Hotels

Aussie motel forced to close after charging guest $50 for “defamatory” online review

A NSW motel has been forced to temporarily close due to backlash after it charged a guest $50 for leaving a “defamatory” review.

Sharon Graham from the Illawarra posted about her experience with Mollymook’s Ocean View Motel on Facebook, claiming the property had charged her an extra $50 as a “damage charge” over a review she left on Booking.com.

According to the Illawarra Mercury, Graham rated the motel six out of 10, adding it had a good location but was “a bit noisy” and she was “surprised that the room was not serviced as I stayed for two nights not sure if that’s what they normally do or it was just overlooked”.

After the review was posted, Graham said she was sent a second invoice with an extra $50 charge.

“Social media bookings false review. Will be refunded if you remove the review within 24 hours,” the invoice said.

“If not it will go towards legal proceedings.”

She said she was then sent a third invoice with another $50 for “administration letter writing”.

Rachelle and Graham Fulton, the managers of the motel, responded to Graham’s review claiming she would have had to pay extra for the room to be serviced and she “should have read what you were booking or at least discussed it with management at check-in”.

Fulton told the Illawarra Mercury the motel was allowed to charge for damage “because the review was damage to our reputation”.

“That money is a damage bond – I can charge for damage to our motel, and for administration.”

She said they refunded Graham as soon as they were asked by Booking.com.

“We offer a clean, affordable room, and we’re not supposed to be five stars,” Fulton said.

“We’re the cheapest hotel with the best view and we took housekeeping away to keep the price low. It says in the room that housekeeping is extra and you should put the sign-out.”

“But if she’d wanted to have the room cleaned she could have just asked us.”

Source: Facebook via ABC News

Fulton said the motel has been forced to temporarily close due to an influx of fake reviews, threatening phone calls and false bookings.

Graham told ABC News there was no mention of a discounted rate in exchange for no housekeeping and she could not find a sign in her room.

“The first invoice I received didn’t have that on it, and when I booked through Booking.com it didn’t come up as that,” she said.

“It came up as a discount that the motel was running at the time — it said nothing about housekeeping.”

She said she was reluctant to come forward with her story because she didn’t want to crucify the business especially in a time when the South Coast is recovering from the devastating bushfires.

Lake Illawarra Command crime prevention team supervisor Sgt Peter Northey told the Mercury Graham had contacted police about the charge, but the situation is a civil matter.

“Technically, this is classified as a civil matter because in [the motel’s] clauses they can charge a damage fee, and it’s not specified what that is for,” Sgt Northey said.

Travel Weekly has contacted the Ocean View Motel for comment.

Featured image source: Booking.com via the ABC.

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