No, An American Didn’t Face Jail Time Just For A Bad Review

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No, An American Didn't Face Jail Time Just For A Bad Review

No, An American Didn’t Face Jail Time Just For A Bad Review

Despite the clickbait titles exploding on the internet lately, an American did NOT face jail time “just for a bad review”. I want to take a deeper look at this, since it’s flooding every travel site lately with the idea that simply writing “bad service, won’t return” could put someone’s life/freedom in danger. Let’s dig deeper, because an American absolutely did not face jail time in Thailand “just because he wrote a bad review on TripAdvisor!!!”.

The Backstory

An expat living and working in Thailand went to a hotel restaurant. That part everyone acknowledges. After some arguing with staff, this man went online and left some really bad reviews. Again, everyone is on the same page. So what’s the deal?

He was a jerk from the start.

This guy brought his own alcohol with him and demanded the staff open and serve it to him for no fee. The staff finally relented, after the guy created a huge scene. The American expat was verbally abusive toward staff when they tried to charge him the 500 Baht ($16.56 USD) corkage fee. The food & beverage manager intervened and waived the fee so the customer would calm down and stop creating a scene.

He broke TripAdvisor rules in his reviews.

Creating multiple accounts so you can post multiple reviews is against the rules. Also, using your reviews to intentionally attack people with no legitimate “review” in the material is against TripAdvisor rules. His first review was removed because of this.

He broke Thai laws in his reviews.

Here’s where “I’d do the same” comes into play. In one of his reviews, flagged & removed by TripAdvisor, the restaurant guest in question accused the business of participating in modern-day slavery. Accusing a business of crimes is pretty serious. Doing it just because your feelings were hurt, but you have no evidence for this claim, is defamation. And in Thailand, this is illegal. Agree or disagree with this, living in Thailand requires this man to follow the local laws.

And imagine you’re this business. Some guy comes in, acts like a jerk, you give in so he’ll calm down, and then he attacks you and tries to destroy your business online. Wouldn’t you get lawyers involved? Defend your rights? Try to protect your business from someone seeking to destroy it via online tantrums? Call the police if you think this behavior is illegal? I would.

He had chances to fix it.

According to all reports available, the hotel made multiple attempts to reach the offending expat. They told him they wouldn’t start a legal process if he would take down his reviews and just say “sorry”. Seems pretty simple. I find that totally fair. The reviewer/hotel guest simply refused to communicate or participate in any of this mediation.

Legal case begins.

So, the hotel did what was within their rights and called the police / their lawyers. After 2 days in jail, the American expat posted bail of 100,000 Baht ($3165 USD). He faced up to 2 years in jail as the maximum penalty, if convicted. The hotel continued to tell the guest that they would drop the charges if he would remove his reviews and apologize.

No, An American Didn't Face Jail Time Just For A Bad Review

TripAdvisor Joins In

TripAdvisor paid the man’s legal fees and helped mediate between him and the hotel/restaurant. After an apology, the hotel then dropped the charges. Part of the agreement included the hotel asking for a guarantee they wouldn’t be red-flagged on TripAdvisor.

True to its word, TripAdvisor did not red flag the hotel. Instead, however, they posted a warning on the page of the hotel/restaurant:

“This hotel or individuals associated with this hotel filed criminal charges against a Tripadvisor user in relation to the traveler writing and posting online reviews. The reviewer spent time in jail as a result. Tripadvisor serves its users best when travelers are free to share their opinions and experiences on our platform – both positive and negative. The hotel may have been exercising its legal rights under local law, however, it is our role to inform you so you may take this into consideration when researching your travel plans.”

Why I Have 0 Sympathy For This Guy

Despite all of the headlines amounting to “he went to jail just for leaving 1 star! OMG!” there is obviously a lot more going on here. The customer was a jerk from the outset, another person at his table apologized to staff for his behavior, and the hotel even gave in to his demands. Then, he violated TripAdvisor rules (multiple accounts) and broke the law (accusation of crimes/defamation). I’m actually super surprised TripAdvisor stepped in to support a bully.

In fact, I’m disappointed they supported someone who broke their rules and the law via their platform. And I find it laughable that TripAdvisor says “Tripadvisor serves its users best when travelers are free to share their opinions and experiences on our platform – both positive and negative.” I don’t think anyone who reads the details believes a guest had problems simply for sharing an honest review. He was free to share his experience–but he didn’t share that. Though the headlines make it sound like he left honest (but bad) feedback and got into trouble for it, he left dishonest and illegal feedback, and that’s the problem. I’d do the exact same as the hotel if put in a similar situation. I bet most people would, too, if they dig into it. You can write “bad service, won’t visit again” for any place you visit. That isn’t what this guy did.

Final Thoughts

No, an American expat in Thailand didn’t face jail time just for writing a 1-star review. And no he didn’t just share his honest opinion then go to jail over it. He made up lies, accused the hotel of crimes, and he wound up in hot water. The guest was a bully, to be blunt. This isn’t about “free speech”, because “free speech” doesn’t give you permission to try to destroy a business by accusing them of crimes and writing fake reviews under multiple accounts. In the end, the hotel was within its rights defending itself against a law-breaking customer. The new label on their reviews page misrepresents the hotel and the situation, as if they attacked a customer for an honest but bad review. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Thailand is an awesome place, and I hope this exaggerated situation with clickbait news titles popping up lately doesn’t dissuade you from visiting. We have a ton of reviews about things in Thailand and have never faced legal or TripAdvisor problems for writing honest (even if negative) reviews of anything in Thailand.

Ryan Smith
Travel hacker in 2-player mode, intent on visiting every country in the world, and can say "hello" or "how much does this cost?" in a bunch of different languages.

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    • Chris, thanks for posting its nice to read the hotel side and see what was actually posted and taken down. His post do not look so criminal to me, nothing to be arrested and create an international incident over. The hotel is overly sensitive and now they are getting even more bad publicly as deserve for their extreme actions. They could have simply complain to tripadvisor had the post removed or responded back to the review like any other bad review and all would have been forgotten with the review mixed in with the other bad reviews but to go to the extreme to put someone in jail and cry he apology to them was not worth all of the international red light which they now put on themself which ultimately may sink and truly destroy the hotel Vs. If they just handling the situation like any other 1 star review.

  1. Im sure this hotel does not pay people to create fake accounts and leave them fake 5 star reviews (ya right!) turn the tables and they want to put you in jail for a bad review.

    • Chris – Unless there’s some evidence, conspiracy theories like this don’t add to the discussion. And they didn’t take legal action just for a bad review. He was totally free to leave 1 star. He broke the law via his review–that is the issue at hand.

  2. I just did a quick read, but you fail to mention anything that he did that amounts to a crime but yet accuse him of a crime. Sounds like in that country you’d be a potential criminal too. Sorry, twisting this to fit your narrative by leaving out what he said that was a “lie” and hence a crime in this fascist country is a bridge too far.

      • Even know I read the article I still dont see what was illegal? The verbal argument? Or accusing someone of an alleged crime in a post that nobody can verify because was removed? Where is the evidence of all of this alleged back story or is it something the hotel is saying as they want everyone to believe they good guy? Or did the back story come from a security camera or maybe a neutral eyewitness testimony? The hotel is filled with nasty management I would not believe a single word they claim.

      • Saying a conclusory statement like “he lied” and “accused them of crimes” and hence broke a law doesn’t exactly make it so. Again, post what he said/did or you’re just defaming him too by your own logic

          • Breaking a law requires facts. You provide nothing but conclusory statements in coming to your conclusion.

          • Nate – if interested, the facts and pictures and all of the evidence are freely available online in numerous places.

          • How does one get access to see the ad nauseum facts to verify? Nate does make a good point there is lots of accusing within this the article without facts or evidence to back it up. All he said she said no different from the guys so called illegal crime review 🙂

          • It’s all over the internet. I’m not sure how else to explain that. If you want to see it, you can easily find it. I didn’t make anything up or state anything that hasn’t been documented in numerous places, so I stand by what I said. It’s beyond proven at this point. Thanks for stopping by.

          • I been searching the internet and can not find anything but this article which claims he “demanded the staff open and serve it to him for no fee.” I see many articles saying he brought his own wine but the part, accusing he demanded them to serve I cant find that? Im also not able to find any of his criminal non public tripadvisor reviews. Still looks all like he said/she said and just hotel statements tying to defend themself but no real evidence. Could you provide the links your finding this info or explain what key words to search so it comes up? Thanks for posting.

  3. Here’s where Trip Advisor gets it right and you get it wrong: Trip Advisor is not a party to the transactions here. Requiring Trip Advisor to do ANYTHING based on the actions of a third party is wrong. If the hotel wants to go after the guy who wrote the review, they are well within their rights. But the hotel’s rights end there. Requiring Trip Advisor to limit their responses to anything on their website due to the actions of others is a complete violation of their rights and Trip Advisor is absolutely right to call the hotel out on that. The only way the internet (or any form of media, for that matter) works is if the people who own things are not liable for the actions of anyone but themselves. If Trip Advisor wants to delete a post, they have that right, and if they decide to keep a post up, they also have that right, and most importantly, if Trip Advisor decides to comment on being brought in to a dispute between third parties and being forced to take actions in a dispute they are not an actual party to, they absolutely have that right. It’s their property, and they can administer it as they see fit.

    • Frank – yes, they can. And I disagree with how they’ve approached it. They have essentially rewarded the bully and punished the hotel for standing up for itself. You can disagree with me, but no one went after this guy for an honest 1-star review. TripAdvisor is pretending that’s what happened, and I find that bad.

  4. Im sure he was not Mr. Perfect but at the same time after going to tripadvisor and reading the hotels condescending remarks on never poor review I cam also tell the hotel is also not good. Many people placed some honest feedback back about the hotel condition and service and instead of the hotel owning up they post kind of nasty responses, for sure not a hotel I would ever stay at with the kind of attitude the hotel is displaying. To me although the guy was probably in the wrong it seams the Hotel finally got what was coming to them.

    • Sure, you can choose to not support them. That’s fine. If there’s a history of people leaving negative feedback, that highlights the fact this guy didn’t face jail time just for a 1-star review. Numerous articles are written like “1-star review=jail!!” when that’s obviously not why he was in legal trouble.

      • True I guess you can look at it that way or maybe its the fact as you said he was a local person that left a 1-star review compared to all of the others who are living abroad, the hotel is unable to arrest them once they depart the country. So maybe a more appropriate title would be if your going to leave a 1-Star review you better leave the country or face jail time 🙂 the hotels nasty response blaming every customer who did leave a bad review for sure sounds as they would love to press charges if they could actual find them before they leave the country.

        • Mike – there are so many assumptions and “we don’t know that” elements built into that response that I think the simplest approach continues to be the best: this particular person broke the law, refused to respond to attempts at contact, and the hotel pursued legal action. Since we have no evidence that other people broke the law, assuming all these other things about what the hotel would do in hypothetical situations is neither logical nor beneficial. In this particular case, this particular person broke the law. The hotel did exactly what I’d do in the same situation. We have no evidence to support any of these other assumptions about hypotheticals.

          • Ryan – I do understand you points but looking at the whole situation from a logical stand point this hotel is in the wrong. Not only for pressing charges just about running a business and handling dissatisfied customers. They destroyed their own business through their careless unprofessional actions. After looking at the hotel & his statements the actual “crime” was only 3 words in his review “Modern day slavery” which is why they could have him arrested. Its all about the hotels feelings were hurt over that and they decided to go to the extreme by pressing charges & abusing their power under the Thai defamatory law. On top of that its not even a public review as it was removed by tripadvisor. This hotel cried over spilled milk abused their power and now they not only did they make themself look bad they made all of Thailand look bad on a international level, hopefully that hotel will now be destroyed for their foolish unprofessional ways for the hotel to handle their own hurt feelings. I would bet its the truth that hurt them, I seen it for myself the way employees are treated type of countries. Honestly if you go to tripadvisor and read the hotels replies to any not good review you can really get a sense of what kind of nasty management they have and why they decided to abused the law.

  5. The guy was in jail and hence needed to be bailed out. How is that he did not face jail time for his reviews? Was he in jail for another reason?

    • Everyone is making it out like just posting some “my honest experience” review like you or I would post after a vacation is why he faced jail time. That’s just simply untrue. He could’ve posted “rude staff, won’t return” and there would be 0 issue. He broke the law. That’s why he faced jail time. It’s not “because he gave them 1 star” like tons of bad headlines would lead you to believe. He didn’t face jail time “just for a review”. He faced jail time for using a review to break the law. Massive difference.

      • So his opinion that they treat people like slaves is “breaking the law.” Did he get a trial? Obviously not a fan of due process? Don’t twist yourself into a pretzel for this hot take that lacks any facts or real analysis – not to mention legal analysis.

        • Nate – he sat in jail while waiting for trial, then posted bail, charges were dropped, and no one denied him due process. Hope it’s clear now.

          • Imagine being a foreigner in a 3rd world country in their jail cell waiting for due process for posting something online that hurt someone feeling, ya right let me know how that works out of course anyone would post bail.
            The hotel manage clearly abused power of a dormant insane Thai law and they should be flagged as a warning for all others, even if its only to inform travelers that a insane law as such is actually enforceable.
            What if you were sitting in a Georgia KFC chicken eating chicken with a fork & knife, you had an argument with a cashier over cold chicken, they were offended and called the police on you and your arrested thrown in jail because you did not eat chicken with your hands (that a GA law). What if your in NY and said hello to someone within a elevator and your arrested for it now in jail waiting for your due process for an insane law still on the books as its illegal to talk or look at anyone in an elevator in NY. All of this is all along the same lines as the hotel and customer had a disagreement/argument over service, the customer felt he was not treated well and posted his option of the hotel, the hotel was offended by his option and decided to abuse a ridiculous law and have him arrested solely for his post saying “modern slavery”.
            This man was not arrested for assault, property destruction or thief or any real crime that people would expect to be arrested for. Also if the hotel wants business of foreigners they need to stick to common laws foreigners are accustomed to or play hard ball and just rent rooms to Thai Citizens.

  6. I sort of disagree with you. Yes the guy was a truly world class jerk but I think that this should have been addressed as a civil suit rather than as a criminal case. TripAdvisor backing the guy and basically screwing the hotel is pretty much indefensible.
    On a side note, I agree with @Travelbloggerbuzz about linking to blog posts. It’s not a matter of picking a fight but calling bs where justified.

    • You can disagree with how the hotel handled it, sure. But I feel like we agree that they are essentially being screwed by TripAdvisor for doing what was totally within the rights after a guest broke the law. They didn’t attack someone just for saying “bad food, 1 star” like we’ve seen some businesses do. I think TripAdvisor backing this guy sends the message that others can do similar and expect support from TA. If I ran TripAdvisor, I’d say “Good luck” and let the guy fend for himself after deleting his reviews that broke the rules of my website. Obviously not my call to make, but what I can do is bring attention to what really happened to hopefully make people more informed.

    • Depends on the point of the article. I think the point of this post is “to provide info”. Calling out blogs and linking to them to say ‘this article is bad’ would make the point of this article “start a fight”. Seems counterproductive. I feel like just trying to give good info is more useful.


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