The Power of Yelp: NY Hotel Policy Goes Viral, Demolishes Its Own Reputation

Joe Goldman |

Hotels have mastered the art of customer extortion and guest deception. It has become the norm in the industry for hotels to charge for Wi-Fi, laundry, rollaway beds, late checkout, early checkout, extra guests, and other bill items that seem to come out of thin air.

Bill Maher went off about these policies in Episode 326 a couple weeks ago. “This is the new business model in America: annoying you out of your money…what the hell is a ‘resort fee’ at a hotel? ‘Resort fee?’ When was I resorting? Why? Because you have a treadmill? It’s like going to a restaurant and being charged extra because they have a candle on the table.”

With hidden fees and perpetrated trickery everywhere, the hospitality industry can be anything but hospital. However, one particular hotel is taking hidden fees and marketing tricks to a whole new level.

The Union Street Guest House’s Insane Policy

The Union Street Guest House has become an overnight Internet sensation thanks to a legendary, jaw-dropping hidden fee. The hotel has a policy that charges guests $500 for posting negative reviews online to sites like Yelp. That’s right, if you don’t like your experience and want to tell people about it, they’ll take $500 out of the wedding party’s deposit. Seems pretty logical.

The policy went viral online and the story was published on dozens of news sources, prompting the Internet to go absolutely crazy. More than 700 Yelp reviewers gave the hotel a one-star review to spite its owner and management team. “Go ahead, sue me for $500, I dare you,” was the Internet’s mentality.

The hotel, which caters to wedding guests, will likely never be able to recover improve its Yelp rating. Yelp (YELP) can remove reviews under very strict circumstances, but that’s not stopping users from decimating the hotel’s reputation.


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The hotel’s website also has a condescendingly pompous attitude throughout the entire website. Here are some notable policies:

“Our furniture is mostly hip, period furniture that you would see in many design magazines...if your guests are looking for a Marriott type hotel they may not like it here.”

“Children are welcome although we would ask you to watch over them as all of the furnishings are one of a kind.”

“Cancellations must be made via email and you must receive a response from us for a cancellation to be accepted at all. There will be a $35 charge for any cancellation (per room). Cancellation of a reservation must be made at least 15 days prior to your arrival date for a non wedding reservation to receive any type of refund.”

Enraged by such pompousness and failure to acknowledge free speech on the web, Yelp users annihilated the hotel online. Here are some of the best reviewd.

Union Street Guest House Reviews: The Best of Yelp

Francesco C. (Howell, NJ)

Rating: 5 stars

Review Excerpt: Everything about this hotel was great. Although, I forgot to give the bellhop a tip so they charged me $200. The staff was nice and polite and its a wonderful area.. but they did charge me $150 for wearing my sandals with socks, which I COMPLETELY understand. I was rushing and figured it wasn't a big deal.


Ryan L. (Saugus, MA)

Rating: 1 star

Review Excerpt: Absolutely terrible. I was asked not to wear my spiderman costume around the lobby while asking them to pull my finger and squirting them with my silly string webbing. 
They also frowned upon me using the shower and getting some shut eye.... Just because it wasnt "my room." Plus what was that family complaining about? I dried myself off before getting into the bed. 
The awful experience was topped off when the waiter refused to serve me my beer with the twisty straw that i requested. What kind of place doesnt have twisty straws? 


Patterson H. (Salford, United Kingdom)

Rating: 1 star

Review Excerpt: I hear they fine you $4 for every roll of toilet paper you use and $20 if you clog the toilet. Fellow IBS sufferers be warned.


Scott T. (Belleville, IL)

Rating: 3 stars

Review Excerpt: Hunter Pence stays here.


Matthew D. (Dublin, Ireland)

Rating: 1 star

Review Excerpt: The worst and most disappointing hotel in America.
First off the owner is a massive nut job, charging $18.50 to ask him a question or any of the staff a question, on Sunday nights don't expect to have a good nights sleep as the weekly satanic ritual happens in the lobby from 6:66pm to well past 2am.


Adrian L. (Chino, CA)

Rating: 1 star

Review Excerpt: Welcome to the internet.


Mihai D. (Beaconsfield, Canada)

Rating: 1 star

Review Excerpt: Nice soothing screeching noises everywhere all the time at night.
Food was probably rotten, not too sure what green spots on my bread mean. They just told me it's a new kind of "Wonder Bread" that holds more vitamins and proteins.


James M. (Manhattan, NY)
Rating: 5 stars

Review Excerpt: went to their site and saw this under amenities...

* dvd library (most rooms have players)

i'm sold. I dont know why theres all these bad reviews when most rooms have players.
Five stars, would review again.

Is the Union Street Guest House Doomed?

As of Tuesday morning, Yelp began to remove some of the reviews due to the fact that many of the reviewers have obviously never stayed at the hotel. However, reviews continue to pour in faster than Yelp can delete them. The Internet is relentless with this smear campaign and reviewers are showing no signs of letting up. Given the scope and importance of Yelp, the hotel’s 1.5 star rating could severely harm its business.

The Union Street Guest House can be saved if Yelp manages to freeze reviews on the hotel until the story blows over. Sure, the hotel is getting national publicity for free, but it’s not the kind of publicity that is going to increase bookings. Without help from Yelp, the Union Street Guest House could be doomed, or at least be in desperate need of a name change very, very soon.

DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not represent the views of Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions. To read our full disclosure, please go to:


Symbol Name Price Change % Volume
FSH.UN:CHI FSH.UN:CHI n/a n/a n/a n/a
YELP Yelp Inc. Class A 33.40 -0.95 -2.77 3,369,939


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