How Not to Reply to a Yelp Review

I just got the following comment from a business owner in my Yelp inbox:

Sorry you did not enjoy your meal and felt the need to post it on the internet. We have a manager and owner on call and on site at all hours. Reviews like yours are very sad. FYI, the [food] is the most authentic you will get and also the ones you get in [European city] from the vendors are days old…they are made and sold days old because the tourists “may never come back so whats the difference” Have a good day.

Here is my response, with the name of the business removed:

I’m assuming you’re referring to my review of [your restaurant] in [town] from 2008.

Yelp is a service that all business owners/managers need to be aware of and monitor regularly. It’s a way of finding out what’s going well and not going well in their businesses. People don’t always like to talk with managers and owners directly – you have to go where the feedback is to find out what you need to do better. No, I didn’t talk with an owner or manager in 2008 when I ate at [your restaurant]. I wasn’t impressed with the food, but I also didn’t feel the need for a refund or for an opportunity to come back and try it again. In my experience, that’s usually what happens when someone talks to an owner or manager. Instead, I turned to my network to tell them about my experience at the restaurant. If it in some way hurt your business in the two years since I posted the review, well, I hope you have been reading and learning and improving, and that you understand that my experience was just that – MINE. I haven’t read the reviews of the restaurant since I left mine; perhaps others are better. If that’s the case, you likely have little to worry about.

As for your FYI, I appreciate that you felt the need to correct what I experienced during the months that I lived in [European city] and completely dismissed the fact that I actually watched some of the street vendors making [food named above]. No, I didn’t post all that information in my review. It didn’t seem necessary at the time, since I really never expected to be challenged about HOW the street vendors I knew made their food; my review was about [your restaurant] not [European city] [food] vendors. But whatever. If you feel the need to tell me that what I experienced was something other than what it was, go right ahead. Make the assumption that I was only there for a very short time and don’t know what I’m talking about.

I really hope you understand that your message to me was a ridiculously rude way to try to change my mind about the restaurant. However, if you were to edit your message and re-send it to me, this would be a much better and more positive way to get my attention:

“Sorry you did not enjoy your meal two years ago. We would love it if you would try [our restaurant] again; in particular, the XXX is something most of our customers rave about. After your meal, our manager and/or owner would love to hear from you directly, to find out if your experience was better than it was 2 years ago. Have a good day.”

Do you see the difference in tone in those two emails? The edited version is from someone who actually wants a customer to visit again, while your version is from someone who is telling the customer that her experience was invalid. Not a great way to make me want to come rushing back.

Honestly, if you had sent me something like the edited version, I WOULD have tried [your restaurant] again, and I would have spoken with the manager and/or owner, and if the experience and food had improved, I would have written another review here on Yelp saying so. But given what you wrote me (ridiculously rude, remember?) I won’t be re-trying [your restaurant] any time.


So besides the fact that  I’m  completely passive-aggressive in parts of this message back to the person who wrote to me, I have to say I’m pretty happy with the bulk of this message.

Small business owners: If you are getting onto Yelp or another review service for the first time, a few words of advice.

  1. Read my message above. If you must respond to feedback about your business, consider using something like my edited message.
  2. Pay attention to the dates the reviews were initially posted. Maybe you had different management then, or different servers, or a different chef, or SOMETHING different. Use that as a point of reference to encourage the person to come back.
  3. For the love of customer service mavens everywhere, don’t tell folks that they didn’t experience what they say they experienced. Ever. It just makes you look defensive and honestly, kind of like a jerk.
  4. Do follow the lead of the person who wrote to me, though. Message the person directly, don’t post responses as a review of your business. I will say, that is one thing this person did correctly.

That’s all. Getting off my soapbox now.