The White Moose Café recently received a Certificate of Excellence (COE) from TripAdvisor. You may have seen a video I uploaded to Facebook in which we list all the things you can do with a COE if you receive one. In case you haven’t seen the video, here it is:

This video caused much confusion for several viewers. They wondered why it’s not a good thing to receive a COE and presumably expected that we’d put the COE on the café wall for the world to see rather than make a paper airplane out of it destined for the Costa Del Bin. While the video was lightly humorous, the message I wanted to get across is fairly serious.

Apart from the fact that I believe people who leave reviews must be suffering from some form of psychological derangement, here are the reasons why I will never recognise TripAdvisor.

Anonymity

This is the obvious one. Anyone can write a review on your premises, they can be a competitor, an ex-lover or simply someone you have pissed off (Vegans, Brazilians, The Gluten Intolerant in my case). TripAdvisor does not require you to provide proof that you have ever set foot in a particular establishment. Therefore it is reasonable to suggest that there is no requirement for the reviewer to physically be in an establishment in order to write a review on said establishment.

Zero Vetting

TripAdvisor claim that they have a very elaborate vetting process and will only allow bona fide reviews to be published. If this is true, they must have a six year old on the vetting team. Below is an actual review written on Charleville Lodge that TripAdvisor allowed through the vetting process. I shit you not.

Not only does this review show how magical our hotel is, but it also demonstrates how accurate TripAdvisor reviews can actually be. Whoever left this review, I fucking love you.

Misrepresentation of Facts

When a reviewer takes to TripAdvisor, they have carte blanche to say pretty much whatever they like. This can mean omitting very important facts, by mistake or on purpose, about the customer experience. You may be familiar with the recent Zoe K scandal. A girl working for Q102, dressed in her Q102 uniform, availing of her Q102 discount came into the café, asked for her Club Sambo to be served on Ciabatta bread rather than the usual three-tier sandwich and took to TripAdvisor to say that the sandwich was ‘poor in appearance’, accompanying her inaccurate review with an image of the sandwich being served on Ciabatta. What she did not include in her review was the fact that the sandwich was not made to our required standard and was pretty much something she invented herself. She was effectively criticising her own invention but passing it off as ours.

To read the full Zoe story, click here

It’s A Game For Some People

For some people, TripAdvisor is a hobby. They are bored of Tetris, now they go around collecting badges by writing reviews on businesses. Yes, its like a game of fucking FarmVille. The fact that writing vexatious reviews could have a detrimental effect on a business, maybe even putting the establishment out of business, resulting in the loss of jobs for employees, thereby damaging the livelihoods of these employees as well as destroying the business itself, doesn’t seem to matter. It’s just one big game after all!

The badges one particular game player has accumulated throughout the course of her fun game

Slander Legitimisation

When you write something negative about a person or place online, no matter what way you look at it, this is slanderous behaviour. The Hospitality Industry is the only industry in the world which allows its members to be slandered so easliy and indiscriminatly. Could you imagine if there were a website that allowed people to spew negativity about architects, doctors, lawyers or any other professionals? No, neither could I. The company would be decimated by law suits.

But we are the Hospitality Industry. We are warm and hospitable folk. We smile at all times. We treat the customer as king even if he is a total bollox. While we’re at it, we allow people to write lies about us online.

Here is another review written by the same Zoe K as above. Here she believes a cafe/bakery should be shut down because she doesn’t like their Victoria Sponge. The review was removed by her some time later (after my public response), but TripAdvisor let it be published in the first place all the same.

Threat Tool

TripAdvisor has presented customers with a gun to hold to the heads of hospitality managers to get money off their bill. This behaviour can been seen worldwide. A customer is not happy with something in their hotel room, and rather than saying something when they arrive at the hotel, they wait until they’re checking out and threaten the receptionist with a negative TripAdvisor review. They want a significant discount on their bill, or else……

Using TripAdvisor as a tool to level threats has allowed chancers to thrive on a global scale. See video below in which a German couple blatantly try to blackmail me here in the hotel a few years ago.

Conclusion

In conclusion, TripAdvisor reviews should never be necessary. If a customer has an issue with their food and brings it to the attention of management, the restaurant will do something about it. They will rectify their grievance there and then either by not charging for the food, or by replacing it with something more to the taste of the customer. What’s happening these days however is people show up at a restaurant, lick their plate clean, say everything is perfect and then go home to skulk and lambaste the establishment via the relative anonymity of their computer screen. This is not right.

People reading reviews don’t know that the restaurant would have done anything they can to help the reviewer if a complaint was made at the time. They don’t know the reviewer was asked if everything was ok with their meal to which they replied ‘yes’ before writing their one star review. TripAdvisor is a haven for spineless keyboard warriors who don’t care if their false review can damage the reputation of a business that employs people.

In the past I have responded publicly to reviews. I believe it is only fair to be able to reply publicly to something written publicly and I think most people would agree. I don’t usually use the management response function on TripAdvisor as, let’s face it, nobody really reads the management responses and no matter what the response says, it won’t alter the star rating given in the first place. I prefer Facebook.

However, on the two occasions I have publicly called out the authors of unjustified reviews, I have been labelled a cyber bully. Yes, the reviewers are entitled to spew negativity online, but once I call them out, they have the gall to call me the cyber bully. The first occasion was when a girl complained about her burger online, yet the CCTV showed her inhale said burger in pretty much one gulp. I decided to publish CCTV footage of her horsing into the burger she ‘did not like’ to counteract the damage she could cause with her false review (to read more about this incident, click here). The second was the aforementioned Zoe K event, where she was given three separate opportunities to resolve things privately, but chose to stay public. When I was forced to respond to her review publicly, again, I was the bully. Incidentally, her review is still published.

If we are going to call anyone bullies, I think TripAdvisor is the biggest one of all. It allows cyber bullies to hunt down businesses in packs. It should be renamed the Cyber Bully Collective.

Finally, the next time you go to write a review on TripAdvisor, please remember the following:

  1. A negative review is not necessary if you allow the restaurant to rectify your complaint at the time.
  2. If you are not happy with your food in a restaurant, grow a pair of testicles and tell them when you are in the restaurant. Don’t say it’s fine if it’s not. Don’t eat it and certainly don’t pay for it.
  3. Remember that when you write an unsubstantiated negative review on a premises, you are putting the livelihoods of its workers at risk.
  4. TripAdvisor is not a fucking game.
  5. If you use TripAdvisor to threaten a business into getting money off, you are an asshole.
  6. Lastly, and most importantly, never forget what your granny told you; you never rise up by putting others down.