Businesses fire back against negative reviews

June 14, 2012 3:58:30 PM PDT
The next time you jump on your phone or computer and leave an online review for a company, be warned -- you might get a phone call or email from the business asking you to take it down.

Some companies are now fighting back against negative critiques and sometimes not in a nice way.

For Eric Winick, it all started soon after he left mixed online review for a restaurant. He raved about the food, but with a fidgety two-year-old in tow, he was frustrated dinner took an hour to be served.

"I said in the review that they had taken a ridiculously long time to bring the food," Winick said.

He was surprised to get an email from the restaurant's owner asking him to take it down.

Winick recalled, "He said that something along the lines of 'We're trying to make a go of it in this area, we all have families to feed' and sort of trying to prey on my sympathies a little bit."

More and more businesses across the country are reaching out to customers who leave bad reviews, and they're not always trying to make amends. In an extreme case -- things got hot in the kitchen for an Atlanta restaurant earlier this year when it launched a Facebook and Twitter campaign identifying a customer who left a bad review and the food fight went viral.

Social media expert Patrick O'Malley explained, "A single person can now go home and get on Facebook and tell 500 or 1,000 people what they think of your restaurant."

The impact is immense. A Harvard Business School study found that a one star increase in a business' rating on the online review site Yelp leads to a five to nine percent boost in revenue for independent restaurants.

Zalmi Duchman, the founder of, is among the business owners who have made the request to remove reviews. He explains to customers how damaging negative comments can be and asks them to remove them. Sometimes it doesn't work, but sometimes it does.

"We've found in the past the faster you react to the customer, the better chance you're going to have to get that customer to remove their negative review because they see you take their comments and their feedback seriously," Duchman said.

Online review site Urbanspoon says it actually encourages businesses and reviewers to connect, and warns customers many companies take what they type very seriously.

"For a small business, their business is an extension of who they are," Kara Nortman with Urbanspoon said. "There's a real emotional connection to that."

Urbanspoon says while it wants and depends on customer reviews to operate, consumers should remember that businesses do make mistakes sometimes. So if a company reaches out to you to make amends, it may be worth giving them a second chance.

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