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Owner “shattered” as Booking.com ignores pleas over serial reviewer

An accom owner has been driven to delist from Booking.com after the OTA refused to take down a series of reviews from a guest allegedly suffering a mental health breakdown.

Lynne Boucher, proprietor of Ainslie Manor bed and breakfast in Redcliffe, says she is “totally shattered” by Booking.com’s refusal to remove the reviews, all by a guest who re-booked his stays almost nightly with her over 12 days and so was able to leave a series of ugly reviews about his experience.

Despite comments about Lynne’s impeccable service from numerous previous guests, the low-marked reviews dropped the property’s score on the site from 8.9 to 8.4 – leaving the operator feeling she had little choice but to remove her listings from Australia’s most dominant OTA.

To add insult to injury, she says she bent over backwards to help the man, who allegedly suffered a psychotic episode and was escorted to hospital by police during his extended stay in local accommodation.

She said: “I am so upset. Have worked for all those years to try and keep a good rating and this can be destroyed with someone you gave nothing but kindness.”

The guest did not come out of his room during his stay, Lynne says, and she gave him free food, offered him a cheaper rate and offered to wash his clothes in an attempt to help as he kept on booking nights at the southern Queensland property.

“I was trying everything in the area to get him help,” she said.

“I had guests refusing to sleep on the same floor and had to close down a room to be able to move them as he went off yelling and banging round the room.

“I finally suggested he try a motel which may have more soundproof rooms.” 

The guest was provided accommodation by one of Lynne’s colleagues at a nearby motor inn – and proceeded to give that accom a review score of 1/10 after an incident involving police.

Lynne says of the colleague: “She took him in, gave him sandwiches, fruit, water etc.

“When he was taken to hospital the police said to leave things there and they would be picked up. She washed the clothes and a nurse was to pick them up. She is accused of stealing his things.” 

When Lynne approached Booking.com about the reviews left by the man, the OTA removed one review but refuse to take down the others.

A representative told the b&b owner to send proof of the guest’s mental state, but despite Lynne providing Booking.com with the number of a police report into an incident involving the guest, the OTA has refused to remove the comments and restore the property’s rating.

“All my years of doing my best to run a good business and they can shatter it in a flash,” Lynne said.

“They accepted five reviews written on the same day from one stay as he had re-booked for the next night. This is so unjust.”

AccomNews approached Booking.com about the issue, receiving a response with no reference to the case mentioned.

The OTA stated: “As part of our mission to make it easier for everyone to experience the world, our aim is to provide customers with transparent information that makes it easier for them to find and book the travel options that are right for them, including access to more than 197 million real reviews from other travellers.

“We never alter or edit these reviews in any way, as they are a reflection of the individual guest experience at each and every place to stay on Booking.com.

“Our partners also have the option to respond and share their point of view, which we encourage them to do as part of setting accurate expectations for their future guests. As always, if our partners or customers ever need support, our team is available 24/7 to help.”

Booking.com partner support team member Madigan B meanwhile told the accom owner: “I have received information from the moderation team who have rejected my requests to have your reviews removed.

“I am terribly sorry for this and completely empathize with the impact that these reviews are having on your property.

“I did inform them of the full story regarding this guest, however, they have ultimately declined our request.”

Booking.com’s guidelines decree reviews should be reliable and will be removed if deemed irrelevant or judged to work against its policies, which require comments to be genuine, appropriate for a global audience, travel-related and respectful of the privacy of others.

Lynne said: “The writer’s free speech should be balanced against protection of reputation. We have no recourse against pure revenge attack.

“I think this is clear discrimination against small business. Can you see The Hilton receiving this treatment?

“I have ceased connectivity to booking.com and will remove my listing all together as I can’t have customers seeing a 8.4 score on the comparison sites.”

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Kate Jackson

Kate Jackson is the editor of Accomnews. You can reach her at any time with questions or submissions: [email protected]

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20 Comments

  1. OMG!!!! I just read the reviews this obvious nutcase left for you Lynne. It’s appalling on booking.coms behalf they wont remove these. They ride roughshod over all of us. Cant rely on anyone in government or ACCC to assist us. Hate them with a passion. Yes you can sell at a higher price on booking.com I do.

  2. Lynn, sorry to hear your very sad story. But you can trust that you are not the only one suffering from this.
    My small motel encounter similar issue (a Chinese from China left a political attack rather than a review to the motel’s service or facilities), I fought with booking.com to remove the review for more than a year. When booking.com Australia tried to convince me that the review will be removed automatically after 24 months, I decided not to back off and I wrote the email directly to booking.com’s global CEO; then I have that review removed immediately within 10 hours. Give it a try!

    1. Thank you Judy. How did you get onto the CEO. One of the reviews which they published for 5 days before removing it was nothing to do with me. Named name address of his psychologist saying she was a stalker ,names of Property manager of local reseal Estate saying they steal your money, and absolute nonsensical hallucinating rubbish. Did not mention me in that one. booking.com removed it but the rating remained as he had stayed at my property. I asked it be re published as is put in context the mental stability of the guests but they refused. We must be able to to get support for local small business somewhere against these ATOs that can destroy your business over night. I know your can reply but that does not reinstate you rating which is the most import component of your site.

  3. From a Spring Hill motel owner.

    We have had similar experience with Booking.com.
    We had a group of male prostitutes staying here.
    They were disgusting and when we finally were able to turf them out they put up many bad reviews of us.
    The Police were after them as well.
    Booking.com didn’t care they said because they are patrons of theirs they can write a review that’s their policy
    HATE booking.com

    1. We must be able to protect ourselves. These sites are Robbers, Never get them, BUT the guests can get onto them immediately…whats this.
      If you want a petition signed let me know.

    2. I do too. Parasites. Happy for us to slave away making money for them and dont want to know when we need them. Your story is just as disgusting. My trouble was being allowed to write a separate review for each night he rebooked. all part of his original stay.

    3. Perhaps re-post the article on SmartCompany “Hidden epidemic”: Google faces class action after business owner wins right to probe negative review” and take legal against Booking.com

  4. Folks,
    The bottom line is:
    Moteliers and Hoteliers MUST be provided with a platform that we can WARN each other about these guests and these shonkey sites, I have had them, they are robbers.
    * I am Totally OVER both Booking.Com and Expedia.
    I too had a situation over Christmas, Wotif (Expedia) at 11pm on 28th Dec ( I am totally booked out) I get a booking, I doubled checked, maybe a cancellation….NO, They made what I call a Phantom booking, I immediately ring, of course nobody there, so I rang the gentleman advise him, to help him. He sounded O.K.
    Next day I have a REVIEW, from Who do you think, yes the gentlemen who didn’t stay, whom I tried to help, and the make matters worse I rang and emailed Expedia to Delete Review . No action from them. However I get an account from Expedia for ….wait for it, Relocation Fee $150.00…NOT ON MY FRIENDS
    So Far 9 Case numbers I have from Expedia, dated from Dec 29 onward….Its a Joke. Matter not resolved.

    SOMETHING HAS TO BE DONE ABOUT THESE SHYSTERS, they forgot…we are these no. 1 customer, if they don’t have us, they don’t have a business.

  5. Sadly this is not an uncommon occurrence. Booking.com and Trip Advisor give no support to the hotels when it comes to a guest leaving a bad review.

    Had a similar experience with a hotel I was managing. The guest made a serious and false allegation against one of my staff. After several attempts to get the false review removed, the response we got from Booking.com was to be removed from the site due to the allegations. Thankfully being part of a large chain we were able to get ourselves back due to the work of senior management – but the poor independents don’t have that luxury.

    Would love to see the bodies who regulate and aid the hotel industry step in here and get a meeting with TA and Booking.com to discuss this and see if something can be done.

  6. Sounds like Booking.com have taken on board all Tripwhingers bad habits. I blocked bookings from Tripwhinger 5 years ago now after they refused to take down photos in a review of my property that were not even of my property. That is how corrupt their attitude to reviews is.
    I must say it has been a peaceful life since.
    Likewise AiryfairyBnB, 50% of the customers I have had via them have been downright weird. They expect that you will fawn all over them and be their personal servant – nup, I am renting them accommodation, not a nursing home.
    If you over service, then you are creating a millstone that you will then have to always carry.
    It is up to you people how money hungry you want to be, and on how many and which of these sites you want to be listed on.
    I earn less now, but am less stressed and don’t have to dread another malicious review.

  7. We had a similar unfriendly experience with booking.com. We had a guest stay with us who really enjoyed their stay, but wrote “Unfortunately, a woman was raped on the beach during our stay”. This occurred 6km away from our complex and had literally nothing to do with our accommodation. This comment in the review was the first thing potential guests saw on our listing. Not good.
    When I approached booking.com about this, they gave me the same spiel about letting the guests speak for themselves, etc.
    Fortunately, I was able to speak to the guest, who didn’t realise the damage his comments were making and he amended his review. However, if he had not been so obliging, we would have been stuck with that comment on our listing.
    It’s not good enough for booking.com to take such a hands off approach to comments and reviews on their platform.

  8. BDC and others like them need to fix their “guidelines” urgently so they have something telling them how to behave properly in this business area. TripAdvisor will not allow an alleged guest to publish a 2nd review about a particular motel until 3 months has elapsed, for just the reason we see here. Had many battles with BDC and other OTAs with some success but usually none. Even if they delete it, it takes so long the social media damage is well and truly done and the score damaged too. The Last delete request involved a review criticizing our “restaurant” but we don’t have one.. Despite the fact we don’t have a restaurant, and OTAs clearly know this by looking at the extensive property information they force us to list on their website they refused to delete it. Clearly publishing lies is within their guidelines. Hope the industry associations keep working on legislation to make the reviewers and the platform providers jointly and severally liable for libel and damages to businesses and individuals in Australia.

    1. As accommodation providers we must do something. Booking.com and Expedia can destroy our business. Their guidelines mean nothing. What about some honesty in reviews. With out us accommodation providers they have no business. Any ideas please contact me.
      I have written to my local member and a Queensland Senator. Surprise surprise No reply. Will keep trying even if I have to go through every member of parliament. A government department should be taking this is up.. Would love to know how to contact Dick Smith . He took up AT’O’s a few months ago on Facebook saying don’t use them. Booking.com needs to have a serious look at their guide lines. and take responsibility for the damage they are doing to small businesses. I also think the time should be limited that a guest can write a review not come back 2 moths later. I have forgotten who the person is by then.

  9. Dear All,
    Read on if you want to take action to stop this.

    Please read the article “Hidden epidemic”: Google faces class action after business owner wins right to probe negative review” and contact the lawyer in the article who is putting together the Class Action and needs examples like this. This was published today in “SmartCompany”.

    It is about time something was done to tackle this.

  10. We have had people that have not even stayed at our motel do reviews on Booking.com and on Google. All you can do is respond saying your not showing up on on reservations system as being a guest of our motel. Had to fight tooth and nail to get booking.com to remove a review from someone that didn’t stay. Goes to show OTA’s don’t even follow the guidelines. One of the other motels in town stated to us that he got his friends to go on line and do reviews on his motel to boost his status.

  11. I totally agree with all the comments above as a serviced apartment owner. The usual response from the OTAs is we will not delete the comment but you have the right to reply – what about the score rating the guest has left that affects your ranking and the lengthy response you have to think of to prove your innocence. Please employ some customer service agents who are there for the people that keep you in business and give us the opportunity to delete reviews that are proven to be false quickly. Honestly if a motel does not have a restaurant and the review is about the restaurant at the motel it should be deleted immediately – it has nothing to do with our right to reply. Delete the review ……. Come on Booking.com and Expedia, you guys rob us of 15% commission simply for little work and not even Australian owned so all the commission is going to overseas companies. Also start having rate parity that is part of your terms and conditions of us being a partner and stop undercutting our rates by allowing your partner companies to publish whatever rates they want. It is definitely not fair play.l

    1. Agree Magsie and those that only leave a score you don’t get to make a comments. Our experience has been those that only leave a score and its usually a low one, have not take notice of the facilities of the accommodation, have not been happy with THEIR choice and usually the ones that leave the most mess to clean up. Accommodation owners should have the right of reply to any review whether it be just numbers or with a comment. When we will we have the right to review the guest!

  12. Yes absolutely,
    We always get review for every thing we DON”T have, things that are not any where in our advertising eg, Oh didn’t have view, didn’t have balcony, didn’t have a pool/BBQ area bla bla bla.
    Why write a review obout these things you never state as having in the first place. We always then put it back to the reviewer to do their homework first before booking if they are after all of these things. Makes us so bloody mad!!

    1. Rule number one when booking accommodation – READ WHAT IS ON OFFER. I ALWAYS do even before being an accommodation provider I ALWAYS read what was available. Seems a lot of people these days are too lazy to read. I have taken this up with OTA’s we need to be reviewed on what we have not on what we don’t have falls on deaf ears of course.

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