The Hotel Owner Who Called Out a Blogger for Asking for a Free Stay Is Now Defending Her Reactions on the internet can be knee-jerk and ruthless, no matter how good your intentions are.
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Despite the fact that he's milked #BloggerGate for all its worth, Dublin hotel and café owner Paul Stenson doesn't want the argument he's making about the entitled behavior of influencers to come at the expense of the woman who prompted it.
Earlier this month, a Facebook post by Stenson on the page for one of his businesses, the White Moose Café, went viral. This initial post contained a screenshot of an email from a social media influencer who had contacted Stenson seeking a free stay in exchange for promotional posts on her own accounts. He uploaded the screenshot along with a rant refusing the request and lecturing blogger types who think they're entitled to freebies in exchange for the publicity they offer.
While Stenson obscured the identity of the email's sender in his post, Elle Darby outed herself in a 17-minute YouTube video, in which she said Stenson had "roasted" her.
Stenson did not let up. He went on to post additional rants on Facebook and Twitter in which he said he would ban all bloggers from visiting his businesses. Then over the weekend, he printed a $6.5 million invoice for Darby (again not naming her) based on calculations by a Dublin PR firm regarding the value of the publicity their exchange had generated.
He also made T-shirts based on the controversy and even hosted a mock press conference in which he set up an apology for his treatment of the "nameless," godlike" influencer, sarcastically admitting that he should have "bent over and taken that influence straight to the bank."
"In a moment of lapsed judgment, I assumed that a particular English blogger -- who shall remain nameless -- and 22 -- was in a position to pay for her hotel stay. And, I may have acted out of line, resulting in a publicity tornado worth millions -- and costing both of us exactly 0 euro," Stenson says in the video. "I would like to apologize for this. I shouldn't have gone after such a prominent YouTuber and Instagrammer -- especially one that singlehandedly boosted the sales at Universal Studios Orlando."
He followed these remarks with, "We would like to apologize to absolutely nobody." He then joked that he would like to invite the "particular English blogger" to stay at his hotel at "a reduced rate on the requested dates."
His partner, who appeared with him in the video, whispered in his ear. Then Stenson continued: "No, sorry, that's bullshit."
Despite this mean-spirited tone, Stenson has made a distinction on Twitter in the ensuing days. While he's had some fun with #BloggerGate and used Darby's actions as a vehicle for publicity, he emphasizes that he's never explicitly mentioned her by name. He highlights the difference between calling out the entire blogger community and targeting Darby herself with hurtful messages.
As social media continues to fuel the influencer economy, entrepreneurs should note this distinction. While it might not seem like an individual is prominent enough to justify receiving complimentary goods and services in exchange for videos and posts on their accounts, beware of the power and reach of social media. As Darby and Stenson learned, even business interactions can spread like wildfire, welcoming the court of public opinion to pass judgement on the intentions of both parties.
Influencers should be aware of the risks of putting themselves out there with these types of requests, and business owners and brands should think carefully about how to respond.
Some of the comments the girl (who I have never once named) is getting on her Insta are horrible. I don't condone these comments and I think it's time people laid off her. Insult me all you like, but leave the girl alone. She fucked up. She's learnt her lesson. The end.— Paul Stenson (@PaulVStenson) January 22, 2018
At no point throughout this whole debacle have I ever mentioned the girl's name. Not on Facebook, Insta, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, PornHub, Grindr or anywhere else. I have never mentioned it to my family, my friends, my dog, the cat across the road who torments my dog, NOBODY.— Paul Stenson (@PaulVStenson) January 24, 2018
Sticking to his principles, Stenson also tweeted that he doesn't think influencers should get pity freebies just because their feelings are hurt from being told off.
Cyber bullying is a serious allegation. As someone who was bullied in school, I despise bullies. I've always said that I don't condone the unjustified comments the girl is getting, but I don't agree that the cyber bullying card be used as a tool to generate cash via YouTube views— Paul Stenson (@PaulVStenson) January 24, 2018