Barred for writing a bad review – Can reviews be trusted?

Raj-ReviewsDo you leave reviews online? If so beware, Steve Buckwell of Canterbury has just been banned from his local Indian restaurant after leaving a bad review on TripAdvisor.

It might be understandable if he’d purposefully left a vindictive review, but this wasn’t Steve’s first visit to the restaurant and in the past he’d left them glowing reviews. After a visit in September 2012 he said “Nearly excellent” noting “the sauce was magnificent and went down a treat with the plain raita“.

Another review in 2013 had Steve raving with a 5 star review saying “I died and went to heaven… Ok this is the last time I write a review of this restaurant. I wouldn’t have bothered, but last night the chef must have had stardust glittered over him or something“.

Sadly a recent visit in Spetember this year didn’t go quite as well with a one star review “Nooooo. Its gone right down the pan!! Ok so if you look at my previous reviews of this restuarant you will see that I have raved about it in the past. Then the last couple of times Ive been, its been, you know, ok ish. Put that down to a blip. Last night we went and bloody nora, it was the worst meal I have had for a long long time“. Things weren’t helped by “a table of drunken middle aged louts who were having a burping contest”.

Steve isn’t the only person who hasn’t had the best experience at the restaurant, whilst many of their reviews are (as Steve’s first reviews were) excellent, around the time of Steve’s last review another patron also left a 1 star rating saying “Chef Required Urgently” and noting a disappointing meal.

Of course all restaurants have off days and Steve was more than willing to give them another chance but they barred him. Steve fumes “One poor review and when I tried to book tonight, quite prepared to give them another chance, I was told I was no longer allowed in!

Admittedly Steve’s last review wasn’t great, but it was his opinion and in fairness he noted in the review that he’d left great reviews in the past. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of customer’s being banned for leaving bad reviews, as far back as 2010 we wrote about a couple thrown out of a hotel 2 days into a 3 night stay for simply being suspected of leaving a poor review.

We’ve heard many times of course of online sellers banning buyers from whom they’ve received negative feedback, but in this case they’re only barred from buying from one seller, not from the entire marketplace. Does this transfer to more traditional businesses though? What do you think of a business that bans anyone that has the temerity to complain in public?

This also brings into the spotlight the value of review sites such as TripAdvisor – if customers only leave positive reviews it’s hardly helpful or honest but do you want to be barred for leaving your honest opinion?

We’ve asked TripAdvisor for a comment and they told us: “TripAdvisor was built to give customers a platform to share their honest opinions, good or bad. We strongly believe in their right to do so. Consumers know they can rely on TripAdvisor to help them make informed decisions, which is why millions of travellers keep coming back to the site each month. It is completely against the spirit and policies of our site for any business owner to attempt to bully or intimidate reviewers who have had a negative experience. And when we are made aware of an issue, we address the issue with the business or individual“.