The news that the Union Street Guest House had a published policy of fining people $500 for bad reviews on Yelp went viral yesterday. It started in the New York Post, made its way into Time, was tweeted by the Washington Post--just to name a few of the online media feasting on the story--and inspired a frenzy of outraged comments on Yelp, mostly from people who had never stayed at the Union Street Guest House but were indignant about the notion of punishing wedding couples if their guests trashed their accommodation online. Around midday, Sam Pratt published USGH proprietor Chris Wagoner's explanation: "The policy regarding wedding fines was put on our site as a tongue-in-cheek response to a wedding many years ago. It was meant to be taken down long ago and certainly was never enforced."
What's interesting is the local response to the maelstrom--everything from suspecting that it might be a publicity stunt to fearing that USGH's cranky policy about negative comments could bring Hudson's thriving tourist industry to its knees to spokespeople for Hudson Area Lodging and Columbia County Lodging Association wanting to make clear in today's Register-Star that USGH is not a member of either organization, both of which stress "friendliness and commitment to service." As Pratt suggests, this may be a test of the commonplace "There is no such thing as bad publicity," but there's a lesson here, too. Be careful what you put online. What is meant to be tongue-in-cheek isn't necessarily received that way, and, to quote a Gossips reader, "the Internet is relentless."
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