Pay to Naysay: Fining Consumers for Bad Reviews

According to Time Magazine online, Union Street Guesthouse had a clause in their contracts advising consumers that

“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.” (” ‘Historic’ Inn Charges $500 Per Negative Online Review”, Charlotte Alter, Time Magazine online, 8/4/2014)

Time also quotes from the inn’s own explanation of how the person renting the venue should explain its importance to the guests (Time calls it “hilariously stuffy”)…

“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.” (Ibid)

They are so hip that they have to explain what makes them so to all the stupid consumers who book their venue.  Because they’re special and elite, doncha know.   Gah!

The business has taken this policy off their contracts now.

And, to be absolutely fair, I can’t find the person or persons who were fined for complaining.  Going on the Yelp site is a nightmare now, because it is filled with trolls’ remarks (remarks like claiming the inn has prostitutes and homeless people peeing in the halls, obviously false stuff) and I don’t feel like wading through all the garbage to find the people who were fined.

The other example is a bit more…um…clear.

A couple in Utah wrote a bad review of KlearGear on a site called “Rip-off Report” because the husband ordered some items and they never arrived.  It wasn’t very ‘ranty’, apparently, just stating that the items never came and that he couldn’t get ahold of anyone (“Couple Fined for Negative Online Review”, Pamela Brown, CNN website, 12/26/2013).

PayPal canceled the transaction, and the couple figured that was the end of it.  Oh, no.

3 flippin’ years later, John and Jen Palmer received an email from KlearGear, stating that they would be fined $3500 if they didn’t take down their review within 72 hours!  And the clause cited?

“Your acceptance of this sales contract prohibits you from taking any action that negatively impacts KlearGear.com.” (Ibid)

Even worse, the Palmers say that this clause was written after their purchase!

They inquired about taking down their review, and found that Rip-off Report requires that the company be in arbitration in order to get the review removed, which would have cost the Palmer’s $2000.  Naturally, they didn’t do it.

KlearGear sent the $3500 fine to a collection agency, and wrecked their credit.  This action made the Palmer’s change their minds about litigation, because they filed a suit against KlearGear soon after (“KlearGear Sued for Destroying the Credit of a Couple for Leaving a Negative Review”, Mike Masnick, TechDirt website, 12/20/2013).

They won by default.  To the tune of $306,750 (“$300,000 Damages Award Against KlearGear, the Company that Billed Customers for $3500 Because They Posted a Negative Review”, Eugene Volokh, Washington Post online, 6/26/2014).

Good for them!

So those are two examples of why this bill is necessary.  Can you imagine how bad it would be to be unable to write a bad review and warn others about a company that isn’t performing as advertised/claimed?

“But wait!” you might think.  “What about all those false, ranty-namecalling-swearing reviews some people leave?”

Two things come to mind: When I read a hysterical rant that uses obscene language and far-fetched claims to post a bad review, I don’t put any stock in it at all.   I think I am a typical consumer.

Secondly, there are still laws against defaming people/companies, and if someone writes patently false stuff, they can still be sued.

Score one for the good guys.

Today’s weirdness comes from “Gizmag”, my favorite online source for the latest in technology.  It’s an article about a mirror that can show your emails, relevant news, and even tweets when someone looks into it (“MirrorMirror Reflects You and Your Digital Info”, Antonio Pasolini, Gizmag, 5/8/2015).

Recommendation for Longmire fans…New season returns on Netflix in the fall.  Now I really have to subscribe to Netflix, for that and for the show “Sherlock”.

Gee, I miss satellite tv, I really do.  And I miss actually having a tv, since the clunker in my livingroom sucks up a lot of electricity, as I discovered when I looked at my bill after disconnecting DirecTV and unplugging the behemoth.  It came with the apt, my own small tv having been left in the place from whence I fled.

Ah well, the nice thing is, I found out recently that Hulu uses up very little data on Moto.  So I can actually stream tv when I am out and about.  It’s only that one site – CBS.com, for example, uses an impractical amount of data, as I found out when I tried to watch NCIS on Moto and ran out of data before the show was even over (still cannot get Moto to connect to any wi-fi, I am positive it’s defective).

So….

Be good.  Be kind.   Stand up to corporate bullies when you can.

 

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3 thoughts on “Pay to Naysay: Fining Consumers for Bad Reviews

  1. charlies5169

    What a world! The threat of “fines”for writing a bad review is almost comical, Pythonesque to say the least! Unfortunately, as you pointed out, it can have some very negative consequences.

    Corporate America is the new Mafia… Protection money, anyone?

    I’ve always maintained that we ought to be at least as concerned about the crimes of corporate America as the government.

    Hmmm.. Maybe the scope of Cactus Ed’s monkey-wrenching should be expanded.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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