Part of managing a business' image in the age of online comment boards and social media is having to navigate the virtual battlefield of the internets, dealing with trigger-happy trolls along with customer criticism around every corner. Amy's Baking Company -- an Arizona bistro that, a couple of years ago, got fed up with nasty Facebook commenters, leaned hard on the caps lock and promptly flipped the hell out -- became the poster child of how not to do this.
The public, heavy-handed response from Hotel Icon's general manager this week to a negative TripAdvisor.com review may well go down as another example of how not to handle online criticism.
Four days ago, "Trish A" posted a scathing review of her recent New Year's Eve stay at the downtown Houston hotel that started with, "I had the most miserable experience of any hotel stay of my life at this hotel." The reviewer claims she heard "sounds of crunching noises" throughout the night, only to find that something ("I presumed was a mouse," she wrote) had eaten through a bag of unopened popcorn in the room.
The rest of the review (in which the guest claims the hotel's general manager told her she was lying, and that he's a "mouse expert") is just as weird/troubling:
In response, Icon general manager Steve Dennis threatened to sue for libel -- because apparently in the Marriott hotel chain, it's local general managers who make that decision, not a company lawyer or general counsel. Here's Dennis' post to TripAdvisor.com (since deleted, and replaced with a polite "Thank you for your feedback" after the story started trending on local Reddit):
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We reached out to the Reddit user who posted a screengrab of Dennis' threat, who claims to be the son of the couple who wrote the review. He told us via email, "We are currently working with Marriott corporate and would like to wait a day before anything else is done publicly."
Dennis, when reached by phone yesterday, wouldn't comment and asked that our questions be sent in writing. We'll update if the hotel responds to any of them.