Ethics Dunce: The Union Street Guest House Hotel In Hudson, New York


Until it was brought to the attention of the news media and removed, the Union Street Guest House in Hudson, New York posted the following policy:

Please know that despite the fact that wedding couples love Hudson and our Inn, your friends and families may not. This is due to the fact that your guests may not understand what we offer – therefore we expect you to explain that to them. USGH & Hudson are historic. The buildings here are old (but restored). Our bathrooms and kitchens are designed to look old in an artistic “vintage” way. Our furniture is mostly hip, period furniture that you would see in many design magazines. (although comfortable and functional – obviously all beds are brand new) If your guests are looking for a Marriott type hotel they may not like it here.

Therefore: If you have booked the Inn for a wedding or other type of event anywhere in the region and given us a deposit of any kind for guests to stay at USGH there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review of USGH placed on any internet site by anyone in your party and/or attending your wedding or event. If you stay here to attend a wedding anywhere in the area and leave us a negative review on any internet site you agree to a $500. fine for each negative review. (Please NOTE we will not charge this fee &/or will refund this fee once the review is taken down). Also, please note that we only request this of wedding parties and for the reasons explained above.

The policy may be legal. It is certainly unethical, intimidating guests from posting their honest opinions of the service and accommodations at the establishment by threatening them with a hefty fine.I supposed this is marginally better than announcing that in the event that one posts a negative review  online, Mario the Crusher will visit your mother and knock her teeth in, but the effect is the same. To rent facilities at this charming hotel, you had to surrender a portion of your honesty, candor, and freedom to communicate.

The hotel’s owners qualify as double dunces: after the provision was roundly mocked in the media, they explained that it was all a joke.  “‘The policy regarding wedding fines was put on our site as a tongue-in-cheek response to a wedding many years ago, the proprietors told  CNBC . “It was meant to be taken down long ago and certainly was never enforced.”  Uh-huh. A joke. Boy, my sides were splitting when I read that policy—the witty verbiage, the playful banter, the wry tone and satiric touches! These guys should write for…the News Nerd.

Adding to the manifest dishonesty of the hotel’s denial—“many years ago?” Internet reviews of hotels weren’t common “many years ago”— are reports that the hotel indeed tried to enforce the ugly policy on some guests before it was revealed to the world.

Blogger and law professor Eugene Volokh ended his post about this Hotel Hell by noting that perhaps it was all a joke after all. Maybe he was moved to give it the benefit of a very dubious doubt indeed because he couldn’t imagine, if the policy were real, why any rational person would voluntarily use the facilities of a hospitality enterprise that begins  business relationships with threats and bullying tactics.

I wonder about that myself.


Pointer and Source: Volokh

7 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: The Union Street Guest House Hotel In Hudson, New York

  1. WOW! The next time I travel to the lovely Hudson Valley (never have, probably never will) I will make a point of staying at Union Street Guest House! Egotism? Narcissism? Insecurity? Too many negative posts already? There must be a way to explain the “philosophy” of the inn without resorting to “evaluation terrorism.” Just unbelievable.

  2. It’s bad and unethical, but not exactly a surprise. Given the adversarial conditions public comment forums create there’s bound to be pushback and incivility. I don’t think it’s excusable, but it’s understandable. People are having a hard time learning the lessons created by everything being public all the time.

  3. You know, after retiring, my wife and I did a fair amount of traveling and, of course, had occasion to stay at a wide variety of motels and hotels. I have probably read 100,000 reviews of these hotels and there is always some idiot(s) slamming the room, the management, the staff, bugs in the room, dirty bathtub, etc. I have learned to pretty much ignore the worst of the “slammers”, but pay attention only if they outnumber the good ones. It is impossible to make everyone happy, and my guess is that the negative reviews are from people who wanted something for nothing, didn’t get it and are retaliating. Motel owners know this and, generally, do not bother to respond to “slammers”, and so do most of their clients. Therefore, such a policy would frankly prompt me to think that USGH has something nefarious to hide, and I would NOT stay there for any reason.

    • I have probably read 100,000 reviews of these hotels and there is always some idiot(s) slamming the room, the management, the staff, bugs in the room, dirty bathtub, etc.
      There are some good ones, no doubt.
      Such as a comment on a historical B&B in Key West:
      “Everything was old”.
      I made myself laugh typing that.

  4. I’m trying to understand how this isn’t larceny, unless they have a signed agreement. Good luck getting this past the credit card companies. I’m not a lawyer, (rocket scientist-sure, brain surgeon-hobbyist) but putting up a sign surely creates no financial obligation or agreement.

  5. Pingback: Travel Extra’s Sunday Supplement: Everybody loves an Irish backpacker & a cold wind from Moscow | Travel Extra

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