We have decided to abdicate Tripadvisor. Here’s why.
The disquiet many in the Hospitality Industry have with Tripadvisor is well documented, and explained far better than we could by Marina O’Loughlin here . When we first took on the pub, we were ourselves avid users of Tripadvisor, and, for a while, Tripadvisor was an important business driver with a steady stream of people telling us they’d come in because they’d seen our reviews.
Nowadays, not so much. Tripadvisor has become a sad, desolate place occupied by trolls and littered with dusty fake reviews from ranking-obsessed business owners.
We do sometimes cock up. We’re real people serving real food and drink, and sometimes things just do go wrong. But what usually happens is that we work really hard to try and fix it. If something’s not right, we’ll throw all the charm and old-fashioned hospitality we can at it til the poor victim leaves feeling as cosseted and cared for as we can possibly manage. And, invariably, those experiences don’t make it onto Tripadvisor.
Without making any sweeping statements, almost exclusively all our nasty reviews on Tripadvisor are written by nasty people.
We specialise in Old Fashioned Hospitality. And the thing about Old Fashioned Hospitality is that it’s a two-way street. We work hard to make people comfortable and happy, and in return the vast majority of our customers respond by being pleasant and considerate to both us and their fellow customers. But, just once in a while – and thankfully very rarely – we get people who don’t understand how this arrangement works. People who are surly, rude, demanding and unreasonable. People who actively do as little as possible to help us look after them properly. People who believe that in return for their cash we become de facto slaves, full of grovelling obsequiousness and pathetic gratitude.
We have a number of issues with responding to TripAdvisor reviews. Firstly, we don't like their business model - the fact that they encourage trolling, and that the balance is very much in the advantage of the reviewer rather than the businesses. Curiously, it isn’t against their guidelines to lie in a review – they insist that it’s up to the business to respond, so perpetuating the cycle of engagement. By responding to reviews it feels like we're legitimising Tripadvisor, which we just don't want to do.
Secondly, whilst the negative reviews are quite often plainly bullying, we're lucky to be well educated and have a good turn of phrase. Many business owners seem to live for the one bad review that they can take apart with enough style to go Viral. We regularly get people tell us how much they enjoy reading our previous responses to reviews. However, it feels uncomfortably like we're dealing with bullies by bullying them back harder, which just doesn’t make us feel like Good People.
Lastly, it's just too emotionally draining. We put our heart and soul into our pub, and these reviews really hurt. But if we just ignore them and move on it's much less painful than actually engaging.
We’re really lucky to be the owner/operators of a successful, popular, independent business. We get a lot of pleasure from how many people both enjoy and appreciate what we do. But, whilst not wanting to be too Basil Fawlty about it, being the owners of an independent business means that we’re in the privileged position of not having to put up with rudeness and bad manners or what seems to be the weapon of choice for many, passive aggression. We are perfectly able and eloquent enough to take people down a peg if we so wished, but again this feels like repaying bullying with bullying, and experience tells us that it’s better for all in the pub if we just tell people as it is. And, unsurprisingly, this doesn’t go down well with some. Who then go and leave us shitty Tripadvisor reviews.
We’re secure in the knowledge that we continue to be popular with both locals and visitors, so we must be doing something right. We’re sure that at some point someone will write us a crappy review that is entirely justified and fair. If that’s you, we’re really sorry. Otherwise, perhaps think of all the times you’ve been somewhere that’s come highly recommended and you’ve not enjoyed yourself, and left feeling disgruntled and angry enough to vent your anger online. Think about all the things those places have in common, the common thread through all these bad experiences. Perhaps, just maybe, it’s you.