Resort Files Police Report Against Guests Who Gave Bad Review

A resort in Malaysia has filed a police report, and is threatening to sue, after influencers gave the property a bad review online.

Alang’s Rawa in Johor, Malaysia is a three hour drive from Singapore, and four and a half hour drive from Kuala Lumpur. The resort is reportedly owned by the son of a first cousin of the Sultan of Johor’s father. And the owner is not happy with a review his remote property has received.

He complains that they never contacted the hotel before posting negatively, and that the property is “an enchanting, rustic and authentic island experience” – and that what the place is like is fully disclosed. No one is “coerce[d]” into staying with them, and they don’t mislead about what guests get. Yet they have gotten “several death threats” after the review.

Bella Khann has over 400,000 followers on Twitter and over 800,000 followers on Instagram, more than 1.2 million subscribers on YouTube and also on TikTok. Some of her followers are likely… passionate.

Last weekend they reported their experience on a $3,600 stay with 15 people over two nights. This wasn’t a comped ‘review stay’ and they were surprised at the price to receive “unhygienic rooms” without additional towels available, “musty” beds “full of bed bugs as four people from her trip had rashes on their bodies” and without “a clean water source as they had to wash their faces and body with salty seawater.”

She even had to buy big mineral water for RM10 to make milk for her daughter as a glass of warm water was charged RM3.

Besides the unfriendly staff and unprofessional management, she also claimed that the boat ride was unsafe and that the staff complained about carrying their heavy bags in front of them.

The problem is the way their staff treat us, how we sit for free… and the hygiene of the room. Musty smell with sheets. Bed bugs are all over the place and 4 people including my aunt are sitting in the room. Not to mention the story about the boat that we want to go back. I’m the one with the baby. It’s brought like that when people complain and laugh??? We rarely want to complain, but this is too much. If you want to see more, just look at Norren’s ig story. I don’t know, maybe our fate is like this. Read on trip advisor, there are many similar things. It was our mistake not to read the reviews before going.

It’s apparently a beautiful spot, with very basic rooms, indifferent service, and a lot of nickel and diming (like being charged for a cup of water). The rooms may not be clean, based on reviews, and they run out of towels. Rooms start at around US$530++. Children aren’t allowed on weekends, but if guests are important enough reviews suggest there may be children there.

The resort doesn’t sound like it would appeal to me, but there are far more good reviews than bad reviews, though there are a lot of (very) negative reviews. Like many places – and aside from the report of bed bugs – it seems to be about expectations.

Here is the resort’s response.

There are other poor reviews of the property on TripAdvisor.

Three years 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.

Last year another Thai resort threatened to report guests to authorities after a bad review, since the owner found the guest had shared a meme critical of that country’s king. 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.

Expressing a negative opinion online about an incident can lead to legal jeopardy. 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.

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

(HT: @bytebot)

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. Although I am in Southeast Asia a lot, I have never been to Malaysia and it is not on my list of places to go.

  2. Good, Why not? Its slander in an electronic form available at people’s fingertips. Mostly axe grinding of stuff they wouldn’t have the courage to say directly to people’s faces. Its about time people fought back…

  3. It’s a private island. A private island is whatever the owners make of it, and never should reflect on the country it is in. I’ve been to Malaysia three times and would love to spend more time there.

    A basic rule anywhere is to politely take up a complaint with staff while you are present. If you don’t speak up and give them a chance to address a problem, you pretty much forfeit your right to be taken seriously after the fact.

  4. Anyone who would pay more than $500 US for a hotel and not check the reviews is just dumb. This ‘influencer’ is just showing the world what an idiot s/he is.

  5. One AirBnB host hounded me for a positive review even before I entered the property. They sent me numerous text messages during and after the stay. They even left me a voice mail message several days after departure. This made me very suspicious!!! They wanted met to :
    – take the garage out prior to leaving, but the dumpster outside was overflowing
    – leave any dirty dishes in the dishwasher, but there was no dishwasher
    – leave dirty towels in the tub, but the unit only had a small shower stall
    – assure that I was gone by 9 AM on the last day; I was out by 6 AM to catch an 8 AM flight

    If I had left a less than perfect review, I feel I would have been hit with a “supplement cleaning charge” in retaliation. Therefore, I took many photos prior to leaving to prove compliance and never posted a review.
    If they had stayed off my back, they would have gotten an A+ review.

  6. Steven: You posted “Its slander in an electronic form …”. Well, maybe or maybe not. Slander is an oral form of defamation, while libel is its written form. More importantly, it may not be slander. Nothing is defamatory if it is true (truth is an absolute defense). So it what the posted wrote is true as to prices, state of room, bedbugs, etc., it isn’t libel. None of us know that at this point.

  7. I stayed at a Hyatt in SEAsia that would give you a free drink if you did a positive review.

    Shitty hotel, but had great reviews!

  8. Gary is a rare moment of cultural insularity talks about repressive societies. Travelers in Asia should be aware that in these societies concepts of Face and Shame are important. You should avoid public shaming and yelling at people, which seem to be staples of our social interaction. Keep calm, be polite. It’s not your country.

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