Could a bad review at this hotel cost you $500?

According to its policy, Union Street Guest House charges $500 fine from guests who book weddings or events at the venue and post bad reviews online. The highlighted paragraph has been deleted Monday morning. (Screenshot of the Union Street Guest House website.)
According to its policy, Union Street Guest House charges $500 fine from guests who book weddings or events at the venue and post bad reviews online. The highlighted paragraph has been deleted Monday morning. (Screenshot of the Union Street Guest House website)

Your online complaint about the accommodations of this Upstate New York hotel could cost you $500. Union Street Guest House, located in Hudson, N.Y., recently warned that guests that book the venue for wedding or other types of events risk losing part of their deposit if they complained about the hotel online. Here is the language from their online policy statement:

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.

Therefore: 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. (Please NOTE we will not charge this fee or will refund this fee once the review is taken down). Also, please note that we only request this of wedding parties and for the reasons explained above.

After reports about the policy emerged Monday in the New York Post and Business Insider, Union Street Guest House deleted the paragraph. In an e-mailed statement, the hotel told The Washington Post the language was a “tongue-in-cheek” response to a wedding many years ago.

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“It was meant to be taken down long ago and certainly was never enforced,” the statement said. But in one Yelp review posted in November 2013, a Union Street Guest House customer appears to indicate that is the hotel did attempt to enforce the fine. The hotel, which sits on a house built in 1830 and is located about 120 miles from New York City and lies along the Hudson River to Albany, currently only a one star rating on Yelp. After stories about their policy emerged, their page was flooded with negative comments, including from many people who said they had never visited the hotel.

In an e-mailed statement, Yelp told The Washington Post that trying to prevent customers from talking about their experiences is bad policy, and “in this case, likely unenforceable anyway.

“We encourage people to share their first-hand experiences; reviews that are contributed as a result of media attention and do not reflect first-hand experiences run counter to Yelp’s Terms of Service and will be removed from the site,” the statement said.

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Rebecca Robbins · July 31