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A concerted attack has erupted on social media targeting the owners of a Scottish B&B after the property won a Four in a Bed competition on Channel Four this month.
The show features five episodes spanning a week during which the owners of four accommodation properties stay in each other’s venue before deciding what proportion of the listed rate they consider each stay to have been worth. On the final day, the prize is awarded to the owners of the business that has received the highest proportion of the due rate.
Contestants in the show typically vary from owners of B&Bs to Glamping sites and self-catering cottages to hotels. The series in question kicked off featuring five-star Perthshire B&B Tigh Na Leigh, followed by visits to a Dundee guesthouse, holiday rental cottages in Derbyshire and a hotel in Northumberland.
We happened to have run a profile of Tigh Na Leigh in the magazine last summer so, when we learned it was featuring on the show, we put up a Facebook post to alert readers. This was only the second day of the five-day competition, but already Tigh Na Leigh owners Karen and Graham had begun to come under attack from viewers for the way in which they openly expressed to camera their views of the difference between the nature of the contestants’ properties in the competition.
Straight away negative comments about the couple’s perceived attitude began to spread like a virus without a lockdown. The effect was daunting as social media rapidly became a focal point for an outpouring of anger directed at Karen and Graham.
Whether or not the steady flow of barbed criticism that appeared under the post reflected the fact that so many people are frustrated under lockdown is unclear. However, one of the alarming features of the spiralling attacks was the way a number of these posts actively encouraged readers to write fake, scathing reviews on TripAdvisor.
This shocking turn of events arising from a reaction to a TV entertainment show has since resulted in TripAdvisor suspending reviews of the B&B, owing to “an influx of review submissions that do not describe a first-hand experience”. Lockdown must have made this very easy to prove.
As the week progressed, Karen and Graham’s assertion that like was not being compared with like became a focus of the show. It is an entertainment show, and the producers had found their villain. It had a pantomime effect as the stage opened for cries of vitriol from the viewing audience.
Viewers’ initial objection concerned the way in which the couple appeared to be attempting to manipulate the result in order to win the competition. But this is a common strategy of contestants over the years that this compelling show has been screened, and it’s referred to as ‘playing the game’.
However, when on the final day Karen and Graham were revealed to have used another common tactic and underpaid every other contestant in an apparent effort to win the game (note the word game), all hell was let loose on social media, with a pile-on of hurtful and personal attacks on the couple.
At the time that we reviewed Tigh Na Leigh just over a year ago, Karen and Graham had built up their luxury B&B to win a series of prestigious awards – among them AA Scottish Accommodation of the Year – in a matter of just a few months. By the time lockdown struck in March, the B&B had received no negative online guest reviews – a point made by Karen whom we contacted midway through the week the show was broadcast.
We published her defence as a right to reply on Facebook, just as the online attacks were starting to become nasty. She began by admitting they had been warned to expect criticism by the show’s producers. But she said: “At the same time it is not nice to see or hear. You don’t want people saying things like that about you, and we come across as quite snobby, which I have to say I am not!”. We decided then to delete the posts on Facebook in a bid to stop the negative comments.
She stressed: “If people go to TripAdvisor, they will see we have never had a bad comment.” Indeed on the show itself all the guests made highly favourable comments in respect of their stay.
The issue of contention is not the B&B itself but the attitude as presented on the show of its owners.
The smartest contestant to appear in Four in a Bed are those who go on the competition to show off their accommodation business to a large television audience and who pay each of the other contestants the full amount for their stay. But that does not make for entertainment, and TV shows are made for entertainment. In this particular show, some contestants jarred as players were made to judge different contexts and criteria on an equal footing.
And if we were to have just one criticism of the show it is that the competition itself is seldom held on a level playing field.
Of course it’s great fun on TV and social media to have a pantomime villain, but the real world is not like that.
As we near the end of this dreadful lockdown, businesses in this industry should be supporting each other. There is no room for hate speech in this market. As for venting displeasure at participants on the show, the submission of fake negative reviews is highly immoral and profoundly against the spirit of the independent hospitality industry.
It is just a TV show.