British couple fined for giving hotel bad review on Trip Advisor

Screengrab of video taken by Tony Jenkinson at the Broadway Hotel Blackpool and posted to Facebook.

Tony and Jan Jenkinson were unimpressive with their £36 ($64 CAD) one-night stay at the Broadway Hotel in the seaside town of Blackpool in North West England.

So they did what any disgruntled customers would do: they gave the place a scathing review on Trip Advisor.

An excerpt from their review:

Couldn’t believe the state of the room. The hot tap didn’t work, when we reported it we were told they knew about it and it would be fixed in the morning (we were only there for one night.) The drawer fronts fell off when we opened the chest of drawers. Again, they knew about this and it was supposed to be dealt with in the morning. The kettle wouldn’t work, were told you had to switch on the socket it was plugged into, also switch on another socket to make it work. This was because the whole place was rewired wrongly according to the member of staff who dealt with us, and they couldn’t afford to have it put right. There were instructions on how to make a phone call, we would have had a job as there was no phone!! The wallpaper was peeling off the walls, the carpet was thin, dirty and stained. The bed was something else, it must have come out of the ark, the base was all scuffed and dirty and the springs in the mattress attacked you in the night. The curtains were tattered and filthy, there were polystyrene tiles on the ceiling which are a fire hazard.”

Not long after describing the hotel as a “filthy, dirty, rotten, stinking hovel run by Muppets” on the travel review site — read the entire review here — the Jenkinsons discovered an additional £100 ($177 CAD) had been charged to their credit card.

The hotel told them that it was its policy to charge for “bad” reviews.

According to the policy:

Despite the fact that repeat customers and couples love our hotel, your friends and family may not. For every bad review left on any website, the group organizer will be charged a maximum £100 per review.

Tony Jenkinson told BBC News that, although the policy was outlined in the booking documents, his wife was without her glasses and couldn’t read the small print when they signed in.

“The small print was so small it was practically impossible to see it,” he told the Blackpool Gazette.

They are now fighting the charge.

“Annoyed isn’t strong enough for how I feel about this, what happened to freedom of speech?” Tony Jenkinson said. “Everybody we have spoken to says they (the hotel) are not allowed to do this.”

Trading Standards officials are now investigating the charge — and whether or not the hotel breached unfair training practice regulations.

"Customers need to be free to be honest about the service they’re getting," councillor John McCreesh, cabinet member for trading standards, told BBC News.Other customers depend upon it. Hotel owners should focus on getting their service right rather than shutting down aggrieved customers with threats and fines.”

"People should have the right to vent their disappointment if a hotel stay did not meet their expectations and should not be prevented from having their say."

According to Blackpool Council, the hotel will be refunding the couple’s money and scrapping the policy.

It should be noted that more than half of the reviews for the Broadway Hotel currently rate the place as “terrible.”

To validate his bad review, Tony Jenkinson also posted a video of their awful hotel experience on Facebook.

When Sky News alerted Trip Advisor of the hotel’s bullying tactic, its spokesperson responded:

"It is completely against the spirit and policies of our site for any business owner to attempt to bully or intimidate reviewers who have had a negative experience," said spokesman James Kay.

"Where we find evidence of a business doing so, we will take action to protect the integrity of our site."

We’ve seen this sort of thing before:

Union Street Guest House in Hudson Valley, New York, was the subject of dozens of one-star Yelp reviews this summer — many by people who never stayed there — after it was revealed that the hotel had a policy of charging customers $500 for each negative review posted online.