Trip reports, hotel & book reviews and so on … from the point of view of the trade.
Over the winter I have received a fair few e-mails from owners of hotels, restaurants and villas, authors of books, owners of small businesses, and even a composer! The e-mails had two common factors running through them and that was about black-listing people and about people who write nasty reports. So, I think the simplest thing for me to do here is simply answer the main questions as they pop up & in no particular order of importance:-
– yes, if somebody has written a bad report about you, feel free to say what you think about them BUT remember you are a professional person and must not stoop to their level! Here is one that was shown to me, the owner of a small restaurant in Marbella in response to a bad review: Mrs X (name) I have read your childish review and want to tell you that I found you disgusting, eating with your mouth open, talking loudly with your drunk husband. So your opinion is of no importance to me at all.
We can all understand where he is coming from, that restauranteur. He has worked very hard for many years and almost certainly did not deserve a bad review; his response was unprofessional (but Lordy, isn’t it tempting ?!) and equally childish. He was, however, right to respond. Something more appropriate would be along the lines of: Mrs X (name), I have read your report and, while I appreciate feed-back from my customers, most of whom are very happy with my service, I can neither condone nor accept a review that comes from somebody such as your good self.
That is not rude, it is not petty, but it is saying to others “this woman was ghastly anyway!”
– yes, naming the person in question is fine providing you are sticking to the truth and not saying anything slanderous. And it is only fair. They feel free to name you so they must realize you will probably respond. Be very careful, however. Just as you, as the tradesman, have the right to sue somebody who is trying to ruin your business, they also have the right to sue you. I have never come across this happening (in either direction) but it could. Here is one in response to a bad hotel review: F…. M….. (name), I feel that is really unkind of you. I did a lot for you while you were here and it is unfair to criticise me after the event. You seemed very happy, and had you told me there was something wrong I’d have done my utmost to sort it.
That is perfectly reasonable.
– no, you should not black-list somebody because they wrote a bad review unless that person often writes bad reviews in which case it is well worth warning other trades that this is a person likely to complain. The aim of the black-list is to warn other trades that these people wrecked the house, or were difficult about paying, or stole the silver or were simply rude and unpleasant.
– no, you should not simply give in for the sake of peace. I had a letter last year (or was it the year before?) from a woman who stayed two weeks in one of my cottages, who seemed to be having a nice holiday, but who after she had returned to the UK, wrote to complain. It was clear to me that she wanted a refund of some sort and, upon investigation, I found that she tries this every year wherever she goes. Most people who complain are hoping for some money back and you should not give in.
– it is our duty, as tradespeople, to provide the very best we possibly can of whatever service it is. Once we are confident we are doing that we should not have to take unnecessary criticism, let alone out-and-out nastiness. If it is any consolation, the people that write bad reviews are a) usually women, b) usually overweight women (yes, really!) and c) often have (men or women) some kind of inadequacy problem. Let us console ourselves with that. Meanwhile, just as we have to put up with the variations of public opinion, so the public must realize that we will not necessarily take it lying down!
– last but not least, most members of the public simply do not realize the damage they can do. I doubt any of them think “right, I’m going to see if I can stop people going there! Let’s make him bankrupt!” They just don’t think about it at all. They have a mis-placed idea that their voice is important, and they let off steam by putting pen to paper, often to the cost of people who have done no harm.
Tomorrow – Trip reports, hotel & book reviews and so on … from the point of view of the client.
Catherine Broughton is a novelist, a poet and an artist.