We all know weddings can get expensive, but here's something most couples do not budget for: fines charged by the hotel if a wedding guest leaves a negative review online. Astonishingly, that's what the website of the Union Street Guest House in Hudson, N.Y., promised guests the hotel would do, according to this story in Business Insider (and many, many other internet sources: Google this story and you'll get an eyeful). This would not be the first time a business has tried to silence critical customers with this type of nasty fine print (remember KlearGear? or the Accessories Store?), but punishing a customer for the actions of a different customer is a new one on me.
That a hotel would try such a thing is story enough.
Equally interesting is what appears to have happened next: the hotel, responding promptly to the wave of critical news stories in the past 24 hours, appears to have taken this clause out of its terms. (Compare the current version here with the one archived here courtesy of the Internet Archive; the old version, which was archived as of April of this year, has an extra paragraph — search for the sentence that includes the word "Marriott" and read the paragraph that follows in the April version.) Smart move for the hotel. I haven't gone through the Internet Archive to see how long the non-disparagement clause was up on the hotel's site but it's impressive how fast it's come down. (ABC News reported on the story at around noon today, by which time, as the story noted, the hotel had already removed the noxious clause.) It's a testament to the power of the internet — informed consumers and savvy bloggers communicating with each other actually can improve the marketplace.
I wonder if this is the end to the story, though. Will the hotel put that clause back in when no one is looking at it anymore? Worth checking their site in a month or two to see. (You'll recall that KlearGear felt no shame in reinstating its non-disparagement clause in spite of widespread criticism.)
By the way, if you have been subject to terms like this (even if you have not actually written a negative review for fear of being fined), we here at Public Citizen would love to hear about it — write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.