TripAdvisor users threaten to leave bad reviews to 'blackmail' owners into giving refunds over unfair complaints

TripAdvisor users threaten to leave bad reviews to 'blackmail' owners into giving refunds over unfair complaints

By Telegraph Reporters 13 DECEMBER 2016 • 12:24PM

Pub customers frequently threaten to leave bad TripAdvisor reviews over unfair complaints, a landlord has disclosed, as he accused a diner of trying to blackmail him unless he gave them a refund.

Piers Baker, 41, spoke of his anger after the diner claimed to have suffered food poisoning after eating at The Sun Inn, in Dedham, on the Essex-Suffolk border.

Mr Baker said he was called three days after a meal by a member of a party who ate lamb at the historic 15th century former coaching inn.

The pub owner said they told him they had fallen very ill and demanded their money back after the visit in November.

Mr Baker said he sympathised with the customer, but insisted he would only give a refund if food poisoning could be confirmed by a doctor or an investigation by environmental health officials or the Food Standards Agency.

He said the diner warned they would post a bad review on travellers' website TripAdvisor if they did not get their money back. They followed through with their threat three days later.

Mr Baker, who also runs a pub in Colchester, Essex, said: "It's extremely frustrating. If people don't like the decor or something that's up to them. I have no problem with opinions, I do with a distortion of the facts.

"We get it frequently, people who sit in and say 'if you don't take this off my bill, we will put it on TripAdvisor'.

"We will take it off if there's something wrong with it. The threat is irrelevant. If they behave like that we don't want them back anyway."

The businessman added: "I have replied to the comment, which I don't like doing because I don't agree with it and don't want to be involved.

"I said when they called 'you are blackmailing us' and they said 'no, we feel you should inform people of it'.

"We know the meat came in good order, was stored correctly and cooked at the right temperature. We served 180 people that day, 48 had lamb – plus some staff – and we have had no other reports of food poisoning."

Mr Baker said the victim could have easily caught a bug or virus off another person who might not themselves display symptoms.

TripAdvisor now appears to have taken the comment down. Mr Baker said that in his 14 years in the trade he has successfully had two other unfair reviews removed from the review website.

A TripAdvisor spokesman said: "Our advice to business owners if they feel they have been threatened with an unfair review is to use our dedicated tool which allows them to report such threats to us before any review is published.

"Our team of specialists will then investigate and take action to prevent reviews that breach our guidelines from making it onto the site.

"For reviews that are published and do meet our guidelines, we give owners the opportunity to put their side of the story across by publishing a reply to each review."

The Sun Inn was rated in the top 50 pubs in the Good Food Guide 2016.


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