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TheStreet Open House

TripAdvisor Blackmailers Demand Cash and Freebies

Beauchesne is so frustrated, he is talking with an attorney about the legal recourse he might have.

Maria Rekrut, who owns a vacation rental business in Niagara Falls, said that TripAdvisor blackmail has become "the hottest topic among vacation rental owners."

She added that in some cases, guests have demanded hard cash or else. Rekrut refused to pay up and, she said, they in fact posted their negative reviews.

Fact: instances of attempted blackmail appear to focus on smaller, independent inns, B&Bs and vacation rentals. Big, professionally managed properties have been trained to say buzz off to would-be blackmailers because, frankly, the impact of a single negative review cannot be shown to be large.

But even some small innkeepers now are directly fighting back.

Larry Willis. who owns an inn in California's Sonoma County, told his story: "We only experienced this once, but it was a blatant case of extortion. A couple stayed three days and were quite pleasant the whole time. The day they departed, we had a nice conversation and they said how enjoyable the trip had been. Three days later, we got an email complaining about the foul odor in the room, which had ruined their vacation. They asked for a full refund or we'd be getting a negative TripAdvisor review. I told her to go ahead and write the review. She did, but it was a rambling and less than clear. I responded on TripAdvisor and to her directly. No further contact was ever made."

Willis said the negative review created no hit on his business.

That is a lesson more innkeepers are learning: many nasty reviews just sail wide of the mark.

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