Hotel charges woman $500 for leaving bad review

Katrina Arthur claimed she was charged $US350 ($NZ500) for leaving a bad hotel review.
Katrina Arthur claimed she was charged $US350 ($NZ500) for leaving a bad hotel review. Photo credit: Getty

A hotel in the US is being accused of charging a woman $500 for giving them a negative review.

Katrina Arthur and her husband stayed at the Abbey Inn & Suites in Indiana in March 2016 and they were less than impressed with their stay.

Ms Arthur told local news station Call 6 that as soon as they arrived, they noticed the hotel room was dirty and smelled bad.

"The room was unkempt, and it looked like it hadn't been cleaned since the last people stayed there," she said.

"We checked the sheets and I found hairs and dirt."

She also claimed that the water pressure was low and the room had no air conditioning. Her attempts to call the front desk didn't work, so she had to clean the room herself.

After her stay, the Abbey Inn emailed Ms Arthur requesting her to complete an online review, which she did gladly.

"I was honest," she told Call 6. "I wanted people to know not to waste their money because I know people save their money for special occasions."

Ms Arthur said that soon after posting the review online, she was charged $US350 ($NZ500) and received a letter from the hotel's attorney threatening legal action if she did not delete her review.

Frightened by the threat, she deleted the review but was not given her money back. After learning other people had had similar experiences with the hotel, she filed a complaint with the Indiana Attorney General.

"I feel like they were punishing me for being truthful, and I don't think that's fair," she said.

The Indiana Attorney General filed a lawsuit against Abbey Management, the hotel's owner, in December 2016. The lawsuit alleges that for over a year Abbey Inn had an "unfair, abusive and deceptive" customer review policy, which let them charge customers who left negative reviews.

"Guests agree that if guests find any problems with our accommodations, and fail to provide us the opportunity to address those problems while the guest is with us, and/or refuses our exclusive remedy, but then disparages us in any public manner, we will be entitled to charge their credit card an additional $350 damage," the policy read, according to the lawsuit. 

"Should the guest refuse to retract any such public statements legal action may be pursued."

The lawsuit said this policy was hidden in a seven-page document posted on the hotel's website. Ms Arthur claimed she was not shown any paperwork when she checked in.

She told Call 6 she hopes her lawsuit will help other consumers who leave online reviews.

"There's nothing wrong with being truthful."