Hotel-blogger dustup: Elle Darby vs. The White Moose Café is a battle of rude losers

Photo: @elledarby

YouTube and Instagram “influencer” Elle Darby asked The White Moose Café in Dublin for some free lodging. The owners of the White Moose responded by ridiculing Darby and banning bloggers. They’re both losers. Learn by observing what they did, and then doing the opposite.

Let’s start with Darby. With 90,000 followers on YouTube, she makes her living by reviewing products of all kinds, including lodging. She is an “influencer.”

She emailed the owners of The White Moose Café asking for a free room in exchange for a review. Paul V. Stenson, the owner, responded by ridiculing Darby on Facebook (without using her name). Here’s his Facebook post:

Stenson is not playing the game any more. Here’s the key part of what he wrote:

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?

Lucky for us, we too have a significant social media following. We have 186k followers on our two Facebook pages, an estimated 80k on our Snapchat, 32k on Instagram and a paltry 12k on our Twitter, but Jesus Christ, I would never in a million years ask anyone for anything for free. I also blog a bit (, which as far as I’m aware is another way of saying “write stuff on the internet”. The above stats do not make me any better than anyone else or afford me the right to not pay for something everyone else has to pay for.

Darby responded with an emotional 17-minute video that tells you a lot about her:

Short summary: “I was embarrassed, I felt humiliated. . . . I’m just a young girl trying to live their best life.”

Stenson’s response: to ban all bloggers from the hotel. This is now pinned to the top of his Facebook page:


Following the backlash received after asking an unidentified blogger to pay for a hotel room, I have taken the decision to ban all bloggers from our hotel and cafe.

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.

The girl in question was never identified in my original post, but she herself went on to create a video explaining how she was “exposed” with “malicious intent” for asking for a freebie. This kind of victimization is very prevalent in the blogging industry, and is in keeping with their general modus operandi of wanting everything for nothing.

If any of you attempt to enter our premises from now on, you will be ejected.

Many thanks,

Paul Stenson

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!

Of course, this to-do has now spread to traditional media, including this nice summary in The New York Post.

What can you learn from this sad saga?

There is so much to unpack here. Here are a few takeaways:

  • I can’t respect “influencers” who have no actual source of influence. Darby is a minor YouTube and Instagram celebrity. I’m unimpressed by the brittle influence of someone whose position comes solely from gathering (or buying) followers. If your only measure of success is in your ability to gain followers, that will distort your behavior. Start from a position of knowledge, research, or experience and focus on building influence from that. If you’re a brand, there’s no reason to court “influencers” like this, whose actual ability to drive purchases is dubious.
  • “No” is a fine response. I get stupid, annoying requests from supposed influencers all the time. I just email back and say “no, thanks.” These people exist, there’s no need to antagonize them. If you’ve built a reputation based on knowledge, I will engage; if not, I will ignore you.
  • All emails are public. You should write every email, especially to someone you don’t know, with the idea that it will be published. If you’d be embarrassed if everyone saw your email, you’ve made a mistake sending it. Stenson was well within his rights to publish Darby’s email. And if you send me an email solicitation or a dumb press release, I may very well decide to dissect it in public.
  • Banning bloggers is an absurd idea. First of all, now that so many of us are on Facebook or Twitter, the definition of “blogger” is fuzzy. People who you do business with are going to write about it, whether on Yelp, TripAdvisor, or a social media site. Banning them is an idiotic idea.

So the saga of The White Moose Café is a highly public conflict between an immature, entitled, petulant minor YouTube celebrity and a nasty, defensive, vindictive hotel owner. There are no smart, nice people in this story, only losers.

People with actual influence based on knowledge, expertise, or research are going to come into conflict with the products, companies, and positions they write about. These conflicts can be principled; the influencer will write based on what they know, and the company reviewed will respond based on facts. These conflicts are not about people and personalities, they are about ideas.

You can navigate the landscape of social media influence with integrity. Keep your head about you, be polite, stand your ground, and argue based on facts. In other words, behave exactly the opposite of how Elle Darby and The White Moose Café behaved, and you’ll be much better off.

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  1. Granted, this kerfuffle is not “in” the U.S., but I think it safe to say that there is a type of person who finds it their mission to “correct” the behaviors of others. These people exist on both the “right” and the “left” end of the spectrum. The world cultural pendulum, at least currently, seems to be swinging hard to the side that has no tolerance for others’ views and behaviors if they differ from one’s own views and accepted behaviors.

    It is too easy for someone to feel anonymous, even if they are (purposefully) identifiable as an individual, on the interwebz. That can often skew a person’s behavior toward not giving a flying f*** what someone else feels, thinks, intends, needs. It has become too easy to flame anything and anyone that disagrees with one, or is disagreeable to one.

    Sadly, that ease of, and prevalence of, falling into ‘jerk mode’ has now made its way from virtual spaces to actual spaces. Whereas social norms and mores would have prevented someone from bashing someone else in a public sphere in the past, now that sort of behavior has become commonplace – perhaps even expected behavior.

    We have forgotten, it seems, how to be civil to each other. We have forgotten the old thoughts and expectations of:

    “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
    “If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing.”
    “When you’re angry, write the angry letter if you must, but don’t send it.”
    “Be dispassionate in discourse, for passionate discourse is no discourse at all.”

    It often feels the civilization is breaking down. Am I the only one who feels thus?

  2. Agree with you, Josh. Both parties here failed.

    I’ve worked with some airlines and hotels on their “influencer marketing” efforts. As part of that, we have advised clients to have “influencers”:
    – quantify their audiences’ demographics
    – provide examples of past collaborations (posts, videos, etc.)
    – show quantifiable results from past engagements with similar brands/products/services
    – provide at least three clients to use for reference checks

    “Banning” a blogger goes against a fundamental precept of hospitality, which is to make each guest feel welcome. The blogger composed an awful email, but the hotel owner created an unnecessary mess.

  3. There comes a time when feeling put upon is just all too, too much and you just want to say f…….off! Well now a days it goes viral so I guess it is best to use those moments wisely. Judging by the international response, and the White Moose’s booking reservations, to Stenson’s “moment” he did use it wisely. All a part of the new world of the internet it seems

    1. OK, I checked your article, which suggests that any publicity, including being called out for being hateful, is a plus.

      I’m not buying it. I don’t think that generates bookings.

  4. Paul Stenson is 100% about creating controversy to get publicity. The first time, everyone had a laugh. Now, after four or five of these stunts it’s at the point where he will tear anyone down and send the online mob after them just to get views and publicity. He should be embarrassed of his behavior.
    I used to follow the White Moose Cafe and after this latest stunt I have unfollowed them on every social platform. This kind of behavior will get you noticed, but in the long term people have zero respect or time for individuals or businesses that spread hate and extreme negativity in the world solely for publicity.

  5. Paul Stenson!! You should be awarded a medal for your candid, true and honest email response to the pathetic, narcissistic ‘blogger’ seeking free accommodation on the basis of her paltry 68k followers ( come back when you’ve got 10m). I’m sick to death of the bullshit these people try to spin – that they are proposing a ‘business’ idea – ie you give me what I want gratis and I’ll mention your hotel to the few sad bastards who have no lives and follow my equally banal life. I hope she learns something from this as if not I fear she’ll spend the remainder of her life trying to scam freebies out of other businesses – when she just doesn’t have the quality of interest you find when you follow either Jake Paul or his brother .