A hotel has banned YouTubers and Instagram stars - after a 22-year-old YouTuber asked for a five-night free stay and broke down in tears when she was bluntly refused.
The issue started when Elle Darby, a UK-based social media influencer, with 87,000 YouTube subscribers and 76,000 Instagram followers, reached out to the owner of The White Moose Café, Paul Stenson, asking if he was interested in a “possible collaboration.”
In an email to the Dublin hotel, Darby wrote: “I work as a social media influencer, mainly lifestyle, beauty & travel based."
Darby then included her social media reach before continuing:
“My partner and I are planning to come to Dublin for an early Valentine’s Day weekend from Feb 8th to 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/posts to bring traffic to your hotel and recommend others to book up in return for free accommodation.”
Ending her email, Darby mentioned that she had organised a similar collaboration with Universal Orlando in Florida last year and “it’s been amazing for them!”
Stenson responded to Darby’s request, publicly, on The White Moose Cafe Facebook page - in a message that read:
“Dear Social Influencer (I know your name but apparently it’s not important to use names),
“Thank you for your email looking for free accommodation in return for exposure. 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 a 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?
Continuing, Stenson asks: “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?”
The message concludes: “P.S. The answer is no.”
However, although Stenson attempted to black-out Darby’s contact information in the message he posted to Facebook, social media users were quick to identify the YouTuber as Darby - and began to attack her with negative comments about her request.
The negative backlash eventually led Darby to upload a YouTube video responding to the controversy, in which she breaks down from the embarrassment, anger, and humiliation she felt.
In the 17-minute video, titled “I was exposed (SO embarrassing), the influencer emotionally insists she got in contact with Stenson with “nothing but the purest intentions” before explaining:
“As a 22-year-old girl, who’s running her own business from her home, I don’t feel like I did anything wrong.”
Darby also explains she does not know why the hotel owner decided to post her email, stating: “I don’t really know what their intent was - it was just malicious” and that since his post, she has received countless comments calling her a “disgusting freeloader.”
However, since the 22-year-old's heartfelt response was uploaded to YouTube, it appears the Dublin hotel has faced their own backlash following the controversy.
In a recent post to the Facebook page in response to the video, Stenson declared in all capital letters: “All bloggers banned from our business.”
“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,” he wrote - before denying that he had ever exposed Darby, and “the sense of entitlement is just too strong in the blogging community.”
And on The White Moose Cafe Snapchat, Stenson said the controversy just "puts into question the authenticity of influencer marketing," because "She would have spoken nicely about the hotel only because she was getting it for free."
The Independent has reached out to Elle Darby for comment.