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Bed bug review on TripAdvisor leads to hotel suing customers who wrote it

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  1. Nobugsonme

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Mon Jun 27 2011 2:41:28
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    A hotel in Illinois is suing a couple who wrote a review on TripAdvisor saying they encountered a bed bug in a room there.

    Please read the post on Bedbugger.com, and if you have comments, please post them there: more people will see them there!

    I started and run the site but am "not an expert."
  2. jrbtnyc

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Mon Jun 27 2011 4:06:11
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    Nobugs, haven't you said somewhere - which I can't point to right at this moment - haven't you said somewhere more people will tend to see comments if they're posted on *this* side?

    And that coincides with the impression I've had myself. My own habit is to leave my browser bookmark set on the forum and regularly monitor what's brouhahaing here, and not ever go look at anything over on the blog side unless given a particular head's-up to do so.

    Does anyone else have an opinion on this, either way.

    Maybe references in the media point to blog entries not forum entries?

    If my impression is correct and if I had to analyze a reason, maybe I would conjecture the forum is more appealing to a lot of people because new entries on all topics appear together and automatically sort to the top. So it's a broad-based ferment of everything that's going on now, not just one particular topic. Whereas on a blog thread it's only the one topic. When you post on a blog thread you wonder, will anyone see this who doesn't already know they're interested in this? Whereas when you post on the forum, you feel as though it may draw in people who hadn't thought about the particular thing you're writing about so they would never go looking for it, but now that they've stumbled onto it, hey yeah they *are* interested in it.

  3. JWhiteBBCTV

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Mon Jun 27 2011 8:20:08
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    I'll be extremely interested to see where this case goes, especially if the hotel wasn't negligent and the inspection performed by the PCO was legitimate.

    It's a great example of the negative influence the internet has had on business and personal issues in that people think it's a forum where you can say whatever comes to mind with no implications.

    While I think the hotel is being slightly sensitive here and this won't commonly happen because the legal fees will outweigh the awared, but people lose sight that forums like Trip Advisor or Hotels.com, etc... is where business is done these days. From speaking with 100's of hotel managers across the country I know these forums scare the hell out of many of them because they have a ton of influence on travelers and many of the reviews are generated by guests that have no one overseeing their comments. It all comes back to these sites where many of the reviews or comments are unsubstantiated yet can have a huge influence on business.

    This couple saying "I think our room had bed bugs" and "they didn't appear to care about our complaints/situation" would have been fine but to make definitive claims without proof and then to continue to go-on about negligence are strong claims.

    It could be completely possible that the hotel was negligent here and based on all the cases I've worked on, I would expect that before I expect them to be proactive and take a good approach. That being said, it's a good warning to the people to hedge what you say on these review sites unless you have proof because they can be quickly seen as slander. They are there for you to tell your stories but once you start making definitive claims and make accusations you open the door for this to happen.

  4. jrbtnyc

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Mon Jun 27 2011 8:57:51
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    Yes Jeff that's a fine analysis of why this case will indeed be worth following although...

    JWhiteBBCTV - 32 minutes ago  » 
    ...the legal fees will outweigh the award...

    ...way beyond the issue of legal fees, how about the effect on business for the hotel to get big publicity suing someone to say "no we DON'T have (ulp) bed bugs".

    Where alternatively they could have just let the TripAdvisor review ride, perhaps with only a firm, low-key rebuttal, and then get lost amongst the noise of many other similar such reviews and rebuttals.

  5. Nobugsonme

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Mon Jun 27 2011 12:39:06
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    Jrbtnyc,

    No, I have also previously encouraged people discussing what comes up in blog posts on the blog article comments. Although there's more posts on the forums, there are more readers there, and more people will see and benefit from your comments appearing on the articles themselves.

    It's up to you if you don't want to post on the blog. However, I can guarantee you many times more people will see your comment there.

    It may seem like the forum is fairly active, but even here, many times more people read than ever post. On the blog, the discrepancy is exponentially higher.

  6. so unsettling

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Mon Jun 27 2011 14:00:02
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    I don't know how to post on the blog. I tried it once, and nothing happened. Also, I don't know what the difference is between the blog and this. Seems awkward, to be directed to two different places.

    As far as this case goes, it just drives to the heart of issues with reportage. I do think people are reckless with it. Like Jeff says, people seem to be hanging on to the mistaken idea that the internet is a free-for-all where people can say what they want without worrying about consequences. I don't blame the hotel for being pissed. It all has to do with responsibility--if someone is going to make big accusations, they have to take the time to gather evidence, no matter how gross it is. It is unfortunate if a bed bug was crawling on this man, but this is what is happening to people everywhere, and most of us here have had to go to great lengths to "prove" that we had a problem. It isn't fun, and it isn't fair, but it's just the way it is. Bad things happen to all us good people.

    Another thing, and this is something of an aside. But why is it that people in hotels, restaurants, waiting rooms and a host of other public places never have any troubling spotting these bugs? Crawling on the husband, not hiding. It seems like every time there is a big report in the news, the bugs are always visible and obvious. But at home, people have to tear the place apart and run a search mission for months. From the beginning, I have been befuddled at the way these bugs are so obvious in hotels, restaurants, department stores, airplanes, and everywhere else. It makes me skeptical.

  7. Nobugsonme

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Mon Jun 27 2011 14:19:25
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    so unsettling - 1 minute ago  » 
    I don't know how to post on the blog. I tried it once, and nothing happened. Also, I don't know what the difference is between the blog and this. Seems awkward, to be directed to two different places.

    Hi so unsettling,

    Sorry you had trouble posting comments on the blog.

    In response to your comments, I personally think it is less awkward to post comments on the article you just read on the blog, rather than going over there, reading it, and coming back over here to discuss it.

    I do post links to articles on the blog here rather than recreating the content here, which would not make sense. The purpose of this is to alert people to the articles and invite participation on them.

    Although many here may read only the forums, most people read only the blog, and so it's a space with a wider readership. I think there are positive aspects to having people who read the blog (which based on emails I receive includes both a lot more experts & people in the media, along with the general public who know less about bed bugs than most forum users). Given the larger and more diverse audience, you can probably imagine the value of your insights being added to the conversation in that space.

    Again, it's up to you, but since you asked, I will explain how to do so if you want to.

    To comment on the blog, you simply fill out the form at the end of a particular article. (if you are looking at a single article, like the one this link takes you to, the comment form will be visible at the end of the article.

    If you are instead looking at the main page on Bedbugger.com, you can click the button that says "0 comments" (1 Comment, etc.) and it loads the comment form.

    Then you fill out a username and email and the comment. Your email will not display if entered into the email slot. Most times comments will appear immediately, though occasionally -- as here-- they do get caught by the spam filter and will be released soon after.

    Alternatively, you can click the button on the right blog sidebar to login there, with the same username and password as here. You have to do this even if you have just come from the forums.

    I hope that clarifies things for anyone who has had trouble.

  8. so unsettling

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Mon Jun 27 2011 14:22:33
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    thanks, nobugs. Will try it out soon:)

  9. Nobugsonme

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Mon Jun 27 2011 14:24:09
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    Thanks, so unsettling. Please let me know if you have any trouble!

  10. MyWorstFear

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Mon Jun 27 2011 21:59:25
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    Interesting that the hotel's PCO wrote that they didn't find anything but then also say they sprayed pesticide on the perimeter of the room. Wouldn't they need proof of bed bugs to be able to spray and treat?

  11. toledo

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Tue Jun 28 2011 6:16:26
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    I've mentioned on tripadvisor that I believe I got bed bugs from on hotel. Unfortunately, I had already written my review before I realized I got them from that hotel, so I wrote about it in the forum. Other people have mentioned it in their reviews of this particular hotel, which helped me to narrow down my source. I think some business owners just go a little crazy when a review accuses them of something. A couple of years ago, I wrote a restaurant review about "bloody chicken" (under-cooked for you Brits ), and started receiving threatening e-mail messages, accusing me of ruining their business. I really don't think a few bad reviews can have that much of an impact on a business. 90% of travellers have probably never even heard of tripadvisor.

  12. bbgirl

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Tue Jun 28 2011 6:28:59
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    When you see the number of mistaken pictures sent here for identification which are usually carpet or dermestid beetles of some kind I can see why there might be a number of false alarms in hotels where people are paranoid and over vigilant. I think we can assume that most hotels will be exposed to bedbugs by the revolving door of guests that come through the rooms. It's more important that they have good protocols to identify and treat the bugs and I think some major chains do have but it is still possible to check into a room that has been recently infested. I'm not surprised that the hotel is sueing the customers to preserve their reputation. I agree with So Unsettling......odd that a bug would crawl on the husband in plain sight

  13. toledo

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Tue Jun 28 2011 6:55:09
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    A bed bug crawled on my daughter in the middle of the day, as she was sitting on her bad, so I don't think it's odd. Thanks to her quick thinking, the bug ended up in a sandwich bag and was proof for the PCO's. None of the PCO's could find any bugs or fecal, so we were very lucky to catch that bug. We eventually caught more.

    I just stayed at a hotel with bed bug reviews on tripadvisor. I figured that if they had them at one time, surely the rooms had been treated and they were gone now. I think most of us are realistic and understand that all hotels will have to deal this problem, if they haven't done so yet. The hotels that claim they have never had bed bugs actually worry me a bit. My sister-in-law runs a hotel and says that they have had them twice and exactly what they did to get rid of them. I feel confident that she's knows what to look for and how to treat it.

  14. jrbtnyc

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Tue Jun 28 2011 7:58:47
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    Nobugsonme - 17 hours ago  » 
    ...
    Then you fill out a username and email and the comment. Your email will not display if entered into the email slot.
    ...

    Nobugs it threw me for a minute plus there's another concern you didn't address; may I suggest you incorporate the following modifications.

    > Then you fill out a username (not your real name) (can
    > be the same username you use on the forum side)
    > and email address and write your comment. Your email address
    > will not display to readers of the blog.

    > (Don't enter your real name unless you actually do want
    > that to be visible which we normally don't advise because
    > of possible negative effects with friends, your employer, etc.
    > who might search for your name on the internet and find
    > out you're participating in a discussion about bed bugs on
    > bedbugger.com so do you have them and might transmit
    > an infestation.)

    The first time I wrote a comment on the blog side I wrote my actual name not my username. (You subsequently changed it for me to my username but I would have had no way to make that correction myself.) It seemed to be telling me to do that because it asks for «Name». Perhaps you could correct that and have it ask instead for «Username (not actual name) (will appear to readers of the blog)» there? And where it says «E-mail» could it say instead «Email address (will not appear to readers of the blog)».

  15. jrbtnyc

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Tue Jun 28 2011 9:12:20
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    More on blog side vs. forum side.

    Already I count here on the forum side six on-the-merits comments (now seven including Jeff's below) about the hotel case and only one over on the blog side.

    Another thing I for one like about the forum side is there's a counter disclosing how many views of the thread have occurred. That doesn't exist on the blog side does it? Or could one be made available? That's what would be a convincing indication that the blog side has a wider readership: if the counter for the forum side says, say, 180 and a counter for the blog side says, say, 940; or if the counter for the blog side instead says, say, 32 that would be a strong indication it's really the forum side getting more views.

    A further thing I like about the forum side is the 60-minute period where you can edit after you've posted. Is there a similar capability (that I've overlooked) over on the blog side.

  16. JWhiteBBCTV

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Tue Jun 28 2011 9:13:27
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    Toledo, your comments are the perfect example to illustrate the issue here.

    You got bed bugs. You've heard hotels are a source of bed bugs. You've stayed in hotels. You piece A and B together and thus assume hotels were your source. You research the hotels you stayed in. You find one that seems to have a bunch of complaints. You assume that hotel is your source and thus write a blog post on it.

    From a legal perspective, you have ABSOLUTELY no evidence to write the post your wrote. Your comments and post is based completely on assumptions and if that hotel wanted to pursue legal action they would have a field day.

    What's to say that even though there is no history on whatever blog you were on that one of the other hotels was the source? What's to say that you didn't get bugs on one of your bags at an airport or in the plane? What's to say you didn't pick one up at an office or a taxi or somewhere else?

    I'm not saying there aren't more negligent hotels than not and those hotels should be crucified. I'm not saying that there isn't a chance your assumptions aren't right. What I can say is that we NEVER, in writing, state what the source of an infestation is because it is next to impossible to say definitively.

    It's all about knowing how to travel bed bug free and not about a given hotel. You can encounter them in any hotel.

  17. btaggart

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Tue Jun 28 2011 11:01:09
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    whats to say you didnt bring the bugs to the hotel. Everyone automatically blames hotels but someone brought them to hotels in the first place. The possibilities are endless

  18. toledo

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Tue Jun 28 2011 17:05:26
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    I don't know a single person in my city that has ever had bed bugs. My daughter's room was the first room to become infested. She had only stayed in one hotel during that six month period and she began getting bites about 6 weeks after staying at the particular hotel. I never said it definately came from that hotel, but the chances are extremely high. I stand by my belief and hotels don't scare me. I actually feel kind of sorry for them. Their occupancy rates are way down and then it's expensive to treat for bed bugs.

  19. Nobugsonme

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Wed Jun 29 2011 1:42:40
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    I apologize that we are now having two different conversations in this thread, but I do want to respond to jrbtnyc here, since others may still be wondering why I encourage commenting on the blog.

    jrbtnyc,

    I appreciate that you're "just not that into" the blog, and that's perfectly fine. Lots of people aren't interested. On the other hand, the majority of readers explore the blog or its FAQ pages and never come to the forums. That's fine for them, too.

    However, one of my hopes is that there will be more interaction in the blog comments between people on the forums (who I know read the articles on the blog sometimes) and readers of the blog, who as I have noted, tend to be a slightly different population. Those people don't tend to come to the forums to learn what is going on here. The forums are really mostly a space for people who have a question or need support.

    I can see lots of benefit, say, to a research entomologist --or, for that matter, an average Joe who hasn't had bed bugs-- getting the benefit of the insights of people here (who tend to be either in the trenches killing bed bugs for money or fighting them in their homes). The comments on blog articles are pretty much where I see that happening right now. That's one reason I think it would be great if people here posted on the article comments themselves.

    I'd like to change the architecture so there's not such a distance between "here" and "there," but that is something that requires certain things to happen software-wise. They will probably happen soon, but I can't make it happen yet as I would like.

    I also don't follow your argument that having two parallel discussions here and there of an article posted there makes logical or practical sense. And that is typically what happens. Sometimes there is one response here and seven on the blog article. This time it's the other way around.

    jrbtnyc - 15 hours ago  » 
    Already I count here on the forum side six on-the-merits comments (now seven including Jeff's below) about the hotel case and only one over on the blog side.

    This is not always the case. Quite often people comment on blog posts but not on the post I add to the forum announcing the existence of the blog post. (I do this because I know lots of people don't subscribe to the blog.)

    Some of those people come from the forums and others come straight to the blog. It's a "bigger" conversation if we have just one conversation.

    And it's not really intuitive for people to come back to the forums to continue the discussion (as you seem to be arguing they should). It's easier to stay there and comment on the article (once you actually go over there and take the time to read it) rather than come back here to discuss it.

    And for those who just stumble on this forum thread, they can't come up to speed unless they leave the discussion and go to the blog to read the article. It seems to make more sense for them to go and read it and stay there and comment.

    What happens instead when threads like this take off is that we have two simultaneous discussions of the blog article -- one on the blog, one here. How is that preferable to one? Most people here won't probably see Sam Bryks' insightful comments on the blog. And he won't see Jeff's or yours or toledo's (etc.). That's a shame.

    Another thing I for one like about the forum side is there's a counter disclosing how many views of the thread have occurred. That doesn't exist on the blog side does it? Or could one be made available?

    No, but it's not because I don't want to.

    Here's why: you can read this blog article about the lawsuit in three ways:

    1. You can go to http://bedbugger.com and scroll down.

    2. You can click the title of the article on bedbugger.com, or click on the direct link I posted above, which takes you to:
    http://bedbugger.com/2011/06/27/hotel-suing-customers-who-wrote-bed-bug-review-on-tripadvisor/

    3. You can read it via RSS feed in your email account or via a Feed Reader.

    The forum thread has been viewed 238 times, but many fewer people have seen it. I personally subscribed to it (to be notified of each new post) and so I not only clicked the thread five times to post, but another 5-10 times to see what others posted as responses. Each of those counts as a page view.

    That's what would be a convincing indication that the blog side has a wider readership: if the counter for the forum side says, say, 180 and a counter for the blog side says, say, 940; or if the counter for the blog side instead says, say, 32 that would be a strong indication it's really the forum side getting more views.

    I can't put up a counter for the reasons noted above, because it's not possible to accurately track people reading an article which is disseminated in the three ways outlined above.

    I can't really do anything to "convince" you of this, but it is a fact that the main website gets more views than the forums.

    A further thing I like about the forum side is the 60-minute period where you can edit after you've posted. Is there a similar capability (that I've overlooked) over on the blog side.

    As much as I'd like to, I can't do it due to the way the software works.

    To respond to your other suggestion, it's not possible to change the word "Name" to "Username" on the comment form.

    However, I have added a notation to the comment form on the blog, which reads,


    Your name will be displayed. Non-bed bug professionals may wish to use a pseudonym.

    I hope that helps clarify things.

    Again, no one has to post to the blog comments -- people are going to do what they like, but I hope you will consider:
    (a) how much more logical it is to have a single active conversation on a topic, and
    (b) how much sense it makes to have this conversation under the article being discussed, and
    (c) how much benefit there can be to the general knowledge about bed bugs from having people who typically post to the forums interacting with people who read and some of whom comment on the blog articles. I think the blog readers have a lot to learn from the forum readers. And the forum readers will doubtless also learn from the blog readers.

  20. jrbtnyc

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Wed Jun 29 2011 11:14:20
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    Nobugs thanks for your detailed comments and hopefully my observations didn't come across as complaints. I'm one of many who have always said you're doing a superb job with bedbugger.com, as proved by how often it happens that people find bedbugger.com via Google due to its deserved prominence in search results.

    It seems like the basic architecture of the software has an awful lot of limitations you the moderator are running up against all the time. One of those is, having blog entries vs. forum entries in the first place. Couldn't blog entries that get cited in the media etc. just as easily be forum entries? Especially since by creating the link with help of clicking on the little # sign the link can go directly to the particular forum entry not just to the top of the forum thread the entry is in.

    The forum has a lively energetic feel that's missing in the blogs which are more like reading an academic journal article or something, with each topic walled off from every other topic thus tending to exclude casual passers-by who otherwise might jump in and contribute a lot, as seems to happen all the time in the forum threads.

    I don't mean to sound as though I'm advocating or urging anyone to favor the forum over the blogs, just seeking to articulate why I think some people including myself tend to do so.

    Anyway I'll start looking at the blog entries more on topics of interest, and if I have something to say (audience cringes ) I'll consider whether to post on the blog side or forum side.

    Oh by the way another question: can ordinary users like myself open new blog topics? I guess they can do so but only by going through you first, is that correct? If so then that seems like another clear-cut reason a lot of ordinary users prefer the forum where they can just fire up a new line of discussion on the spur of the moment.

  21. Nobugsonme

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Wed Jun 29 2011 14:37:13
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    Jrbtnyc,

    Actually, I am quite happy with the software in use here. I have looked at other options and it serves the site well.

    I'm not interested in getting rid of the blog at this time. It has a following which are likely aware of the forums but not interested for whatever reason.

    I am open to new people writing on the blog and a number of people here have done so, including parakeets, Winston O'Buggy, Mangycur, among others, as well as someone who's very active right now in the forums but did not want a lot of fanfare, so I am not mentioning any names. The author's name is at the top of each post.

    However, it is edited content-- which is a strength, just as the almost-free-for-all on the forums is a strength-- so it's not just open for anyone to post anytime. If anyone wants to write, they can definitely get in touch.


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