Bloggers Behaving Badly? A look at Elle Darby vs. White Moose #BloggerGate

In the age of digital marketing, how do you ‘tread lightly’ without getting on anybody’s nerves? In all honesty – you don’t.

But that’s the beautiful part of the world in that we all have our own opinions and thoughts. However, it’s also the detrimental part. The internet has created these “echo chambers” of our own digital communities. We bounce our own thoughts and ideals back to us through news and media that we like and interact with. The more you engage with it, the more it engages with you and the less you see of anything else.

Bloggers and companies in this sense, have to find their niche and quickly capitalize on their audience before they get drowned out in all the noise. Those that have made it through and made it big – have a presence that is continuously being seen for it’s high value.

I wanted to use a recent viral story featuring Elle Darby and the White Moose Cafe owner through the Charleville Lodge in Dublin as a catalyst for a larger conversation. You may recall the recent influencer who reached out for free accommodation in return for publicity. This has since been made to be known by White Moose as #BloggerGate.

-I’ve recapped the story for you at the bottom of this page! –

There are a few big questions surrounding this story: was her request justified? What about the hotels reaction? Are all bloggers greedy freeloaders? Is digital promotion worth anything? Let’s dive in a bit. You’ll see a common thread though – literally everybody is out for themselves, using the same tactics, and there are no rules.

Was The Bloggers Ask Justified?

In everything, you’re going to have more pushy people and you’re going to have those that are afraid to ask for anything at all. Then, you’ll have some right in the middle that know the balance.

Asking for a full free accommodation usually is crossing the line. However, once you’ve shown you’re willing to make it worth it – it’s a bit more acceptable to ask for something . . . like a meal. Or, even better, see if said company offers you anything first. Unfortunately, in our world, the name of the game is reputation. If you become known as someone who acts like they’re worth all that and a bag of chips . . . not a good look.

It’s a hard balance when you’re just starting out because honestly, who can afford to start an international travel blog?! You’ve got to play your cards right and ask for some – but not too much. Seems antiquated right? Elle Darby has been able to ask for free and/or highly discounted and has been able to get it, and I fear some may start to believe that is more commonly accepted than it really is.

Was the Hotels Reaction Justified?

The first email rejecting her ask – I would say a partial yes, though hi just a tad dramatic.  I agree with rejecting a full free stay right off the bat. But the rest of it? A produced video and “banning” all bloggers? Super bizarre – and dare I say, uncouth and immature. Just because you eat one bad Fruit Loop doesn’t mean you swear off Kellogg’s products forever. Yet, as we have continued to learn, this is the way of the White Moose “brand” and “humor”.

Having worked in hospitality myself for a few years – you’re trained not to match the emotion of the guest you’re encountering. You’re trained to keep a calm, cool, and level head. Even in the most ridiculous of situations and no matter what your personal opinion may be. Believe me, I’ve seen some weird shit. With this in mind though, Elle Darby’s first contact was perfectly kind and straight forward – she didn’t beg or plead or overly promise. She clearly and politely stated what she was asking for, and what she could provide in return.

It’s obvious the owners of White Moose have built their own brand around this exact sort of bullying and exaggerated response. They call it comedy. Their website calls you a “snowflake” if you’re going to ask for a decaf. If you don’t believe they did this on purpose or are making their own buck off of it – check out their “#BloggerGate” shirt. THEY’RE LITERALLY SELLING T-SHIRTS. I’m all for sarcasm and a good roast when deserved – I’m just not sure this whiney and childish blasting of Elle was justified.

Are All Bloggers Greedy Freeloaders?

All of them? No. Are there some? Obviously.

You’ve seen them. The travel Instagrams of people seemingly floating around the world – posting one ad a week and getting by on luxury. It’s all of our dream to live like them, travel the world and take pictures apparently not working at all. Yet – is it really as glamorous as it seems? When you take a closer look, there is actually an incredible amount of work put in by the really successful accounts that few actually see. The Young Adventuress has a very intimate and honest piece that really lets you into her life and how she made it in the digital nomad world. Strict editorial schedules, building relationships wherever she went, and a dedicated focus on finding new revenue streams. Of course, the adventure and amazing ‘gram’ worthy photos followed. But, if you think it’s just casually writing companies for free swag then you’re sorely mistaken.

Even when you look at Bucketlist Bombshells (whom Haley and I are beyond obsessed with). Each of the bombshells has previously built their own successful online business in order to get to where they are. On top of their own endeavors they run the collective BB’s blog as a larger business – definitely not just posting one ad a week and floating around without a care.

All this goes to say – the hustle is real. Not every person you meet is going to believe it though, which means they’re not going to take you seriously or the power of your following seriously. Sometimes you have to ask for something upfront in order to get where you’re going, and not everybody is going to be nice. Yet, that’s the thick skin an entrepreneur must grow.

PLEASE NOTE: Elle Darby is EXTREMELY LUCKY coupled with the hard work she has put in to build her brand. Not everybody who puts in the hours actually ‘makes it’. That’s also the harsh reality.

Is Digital Promotion Worth Anything?

YAS. Let’s be clear though. The type of promotions – or should we call them exchanges we are talking about here – are more valuable in a different way. Of course, you can go out and buy a magazine ad or a commercial or a banner that tells people your business is great. Hit’s a different P&L, right? However, for the cost of keeping the lights on in your hotel or a meal or a seat – you can negotiate exposure. Exposure on an influencers channels that will organically reach their masses with a more genuine message. It’s worth big money, but don’t just take my word for it. Do your research.

Obviously though, it’s also got to be the right kind of exposure. Depending on your business and your target market – you have to know where your audience is looking. You wouldn’t want to put your 4th Quarter earnings on Instagram – just like you wouldn’t want to post a new selfie on LinkedIn. Once you’ve honed in on where you’re audience is and what they’re looking at – being able to capture their attention there is almost priceless. There are definitely a few tactics that work and can gain you genuine REAL followers! Not just a few “follow for follow” accounts who don’t care about your content.

In our early days of RBT we fell into a few traps . Usually, accounts looking to “feature” bloggers photos on their accounts for $$. They promised hundreds of followers would come pouring in after our pic was posted. Want to know how many followers we gained?

You live and you learn, right?

So there are definitely scammers out there looking only to boost themselves in the process. Yet, to have your company sincerely acknowledged by someone with a dedicated and true following – worth it. You see this all the time with well known accounts tagging others encouraging their following to “check them out”. Do yourself a favor and go see what that tagged account has to offer. Guaranteed they’ll have a following!

This all goes to say . .

There Is A Reason They’re Called “Influencers”

Companies are consistently giving  “swag bags” away for free, enticing influencers to become part of their marketing campaigns, and seeking out accounts who meet their audience needs. How can we still be asking if there is something to be said for trading good/services for exposure?

We’ve heard time and time again that you can’t get anywhere without asking for what you believe you deserve and demanding your worth. But yes, we’ve also established that the world of ‘influencers’ isn’t as widely accepted yet and it’s absolutely still a reputation game.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the story and digital marketing in general!


For all who need to catch up on this viral story – here is everything we were able to compile. Read up!

First, here is the email Elle Darby sent to the Hotel & Cafe.

Influencers email

Aaaanndd here is the email the white moose sent back. Buckle up.

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 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.
In future, I’d advise you to offer to pay your way like everyone else, and if the hotel in question believes your coverage will help them, maybe they’ll give you a complimentary upgrade to a suite. This would show more self-respect on your part and, let’s face it, it would be less embarrassing for you. Here is a little video I produced which you may learn from:
Best regards,
Paul Stenson
P.S. The answer is no.


That “little video” he mentions? Check it out:

Apparently they have a ton of other videos on their Facebook – I choose not to give them my “view” number not matter how insignificant it may be.

The initial response created a bit of backlash (no, really?). There was a Twitter outcry vehemently bashing Elle, and the subsequent rebuttal from other bloggers. Apparently the owner couldn’t help himself (caught up in the limelight, eh?) and sent another, now public, email.

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!

Here is Elle Darby’s video response:

Let us know your thoughts on the ordeal and digital marketing in general – it’s all a PR Stunt isn’t it?!


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