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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.

From the hotel’s website:

If you have booked the Inn for a wedding or other type of event anywhere in the region and given us a deposit of any kind for guests to stay at USGH there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review of USGH placed on any Internet site by anyone in your party and/or attending your wedding or event. If you stay here to attend a wedding anywhere in the area and leave us a negative review on any Internet site you agree to a $500 fine for each negative review.

The good news is, if you delete your negative review, the $500 will be refunded.

When the pitchforks and torches came out, people from around the world flooded their Facebook page.

The owner posted this (which has since been deleted):

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About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.