This tourist will remember the Thai island of Koh Chang. After a bad hotel review on TripAdvisor, he was arrested and now faces two years in prison…
Many of us have a habit of posting our opinions online in the form of a review after going to a hotel or a restaurant. But after hearing this story, we bet you will think twice next time before posting one. In Thailand, Wesley Barnes, an American expatriate, was arrested by the police at his workplace by police on Koh Chang island in the south of the country after leaving bad reviews on sites like TripAdvisor. The reviews he left were for the Sea View Resort where he had stayed for one night with a friend.
The island’s Police Colonel Thanapon Taemsara told the media that:
The Sea View Resort owner filed a complaint that the defendant had posted unfair reviews on his hotel on the TripAdvisor website.
He then went on to explain that Wesley Barnes has been accused of damaging the hotel’s reputation and failing to pay a corkage fee for alcohol that he brought into the hotel’s restaurant. The American was arrested by the police and quickly released on bail.
Richard Barrow, a travel journalist, spoke to Wesley Barnes and explained the incident on social media as well as the other side of the story.
According to Wesley Barnes
The American gave his side of the story to Richard Barrow. In a long text that was relayed on Twitter, he explained that as soon as he arrived at the hotel, things started to go wrong. He entered the hotel with a friend and they both asked the price of the room, to which they were told by staff to check the prices on the internet. Once the room had been booked, the staff couldn’t be nicer.
They then went to the beach to have a few drinks. To avoid drinking and driving, they decided to eat at the hotel’s restaurant and were asked to pay an extra fee if they wanted to consume the rest of the bottle of gin they had in the restaurant. They complained about this and the manager came over. Even though they eventually agreed to pay the fee, the manager wasn’t polite at all.
That same evening, the two friends saw the same manager behave aggressively towards other employees. So he warned the manager that he would write a bad review when he left. After he had written the review, he received threats from the hotel that if he did not withdraw the review, he would be sued for libel. He couldn’t believe it…
According to the hotel
The Sea View Resort issued a statement that the journalist also later relayed:
He left fabricated stories on his reviews on TripAdvisor and Google that included xenophobic connotations, accusations of slavery and even comments that could mislead readers to associate our property with the coronavirus. He had been posting reviews roughly 1-2 weeks apart with obvious defamatory intentions. Despite our multiple efforts to contact him to resolve this in an amicable way for well over a month, he chose to ignore us completely. He only replied to emails, messages on reviews sites, etc. once he had been notified of our complaint by authorities.
The hotel was able to file a complaint against the guest as a result of Thailand’s anti-defamation laws. They are often criticised for endangering people’s fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and expression. The highest sentence for this crime is two years in prisonand a fine of around £5,000.