An Irish cafe/hotel has banned all bloggers after a "social media influencer" demanded a free room for an early Valentine's Day weekend.
Paul Stenson, who owns White Moose Cafe and The Charleville Lodge Hotel in Dublin, decided to enforce the ban after being on the receiving end of "nastiness, hissy fits and general hate" and negative reviews when he posted a public reply to a blogger's email asking for a free stay.
It all started when Stenson received an email from Elle Darby, pointing to her 87,000 YouTube subscribers and 76,000 Instagram followers. She wrote: "My partner and I are planning to come to Dublin for an early Valentine's Day weekend from Feb 8th-12th to explore the area.
"As I was searching for places to stay, I came across your stunning hotel and would love to feature you in my YouTube videos/dedicated Instagram stories to bring traffic to your hotel and recommend others to book up in return for free accommodation. Last year I worked with Universal Orlando in Florida and it's been amazing for them!"
Stenson shared the post on The White Moose Cafe's Facebook page on Tuesday (16 January), saying: "It takes a lot of balls to send an email like that, if not much self-respect and dignity.
"If I let you stay here in return for a feature in your video, who is going to pay the staff who look after you? Who is going to pay the housekeepers who clean your room? The waiters who serve you breakfast? The receptionist who checks you in? Who is going to pay for the light and heat you use during your stay? The laundering of your bed sheets? The water rates? Maybe I should tell my staff they will be featured in your video in lieu of receiving payment for work carried out while you're in residence?"
He also pointed out that his businesses have 186,000 followers across their two Facebook pages and suggested that instead of asking for free rooms, bloggers should pay their own way so, if the hotel believes the coverage could help, they might receive a complimentary upgrade to a suite.
Stenson's post did not go down well with the blogging community, and although he had kept the target anonymous, she was identified nonetheless. Darby, 22, soon posted a 17-minute YouTube video entitled "I was exposed (SO embarrassing), in which she said: "I was angry, I was sad, I was upset, I was anxious. I felt embarrassed, I felt humiliated."
Darby said she had never received rude responses from businesses before. "I don't feel like I did anything wrong," she said, adding that she had "nothing but the purest intentions" and said people just did not understand how the blogging industry works.
She soon received countless tweets and comments calling her a "freeloader," "disgusting" and "skanky b**ch". But bloggers and their fans fought back. Ashleigh Dougherty commented: "This blogger did absolutely nothing wrong and is now having to deal with the backlash of an older generation who don't understand how vital social media is for every business. What you have done is classed as online bullying and I don't know how you can go about your day knowing you have put a 22 year old girl in the negative limelight like you have."
In a private message which was screenshotted and posted on The White Moose Cafe page, Becca Browne said: "I hope you get closed down and rinsed into the ground you piece of s**t."
After the backlash began, less than 12 hours after posting the email, Stenson wrote a sarcastic post "apologising" to bloggers, saying: "I am so sorry that I have waited until now to mobilise you in numbers and I am kicking myself that I didn't think about you before now. If each one of you is pissed off, and you all have your individual following (no matter how small), there is a fair chance that you will all speak badly to your followers about us which will result in a huge number of people hearing about our brand collectively."
And on Wednesday (17 January), Stenson moved on from mocking bloggers and outright banned them after his hotel was inundated with negative reviews. He wrote: "The sense of entitlement is just too strong in the blogging community and the nastiness, hissy fits and general hate displayed after one of your members was not granted her request for a freebie is giving your whole industry a bad name. I never thought we would be inundated with negative reviews for the simple reason that somebody was required to pay for goods received or services rendered."
He added: "If any of you attempt to enter our premises from now on, you will be ejected."
And to finish, he said: "P.S. Perhaps if you went out and got real jobs you'd be able to pay for goods and services like everybody else. Just a thought!"
William Halliday was one of those pointing out the beauty of Stenson's work, commenting: "The beautiful irony here is that you've attracted more social media attention from this than the blogger/influencer could have ever provided for you, at zero cost! now THAT'S influence!"