A few days I received a short email from someone called ‘Phil’ asking me ‘would I ever delete a blog?’ I replied ‘do you mean an individual post on my blog?’ He replied clarifying that he meant a single review.
My curiosity was piqued by this odd exchange. Phil seemed to have an agenda that he was not telling me about. His email header contained his full name so I Googled it and discovered that he is the manager of a winery restuarant in regional Victoria that I ate at and reviewed over two years ago. I had been mostly complementary about the food, though I ridiculed the excessive description of ingredients in the menu and the use of the term ‘micro herbs’. My comments about the poor service were less kind.
I replied informing him that I believed I knew who he was and that I don’t remove content from my site. I also indicated that I thought it unprofessional to be asked such a question by someone who is not being transparent about their agenda.
My email signature contains my mobile phone number and he called me a few minutes later. It was before 8am on a weekday and I was sitting at my dining table eating breakfast and watching ABC News24.
He wanted to know why I would not remove the review and I said I see no reason to. He then said ‘how can we get you to come to the restaurant again or write something new?’ I replied that I am not interested in freebies or being bribed. I said goodbye and hung up.
I don’t write or publish commissioned advertorial content. My attention can’t be bought. I write about some of the things I do in my personal life, like eating at restaurants with friends. This is a hobby, not a business, though it is undertaken with an emphasis on professional standards of journalistic practice.
Here is some advice for restaurant managers discovering unflattering reviews of their businesses.
I’m not a PR pawn. I am an average consumer and I write from that point of view. Don’t assume all food bloggers are desperate swag whores who’ll do anything for a free can of dog food. Don’t assume I’m one of those amateurs.
Don’t call me outside of business hours if you are doing business. That’s rude and unprofessional. You’re not making a social call.
By all means post a comment on an old review saying that the restaurant is under new management, has improved its staff training, or whatever else has changed since the time I wrote the review. I encourage such comments.
Participate in the discussion and, by doing so, influence it. Don’t stand outside it and demand to control it. If you do you’ll make yourself look like an idiot.
Readers of reviews are, I believe, aware that the increasing age of a review is directly correlated to a decrease in relevance, and subsequently that a review over two years old may no longer be completely accurate. They’ll take that into account when deciding whether to visit.
What you can’t do is contact me without transparently disclosing your identity or agenda and ask me to remove content that continues to have relevance to my audience. Not only will it fail, but I’ll find it impossible not to amuse myself further by writing about it…