Customer tries to blackmail The Longs Arms with a one-star Google Review

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 4th July 2019

The chef owner of South Wraxall gastropub The Longs Arms, Rob Allcock is at a loss for what to do after a customer threatened to leave a one star review unless he refunded her meal. 

Ranked 36th in the Estrella Damn gastropub list, recognised with a Bib Gourmand in the Michelin Guide for four consecutive years, The Longs Arms usually has the support of its customers, too, and received TripAdvisor's certificate of excellence in 2014, 2015, 2016. 

On the day of the incident, the chef said customers had held a wake in the restaurant.

Overall, the service went well and the customer - a self-titled 'foodie,' according to the chef - reported having very much enjoyed her meal, but said that service had been appalling and refused to leave a tip.

She left a review on Google, which the chef described as "not particularly bad" but which he decided to follow up with a phone call. 

But the conversation escalated and left the chef feeling dumbstruck, as she said she would settle for nothing less than a refund. 

"She ended the conversation saying if I was a restaurateur worth my salt I would offer her a free glass of wine for not liking the ice cream" 
"She said: 'I'm going to do something that I've never done before, I'm going to write another review.'"
"I asked her if she was asking for a freebie sort of thing, and she said: 'well if I don't get my refund, then I'm going to write another review." 

Now, the chef is unsure what to do - refund the customer's meal to get her out of the way, or risk a bad Google Review, which he sees as unfair and unfounded. 

"It's tough, you know, for the sake of 75 quid should I pay her and get rid of her because she's ruining my day or make a stand and possibly wait for another review on Google or TripAdvisor." 
"As much as I hate TripAdvisor and Google for reviews, there's nothing I can do if it gets posted on there. So do I pay her, or do I take the risk and hope people don't believe the review?" 
While many have advised that he take it to the police, he said, even if he wanted to, there's no evidence that it ever happened. "There's no blackmail letter, there's no ransom note. It was just a conversation on the phone." 
"Obviously I've got to protect my business - is that paying her the £75 or the bigger picture - protecting everyone else's in the same instance by not paying her? Because I know it happens." 
"Loads of people, incidentally, have paid. It's just the easy way out." 
"If I get a one star review on Google or TripAdvisor I'll just be devastated because we worked so hard to get this business like it is. We don't mess around, we don't want people to have a bad time." 

The chef insisted that he doesn't think the person is in the habit of doing things like this - and as of yet she hasn't posted a review, so may have been bluffing, or caught in the heat of the moment. 

What do you think chefs? Should Rob refund the customer or accept that his ratings might drop? Has this happened to you? Do you think the industry should take a stand against this kind of behaviour? 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 4th July 2019

Customer tries to blackmail The Longs Arms with a one-star Google Review