Friday, November 21, 2014

Could a restaurant charge customers a "bad review" fee?

An English hotel recently charged a couple 100 pounds (about $157) for calling it a "rotten, stinking hovel" on Trip Advisor.

Pressured by the media, the hotel refunded the money. But the idea got me thinking: could a restaurant threaten to do the same?

It's an appealing idea for restaurants bedeviled by Yelp reviews. Most of me -- 99.89% of me -- says, no way, that's a horrible chilling effect.

But it is Yelp, and there are reviews like these, of a few San Francisco restaurants I like:

"They ask you to leave before you finished your food. Very rude! This kind of behavior has never happened to me ever. I can't believe people behave in such a selfish and rude manner. I've been to thousands of restaurants in my life and not once has a restaurant ever ask me to leave before I finished my food. I can tell you the names of thousands of restaurants that will not ask you to leave before you finished eating. Do NOT eat at this restaurant! IT WILL RUIN your night!" -- Fan W. on Terra Cotta Warrior (1 star)

"1) Smelled like piss.
2) Cups are dirty. I mean really dirty, like really really dirty. It was not just a fingerprint or so, it was a piece of shit on my f***ing cup.
3) Well done stake was simply raw inside. Though meat was good,cooking was terrible.
4) Paid $50 for it." -- Ashot H. on The Palace (1 star; this is Ashot's only review)

"The restaurant charges $1 per person for tea. I had specifically told the waiters that neither my sister nor I wanted tea. They didn't bring us any, but still charged us $2 always. They also charged us 10 cents for a bag for our leftovers. The SF bag fee doesn't apply to leftovers from sit down restaurant food aka "doggy bags" ... To be honest, I can barely remember if the food was good or not ... I wish I could give 0 stars." -- Ella C. on Hong Kong Lounge (1 star)

I know it's wrong, I know it's wrong ... but wouldn't you like to see a "dumbass cheapskate all-wrong negative review fee" show up on Ella C's credit card?

I have heard diners tell servers that they are Yelp elites, and ask for a free appetizer or dessert. I've heard the threat of negativity wielded. Wouldn't it be interesting to see it work the other way?

A restaurant could put on its menu: "Negative reviews on Yelp that include inaccurate information will result in an additional $5 charge." Ashot H. would be free to slam The Palace, but he wouldn't be able to claim that shit happened if it didn't. We could find out exactly why Terra Cotta Warrior wanted Fan W. to leave. And Ella C. ... well, Hong Kong Lounge does sock everybody with a usurious $1 charge for tea -- the horror! -- so she'd get the $5 dumbass cheapskate all-wrong negative review fee refunded. Would still like to see her face when she saw it, though.

Yeah, I know it's wrong, but like a lot of things that are wrong, thinking about it feels pretty good.

Follow me on Twitter: @wblakegray and like The Gray Report on Facebook.


Mark Andrew Sinnott said...

Blake, I get the visceral desire... but this is a bad, no terrible idea for so many reasons...

Jonas Landau, everydaywineguy said...

You can usually tell when a yelp review is written by an overly demanding, completely intolerant customer. And the restaurant can reply on yelp to bad reviews - and sometimes go too far themselves. I live in a small town in NJ and our local Thai joint (which isn't very good) got a scathing, uncalled for review on yelp from a very immature diner. The proprietor however, made matters worse by responding that the diner obviously had anger issues caused by her not being able to get what she needs from her boyfriend at home. It was the talk of the town for about a month and then he finally removed his response. It was funny to us observers but I'm sure it wasn't to the owner.