A Christchurch cafe publishes its worst reviews in its menu so customers can read them at the table.
The info panel of the cafe’s door proudly states it is home to: all day breakfasts, pneumatic sliders, specialty coffee, Golden Panther tea, OK! Nectars, Lucky Sodas and Terrible Trip Advisor Reviews.
And just in case you missed it, on the receipt under the cafe’s name comes the motto “The home of terrible Trip Advisor reviews”.
Owner Sam Crofskey says this openness about what would be most cafes’ worst nightmare is to try to counter anonymous, unthinking and sometimes unfair online attacks.
The reviews are published in the cafe’s quirky menu which is more like a cheap throwaway hipster Zine than a rundown of the eggs bennie options.
It includes stories about the cafe, its project to support Samoa by selling Samoan products in the cafe, staff contributions and so on.
Crofskey says publishing bad reviews is about “owning them”.
Coffee drinkers and diners read the worst reviews while they are at the table and so can form their own impression. They can “review the review”.
“They can compare that to the current experience they are having in the cafe I guess,” he says. “It’s different than sitting behind a keyboard than going into a place and actually experiencing it.”
Crofskey says C1 isn’t perfect and genuine complaints are important feedback.
But some bad reviews can be a mindless lashing out by an anonymous person who has been triggered by something – often the cafe’s stance in not using trim milk in coffee.
This can escalate to posting something outlandish like the cafe is full of flies and the staff are laughing at customers.
The reviewer has probably forgotten writing all this a few hours later, yet it lives on against C1’s name online forever.
Crofskey says his 30 staff are all fulltime (he doesn’t employ casuals) and they take their hospitality work very seriously. His chefs work four 10-hour days, then have three days off, which is unheard of in hospitality.
“They are a team of professional staff who are actually giving it heaps. They aren’t eye rolling or laughing at our customers in the manner these reviews suggest. It would be embarrassing for them to be thought they were doing a bad job as a waitress.”
Some anonymous reviews attack individuals, which he calls mean-spirited.
“I get it, people want to … ” then he pauses. “Actually I don’t get it. I don’t get why they would do that.”
There’s an obvious danger in the approach though. This is that some diners will post bad reviews just for the glory of making it into the menu. He’s sadly confident this story will bring a spike in bad reviews on Trip Advisor.
But he still hopes more decency might come into the anonymous online reviewing for all hospitality places.
“Maybe people could remember to write a review about some of their good experiences every now and then,” he says.
“Maybe that’s the thing we are trying to say with our menu. We are trying to remind people to be kind to each other and say some nice things. Maybe if you have a good experience somewhere try and write a good review about them.”
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