I have friends in the hospitality business who on occasion fall foul of bad reviews. I listen to their stories of guests wrecking the place, leaving traces of drugs in the bathrooms, being generally boorish and obnoxious. And then, when challenged or asked to pay for damages, the guests/punters take to social media and leave a bad review with little thought and even less consideration for the damage their irresponsible reviews can do.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not for a minute saying that all reviews should be glowing reports with no detractions. While a PollyAnna approach might feel good, it doesn’t really paint an accurate picture. We, as potential clients/customers/guests/punters, would like to hear an honest, unbiased appraisal of a place, product, or service. And the keywords here are honest and unbiased.
I’ve had to stop myself countless times from taking my frustrations to social media. And I don’t think I’m alone in this. So before I give anything (or any place) a bad review, I ask myself three questions.
1. How much of what went wrong can I blame on myself, on my mood, on the day that was in it?
Let’s face it. When I wake up cranky because it was too hot to get proper sleep the night before and I stub my toe on the way to the bathroom as I trip over shoes the fairies left in the hall. Or when I put the coffee pot on the gas without adding the grinds and amn’t awake enough to notice that I’ve milked the muck. Or when I realise the only milk I have in the fridge is two weeks out of date and the shop in the village is closed. Or when I leave the house and forget my keys or didn’t charge my battery and my phone has died. Or when I get a client who sends their report two weeks late and expects it done on time regardless. Or when I’m beset by static cling or snagged nylons or forget to check my teeth for lipstick. Or when I don’t see the last step on the stairs down into the restaurant and stumble into a waiter carrying a tray of hot soups. Any one of these or a combination thereof is a guaranteed mood marker. Not even a five-course fine-dining experience in a Michelin-starred restaurant would get a five-star review if it came at the end of an EW day – a day that everything has gone wrong. So, if the coffee is tepid or the waiter gives me the wrong change or the service is slow – my mood magnifies it all 1000% and small things turn into complaints that the world should know about.
If I’m in a pissy mood, it shows. And people react to that. Just as they react to boorish behaviour and bad manners. Like begets like. So ask yourself – how much of the review is a review of the product or service or place and how much of it a reflection of your state of mind? I usually fall at this first hurdle.
2. Am I being objective or subjective?
Some people like tepid soup. Others like to feel the pain that comes with a piping hot dose. Some like fatty meat, others prefer theirs lean. Some like waiters to hover, others prefer them to deliver food and leave. Each to their own, I say, but if I don’t get what I want, what I expect, is that a reason to write a nasty review?
Writing a post on a recent trip to Piran, I checked the comments and reviews of the restaurants and cafés I was recommending without reservation. I was a little taken aback at the inanity of some of them. One star because the coffee was bad? Your idea of bad coffee could be my idea of great coffee. Your idea of poor service could be my idea of excellent service. It’s simply not enough, nay, it’s irresponsible, to say something was bad or good without qualifying why you think so. Objectivity is the name of the game. Give me something to work with. One even said that the bar wasn’t for non-European tourists (they were Australian and felt ignored). Rather than believe them, I found myself wondering what they’d done to deserve being ignored. My bad, perhaps, but then my perception is my reality.
3. Will my review help or hinder someone reading it?
So many reviews I read serve little purpose other than to allow the reviewer a chance to vent. Typing What I’m Thinking To Everyone Reading – yep – that’s Twitter. Reviewing simply to review is bad business. General reviews are pretty useless. Writing that you had terrible service just ain’t enough. Asked for the bill three times and had to wait 45 minutes to pay – that says something. But what if the waiter or waitress was having a particularly bad day? What if they’d crashed their car on the way to work or they’re waiting for the results of a blood test or they’ve not been able to pay their rent and are facing eviction? Give them a break. Don’t just look at the service you’re getting, look at the others around you. If everyone seems frustrated, annoyed, and dissatisfied, then you might have something to review. And yes, some people working in the hospitality industry shouldn’t be… they’re simply not suited for it.
Have some thought, too, for the damage you could do by venting your spleen. Small cafés, bars, restaurants, Airbnbs, guesthouses – they all have a living to make. Ask yourself if you’re seeking revenge or if you genuinely want to get them to up their game. Do you want to make life easier for the next customer or simply may them pay? And would you say to their face what you’re about to put in writing?
GB Shaw, a man I’d love to have to dinner were I dining with the dead, reputedly said:
Reviewing has one advantage over suicide: in suicide you take it out on yourself; in reviewing you take it out on other people.
I read reviews. And I take them with a grain of salt. I’ve been to places rated 4.8 and found them lacking. I’ve been to places that scored 3 or less and found them great. It depends on what you’re into. By all means, read the reviews – but when it comes to posting reviews yourself, be responsible.
Piran – am grateful for the lesson and for your hospitality. I’ll be back.