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A closer look at 'hotel from hell' that fined guests for bad TripAdvisor review

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Do not pass comment, or risk a £100 penalty. Those are the house rules at Blackpool’s Broadway Hotel.

After Tony and Jan Jenkinson of Whitehaven endured a disagreeable night there in August, they vented their feelings online. “Filthy, dirty rotten stinking hovel run by muppets!” ran the headline of their review on TripAdvisor.

The Broadway was Blackpool’s Hotel of the Year in 2004, but the review suggested it has not fared well in a decade: “The wallpaper was peeling off the walls, the carpet was thin, dirty and stained. The bed was something else, it must have come out of the Ark, the base was all scuffed and dirty and the springs in the mattress attacked you in the night.”

The hotel management took exception to the criticism and invoked a clause in the small print that, they claim, entitled them to debit the couple’s credit card for an extra £100.

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The hotel owners backed down on the card charge after the public outcry, but trading standards officials are still investigating whether it was unfairly applied.

Today, I booked in to the Broadway myself to see if the couple’s criticisms were fair. I reserved a single room with breakfast, through Booking.com, for £22.50. Of this, £3.75 is VAT and around £3.50 is agency commission – leaving barely £15 for the hotel.

The public areas look stranded in the 70s, as do the prices: £10 buys six shots of Sambuca. Entertainment facilities include a snooker table, a one-armed bandit and an unusual machine for testing your skills as a boxer.

A sign posted in several locations warns “We No Longer Take Verbal Abuse As Tips”. Nor, it appears, online criticism.

Midweek in November is the lowest of seasons, so I was not fortunate enough to take part in one of the hotel’s speciality Murder Mystery, Psychic or Motown weekends. But I was upgraded from a single to a triple, with a sea view.

The room was clean, spacious and comfortable, with a television the size of a Blackpool tram. Some interesting “towel sculptures” in the shape of swans were placed on the well-sprung beds.

Mr Jenkinson’s review complained about a lack of hot water, but the plumbing in Room 10’s bathroom worked well. The carpet and wallpaper were jaded but clean. The wardrobe, though, looked as though it has been assembled by a six-year-old. It wobbled when opened, revealing a Narnia-sized gap at the back.

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The review had also criticised the electrical wiring. Behind the television, I discovered a table lamp with a broken switch that had exposed live terminals. I unplugged it and told the management.

This important safety issue apart, the Broadway represented excellent value. I have paid a lot more for less, both in Britain and abroad.

The Broadway is far from the lowest-scoring property in Blackpool. TripAdvisor rates 45 hotels, guest houses and B&Bs as worse – though perhaps the “no bad reviews” stipulation has been working.

Local people had little sympathy for the hotel’s policy. Emma Valentine, 39, a Blackpool-born accountant, said the town’s hoteliers were thin-skinned: “They get really sensitive. People are trying to offer constructive criticism.”

Hotel from hell? the case for and against

The Jenkinsons are not alone in posting negative reviews about the Broadway Hotel – although other guests enjoyed their stay in the budget establishment. Here are extracts from TripAdvisor.

“The shower: you would only use if you kept your shoes on.”

“I would rather stay in Bates Motel than this joint. It’s not seen a Hoover since the 80s.”

“A couple were leaving and told my wife and I not to go in. We were asked to pay in cash upfront and now I know why! Nobody in their right mind would stay here.”

“If you are offered this place to stay for a fortnight for 10p, you are being robbed. STAY AWAY!!!!”

“Lovely hotel with a family feel, would… recommend.”

“The staff were friendly, polite and accommodating – nothing was too much trouble.”

Independent News Service