A woman in Indiana said she was stunned after she posted a negative review about her bad experience at a hotel — and promptly got an extra $350 charge and a threat of legal action.
Katrina Arthur told WRTV she and her husband stayed at the Abbey Inn & Suites in Brown County — about an hour south of Indianapolis — in March 2016, but claimed that their stay at the hotel “was a nightmare.”
“The room was unkempt, and it looked like it hadn’t been cleaned since the last people stayed there. We checked the sheets and I found hairs and dirt,” Arthur said. She added that it reeked of sewage and had weak water pressure and broken air conditioning.
When Arthur tried to find hotel employees, she said she came up short and “had to clean the room myself.”
So, when the hotel asked Arthur to review her stay at the Abbey Inn, she made sure her experience was heard.
“I was honest,” Arthur told WRTV. “I wanted people to know not to waste their money because I know people save their money for special occasions."
Once Arthur posted her review, she said the hotel charged her $350 and threatened her with legal action. So, she deleted her review.
Arthur said it felt like the hotel was “punishing” her “for being truthful,” and she contacted the Indiana attorney general’s office.
That office filed a lawsuit on Dec. 15 against Abbey Management Inc.
Andrew Szakaly told Fox News in a statement that he is the president and sole shareholder of the corporation, which hasn't operated the Abbey Inn since Jan. 2017, when new owners assumed control.
The lawsuit reportedly states the Abbey Inn had a policy which allowed them to charge customers the fee for poor reviews, which the state of Indiana alleges violated the state’s Deceptive Consumer Sales Act, which aims to modify “deceptive and unconscionable consumer sales practices.”
The lawsuit claimed the policy read: “Guests agree that if guests find any problems with our accommodations, and fail to provide us the opportunity to address those problems while the guest is with us, and/or refuses our exclusive remedy, but then disparages us in any public manner, we will be entitled to charge their credit card an additional $350 damage. Should the guest refuse to retract any such public statements legal action may be pursued.”
Szakaly confirmed the hotel's policy, which he said was active between fall 2015 and summer 2016 in response to hotel guests checking out without making any complaints during their stay and then demanding a refund or posting negative comments and reviews on social media.
The policy could be found briefly on a document on the hotel’s website, but it wasn’t provided to guests or posted anywhere at the inn, according to the lawsuit.
"It’s a shame that the actions of a disgruntled guest, taken 22 months ago, will now damage the hard work & devotion of the new, young management couple who had nothing to do with that guest or that policy which has long since been cancelled," Szakaly told Fox News.
Arthur, who said “there’s nothing wrong with being truthful,” said she wants her $350 back from the hotel.
Amanda Sweet, who currently owns the Abbey Inn with her husband, told The Associated Press they were taken "completely by surprise" by news of the lawsuit, and that they do not have a policy that charges guests for negative reviews.
"It's been a horrible 24 hours for us," Sweet said. "We've been pouring ourselves into making positive renovations, bringing this beautiful building back to life. This is our livelihood and we don't want it to go away."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.