Netizens took a page out of US president Donald Trump's book by swarming the Yelp pages for Trump hotels in Washington D.C., Chicago, Hawaii and Mar-a-Lago with "shithole" reviews.
According to CNN, approximately 800 reviews describing the hotels using the profanity, coupled with a one-star rating, were posted between Thursday last week and Monday this week. This resulted in the Yelp ratings for Trump International Hotel in D.C. plummeting from four out of five stars to two.
This followed recent claims and allegations that Trump had termed places such as Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as "shithole countries" during a meeting discussing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and immigration.
These acts stemmed from a tweet posted by American film director Ryan Case, who urged netizens to get on Yelp and post "shithole" reviews on all Trump hotels during their free time.
If you have a lil free time, get thee to Yelp and call every Trump Hotel a “shithole.”
— Ryan Case (@film114) January 12, 2018
User reviews for the hotels included "vomit-inducing shithole full of the wrong kind of people", "an overpriced dump", "absolute shithole", "the worst pile of bricks in the country" and "this hotel is a shithole or maybe a shithouse?" Read Clint M.'s review of Trump International Hotel Washington, DC on Yelp
A quick check by Marketing found that Yelp has placed a message on Trump-owned or brand properties on its site, stating that the business "is being monitored by Yelp's support team for content related to media reports". In a statement to Marketing, Yelp's spokesperson said these media storms are complicated situations that create a dilemma for Yelp, but it has chosen to take a strong and consistent stance on managing them.
Its goal is to be transparent with the actions it takes to protect the quality of content on Yelp, preserve consumers’ freedom of speech, and shield businesses from online harassment, the spokesperson said.
"We ultimately think the better proposition is for Yelp reviews to be driven by firsthand customer experiences rather than the media," the spokesperson said. As such, the company directs users to post all thoughts about the latest media controversy on an open discussion forum named Yelp Talk, rather than posting ratings and reviews that are disconnected from an actual firsthand customer experience.
Marketing has reached out to Trump Hotels for comment.
Trump's alleged "shithole" comment has taken both the Internet and industry by storm. Recently, Airbnb dedicated at least US$100,000 in digital ad placements to promote listings in places such as Haiti, El Salvador and African countries. In a statement to Marketing, an Airbnb spokesperson confirmed the launch of “a six-figure digital ad buy” promoting listings in Central America and Africa. This is along with an ad running on news websites such as the Washington Post and CNN.
Following the move, Airbnb founder and CEO Brian Chesky has also promoted several Airbnb listings located in the countries affected by the comment via his social media. On several Twitter posts, Chesky pointed out the appeal of Africa, El Salvador and Haiti to international travellers, highlighting the growth of revenue in these countries. He also promoted several Airbnb listings in Ghana, Kenya and Haiti right after.