Ask The Salty Waitress: A Restaurant Owner Asked Me To Take Down My Online Review

Dear Salty: A friend and I recently decided to go back to a restaurant we both had weird or bad experiences with in the past. The place got new owners. We figured new owners and new cooks might've improved the place. We were wrong.

They advertise "genuine Chinese food with fresh meat and vegetables." What we got was not that. It was bland. The so-called Szechuan hot and sour sauce was neither Szechuan nor hot and sour. The chicken breast was so rubbery it would shame a hockey puck. The vegetables were clearly not fresh. They were probably store-brand frozen vegetables, which were so soggy they clearly had been frozen and thawed at least twice before being boiled to death. I asked the waitress if this was how the food was supposed to be, and she said yes. When we left, still hungry, we both wrote a bad review noting what I've described here and giving the place a one-star rating on Google. We didn't embellish or tell a lie. 

The day after, we both woke up to messages on Facebook from the owner (yes, he stalked us on social media) telling us we were wrong, claiming he personally cut all the meat and vegetables for our dishes. A couple of days later he messaged us again, asking us to take down the review.

Should we take it down?One-Star Reviewer

Dear One-Star Reviewer,

Take comfort in knowing your experience wasn't as bad as it could have been. You didn't get food poisoning, and you didn't have red wine dumped all over you. You had a disappointing meal, and that stinks.

But I, like anyone who works in restaurants, find online reviews to be the bane of my existence. I don't read the ones of the restaurant where I work—my doctor says it's not good for my blood pressure or my eye twitch. I don't even really read other restaurants' reviews. My main complaint about them is that these reviewers who had such truly awful meals like to hide behind their keyboards instead of explaining the problem to a server or manager. If you want the restaurant to improve or learn from the mistake, you're better off bringing it up to the staff so they can correct it and maybe try to salvage your meal.

You tried this by mentioning something to your server, who didn't seem too interested in your feedback. That, or the restaurant really thinks those boiled vegetables are delicious. At any rate, you tried to complain in person first, which earns you my respect.

Whether or not to take it down is up to you. I don't see a glaring "right or wrong" here, and you know I'm a lady who likes to dish out advice. So I'll break down what I see as the pros and cons for both options, and then let you make up your mind. If you think of it, send me another email letting me know what you ended up doing. It pains me to admit that I really do think about some of you letter-writers weeks later.

Let's start with his request that you take down the review. I'll admit it's a bit weird that he tracked you down on Facebook, but I guess that's what the internet is for these days. I'm not sure I'd call it stalking, but it's a little unsettling. Do you really want to "reward" him for that? It might encourage him to do this with other reviewers in the future.

Second, it's not as though you lied or overdramatized your meal. You thought the food was subpar and you wrote about what specifically the issues were. That's pretty much the best you can do in an online review—be honest, be specific. Someone might even read your review and go to a different Chinese restaurant in town and have a better experience, best-case scenario.

Lastly, it doesn't seem like you did anything "wrong" that should make you feel guilty about your review. If you had a bad meal and wrote about it honestly, writing a review is within your rights. That's literally why those review sites exist.

Now I'm going to play devil's advocate to all that. You could consider taking your review down for three reasons: 1) You've made your point and shared your complaint with the restaurant owner, who is at least aware of your feedback. 2) Maybe you want to give this restaurant another shot, exercising your ability to forgive and forget. Maybe you'd be helping out a small business by removing the review. 3) On a practical level, it might get this guy to stop messaging you.

If you remove the review to get him off your back, that's totally fine, but if you were honest and fair in your post, then you don't need to lose any sleep over what you wrote. There's only one moral to this story, and it's that nothing good comes of reviewing restaurants on the internet.

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