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TripAdvisor review couple fined by hotel they branded a "stinking hovel"

Business watchdogs have clamped down on a hotel fining guests for negative online reviews.

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Don't mention the Internet: What would Fawlty Towers proprietor Basil Fawlty think of TripAdvisor? BBC

What's worse than a horrible hotel? A horrible hotel that hits you with a massive fine when you tell the world just how bad it is.

A hotel described as a "rotten, stinking hovel" in a review on TripAdvisor has hit the critical couple with a fine three times bigger than the cost of their stay -- but the move has backfired as negative publicity explodes and trading authorities have clamped down on the hotel in question.

Tony and Jan Jenkinson spent the night at the Broadway Hotel in Blackpool, a popular seaside resort in the North-west of England. During their stay they claim the hot water was broken, furniture fell apart and the phone was missing completely. In their TripAdvisor review, they wailed that breakfast was "a joke" and the bed -- which "must have come out of the ark" -- was filled with springs that "attacked you in the night".

The one-night stay cost the couple £36. They were then charged £100 (roughly AU$181 or $156) by the hotel two days later.

At least they were warned: the hotel informed guests upon booking that "For every bad review left on any website, the group organiser will be charged a maximum £100 per review". However, the UK's business watchdog, Trading Standards, has investigated the situation and has agreed with management that the charge will not be levied in future.

Other entries for the hotel on TripAdvisor include reviews headed "Pure filth avoid", "Don't even consider it" and "Words can't describe this 'hotel'".

The hotel's management was not available for comment -- and at the time of writing, the hotel's website is offline.

It's a textbook example of the Streisand effect: an attempt to shut down negative publicity draws much more attention than the original criticism. The phenomenon is named after Hollywood diva Barbra Streisand, who tried to remove aerial pictures of her house from a website and in so doing alerted an oblivious wider world to their existence.

Other hotel sites include Hotels.com, LateRooms, Expedia, Trivago and Yelp.

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