A U.K. couple was fined $160 by a hotel they had stayed in and reviewed poorly on the TripAdvisor website, but due to public uproar and the intervention of the local council, have been refunded the money.

Back in the day, customers of hotels and motels were always taking a chance when choosing where to stay and booking a room. Before the advent of the Internet, travelers relied on travel agents, brochures, and recommendations from friends when deciding where to stay, or picked a hotel or motel chain which they knew had a good reputation or that they had patronized before.

The Internet changed all that, not only by making it instantly possible to see exactly where it is you'll be staying, but also by allowing customers to help each other out by reviewing the establishments which they have patronized and sharing their experience with their fellow travelers.

TripAdvisor is the biggest website for such travel reviews and advice, but The Broadway Hotel in the resort city of Blackpool, U.K., was so fed up with the bad reviews it was receiving that it instituted the following policy in its booking agreement: "Despite the fact that repeat customers and couples love our hotel, your friends and family may not. For every bad review left on any website, the group organiser will be charged a maximum £100 per review. "

When Tony Jenkinson, 63, and his 64-year-old wife, Jan, stayed in the hotel back in August, they were unhappy, to say the least, and took to TripAdvisor to warn fellow travelers that The Broadway Hotel was a "rotten, stinking hovel." True to its policy, the hotel promptly charged an extra £100, or about $160, to their credit card. The couple had only stayed there for one night and paid about a third of that price for the room itself.

When the story got reported, the Blackpool Council got involved, a spokesman for which stated, "we have spoken to the hotel owner and asked for the policy to be removed, which has now happened. This is a unique case and not one that we have come across before." The hotel owner has also agreed to refund the extra fee, which the Jenkinsons were already disputing with their credit card company.

The one question which remains to be answered is, if the Jenkinsons were aware of TripAdvisor as a resource, which they seemed to be since they posted on it, why didn't they check it themselves before staying at The Broadway Hotel? A quick visit to the site shows that out of 255 reviews of the hotel, a full 146 of those customers rated it as "terrible," which is a damning step below the next-highest rating of "poor," which would have been warning enough. Surely next time the couple will take their own advice and search the Internet for reviews before booking a room anywhere.

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