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When I speak, particularly to business owners, someone inevitably asks, “Let’s say I start using the web to grow my business. What do I do if someone says something negative about us online?”

My answer is always that it’s likely going to happen because if customers say something negative about you online, they likely are already saying it offline.

You now have the huge opportunity to hear what people are saying and fix the issues before you lose a customer … or 10 or 100.

A good majority of business owners take criticism to heart and fix their operations to deal with it.

Others, however, aren’t so willing. Call it pride or ego or narcissism. Whatever the issue, it can cause not only a mass exodus of customers, but a social media firestorm.

Customers Fined for Negative Reviews

Enter Union Street Guest House.

A few days ago, The New York Post ran a short piece—on Page Six, of all places—about a hotel in Hudson, N.Y. that fines guests for negative reviews posted online.

If a couple uses the Union Street Guest House as either the location for their wedding or an overnight option for their wedding guests, the hotel requires a deposit…which they don’t return until the rooms are in order, there is no damage, and they’ve assured no one associated with the wedding party has left a negative review.

If a negative review is left, the bride and groom are fined $500, which is deducted from their deposit. Have five unhappy guests? That’s 2,500 smackers.

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About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communication firm. She is the lead blogger at PR and marketing blog, Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing In the Round, and co-host of Inside PR, a weekly podcast about  communications and social media. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is now available.