Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The Trouble With Internet Reviews

I think the problem with restaurant review websites has been highlighted in the last week when someone decided to attack Pichet’s Nick Munier while hiding behind a silly user name on Tripadvisor. The fact that someone can hide behind a user name and say whatever they like via such websites is reckless and open to all sorts of abuse. Nobody should be subjected to this type of anonymous abuse and anyone who facilitates such abusive behavior via their website should be held responsible.

Another Great Idea!
Someone, somewhere must have decided it would be a great idea to have a website where John-doe/Jane-doe could tell everybody in the whole wide world all about his/her last good or bad restaurant experience. The restaurant review website was born and like all great ideas this one has been copied over and over again. The internet is now full of ways for customers (or so we’re lead to believe) to complement or slag off a restaurant and as My Grandfather Always Said “Paper Never Refused Ink”

So how do I set myself up as a restaurant pundit on the World Wide Web?
Well you don’t need to be a member of the NUJ. Just find a review website and pick a user name, let’s say “jonnyrotten127”. All you need now is a valid email address and let’s face it; a halfwit could setup a new email address in the time it would take to flip a burger. When you signup the website will send you a security email to verify your identity. You simply reply to that security email and Jonnyrotten127 has now been vetted by the security department in the review website who have just proved that jonnyrotten127 of jonnyrotten127@hotmail.com is in fact jonnyrotten127. Now that you have worked your way through this security minefield and you have been given clearance, you can publish whatever you like. Don’t be worried about having to visit a restaurant, if you prefer to go to the pub that’s fine, you don’t have to go to the restaurant; you just have to say you were there and tell your story, warts and all.

Should The Restaurant Engage and Reply to a Web Review?
Most of these review websites give the restaurant the right to reply. One day I found myself writing a reply to a bad review, I started to type “Dear wooleyhead23” and then it struck me, this is just stupid! I’m writing to someone called wooleyhead23, a guy, a girl, a sheep, who knows what, I have no idea who they are or if they actually visited my restaurant at all. So in my opinion, until there is a website where you know who you are replying to, don’t bother.

My Verdict!
If everybody was honest review websites as they are would be fantastic and would do the public and the restaurant business a great service. But alias, we’re not as honest as we should be and a lot of what is said about restaurants on these sites could be true, could be lies, could be exaggerated, could be made up by a disgruntled ex-employee having the final say, could be a competitor trying to make you look bad or could even be the restaurant themselves. Who knows?

TrueReview, a website where the reviewer has a real name?
Now, wouldn’t that be refreshing, a website where you could see who was writing the review and to review a restaurant the user would have to prove to the website who they actually are and their real name was their user name.  There would be a tiny fraction of reviewers compared to the current review format used by all websites but at least they would most likely be true.

This is just another sorry example of people and company’s trying to make easy money out of the hardworking restaurateurs’ without so much as washing a plate.

I have had the pleasure of meeting Nick Munier a couple of times and he is an utter gentleman. I have eaten in his restaurant on many an occasion and I have always enjoyed the wonderful food and good service. I have been so close to lashing out after being at the receiving end of this type of anonymous abuse and I can tell you, it can be difficult to ignore. On this occasion, it’s a big hats-off to Nick, it’s about time someone lost the head with these guys and told them where to go.  

I believe this type of anonymous abuse facilitated by websites and directed at restaurants or individuals via the internet will come to an end when someone sues the pants off someone else.

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