Chances are if you’ve looked up a restaurant in the past few years you’re familiar with Yelp. Yelp has virtually taken over the local review space, particularly in the restaurant category, and it seems like more often than not you’ll land on a Yelp page before anything else when you’re perusing your dining options these days.
For hungry restaurant patrons this can be a good thing, but for restaurant owners, well, their mileage may vary depending on their particular Yelp practices.
Lately I’ve noticed a particularly disturbing trend: the temptation for restaurant owners to respond to negative Yelp reviews with even greater negativity.
Here’s an example:
“I guess my expectations were high for this place from reading the Yelp reviews. Sadly, I cannot say I find [name withheld] to be a very good place… We spent close to 30 dollars for a lunch for two. I have to say that given the ambience, the disappointing quality of the food and the terrible ambience, 30 dollars is about 25 dollars too much. Given the fact that there’s plenty of good and authentic Mexican places in Portland, I’d advise you to try something else first. I know I will not be coming back.”
And the reply:
“The customer spent $24, not $30, 20% less than he claims…I was sitting at a table with a clear view of [name withheld] the entire time he was here…Mexicans enjoy our food more than any gringo customers because they recognize what we’re doing: making authentic Central Mexican home cooking at taqueria prices instead of gourmet prices.”
Splitting hairs over $6? Spying on your customers enough to know them by name when they post Yelp reviews? Using the term “gringo” to describe your customers in a predominantly white neighborhood, in an establishment owned by a Caucasian?
Whatever happened to the old adage that the customer is always right? We all know that they aren’t, not all the time anyway, but what good does it do to blatantly attack them?
I wish that I could say that this was an isolated incident but I’ve counted no fewer than a half dozen such exchanges here in Portland – each involving a different restaurant.
People read Yelp, if they didn’t then Yelp wouldn’t be coming up on Google above your own restaurants website. Whether or not those people trust the reviews that they read is purely up to them; personally I take Yelp reviews with a grain of salt seeing as how many people are more apt to write a complaint when they have one than write praise when they’ve had a good experience.
But what happens when I read responses from insult-slinging restaurateurs that feel the need to dispute every last less-than-stellar review?
The answer to that question is simple: I avoid their restaurants entirely.
Social media and sites like Yelp offer a revolutionary means of communication between business and customer. If a business decides to abuse that channel of communication by behaving like a grade-schooler, I’ve no choice but to assume that they don’t care about their customers at all, at least not as much as they care about being right, all the time, without exception.
And behavior like that leaves a very poor taste in my mouth.