Moteliers who charged guest over “damaging” review forced to close doors

Moteliers who charged a guest $50 for leaving an unfavourable review say the ensuing backlash has forced them to close.

Sharon Graham had her credit card charged an extra $50 for ‘damages’ after she left a review on  of Mollymook’s Ocean View Motel on the NSW south coast, and was told she would only be refunded once the review was removed.

The motel’s managers, Rachelle and Graham Fulton, claim the since-refunded $50 was a “damage charge” because the review hurt their reputation.

[pro_ad_display_adzone id=”44555″ align=”left” padding=”10″]After a two-night stay last week, Ms Graham rated the motel a 6/10 and commented “good location but the room was a bit noisy.”

She said the view was “quite nice” and the room served the purpose but 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.”

In response, Ms Graham was sent a second invoice for her trip, with an extra $50 charge listed for “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.”

A few hours later, Ms Graham received a third invoice, with another $50 charge attributed to “administration letter writing”.

The guest posted the story on Facebook, prompting a social media storm which the Fultons say has forced them to temporarily close the property.

Rachelle Fulton told the Illawarra Mercury: “I have to reply to a lot of reviews and that takes time. That money is a damage bond – I can charge for damage to our motel, and for administration.”

Fulton argued the review was not a “genuine reflection” of the Graham’s experience because her room had been booked at a discounted rate without housekeeping – but the guest said she was not aware her $10-a-night discount was connected to housekeeping.

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

Ms Graham has since received a refund through, provided to the OTA by the moteliers when requested, and contacted her bank to put a stop to the further $50 charge being applied.

Her Facebook post has attracted almost 1000 comments, prompting the Shellharbour resident to say she had not intended to cause a fuss – despite having contacted police about the incident.

“I just wanted to stop this from happening to anyone else,” she told The Illawarra Mercury. “She has no right to bully me about an honest online review.”

“Other than this, I really enjoyed my stay in Mollymook – it’s a beautiful area and has been so affected by the fires, so I don’t want to hurt tourism there at all.”

The Fultons told the newspaper they had received threatening phone calls, bogus bookings and false reviews on Google and other review sites since the post went viral.

“I just want people to know that behind any small business is a lot of family Australians that work their butts off,” Graham Fulton said.

“We love our guests and we’re proud of how we look after them.

“There won’t be any small businesses left soon because of these online reviews.

“We have no options – if we tell someone who is having a party to be quiet, they get on and get 10 of their friends to write fake bad reviews. But if we don’t tell them to be quiet, then the other guests complain.

“It just takes one review to drag down your score.”

Accommodations Association chief executive Dean Long said businesses were within their rights to challenge online reviews they consider unfair or misleading.

“Peer reviews are a critical avenue for consumers when making decisions,” he said.

But he suggested management in this case may have been better off reaching out to Ms Graham to resolve her concerns.

“This is far from best practice and it isn’t the policy we recommend our members follow,” he said.

“We make it very clear that the best practice example when someone has written an online review is to contact them and find out why that experience wasn’t right.”

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4 years ago

Not a good way to handle it on the owners part. I can understand their frustration however. I have had guests leave a review on booking dot com saying our Queen beds were not really Queen beds. The are indeed the Australian standard measurement for a Queen bed. All you can do is post a reply stating that and hopefully other people who read it will realise what a dill the original reviewer is.

4 years ago

Maurice – not in a month of Sundays. Anonymous reviews are a gold mine for the drama queens of the world who have nothing better to do with their time than try to ruin other people’s lives.
Until our industry bombards politicians with enough complaints that the law is changed so that reviews can no longer be
anonymous then we are all at the mercy of the vindictive elements of society.
The motelier above said it all about the party situation, we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. The vindictive ones get all their mates to write fake reviews as revenge.
NOTHING will change until we have a level playing field, they can identify us, but we cannot identify them.

Penny Penny Boyle
Penny Penny Boyle
Reply to  Andrew
4 years ago

We have both Air B and B and the usual 3rd party sites in our establishment., and have on a few occasions had to strongly respond to an unwarranted review. It is correct about noisy guests, dammed if you do and a lot of grief if you don’t, however with our A B and B property, the guest gets reviewed by us as well. This is a good idea. Works for us, incidentally that particular property gets left very clean and tidy ALL the time. We believe it is due to the fact that the guest has a responsibility to leave the property as they found it.

Lynne Baucher
Reply to  Andrew
4 years ago

Andrew. I am the property that removed because of the 6 reviews allowed to be published from a mentally ill homeless guest and totally refused to remove them or restore my rating. I am still perusing every avenue I can. Have sent to my local Senator and member,Still waiting to see the outcome They were forwarding it to the tourism minister. We all need to do the same . Have sent a submission to the ACCC this morning. I will not let this drop. . How many people have read the terms and Expedia have in their terms and conditions. They are responsible for nothing. Truth fullness,deformation or whether it is relevant to the property. They dint care what damage is done to us as long as they appease the guest. How can we do something collectively.

4 years ago

The biggest problem I have had with Air B and B is business people using their good rating to sneak in their feral work gangs.
One bunch were proud of the fact that they had been working replacing roofs this summer and had not washed for a week.
Their used underwear was discarded in my property yard.
I am at the point now where I knock back 80% of Air enquiries, too many weirdos.
Then their are the ones that just tick all the boxes for trouble.
This week’s latest was for 5 Uni students for one night – not going to happen.

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