Hotel Owner Keeps Threatening To Sue Guests Who Leave Negative Reviews

A year and a half ago an American in Thailand was taken to jail for writing a bad review of a hotel on TripAdvisor. He spent a couple of nights in jail on charges of defamation. Under pressure of public outrage, the hotel finally dropped charges.

Around the same time the owner of the Sri Panwa Resort in Phuket was threatening to sue guests who left negative reviews for the property. Now that Thai hotel owner is again threatening a guest over a negative review – and filing a complaint for violating the nation’s lese majeste laws which forbid insult to the King under threat of criminal sanction.

[The guest] said she paid for a room which cost 40,000 baht per night but she was not happy with the condition of the room. She said the room was made out of old wood and it was musty.

In response, the owner of the hotel threatened to file charges…. “I know who you are and instead of me going to deal with you myself, I will expose you and you will apologize…or pay millions,” he said.

The hotel has nothing to do with the royal family, but the owner looked into the guest who left the review and found they’d shared a meme supporting “the reform movement” in Thailand, and threatened to report that to authorities. Repressive societies don’t just mean you need to fear the government, but also fellow citizens reporting you to the government for their own ends (like blackmail). The hotel owner wrote,

Just to remind you keyboard want-to-be gangster out there you are messing with the wrong person…messing with me it’s like messing with China USSR& USA security force working together

Credit: Sri Panwa Resort

In Thailand expressing a negative opinion online about an incident 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 the biggest reason of all not to stay at this hotel – or others owned by the same group – isn’t the substance of the complaint but that the owner has shown a predisposition to file charges over your comments about the property. If you visit Phuket, 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: @pueblotragico)

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. The real lesson is to learn the laws of the place you are visiting and understand that many American freedoms may not apply. In Thailand (and many other countries) writing a negative review can land you in prison. You may not agree but those are THEIR laws and you won’t change that no matter how much you feel it isn’t right.

  2. Maybe we should come up with a common review statement for when we don’t want to be sued by a ridiculous hotelier, such as:

    “My overall review is neutral, but definitely NOT negative.”

    “My overall rating is NOT negative. Nope, definitely not negative. No way negative.”

    “In my opinion, you would be very fortunate to have a positive experience at this hotel.”

    “My experience at this hotel has made me even more thankful for all of the wonderful experiences I’ve had at other hotels around the world.”

    “This hotel brings a whole new meaning to the rating score of neutral.”

    Or perhaps my favorite: “Staying at this hotel made me appreciate how truly wonderful is my own home in comparison.” That way, if the hotelier sues you for defaming the hotel, you can counter-sue for the hotel for defaming your home.

  3. Not sure how the owner’s threats for the guest to pay “millions” will matter if she is already out of Thailand. But it can cause problems should she decide to enter that country later.

  4. People, please dont visit Third World countries expecting you’re comments or presence are even appreciated. Know the world in which you live as well as visit.

  5. “The lesson is: Write the review once you are out of the country”

    Bingo. The U.S. isn’t going to extradite you to Thailand for leaving a negative hotel review, no matter how many countries’ (or former countries’) security forces the hotel management considers themselves to be equivalent to.

    And when you see that a hotel management company is pulling crap like this on other people, then don’t stay at their properties when you do visit their country. The revenue loss from the negative publicity this kind of nonsense will bring them should far outweigh that of one negative review. Once they figure out that stuff like this will negatively impact their bottom line, they’ll stop doing it.

  6. Could be a smart move by the hotel. Who wants to stay with guests with a negative attitude? I don’t like the location on Phuket of the property (beaches are better on west coast and its not very central at all) but nothing in this story would make me avoid staying there. If you are in Thailand and wake up on New Years morning the news leads with King’s message, message from a monk, best wishes from the military and then recap fireworks from prior night. It is a lovely country but you have to be a pretty dim bulb to believe western sensibilities carry much weight. It’s Thailand, go with the flow. Some of it is good and more often than anyone cares to think about things don’t go as planned. The weather is nice. Food generally very good. most people are very kind. ignore the rest of it. Want predictable service and consistent structural maintenance, go to Germany in December.

  7. Hilarious! What kind of idiot would leave a negative review of anyplace at all in a country that might put you in jail???? Come on, guys, get a clue. It may be your ‘right’ to do so, but why would you take the chance? Come on back to the USA where you can do whatever is legal without being arrested. Except renting a vehicle from Hertz, of course. If you must visit third-world countries, stay at a Hilton.

  8. We have left unfavorable reviews, most recently at a boutique hotel in Italy when we got home. The owner said he was going to sue us on a PM on TA. We said bring it. I am more concerned about restaurants, hotels, etc that give compensation/free nights, etc. on TA to people who write great reviews in exchange-that goes on quite a bit.

  9. very stupid move by the hotel. now they will have dozens of negative reviews. good luck suing everyone outside the country.

  10. We once stayed in a small hotel in Chiang Mai. We complained about a missing sheet between us and the blanket. They said no sheet is provided. So when we exited the reception we told the story to the couple who were there with us. This didn’t sit well with the owner. An hour later there was a strong knock on our door and we were ordered to leave immediately or our lives will be at risk. It was Dec. 31 and there were no rooms available at other hotels. We eventually found a dump hours later.
    Thai hospitality can be tricky.

  11. Defamation!? For criticising a business!?

    That has to be original … even for TiT, The Land of Smiles!

  12. “Repressive societies don’t just mean you need to fear the government, but also fellow citizens reporting you to the government for their own ends (like blackmail). The”

    Live in Texas, can confirm this is true.

  13. Defamation is also a Criminal offence in Thailand not a Civil one as in the US and most western countries. This means you will be arrested. Some people have been arrested by imigration entering the country because charges were filed against them whilst they were outside the country and they didn’t know.

  14. I normally book a hotel based on reviews. What then is the point of the review system if we cannot share our experience.

  15. I just had a real estate agent threaten to sue me when I left a one star review on Google for her. Thus was after I asked her to stop sending me harassing emails. She was terrible.

  16. If you’re expecting home standards and comforts then stay at home! Travel is about seeing different things and adapting to circumstances when you visit overseas cultures. Start with the premise that everything you do in your country is alien to them and you should be okay! Thailand is fantastic but some foreign visitors are irritants to the locals and I heartily concur!

  17. This will not only negatively effect this hotel but but Phuket and Thailand in general.
    Where is the hospitality and service that Thailand is famous for?

  18. Ah…Thailand…land of crocodile smiles lol

    They’re a backwards lot and don’t take well to criticism. Be very careful when you’re there to not let them “lose face”.

    Go enjoy their cheap thrills and go home. Never ever think you’re welcome there. You are just a walking ATM.


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