative reviews, unless they are extreme. If it also has good reviews and is, say,the only Thai place close to my hotel, I'll probably give it a shot.
posted by emjaybee at 9:30 PM on August 4


Yelp can be valuable. It helped rule out one b&b for me with a number of reviews that were basically 'lovely place as long as you don't mind the owners following you around in a manner that feels a lot like stalking'.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 10:15 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]


I think servers and chefs bear a little bit of the blame for being trashed on Yelp, for propagating rumors about taking revenge against problem customers. I know that if I have any problem in a restaurant, I don't complain to anyone. I just never come back, and if severe enough, trash them online*. That's better than having to fix whatever minor problem I had, right?

* This is theoretical. I haven't had a problem severe enough to be bothered to trash someone online yet. However, I've been to places that have messed up badly enough that I'll never go back.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:32 PM on August 4


Q: Is it possible for a business to "opt-out" of Yelp? Or to limit their profile to just address + opening hours?

Not participating is generally my strategy to deal with optional but soul destroying (or simply very annoying) social situations.

Those obsessed by the internet advertising-platform-of-the-month might disagree, but I think a business with an otherwise good reputation could do just fine without Yelp the same way individuals continue to have social lives without being on facebook and jobs without LinkedIn.
posted by mr.ersatz at 1:12 AM on August 5 [2 favorites]


Yelp has removed many of the reviews, the guest house has written a new letter.
Yesterday Union Street Guest House went viral for all the wrong reasons. News articles, blog posts and social media posts were published about our policy to charge wedding parties a $500 fee for every negative review.

Quite frankly, I’m embarrassed. This indeed was a policy of the Union Street Guest House. It was originally intended as a joke and never something I told employees to enforce. However, since it was listed on our website it did represent an official policy. I now realize this joke was made in poor taste and not at all funny. This is no longer a policy of Union Street Guest House and we have taken it off of our website.

I’ve also read the reviews from guests saying we tried to enforce the negative reviews policy on them and for that I apologize. It was never my intention for anyone to pay this fine. The instances where an attempt was made to collect the fees were a breakdown in communication between my staff and me, and for that I accept full responsibility.

Including the fine for negative reviews as part of our policy was a mistake. That’s not the type of business that we run. It was a case of a joke gone very, very bad.

The internet, social media and review sites are very powerful platforms and this situation has taught me valuable lessons about them. Feedback from our guests is very important to us. I admit that at times it can be tough to see a negative review and I could do a better job of taking that criticism in stride. We value each and every one of you and want to hear about your experience with Union Street Guest House, even if it’s a negative experience. Your reviews give us an opportunity to improve our service and make the Union Street Guest House experience better for everyone.

I’m a novice when it comes to the internet and digital communication. My background is in music and hospitality. That’s by no means an excuse, but a realization that I need to learn and continually educate myself on technologies that affect my business. I vow to do that moving forward to avoid mistakes like this in the future.

All of the team here at Union Street Guest House invites you to come visit us in Hudson, New York, and give us a chance to show you who we really are – a group dedicated to making your stay in the beautiful Hudson area a positive and memorable one.

Please also accept my offer of a 10% discount on a visit to Union Street Guest House within the next three months as further apology. Just mention this letter. And I encourage you to leave a review about your experience (positive or negative) after your stay.
It is not clear to me where the owner's fighting against every negative review on tripadvisor fits in. People are also attaching emails they claim came from the owner saying that the policy was serious.
posted by jeather at 4:50 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


Whomever they hired to assist with PR earned his or her pay. That's a good apology.
posted by cribcage at 4:55 PM on August 5 [7 favorites]


I thought Yelp was long-ago discredited as a believable source of useful info?

Yeah, no. But thanks for telling us what everyone else thinks.

A place with 80 reviews, half of them negative, is gonna suck.

Yelp is quite on the money in my experience for businesses with sufficient numbers of reviews. Exclude the extremes, focus on the average.

But of course it's cool to hate on a Yelp because Foursquare, or something.

As a frequent traveler to new cities, Yelp is a godsend. TripAdviser is better for higher end hotel/restaurant decisions. But for a car wash, laundry, or modest restaurant I find a Yelp to be right much more often than wrong.
posted by spitbull at 4:05 AM on August 6 [1 favorite]


TripAdvisor is actually really nice for low-end hostels and B&B's, too. WAY more reliable than Lonely Planet for finding nice budget options.
posted by empath at 6:37 AM on August 6


Whomever they hired to assist with PR earned his or her pay. That's a good apology.

Yeah, it's a good technique they are using. Separate the company into two parts, the owner and the staff, and explain that the owner had pure intentions, but there was miscommunication and the staff acted incorrectly.

I have some doubts there is actually a distinction between the staff and the owner in a guest house though.
posted by smackfu at 6:47 AM on August 6 [1 favorite]


I don't believe him about the joke thing, and I don't like the way he's throwing his staff under the bus. If he communicates that poorly with his staff, he's got more trouble than just social media. This apology was probably the best he could do in the circs, though.
posted by BibiRose at 7:06 AM on August 6


The "joke" angle is obvious, transparent horseshit. Even if it were true, which I very seriously doubt, I cannot fathom the level of systemic incompetence required for staff to repeatedly attempt to "collect" on the so-called joke. It beggars belief.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:55 AM on August 6


This just in! Yelp faces shareholder lawsuit over fraudulent reviews

I hope these Yelp extortionists get sued into oblivion + jail time!
posted by Vibrissae at 11:17 PM on August 7


TheWhiteSkull: "This friend would also like to know more about the various opportunities for nocturnal activities in the woods."

Well, I've found that the main thing to remember when picking a wood to bone in is to always check the Yelp reviews. Some forests are just total dives, but you'd never know it from the way they advertise.
posted by koeselitz at 2:59 AM on August 9


I don't think the staff thing is a good technique at all. It's an asshat technique, and it would only work on someone who had absolutely no experience with how a place like this is run.

Maybe it's just that i've worked at any number of places with a boss who always wants to pass the buck or whatever, but if i heard that whole sack of poop i'd just assume it was another one of those bosses, and that it was their fuckup, and that they were doing a really pathetic job at covering it up and therefor sucked.

I mean whether or not it's true, i like to think that throwing your staff under the bus is a good way to lose any decent staff. I've regained some faith in that concept through watching what was a very, very good restaurant in a rich suburb utterly shed its good staff quickly through asshole boss posturing.

That may or may not be true everywhere, but if i had a place that had a solid staff and i didn't want to lose them, i wouldn't be dropping a deuce on them like that. It's an embarrassing bilge pump on the titanic move.
posted by emptythought at 3:04 AM on August 9


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