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VteckiCk

Well played Tripadvisor?

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3rd Gear (edited)

BANGKOK — The resort hotel in Thailand got its public apology. The unhappy American guest who spent two nights in jail for criticising the hotel online got his criminal charges dropped. But it was Tripadvisor, the giant online travel review platform, that got the last word.Mr Wesley Barnes, the American traveller who was arrested after being charged with criminal defamation for posting critical reviews of the Sea View resort on the island of Koh Chang, quietly left Thailand this week.

With Mr Barnes safely out of the country, Tripadvisor took punitive action Wednesday (Nov 11) against the resort, posting a one-of-a-kind notice on the Sea View’s page warning travellers that the hotel was behind the jailing of a guest for his harsh reviews.

“This hotel or individuals associated with this hotel filed criminal charges against a Tripadvisor user in relation to the traveller writing and posting online reviews,” the warning reads. “The reviewer spent time in jail as a result.”

The dispute between the resort and its guest began over a US$15 (S$20) corkage fee, but turned into a clash between American principles of free speech and Thailand’s far-reaching laws that limit expression and are used to stifle criticism of businesses, the Thai government and the monarchy.

Tripadvisor’s business model is based on the idea that everyone has “the right to write,” said Mr Bradford Young, vice president and associate general counsel.

“This is the first case we are aware of where a Tripadvisor member spent time in jail as a result of a review they posted to our website.”

After the warning notice was posted, the hotel said it was “deeply disappointed” and asserted that “the warning message from Tripadvisor is extremely misleading and lacks complete information.”

While Thailand is seen as one of the world’s most tourist-friendly places, its anti-speech arsenal includes laws against criminal defamation, improper online content, sedition, contempt of court and insulting the monarchy.That law, known as lèse-majesté, can bring a 15-year prison sentence.

“Thailand’s use of criminal defamation is really off the charts,” said Mr Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch.

“It seems like the Asian notion of ‘saving face’ has really been taken to heart by Thais who don’t hesitate to head to court over the smallest perceived slight or insult. If Thailand would simply decriminalise defamation, making it a purely civil law matter, this would create a major change in Thai society overnight.”

In recent weeks, thousands of protesters have defied restrictions on free speech and street protests to stage huge demonstrations in Bangkok, Thailand’s capital, demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister, Mr Prayuth Chan-ocha, the dissolution of parliament and changes to the constitution.

In a rare challenge to the monarchy, they have also called for Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn to come under the constitution’s authority and return control of the crown assets, worth tens of billions of dollars.Many protest leaders have been arrested, several of them more than once.

In the case of Mr Barnes, he began writing wide-ranging, critical reviews of the hotel in June after the corkage fee dispute.

The Sea View, located in the Gulf of Thailand, an hour’s flight from Bangkok, said it tried unsuccessfully to persuade him to delete his posts and had no choice but to file a police complaint.Mr Barnes was arrested in September and spent two nights in jail as he tried to make bail. He faced two years in prison.

Tripadvisor began paying his legal fees and helped bring the parties together to negotiate. Eventually, the Sea View agreed to drop its complaint if Mr Barnes made a “sincere apology” for his reviews, which they said included “xenophobic comments against hotel staff.”


Mr Barnes accepted the offer, and in a statement that resembled a forced confession, he apologised and thanked the hotel for forgiving him.The fine print of the settlement also required Mr Barnes to obtain an agreement from Tripadvisor, and he asked the company for a commitment that it would not post a “red badge” warning — Tripadvisor’s most dreaded notice — on the hotel’s page.

Tripadvisor posts various warnings to alert travellers to safety issues, and such notices can result in a significant drop in business. Agreeing to the hotel’s demand meant going against the company’s own practice of informing travellers.“That was problematic for us,” Mr Young said. “The settlement agreement basically required Mr Barnes to convince Tripadvisor to stop acting like Tripadvisor.”

The company has been criticised in the past for not doing enough to warn travellers of specific dangers, especially cases of rape.In the end, Tripadvisor gave Mr Barnes a letter that he hand-delivered to the hotel, promising the company would not post a “red badge” on the hotel’s page.

With that, the charges were dismissed last week and the police returned his passport and bail money.

In the meantime, Tripadvisor began drafting a new type of warning that it posted Wednesday, after Mr Barnes had reached his destination outside Thailand.

The warning comes with a penalty: a substantial drop in the hotel’s ranking on the website.In its statement, the Sea View accused Tripadvisor of reneging on its commitment by posting the new notice.

“We fail to understand how Tripadvisor going back on their word, and not being impartial, is helpful to any of the parties involved in this case,” the hotel said.

Tripadvisor countered that the company was not a party to the settlement and that its commitment was to Mr Barnes to keep him out of prison.

“We have no agreement with the hotel,” Mr Young said. “We sent a letter to Mr Barnes taking steps to ensure his safety. We told the hotel the letter was accurate when they asked. We also have not violated any terms of the letter.” Mr Barnes did not respond to a request for comment.

A Massachusetts-based company, Tripadvisor has operated for 20 years and has posted 878 million reviews from countries around the world. It usually has 50 to 100 lawsuits pending in various countries, most commonly about free speech, Mr Young said.“Every traveller,” he said, “has a fundamental right to share their experiences and opinions with other travellers.” 
 

 

That said, everyone should take reviews with a pinch of salt. I do read reviews before I book from Agoda, Tripadvisor but it is also good practice to manage expectations so you dont end up being overly disappointed. If youre paying extremely cheap for a hotel or resort then dont expect the best cleanliness or service or floor space. There will always be trade offs. If it turns out to be a good deal then good for you. Same for food reviews. Key is to manage expectations.

disclaimer:I must also comment that I did not read what the american posted abt the hotel to result in a defamation case. If theres one thing that covid19 has exposed, it is that americans and their freedom of speech (and freedom to not wear mask) is whats causing their cases to notdrop

Edited by VteckiCk
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i did follow the case.

it started because the person brought liquor to dinner at the hotel's restaurant and objected to paying corkage charge.

a quarrel started between the person and staff.

the hotel relented in the end and allowed the person to drink without paying corkage charge.

later after he checked out he posted comments that did not relate to this, instead claiming racism and other unmentionable comments.

not a case of for example saying the hotel bed sheets are not clean and the hotel got upset.

the hotel did try to reach out to the person to retract but he decided that freedom of speech was his right.

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1 minute ago, Mooose said:

i did follow the case.

it started because the person brought liquor to dinner at the hotel's restaurant and objected to paying corkage charge.

a quarrel started between the person and staff.

the hotel relented in the end and allowed the person to drink without paying corkage charge.

later after he checked out he posted comments that did not relate to this, instead claiming racism and other unmentionable comments.

not a case of for example saying the hotel bed sheets are not clean and the hotel got upset.

the hotel did try to reach out to the person to retract but he decided that freedom of speech was his right.

so typical self entitled tourist? is there a screenshot of the original review?

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1 minute ago, VteckiCk said:

so typical self entitled tourist? is there a screenshot of the original review?

he is an expat school teacher working there for years, typical self entitled farang superiority complex if you asked me  

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...so is another case of AMDK...but the he was already given free corkage to bring in liquor into the restaurant,why still write shit about the hotel...hmmm not happy i guess

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Twincharged

I deal with a fair bit of Thai people, they are generally gentle and polite, this is especially so for people in the F&B,  service  and tourism industry. Judging from the extent of the problem, without reading  into details,  i would conclude with my bias sense that must be the AMDK who was trying to play punk there. 

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Hypersonic
6 minutes ago, Ct3833 said:

I deal with a fair bit of Thai people, they are generally gentle and polite, this is especially so for people in the F&B,  service  and tourism industry. Judging from the extent of the problem, without reading  into details,  i would conclude with my bias sense that must be the AMDK who was trying to play punk there. 

I read all the reviews and agree the AMDK who was trying to play punk there. 

:grin:

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6 hours ago, Ct3833 said:

I deal with a fair bit of Thai people, they are generally gentle and polite, this is especially so for people in the F&B,  service  and tourism industry. Judging from the extent of the problem, without reading  into details,  i would conclude with my bias sense that must be the AMDK who was trying to play punk there. 

 

6 hours ago, Jamesc said:

I read all the reviews and agree the AMDK who was trying to play punk there. 

:grin:

Agree. But does it warrant jail time !

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Supersonic

Like it or not, I respect the local laws when I travel.

Singapore also has some weird laws before we throw our stones.

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Twincharged
30 minutes ago, shrjun said:

 

Agree. But does it warrant jail time !

One who does not respect others shall deserve no respect.

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Turbocharged

哇! 有墨水!  You have got ink!

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8 hours ago, Ct3833 said:

I deal with a fair bit of Thai people, they are generally gentle and polite, this is especially so for people in the F&B,  service  and tourism industry. Judging from the extent of the problem, without reading  into details,  i would conclude with my bias sense that must be the AMDK who was trying to play punk there. 

you are right, generally thais are not confrontational. they like to settle issues that arise or if they can overlook it they would.

which may be why at the end of the day they acceded to not charging corkage (which imho a hotel in say singapore may not have acceded to)

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Hypersonic
9 hours ago, shrjun said:

 

Agree. But does it warrant jail time !

No it doesn't but I bet he won't try this sheet again.

:D

Some people slap them on the wrist they won't learn one.

Kenna jialat jialat then they know.

I don't feel bad he spent 2 days in jail.

Not to be childish but orbigoot.

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Hypersonic

If I go Singapore restaurant drink my own drink and then don't pay the corkage got police car or not?

Or restaurants here so nice just let me don't pay like in Thailand?

So we more servere or Thailand?

:D

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