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Business faces backlash after threatening $500 fines for negative Yelp reviews

Union Street Guest House in upstate New York made a grave social media mistake and now its Yelp rating might never recover.

The inn posted a policy on its website to warn wedding organizers that if their guests posted negative reviews about the venue, $500 per review would be deducted from the event security deposit. Basically, you would be fined for your guests’ Yelp ratings. Union Street’s owners took to Facebook to walk back the policy, but it’s too late: The New York Post caught wind of it, and now the business has hundreds of one-star reviews on Yelp.

“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.”

unionstreet yelp

Most of these one-star reviews come from people who have never stayed at Union Street Guest House.

Union Street took to Facebook to explain why it would post such a policy, calling it “tongue-in-cheek humor” in response to a wedding that happened at the inn years ago, but has since deleted the post.

The policy doesn’t sound like a joke—the wording and tone are similar to the business’s cancellation policy, which according to numerous guest reviews on TripAdvisor is strictly enforced. (In a nutshell: Good luck ever getting your money back.) Past Yelp reviews mentioned the $500 fine, so it seems the business has tried to enforce the policy in the past.

Union Street also responds to its negative reviews online in a way no PR rep would ever recommend. Businesses just can’t win when they try to police social media, as anyone who recalls the Amy’s Baking Co. Facebook meltdown can attest to. Making the Internet angry is a recipe for disaster.

But Union Street might be able to stage a comeback. Hey, Amy’s Baking Co. is still open, so anything is possible.

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