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Bad Reviews - Read First !


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#1 MattVN

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 12:59 AM

Just a quick moderators' note: Although I love a good read through the reviews section (good and bad) and know that many of you do a fantastic job of describing your experiences there are a few things to always keep in mind.

1. You (and the VN forum) will almost never get in trouble for saying positive things about a restaurant (or any business) but saying negative things can get you (and us) in trouble - even if everything you say is true !
2. Reviews here, do have an impact on the restaurant's business.
3. Restaurant owners and staff read the posts on VN.

This definitely doesn't mean that you can't say anything bad about a restaurant, just that when saying something bad, you must be careful how you frame it: always be factual, stay away from anything that can be construed as a personal attack and state it as your opinion. Plus don't forget to take your issue up with the restaurant at the time too.

Examples of 'low risk negative comments': I didn't enjoy my experience because: (1) there was a long wait (2) I thought it was expensive (3) the eggs were a little over-cooked for my liking, etc.


Thanks for understanding (we must try and stick to these rules to protect members and the website).

Matt

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#2 andreas

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 05:40 AM

[Moderated comment - This discussion is not about 1 restaurant]

Which is a great shame - for a number of reasons:

1) the great thing about VN is that people can be honest and it is not gushy all the time;
2) nearly all places end up as a result with a healthy mixture of good and less good comments, which is credible and therefore useful as a guide;
3) a positive only series of reviews looks really suspicious, like some sort of trade magazine;
4) VN is so polite in any case - heaven knows how they would have fared if they were in Sydenham Town...
5) I can think of examples where businesses have taken on board criticism on the forum (and no doubt elsewhere) and improved as a result. The White Hart for instance.

Oh well, I really sympathise MattVN - freedom of expression vs lawyers, guess who wins each time...
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#3 James

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 08:34 AM

Oh dear - I don't think one needs to be Einstein to work out which restaurant complained...

Maybe you underestimate the art of being a moderator. A moderator is obliged to take the moral high ground and play it safe but it doesn't mean that they can't hint at something and leave clues as to where they've come under pressure.

Bottom line - if you want to post negative comments don't expect a moderated forum to carry them.... libel is expensive and unless you have the willing consent of a web site owner it's you that's bringing the problem to their door. If it's revenge that you are after then use an unmoderated channel or something like Google Sidewiki.

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#4 Summit Lover

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 09:16 AM

Oh dear - I don't think one needs to be Einstein to work out which restaurant complained...

Which is a great shame - for a number of reasons:

1) the great thing about VN is that people can be honest and it is not gushy all the time;
2) nearly all places end up as a result with a healthy mixture of good and less good comments, which is credible and therefore useful as a guide;
3) a positive only series of reviews looks really suspicious, like some sort of trade magazine;
4) VN is so polite in any case - heaven knows how they would have fared if they were in Sydenham Town...
5) I can think of examples where businesses have taken on board criticism on the forum (and no doubt elsewhere) and improved as a result. The White Hart for instance.

Oh well, I really sympathise MattVN - freedom of expression vs lawyers, guess who wins each time...


Hmmm.... I don't believe Matt is saying that you can't post about less than good experiences. The request seems to be that the reviews should be based on facts and generally constructively critical e.g. 'I felt that the beef was a little underdone' or 'the service could have been better and it took us 30 minutes to get served' as opposed to something like 'this place, and the food, is crap and I can't see why anyone bothers to come here.'

I would assume that most people want the restaurants/bars in the area to flourish - and giving constructive criticism at times can be a positive thing? Another aspect, of course, is that no one place will suit everyone's tastes ... inevitable I guess.

Edited by Summit Lover, 07 December 2009 - 09:18 AM.


#5 andreas

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 10:01 AM

thanks James and Summit Lover. On reflection - I think I overdid the outrage a bit, it was very early in the morning though...

I'm happy with this new approach which strikes the right balance. :)
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#6 Dazza

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 11:47 AM

Getting more like ebay everyday.

You cant give seller bad rep even if they send you something that is not what you ordered.
Your obviously mistaken me with someone who gives a fig

#7 James

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 01:13 PM

Getting more like ebay everyday.

You cant give seller bad rep even if they send you something that is not what you ordered.

Yes you can. It's just impolite to land a web site owner with a legal bill, so if you don't want to disrespect their hospitality you need to express opinion rather than libel. The majority of web sites are privately owned and if they offer you the ability to post then they will usually have terms of service. If you want the freedom to say what you want then set up your own web site and say it there.

Even if any critical commentary is completely truthful and represents the correct facts, it won't stop someone suing for libel if they choose to do so because you've upset them. There's no legal aid for libel so even if you are right you (and the site owner) can end up out of pocket. About 20,000 lighter is typical.

e.g. "I didn't like the food or service I received and wouldn't recommend this restaurant" ... opinion

"The curry I was served wasn't cooked properly and made me unwell" ... potentially libellous

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#8 MattVN

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 02:53 PM

I think James said it perfectly, showing the difference in phrasing a bad comment.

Also I just read summitlover's post again who gave a good example:

Hmmm.... I don't believe Matt is saying that you can't post about less than good experiences. The request seems to be that the reviews should be based on facts and generally constructively critical e.g. 'I felt that the beef was a little underdone' or 'the service could have been better and it took us 30 minutes to get served' as opposed to something like 'this place, and the food, is crap and I can't see why anyone bothers to come here.'


My personal default is not to moderate comments including reviews. After all, if you have bad service you want to tell the world that you threw away £50 on something that was sub standard - the comments will stop others from wasting their money and possibly will improve the restaurant if they read the comments...

But I think that this can still be carefully done, by being factual, making sure you take your issue up with the restaurant at the time, and definitely trying to leave emotion out of a bad review post. I know that review posts may be boring without the emotion, but it's the emotion which usually brings complaints from a place being reviewed. Especially at at time when competing for business is so fierce in this economy. Bad review posts can sometimes read like an attack - which is something we need to be careful about.

Please don't let this put you off writing good or bad reviews.


Here's a bad review of my breakfast today: (with a little emotion :))

Restaurant: McDonalds
Location: Flushing, NY
Time: 9:03am

The lady behind the counter greeted me with a big smile and asked what she could get me. "Two egg and cheese McMuffin meals please," I replied as my tummy rumbled. Even though the line had been long my hunger was forgiving. After collecting a coffee and orange juice I asked for ketchup and the lady told me that she had put it in the bag.

On my way out, doubt crossed my mind and my hunger was now questioning what the lady had told me about the ketchup being in the bag. I slowly opened the bag, and there was no ketchup in sight. I put my hand in the bag, and fished around, lifting the hash browns and 2 tightly wrapped McMuffins, there was no ketchup! I was very disappointed but collected some ketchup from a nearby counter.

The McMuffins were a little dry for my taste and the hash browns were too oily for me - tomorrow I think I will make myself toast.

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#9 Dazza

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 09:53 AM

Not a good idea to use that particular organisation for an example of a poor review Matt as this organisation have more active lawsuits than any other company in the world pity their food wasnt as good as their legal department.

Dazza
Your obviously mistaken me with someone who gives a fig

#10 Ziwa

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 06:12 PM

yeah, and MattVN if we have to wade through that much verbiage to find out that the server forgot to give you ketchup, we'll never find out what you are talking about!

#11 jamesl

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 08:29 PM

Understand the point Matt but it's very difficult to give a proper review without voicing an opinion strongly and giving details if you feel that way about it.

For example "Place was terrible. Will never go there again". Very damaging but difficult to say that "terrible is libelous because it's a subjective point of view and non specific.

In many way a more detailed review is fairer as it gives the establshment concerned a right of reply and people can post disagreeing. It's not libelous unles its both untrue and damaging. Damage only occurs if the restaurant can prove that peoples opinions were altered unfairly. Saying a restaurant was crap. the service rude and inattentive and the food inedible might be strong but if another 20 posters say the opposite then how can the establsihment show it's been damaged to the point of requiring financial redress in damages ?

Legal aid isn't available for libel but that cuts both ways and there's a whole list of things a complainant has to do before issuing proceedings. I can't see any judge awarding anyone anything unless they had first asked to publish a response and ask the individual to apologise /correct what they have said.

http://www.justice.g...ls/prot_def.htm

[edited comment - this discussion isn't about a specific restaurant]

#12 misspoddy

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 09:42 PM

Wouldn't a Restaurant seriously shoot themselves in the foot if they would really have a go at VN? If any establishment would sue Matt because of a bad review of their Restaurant (how ever bad that was) I guess they would very quickly loose a big chunk of their potential customers...
If Restaurant owners are so eagerly watching us and reading everything we write, then it would be definitely better for them to write a personal message to somebody who had a very very bad experience in their Restaurant, apologies and offer them a bottle on the house if they would come again.
But I guess you can't reason with stupidity, ..... or bad business sense :ph34r:

If you really got into trouble Matt, could you tell on here with whom and why? Would that be aloud?

#13 Summit Lover

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 10:02 PM

I guess the option is always there for those who want to write blistering reviews of restaurants that they wish to profess to be crap to set up their own websites - job done?

#14 claudia

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 10:28 PM

i'm still trying to work out which restaurant everyone thinks complained! its not so obvious for me :( then again i've had the mother in law staying so i've been out of the VN loop for a few days

#15 MattVN

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 10:57 PM

This is a good place to have the debate but let's not try and witch hunt one particular restaurant.

Any more posts on trying to 'out' a restaurant will be deleted - they are distracting from a good discussion about how to handle bad reviews in future. The fact is that more than 1 restaurant has contacted us over the last few months and so my post above covers all.

Also I want to point out that (within my time at VN) we have never been threatened by any restaurant about being sued or having any lawyers set on us. So I wouldn't want anyone to make an assumption about any restaurant having done that - because it's not true.



The moderators note above is because I know what can happen to forums. And without going into too much detail I was sued about 3 years ago and had to pay 1050 over content on another forum (not VN). I remember exactly the amount because 1000 was their solicitor's costs and the 50 were their estimated damages or something crazy.
I basically blundered over something that I could have removed easily and wasn't important - I learned from my mistake.


But again no restaurant has ever mentioned suing me/VN.


The proposed method of dealing with bad reviews at the top (not my McDonald's review - that was a bad joke), is something that keeps us safe and allows you to still say negative things.


We can disagree (my wife does even over this issue) but let's talk it out and figure out what's best.

But this really isn't about any one restaurant - so let's keep it on the issue.

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