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TheStreet Open House

TripAdvisor Blackmailers Demand Cash and Freebies

Stocks in this article: TRIP

NEW YORK (MainStreet) - Want to score a free hotel room? Assuming you have no ethics?

There's an unscrupulous gambit known to work, but know this tactic - although becoming more common - is also becoming more perilous: the TripAdivsor  (TRIP - Get Report) blackmail.

One innkeeper in the Midwest, who has experienced this predicament spoke with MainStreet only under anonymity, because he does not want to encourage repeat blackmailers who use threats to cadge free rooms.

Also See: Obnoxious Hotel Fees You Don't Have to Pay

This inn has many hundreds of TripAdvisor reviews. 99% are excellent. 1% are very good. It has none worse than that, and the owner is proud of that unblemished record.

So when a guest whistled him aside one morning and said, "I'm going to give you a horrible TripAdvisor review. Couldn't sleep a wink. Awful mattress" -- the owner went into panic mode.

"What can I do?"

"You can comp me the room, and I won't post on TripAdvisor," said the guest.

The owner quickly agreed - initially it seemed like a good deal.

Later he realized this was all wrong, that he had been scammed. "So many people tell me they love our mattresses, that they want to buy them for their homes," said the innkeeper.

But in that moment he gave in and that is just one of many hundreds - possibly thousands - of such extortion attempts that play out daily.

A wave of TripAdvisor spawned blackmail appears to be sweeping the country.

Evidence mounts in the United Kingdom, too, where, in recent weeks, newspapers have been awash with stories of TripAdvisor blackmail. The headline in the Tory broadsheet The Telegraph screamed: "Hotels 'hostage to TripAdvisor blackmailers.'"

"Restaurant, hotel and B&B owners in Britain have reported a huge rise in the number of customers using the site as a threat," The Telegraph wrote. "They say the guests often make a complaint and say they will post a bad review unless given a free bottle of wine, dessert or a bill reduction."

But word of advice: hold off before jumping on this freebie train. Not only is it unethical, but now hoteliers are gathering their weapons and at least some are counterattacking.

Also See: The Definitive Guide to Saving on Summer Travel

In the U.S., Kevin Beauchesne, who owns Bryson City Cabin Rentals in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, said that he "frequently" encounters guests who demand a freebie or "they will post a negative review."

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