Restaurants have many complaints about the online review platform Yelp. Some of it stems from their aggressive sales tactics. Some from their illogical algorithm that will filter out legitimate reviews that they think are fake at the cost of a business’s good rating. And while those two things should be enough to piss any business off, I have an even bigger complaint. Most of the people who write reviews on Yelp actually have no idea how to write a review.
This is not exclusive to Yelp. It’s a problem with all online review components. People will often give 1 or 2 star ratings while the review itself has little to nothing to do with the product itself. For example, on Amazon just yesterday I read a review of a table and chair set. The reviewer gave it 1 star so I had to see what was wrong. It turned out, the package came completely damaged. This of course is not the fault of the product manufacturer and in no way represents the quality of the product. Yet this amateur critic took out his disdain on the manufacturer rather than the carrier that delivered it, who were the true culprits.
My place (D’s Soul Full Cafe) has gotten it’s share of bad reviews that had nothing to do with the product. One reviewer was upset because they didn’t get the extras they wanted stating, “If you want extra, you have to ask for it.” So now our rating has to suffer because this idiot forgot to ask for something?
But the worst offenders are those who don’t confront an easily resolved issue while they are in the place. Instead they go home and stew in their anger for days, weeks or in some cases much, much longer. In doing so, they often offer up an unfair and untrue image of a business. And there is nothing we as business owners can do other than confront the reviewer publicly. Of course doing that can backfire.
We had one reviewer claim that she had gotten food poisoning due to what she referred to as, “congealed mayonnaise” on her sandwich. When I replied to explain that what she ordered actually had two types of melted cheese and not mayonnaise (suspecting she was lactose intolerant and unaware of what she was ordering), she simply re-wrote her review to state only that she got food poisoning. By editing out the full details of her experience, she had rendered my rebuttal pointless.
And Yelp offers no help. If you call to complain, they simply defer to their all-knowing algorithm which they apparently have no control over. Then they immediately launch into their sales pitch to get you to pay a premium in order to get better control over your listing. While they deny that this new control over your listing will have any influence on their algorithm, it is heavily implied.
Below is an example of a recent review that embodies all that is wrong with the Yelp format. This gentleman — apparently not even from Hoboken — posted a review on January 31, 2015. We had been closed for a month at that point because of the fire we suffered on January 1. He makes references to microwaving eggs, something we hadn’t done here in over a year at that point. Other complaints were fixable had he only spoken up while here. The rest of the back and forth speaks for itself.
Los Angeles, CA
This place is pretty awful. Terrible coffee that they run out of, so can’t even get the free cup I would prefer. Breakfast burritos are edible but they cut them in half.. Through tin foil. How ignorant do you have to be to not know that you don’t cut through tin foil? But hey, I barely noticed the tiny pieces of tin foil I was eating. They microwave their eggs. And the owner is mercurial at best. Apparently he’s nice to girls tho. Major thumbs down and disappointment. I’m mulling changing the rating to 1 star.
Here is my reply, calling him out on waiting so long to review and pointing out how he was claiming we do things that we don’t actually do.
Comment from Stephen B. of D’s Soul Full Cafe
I’m very sorry for your bad experience here, but I do have to wonder why you waited a month (if not more) to post your review. Had you come to us on the day of your order, we could have resolved your issues on the spot.
You may be asking how I know that you waited so long to post your review. It’s because we’ve been closed due to a fire in our building since the evening of January 1st. Which is also why I’m only responding to this now. I apologize for taking so long, but as you can imagine, I’ve had other details to worry about.
Still, I couldn’t let this go without trying to address your issues.
Yes, it is true. We cut thru the wrappers of our sandwiches. As do many other sandwich shops. It is rare (very rare) that anyone complains about shards of foil or paper in their sandwiches. We have very sharp knives (and the scars to prove it). Still, accidents happen. Had you come to us on that day and said there was a problem with your sandwich, we would have made you a new one.
Because you waited so long to post your review, your memory seems to be impaired. We do not microwave our eggs. Perhaps you read it in an old review and that influenced yours. There was a time in our past when we did in fact microwave eggs. That was not a good idea. We’re not proud of it. So we stopped doing it. A long time ago.
To say our coffee is terrible and we always run out is contradictory. After all, it would be a neat trick for a cafe (or any business) to consistently run out of a terrible product.
Also, had you informed us that the flavor that you wanted for your free coffee was out, we could have made more. We’ve found that most folks are willing to wait the extra two minutes or so for their free cup of coffee.
Mercurial? Ok … I’ll give you that one.
And yes, we are nice to girls. Guys too. We’re nice to anyone who is nice to us.
I hope this answers your concerns. Once we reopen — and if you’re willing to give us another shot — stop by.
Then, he replied to my reply, only to dig his hole deeper.
I do appreciate your response. Your apology seemed genuine until you alluded that my memory is impaired. It was indeed a while ago when I tried you numerous times, when you served microwaved eggs. Nice to hear that’s changed. Your coffee contradicting comment is false. You give a free cup w a breakfast wrap and your containers are small. Easy to run out of based on that I would think. Bottom line, I do not like your coffee. I waited to post for no particular reason at all, I don’t think it impacts what can be used as constructive criticism. The tin foil thing is legit, I don’t recall any other sandwich place in hoboken cutting thru theirs. Shoot me an example and I’ll stand corrected.
Sorry for troubles with fire. Hope you guys come back better than before.
So of course I had to reply to his reply of my reply to point out that he had dug his hole deeper. This was not easy since Yelp only allows for business owners to reply once to a review. I had to edit my first reply in order to add the second one. For a company that claims to be the social network of food reviews, they don’t offer much in the way of social interaction between businesses and reviewers.
I wanted to reply to your last update. Yelp doesn’t make that easy. Anyway, sorry again for the delay, we are still working to reopen the cafe.
My point about you waiting so long to write remains valid. To make comments about microwaving eggs — something we stopped before we stopped selling bagels (and we stopped selling bagels over a year before you wrote your review) — sheds a false light on what we do here. If your only complaints were that you didn’t like the coffee and had a problem with your burrito at your last visit, at least that would be something we could address. To bring up something we stopped doing well over a year ago is just unfair.
As for proving that other places cut thru their wrappers, all you have to do is watch. One feature about our layout is that people can watch what we do. Again, we’ve never had a complaint. You said you’ve been here numerous times. Was this always a problem? If so, why not say something to us? Give us a chance to fix it? That’s all we ask.
And one last point about the coffee; Yes, we do offer a free small cup but only to those walk-in customers buying a breakfast burrito. The vast majority of our coffee is sold, not given away. Regarding the size of our airpots, they are industry standard at about 1/2 gallon each. We have 5 to 6 pots that we refill several times throughout the day. Yes, there are times when one or more of the flavors may be out but only until we refill them. All anyone has to do is tell us, and we will make a fresh pot.
Of course if you don’t like our coffee, no one is forcing you to drink it. We have offered other options to customers who don’t want coffee. Again, all you have to do is ask.
I still hope that you will give us another chance once we reopen.
So just like spoiled babies but with anonymity, these reviewers take to the ether to try and voice their opinions. That in and of itself is not a bad thing. However, doing so without regard for facts or common courtesy can be. This reviewer even thinks he was offering up constructive criticism, yet nearly all of his comments were outdated and unwarranted. Had he only done the considerate thing and talked to us whenever he was here, all of his concerns would have been addressed and dealt with. But that takes a certain degree of courage that most online reviewers don’t have.
What kind of person admits to returning numerous times to a place that they claim to despise? What purpose is there for waiting over a year to post a review other than to get the satisfaction of reading their own words and knowing that no one knows who they really are? I’ve got news for them all; They’re not internet vigilantes out to level the playing field. They’re trolls. Plain and simple.
Learn to write. Learn the meaning of the word ‘constructive’. Then come at me with a review. Until then, just shut the fuck up and eat.