‘I didn’t like the other customer’s hairy legs’ – East Anglia’s most outrageous Tripadvisor complaints
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Restaurants hate it...and haters love it, but what is the future of review platforms as we ease towards the tail-end of lockdown? Should diners really be kicking businesses already at an all-time low?
As someone who loves our region’s incredible food and drink industry can I make an impassioned plea? When our pubs, cafes, restaurants, street food vans and foodie market stalls re-open - maybe take it easy on them?
The industry is already on its knees and could certainly do without faceless keyboard warriors springing forth from isolation, ready to twist the metaphorical knife, pushing it in further on review sites such as Tripadvisor.
Understand there are going to be teething problems. No one in catering has faced anything like the Covid-19 pandemic before. In addition to furloughing, making redundancies, and seeing businesses they have built up from nothing go to ruin, restauranteurs, publicans, café owners and others have had to make a wave of changes to enable them to even think about re-opening in the future. Sourcing PPE for staff. Investing their increasingly limited coffers in screening and extra cleaning services, and ‘new world’ health and safety procedures.
If your beer isn’t quite cold enough. If your steak is 20 seconds over or underdone. If there’s nothing wrong with your food but you ‘don’t really like it’ - instead of firing up your laptop and airing your views for the world to see, perhaps you could find it in your heart to call the pub/cafe/restaurant instead? That’s what we would have done in a pre-Tripadvisor world...and even then, it would have taken something very unsatisfactory for us to bother to pick up the phone or send an email.
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We’ve become, as consumers, too quick to judge, and too eager to throw eateries to the wolves for the most trivial reasons. Now, with the fate of the industry hanging by a thread, is the time to change the way we approach review sites. Be kind. Praise the good. Point out criticism fairly and without malice. And if you’re really, truly unhappy, tell restaurant owners and staff to their face. They are only human.
Let’s do away with the poisonous rantings of disgruntled friends and former colleagues. Let’s not leave a one star review if we ‘couldn’t book a table’. Really?
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Some of my favourite anecdotes locally include:
1. “My salted caramel tart is salty” - to an award-winning Suffolk gastro-pub
2. “You haven’t provided towels and a shower for my dogs” - to a beachside café in Norfolk
3. “There really aren’t enough vegan options” - to a west Suffolk restaurant with a separate vegan menu
4. “My beer was too cold” - to an award-winning Norfolk pub
5. “I couldn’t eat it all, the portions were too big” - to a Norfolk gastro pub.
Even those don’t come close to some of the truly outrageous Tripadvisor complaints sent to me by businesses and found online. Each of the below has been levied at an East Anglian establishment.
1. “On my birthday dinner at the place, I was “enjoying” the view of a man’s hairy legs. [sic] Man in front sitting at table in front of me. No need to say how I was feeling that night. For this expensive place it should be dress code.” - a gastro pub.
2. “I once heard a child with a bowl of spaghetti Bolognese wail to his parents ‘it’s not as good as Heinz!’”
3. “My favourite,” said a tapas bar owner, “was, ‘I don’t really like tapas – so with hindsite this was a bad choice.’ But then why the need to post a review was beyond me!”
4. “The apple crumble was too hot and the Yorkshire puddings were too airy.” - to a hotel restaurant.
5. “The sticky toffee pudding was in the shape of a boob – not amusing.” - to a very popular restaurant about one of their most popular (non boob-like) desserts.
6. A customer complained to a seafood restaurant as they were politely asked to remove their dog from the table.
7. “Staff stood around chatting about which other members of staff and customers they wanted to sleep with.” - to an award-winning, highly reputed restaurant.
8. The meal was “over filling” and had “sooo much veg” - a vegan customer complained to one of East Anglia’s best restaurants.
9. The owner was “ogling female diners and swanning around like he’s something special.” - a diner said of another of the region’s finest restaurants.
Local PR and social media marketing business owner Andrew Waddison has two pieces of advice for restaurants, cafes and pubs as they prepare for eased lockdown in the future in relation to Tripadvisor.
Claim the listing on TripAdvisor as your own – you then have the power to manage it and report anything untoward.
Completely ignore it from that point on, and never respond to reviews.
“There are so many wonderful people who leave honest reviews as a sign of appreciation for the meal or stay they have had, but the construction of Tripadvisor leaves it open to abuse,” Andrew says.
“TA reviewers can be anonymous, which gives them free rein to make as many outlandish claims as they wish, and I have seen business owners in tears at reviews which are patently untrue.
“Many years ago I owned a café and we were delighted to soon be elevated to number one in town on TripAdvisor. Immediately afterwards we received three appalling reviews and we contacted TripAdvisor (you have to call them in California). To their credit they did a full investigation and traced all three anonymous reviews to the same IP address, which turned out to be from the restaurant we knocked off the number one spot!
“We have heard of another case where a local pub offered their staff a £10 bonus should they get named in a positive review on TripAdvisor in order to help them increase their customer service. I think we all know what happened next, the staff set up many accounts and named themselves in reviews. It shows how the whole system is open to abuse. It is often the case, as many hospitality businesses will tell you, that they receive awful TA reviews in the days following laying off or sacking staff. It is used as a revenge platform for the scorned.
“And that brings me on to the armchair Jay Rayners and Giles Corens of this world. Those who write a full novel on their review, full of criticism of the smallest things, highlighting their far superior knowledge of the industry, while the following week they give a burger van 5/5 because they got free onions.
“The other thing that really gets my goat is the relentless use of the word AVOID in capital letters in review titles for bad reviews - this use of language I have only seen on TripAdvisor.
“Google and Facebook reviews are a different animal all together because they are not anonymous and are therefore more likely to be based on reason and fact. Until TripAdvisor removes the anonymity for customers it is open to abuse and will continue to cause sleepless nights for the owners of some of our favourite small businesses.”
What’s the most unbelievable Tripadvisor complaint you’ve ever seen? Email me