Home Travel Update: Verdict Is In For American Arrested For Bad Hotel Review

Update: Verdict Is In For American Arrested For Bad Hotel Review

by SharonKurheg

A while back, Wesley Barnes made headlines when he was arrested in Thailand after writing a bad review for the Sea View Resort & Spa Koh Chang. From TripAdvisor:

Wesley B wrote a review Jul 2020
1 Star (out of 5)
Unfriendly staff and horrible restaurant manager
“Unfriendly staff, no one ever smiles. They act like they don’t want anyone there. The restaurant manager was the worst. He is from the Czech Republic. He is extremely rude and impolite to guests. Find a another place. There are plenty with nicer staff that are happy you are staying with them.”

The resort’s Rooms Division Manager reply on TripAdvisor read:

Response from Tom Storup, Other at Sea View Resort & Spa Koh Chang

Responded Jul 19, 2020

Dear Wesley B,

We are sad to see that you have decided to post 2 negative reviews (the first one removed by Tripadvisor for violating their review guidelines) with the only purpose to defame our Food & Beverage Manager and the resort. We are certain, however, that everyone that reads and compares your review to that of all our other guests will see that your comments are far from the truth. We think it is very unfair for that you have chosen to try to give a very negative image of our wonderful resort and our very friendly staff so we would like to shed some light on what made you go this far.

On the day you arrived, you decided together with some friends to have dinner in our Sunset Restaurant and you brought along your own bottle of liquor which goes against our rules, as it does in any hotel or resort I have worked or visited around the globe. As a standard, for any guest willing to bring their own bottled drinks there is a corkage fee of 500THB which you were informed by a member of our staff. When she informed you about our house rules you dismissed her and used abusive language towards her. The Food & Beverage Manager decided to intervene for the safety and comfort of our staff and guests who were having a peaceful dinner.

It was then when another guest at your table took over the conversation with our F&B Manager and he apologized profusely and shook hands after a short chat. The F&B Manager then decided that, in order to avoid further disturbance, to allow you to have that liquor without charging you for the corkage fee.

It was to our surprise that even after all the disruption you caused and our gesture of allowing you to drink your own bottle of liquor at our restaurant you still decided to write negative reviews on all possible review sites.

We wish you a safe trip here in Thailand and we hope that other resorts don’t have to go through the same experience as the one we had.

Best Regards,

This exchange, in and of itself, is one of the multiple reasons why you should consider several things when reading TripAdvisor reviews. But all that set aside, Barnes also apparently wrote some even more scathing reviews on Google, as well as on a secondary TripAdvisor review, as seen on this PDF from the hotel.
The resort said it requested several times for Barnes, an American who taught English in Thailand, to remove the reviews. When he did not, their next response was to have him arrested (at his job, no less) under the country’s anti-defamation laws.
The resort filed suit and, if found guilty of defamation and in violation of the country’s Computer Crime Act, Barnes had the potential to spend up to seven years in jail.
After some discussion, the hotel agreed to settle and drop the suit if Barnes made a “sincere apology” and took full responsibility for what happened. From the New York Times:

Mr. Barnes struck a decidedly different tone…in a statement filled with stilted official language reminiscent of a forced confession.

“All of the statements that I made are completely untrue,” the statement said. “These reviews and comments were written out of anger and malice. Now, I, Mr. Barnes, have regretted my actions and would like to apologize to Sea View Koh Chang, and its staff.”

…He [also] apologized “for my repeatedly false and untrue statements/reviews made to maliciously defame Sea View Koh Chang.”

This apparently satisfied the resort. “The hotel has forgiven me and agreed to withdraw the complaint,” Barnes said in a statement. “I would like to sincerely thank the hotel and its staff and take this opportunity to announce this news to the general public.”

Save for Barnes losing his job because of the incident, problem solved and case closed.

The question now is if the resort – and Thailand – can overcome the bad publicity for the actions against Barnes.

“Thailand’s defamation laws are very severe, in particular when it comes to online content,” tweeted Richard Barrow, a travel blogger and a friend of Barnes. “In most cases, defamation laws are good as they are there to protect us. But it is sometimes abused. To have someone arrested at their workplace for posting a negative review is surely a step too far.”

Barrow continued that the resort’s move could harm Thailand as a travel destination overall: “It not only damages the reputation of the resort but also the reputation of Thailand. This should have been settled privately. Now the world knows that if a tourist posts a negative hotel review in Thailand they risk going to prison.”

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

4 comments

Jack Darby October 13, 2020 - 1:13 pm

Mr Barnes boorish behavior in thinking that he could bring his own bottle into a restaurant and not pay a corkage fee shows a distinct lack of breeding; to then disparage the restaurant and the resort for a problem of his own creation and for less than twenty bucks simply demonstrates stupidity

But never fear, this won’t affect Thailand’s reputation in the least; the mountain of things the Thais themselves have done to damage their own reputation over a long period of time amply demonstrates that this is nothing more than a molehill to be forgotten as soon as the next webpage loads

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[…] Update: Verdict Is In For American Arrested For Bad Hotel Review by YMMV. […]

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Lord Dima October 20, 2020 - 1:08 pm

“It not only damages the reputation of the resort but also the reputation of Thailand”

The only thing damaging is the misleading headlines. Actually reading through these reports, it is obvious not only how much of an entitled a**hole the guy is, but also that the resort did try to resolve this in other ways.

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SharonKurheg October 20, 2020 - 1:28 pm

I 100% agree on both counts. However having him arrested was, IMHO, ridiculous.

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