In February 2014, I spent a week in France, with stops in Lyon, Montpelier, and Paris. I haven’t thought much about the trip in a while, but I had stayed at the Hilton in Lyon at Cite Internationale. It was fine, and I made a review post that was nothing out of the ordinary. There were some minor critiques, but my end-up was “But generally I was pleased with the hotel and would recommend the Hilton Lyon if you’re in Lyon, as long as you’re not bus-averse.”
I had not really thought about this hotel or blog post in any way, until yesterday, when I got an email that I had gotten a comment on my blog. Posted by someone with an email address from Helene in marketing at Lavorelhotels.com, it stated:
I work in Marriott Lyon Cité Internationale hotel (in France).
Our hotel is on your website : http://www.youwentwhere.com/?p=2719
But, we don’t want be present on your website.
Is it possible to remove this webpage ?
I have 156 posts about hotels on this site, and this is the first time I’ve received such a message. First off, I had to confirm that apparently, the Hilton Lyon is now the Marriott Lyon Cite International. But my second reaction was “That’s nice, but, no.” I went back and reviewed the post, and confirmed there was nothing even remotely libelous, and then got outraged.
Unlike complaints by bloggers when mistake fares they knew were mistakes aren’t honored, conduct like this represents a real threat to consumer rights. More and more businesses have been engaging in legally and ethically questionable behavior, some by “reputation management companies” they retain, to eliminate all negative reviews from the internet. Most consumers lack the legal understanding of their rights that I have. Indeed, although I haven’t personally litigated many of these cases, I happen to work with one of the nation’s preeminent litigators on issues of consumer internet speech. But a lot of consumers would just give in and delete content even though they are under absolutely no obligation to do so.
I’m torn about this particular “request.” On the one hand, it’s just a request, and not a threat of legal action (yet). But the fact that someone from marketing at Lavorel Hotels found a post from more than three years ago, that mentioned the old name of the hotel, and was relatively milquetoast, suggests this is part of a deliberate campaign to eliminate all consumer discussion about the Marriott Lyon Cite Internationale.
I intend to write to both Marriott International and the property itself, as this just isn’t acceptable. But for now, the case is just going to stand as a good lesson about the “Streisand Effect.” The Streisand Effect describes the idea that attempts to censor information often leads to more negative press than if the censor had just left the information alone. In this case, the Streisand Effect is particularly strong, since the original post didn’t even have the current name of the hotel. Helene put the name of the hotel in the comments, now meaning the blog post will come up for people who search for the Marriott Lyon Cite International. In addition, I have very very few blog readers. This is not a commercial blog — I have grossed zero dollars over the years, and have a negative net profit. My review of the Hilton Lyon, now Marriott Lyon Cite International, has been viewed 35 times or less according to my tracking software. But I imagine *this* post will get more views, and the unsavory business tactics of the marketing team at Lavorel Hotels will reflect more negatively on the Marriott Lyon Cite International than my post from 3.5 years ago. (Lavorel’s other properties are Le Château de Bagnols in Beaujolais, Les Suites de la Potinière in Courchevel, the Kopster Hotel in Lyon, and Lyon City Boat.)
In the travel blogging world, there are a lot of untruthful reviews about hotels out there — many of them written by commercial bloggers who get special treatment from hotels, or other incentives that, explicitly or not, encourage them to write fawning things about the property, even though the stays are not representative of that of your average guest. For a hotel to go out of their way and try to eliminate truthful, generally positive reviews is pretty outrageous.