Friday, 18 October 2013

Tripadvisor and the Trots (unedited) - Published in the South Shropshire Journal 18/10/13

Oh heavens. It’s deadline day: 450 words on tasty food and I’ve left it to the last minute again. Normally I find this lark pretty straightforward, unless I’ve picked up some sort of horror-bug and spent the last what feels like forever on, in and around the lavatory, expelling tasty food at great velocity. Boy-oh-boy, just the thought of food makes me never want to look at it again, let alone write about it.

But, ever the consummate professional, loyalty to my small flock of readers will ensue and this week I offer you a recipe for a weak mug of tea with just a tiny splash of milk and two sugars, washed down with half a bottle of Pepto-Bismol.

As if I would. While my stomach is turning and its bile rising in the back of my throat I’ll turn my numbed brain to the internet. Now, make no mistake, the internet has bought us many great things (unfortunately not this purely-on-paper column – big hint there Ed), but Tripadvisor is not one of them. Or more accurately, some of the people who use Tripadvisor. If you’re unfamiliar with this heinous website, it gives anyone with a grudge and access to the web, free-rein to libel the hospitality industry. Had a stale packet of crisps at your local? Pop on Tripadvisor and tell the world that their curtains are horrid and the chef tried to chat up your girlfriend, after he spat in your soup. Easy as that.

Negative reviews on Tripadvisor are almost always written by cowards and fools. Cowards, because it’s so easy to say mean things about other people when you’re hidden behind a computer screen and a pseudonym. Fools, because if you had big enough cojones to make a complaint at the time, you’d most likely have walked out of whichever place it was you decided to slam, with a free pud or bottle of wine, and a personal apology from patron. If at the time you thought the fish of the day was a bit stinky, but ate it all up, paid full price, didn’t complain then went home and wrote about it, well it just makes you a moron with the trots.

However, more hideous than those punters who write the reviews are the restaurateurs who make impulsive, half-witted and vitriolic responses to their adverse feedback. So-called professionals telling their customers where to stick it looks like a cry for help, desperation and always over-inflated egoism. Personally it puts me off visiting their establishment way more than any drunken fumble of a ‘review’ ever would. However harsh the criticism they receive, it shows that their views on hospitality, and customer service are way out of kilter and that they know the customer is wrong.

Hospitality is above all about generosity, with a smattering of humility. Tripadvisor, in the wrong hands, is the very antithesis of these great virtues.

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