An English couple who checked into a Caribbean Beach Resort room at Disney World in Florida claim they were given a less than fairy tale welcome when they discovered a used condom, exposed wiring and dead cockroaches.
Michael and Paul Atwal-Brice took their two adopted sons, Levi and Lucas, on a holiday to the Orlando icon costing around $18,800, according to British newspaper The Mirror. The two boys are autistic and suffer from epilepsy and asthma.
The couple claim they could see the room was dirty from the outset, discovering the cockroach and wiring issues before finding a “used condom on the bed”.
“The boys could have stood on the cockroach and could very easily have touched the condom if they dropped their bouncy ball down the side of the bed,” Michael told the newspaper.
“That’s what shocked us. We’ve not just booked any old hotel. We’ve purposefully booked this resort and spent a vast amount of money to make it all magical and special.”
After complaining to management, the family was first moved to another room they described as also being dirty, before being upgraded to a room at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.
In a media statement, a spokesperson for Disney said, “This family has received compensation from us numerous times over the past five years, and they continue to return.
“Regarding their current visit, we believe the guest claims are exaggerated, and again took several steps to enhance their vacation.”
While the family may well have had a legitimate complaint, the number of guests who complain in order to get compensation is on the rise, according to reputation management specialists GuestRevu.
Hotel owners are seeing an increasing number of guests threatening to write bad reviews on platforms like TripAdvisor unless they receive bill reductions, room upgrades or free meals, for example.
“People threatening restaurants and hotels with bad TripAdvisor reviews to extort free things is a problem which has been growing,” deputy chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, Martin Couchman, told the website.
“People will either attempt to blackmail during the meal, or sometimes, more worryingly, people who have not even been to the restaurant will post a bad review to try to get a free meal, or a free stay in a hotel’s case.”
GuestRevu advises operators to put complaints into perspective to differentiate between blackmail threats and genuine concerns which might have been voiced by more than one person.
It advises rectifying genuine issues outside of a public platform, disarming angry guests with consideration to try resolve the issue, and offering a change of room (not an upgrade) or change of hotel within a group if necessary.
Adele Gutman, vice-president of sales, marketing and revenue for the Library Hotel Collection told the site: “If the answer is no and they just want a free room or a suite and there is nothing left to do for them, we offer to let them out of their reservation and help them find another hotel that better suits their needs.”
Threats of a bad review should be reported to a review site before a blackmailer has a chance to post anything, and written conversations with the guest documented so fraud detection experts can investigate and ensure malicious reviews don’t reach the website.
Ugly blackmail threats are rarely followed through on, according to TripAdvisor, and review sites are getting ever more savvy about picking up on bogus reviewers.