Hotel Guest Jailed For Writing Bad Review On TripAdvisor

An American working in Thailand, Wesley Barnes, was arrested at his job and jailed over a defamation lawsuit filed by the owner of the Sea View Resort & Spa, Kah Change in response to a negative TripAdvisor review.

The man posted a one star review in July and two months later he was picked up by Thai police. It was a Friday and he “ended up spending a couple of nights in jail” before bring able to post 100,000 Baht (~ US$3165) bail. He faces up to two years in prison if convicted.

Here’s what the man actually wrote,

The staff was not friendly. Nobody could smile. The restaurant manager was very rude and full of himself. He is from the Czech republic. There are other hotels with better-friendlier staff. Avoid this place as if it was the Coronavirus!

Here’s the review and the legal charge:

According to the resort’s response to the review, this was their second post (the first one being deleted by the site). According to the owner, Mr. Barnes brought his own bottle of liquor to dinner and refused to pay the hotel’s corkage fee (500 THB) and “used abusive language” towards the server. The restaurant waived the fee.

Credit: Sea View Resort

In Thailand expressing a negative opinion online about an incident like this can lead to legal jeopardy. Although this isn’t unique to Thailand. Many countries have laws that aren’t friendly to critical expression. We’ve seen lawsuits in Canada, Europe and even the United States – though in the U.S. at least truth is a defense. Here in the States, always be careful that your reviews are factually accurate (at least in your reasonable subjective belief) and express opinion – don’t make false claims of fact.

It seems to me that’s the biggest reason of all not to stay at Sea View Resort & Spa – the owner has shown a predispositon to file charges over your comments about the property. If you visit Koh Chang, about 10 miles from the Trat airport which has Bangkok Airways service from Suvarnabhumi airport, consider staying somewhere else.

And that’s the biggest reason, perhaps, that a hotel owner shouldn’t sue over a negative review: the Streisand Effect. It’s only going to further publicize the negative review of the property.

(HT: Kalil D.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. When I feel I have to write a negative review, I write it with a ‘positive’ spin. I do the same with other normal online postings. Rather than say you’re a stupid #@*% idiot, I’ll say we have to disagree; or I think you need to doublecheck. When your response is ‘polite’, the next reader reader will give credence to what you said. This is especially helpful in restaurant reviews.

    Rather then say the food sucked, you should say I’ve tasted better food, and was very disappointed.
    I think you get the idea.

  2. Although I agree the man was a jerk, but to throw him in jail for a hotel review where no one got hurt is a bit over the top!

    BTW, since this went on the blogs, 2 fake reviews with one stars popped up on the hotel’s tripadvisor page!

  3. I write many positive reviews with considerable detail and photos for great experiences that I have, so when I write a review that is somewhat less then stellar it is easy to sweetie that the number of very positive reviews that I write dramatically outnumber the negative. I also try to find numerous positive statements to counterbalance negative comments. And my negative comments are always captured as opinion. That said it’s interesting to note the large % of places I did I not enjoy that are no longer in business a year later.

  4. The negative publicity of this altercation will cost this resort more business than the negative review. I use Tripadvisor. I go back 3 months and check all the reviews. One can easily tell if reviews are accurate or shilled by the resort. A single bad review most readers will ignore. It is only when the majority of reviews lean negative, that I will look elsewhere. I have a hotel list that I make for myself, of properties that I would not stay. Sea View Resort has been added.

    If the management had any sense about this, they just would have ignored it. There are many, many properties in the Thai islands. In this market environment, competition is stiff. Prosecuting guests is not the way to grow your market share!

  5. There is a very big difference between the prospect of civil action in a few countries and CRIMINAL defamation as it applies in Thailand. It’s a very dangerous country in which to offer an opinion, let alone speak your mind. Most expats assiduously avoid saying anything that’s identifiable.
    Forget the Land of Smiles BS/Spin…

  6. Okay, he was a jerk. But JAIL in Thailand for sharing his opinion? This makes everyone look bad-the guest, the hotel, and the country for having such stringent laws for (again) sharing an opinion.

  7. Finally one of those smearers gets what he deserves….he may write a review about from his cell about this cell.
    Enjoy your two year stay,

  8. The UAE is another place with strict laws regulating online content. The language criticizing the manager personally, for example, as opposed to simply reviewing the meal or the service more generally, could be problematic. Also, photographing or videotaping without consent is illegal.

  9. It’s unbelievable to think a single person has the power to judge a business where generally every business owner tries so hard to do their best. If a guest has a bad day or the resort has a slight slip in service does that give a person the right to run down an established business employing many staff with many expenses, the question I’m asking is.Does his complaint justify the possibility of ruining a whole resort especially in these hard times.I really hope this plays out with consequences to many nasty people out there. Rather sit down and rectify your problem face to face and move on, don’t hide behind your social media.

  10. It is in the nuancing capabillities of the guest. My answer would have been:
    If any of you would experience your stay in this particular establishment as i did, you would appreciate it as I did !!

  11. Don’t write the review until you’re in your home country. Then mail it. Doesn’t sound like Thailand is a good place for tourists!

  12. Wow, what a shame! We should all be so glad that we have freedom of speech in our countries. Hopefully, they release him. Even if it is not okay to leave reviews, that are false and defamation, nobody should be in jail for that. The hotel should sue the guy then.

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