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Is it worth it posting a negative restaurant review?

StriperGuy May 31, 2009 10:33 AM

I recently posted a review describing a fairly negative experience I had at a Boston restaurant that I had previously loved. I can't even tell you how many people I had previously recommended the place to.

I was not even going to post, but another friend, also had a nearly identical experience.

I proceeded to get pounded on chowhound by friends of the owner of said restaurant, or perhaps even the owner himself posting but not fessing up to who he was.

Thankfully the moderators deleted all the vitriol.

Kind of a cruel irony considering how much praise Boston hounds have heaped on the place that the owner goes serious TROLL after one bad review.

I felt like I owed the chow universe a heads up that this previously sacred placed could be really bad and had been so at least twice recently.

After all is said and done, I'm not sure it was worth the angst. My initial reaction, do nothing, just don't hit the place ever again might have been the better route.

Is it really worth it posting a negative review on Chowhound?

  1. HillJ Jun 6, 2009 03:29 PM

    Sure, as long as you actually had a meal at said restaurant. For those posting a negative comment based on 2nd hand information or just "because" is a waste of time.

    A disappointing dining experience is worth hearing about from first-hand impressions.

    1. chowser Jun 5, 2009 05:20 PM

      I've had the same problem with a much loved restaurant where I was criticized for having too high expectations (I do have high expectations when dinner is over $250 for a couple), for how I described it, basically told that it was THE best restaurant in the area and it was my fault for not finding it to be so. I'm tired of defending myself with it, having chosen not to go back given how much it costs, so don't when it comes up. As you said, it's not worth the angst.

      1. cuccubear Jun 4, 2009 11:36 AM

        Absolutely, keep posting! Either way, positive or negative reviews give all of us more information. And a restauranteur shouldn’t be too discouraged by an occasional bad review. I mean, just because one person files a negative review doesn’t mean none of us will ever go there. Of course, it’s a different story when the bad reviews start piling up.

        Recently, I was told not to waste my time going to Stoney Lonen in Rehoboth, DE. Despite the bad review, I went and had a great meal! I’m sure I’m not alone, but sometimes I want to check things out for myself.

        1 Reply
        1. re: cuccubear
          viperlush Jun 4, 2009 11:54 AM

          Exactly. A bad review might not necessarily keep someone away from a restaurant, but it does give them a heads up. For some bad service is a deal break, others bad food, or whatever. That's why it is so critical that a person give a detailed review (like StriperGuy did). StriperGuy's review won't keep me away from that restaurant, but it will make me think twice before going (when I go, who I go with, etc.).

        2. viperlush Jun 4, 2009 11:30 AM

          Yes. I would go as far as to say it is your duty to so that you remain credible as a reviewer. It would be the same for someone who only writes negative reviews. Especially if it is a restaurant that you frequently recommend and/or eat at.

          1. danhole Jun 4, 2009 11:00 AM

            There are always going to be restaurants that have been around for a very long time, and seen as favorites for locals. That doesn't mean that the food, service or ambience is going to be the same as it was back when you went to it the first time, or let's say, 3 years ago. Hopefully the restaurant will keep the standards high, but that doesn't always happen, so all of a sudden the favorite isn't as good, but the reputation remains. There was a restaurant guide that went to a lot of the old stand-bys here in Houston, and wrote some negative reviews. Boy did that stir up things! "How dare they trash So & So place - that is where I proposed to my wife 20 years ago!" Good grief! Things change! So don't feel alone - it happens to everyone. Some people just like to trash others, regardless!

            1. Sam Fujisaka Jun 3, 2009 05:49 PM

              You are a really thoughtful and informed person ... and poster. Keep it up, please!

              1. limster May 31, 2009 03:07 PM

                A couple of general points (relevant but not specific to this situation):

                1. Criticising a restaurant a person likes is not a criticism of the person

                And if we couldn't post negative reviews, the quality of the information here will go down. There should not be sacred cows. Everyone has different tastes. Not everyone will have the same experience. Restaurant quality can vary tremendously from day to day, month to month, year to year. And on a place like chowhound, we need to agree to disagree if we have different opinions; afterall, the goal is not consensus, but varied opinions from which individuals can use to decide for themselves.

                2. Generalising from 1 specific meal to the quality of the restaurant is difficult at best, wrong at worst.

                Generalisation is the bane of chowhounding, which requires empirical independent chowing.

                If a person had one great meal, it means the person had one great meal. Ditto for one bad meal, or 100 good or bad meals, although that becomes a more decent sample size. Extrapolation is an inexact and precarious science, especially in a situation with so many variables such as personal preferences.

                Sometimes, a place may have 100 crappy dishes and 1 great dish worth crossing an ocean for. Saying the restaurant is bad may be statistically acceptable in certain circles, but it's not the most important fact about the restaurant. Ditto if it has 100 good dishes and 1 crappy dish.

                And just to show the perils of generalisation, sometimes one does need to judge a place by the sum of all its dishes, such as when multi-course or multi-component meals are part and parcel of the cuisine. Every situation may be different, and we need to think and eat critically, rather than apply general rules to whether a restaurant is good or bad.

                1 Reply
                1. re: limster
                  rworange Jun 1, 2009 10:39 AM

                  >>> in chow we trust

                  So my vote is yes and I agree with everything limster says.

                  I've probably done hundreds of posts on Chowhound over the years and I can only count a similar situation to yours on one hand. They can be dealt with by reporting to the mods.

                  One thing I've learned though is if someone has a different opinion than yours, lay off an opposing view unless you've been to the place recently. Places change and it is good for people to know that. People have different tastes and a restaurant should have an evaluation by people with different tastes.

                  That's just my opinion. Sometimes real posters get hot and bothered by negative posts about their favorites ... which they may or may not have been to recently. I think should be intelligent discussion, but there's a time that it crosses over into bullying ... which discourages others from posting comments.

                  That's not to say that I don't do certain checks to see if this looks like a shill.

                  There was a really, really ... really negative post about a restaurant I loved last night. Unfortunately it had a 'bug in the lettuce' report so got deleted. I hope the mods let them know why and they repost. If the place has gone that downhill, I would like to know so I stop recommending it.

                2. pikawicca May 31, 2009 02:41 PM

                  I pay attention to the negative reviews by regular posters who seem to know what they're talking about. I always check to see if a negative review is a one-off. Those, I completely ignore.

                  1. StriperGuy May 31, 2009 02:33 PM

                    Wow, thanks folks! This thread brought a tear to my eye, seriously. Really appreciate the comments and the support.

                    I really am insanely passionate about food and so utterly NOT a high maintenance diner. I'll eat anything (edible) anywhere, any time, white table cloth or dirty dish towel and a rinsed out tin plate. I flinch at the term "foodie;" I am way more a hound.

                    Essentially all of my posts to the aforementioned thread survived, but you would not believe some of the slime that got deleted. I really almost did not post at all in the name of cutting the guy some slack, but another close friend chimed in with more or less the same, with a case of sleazy wine UPselling to add to the mix and that was the impetus.

                    in chow we trust

                    Stripey

                    1. c
                      caviar_and_chitlins May 31, 2009 12:29 PM

                      The only time I mistrust an overtly negative review (or a too-enthusiastic rave) is from a poster that has never, ever posted, and then comes out with something exceedingly passionate.

                      But it appears that you've got a considerable posting history, and for that reason, impressions have weight. While your experience with the restaurant was indeed bad, I think you really tried to be fair, and it's too bad that you got flamed, but such is the internet.

                      Post what you wish, negative reviews are very helpful when trying to make informed decisions, even more so than raves, imo.

                      1. capeanne May 31, 2009 12:16 PM

                        StriperGuy you are one of my most trusted posters on the Boston Board. I find it can be a somewhat intimidating place to post and that saddens me. The purpose of this forum is to share honest impressions of dining experiences and I for one would be really upset if it became an info-mercial board . I am still too intimidated to respond to the " restaurants everyone loves and you hate" by naming Craigie on Main and Clio ...! Keep it up. And shame on the personal attacks and vitriol

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: capeanne
                          s
                          soupkitten May 31, 2009 12:23 PM

                          do you think that this type of thing happens on the boston board more than on others? i've heard others refer to this particular board as very cliquey and intimidating, as well. i am not trying to pique anybody by asking this, or start another big argument, it's just an honest question.

                          1. re: soupkitten
                            capeanne May 31, 2009 12:32 PM

                            I generally post on the Boston, France, Home Cooking and occasionally on the Not About Food boards but there seem to be a regular cohort of similar minded posters on Boston Board and I guess I think twice there about what I say and less so on other Boards... I am doomed but a big girl so I will survive

                        2. mcel215 May 31, 2009 12:06 PM

                          I believe being honest about our dining experiences, either good or bad is important to the integrity of the chowhound community.

                          I did read your post SG, and I felt your pain.

                          Thanks for your feedback, I for one appreciated it.

                          1. Allstonian May 31, 2009 11:45 AM

                            I'm disturbed that you're even thinking about refraining from posting negative reviews because of some flames which have been removed. (Admittedly, while I've followed that thread a bit, I clearly missed the vitriol you describe.)

                            I'm another one of many who read your comments and give them significant weight, and it concerns me to think that CH would be "groomed" towards featuring only positive comments. That's not what I come here for. If I wanted that, I'd shift to Yelp. I read Chowhound for informed opinions both good and bad.

                            Back when I was a fairly new and not-very-active member of the Boston board, BarmyFotheringayPhipps and I posted about a really dreadful dinner that we had at another board favorite, Grotto, and we took a bit of a drubbing for that: we shouldn't judge ever ever EVER a restaurant based on Restaurant Week performance, we couldn't possibly have been served the truly poor renditions of signature dishes that we described, we should have understood that service at Grotto is more good-natured than professional (it may be, but spilling beer all over the table and onto the lap of a customer and making only the vaguest of efforts to clean up the mess with a starched polyester napkin that will not absorb liquid goes well beyond the pale)...it was a bit rough. Again, the moderators deleted many of the harshest comments, but the sting lingers two years later. However, we're also both still here two years later, and still willing to post both positive and negative comments with the understanding that others will disagree.

                            I try hard not to take it as a personal attack if someone doesn't like a favorite restaurant of mine, unless they are indeed attacking me personally (a poster once actually changed their personal profile to add comments clearly aimed at Barmy and me, which mostly startled me because I could not understand what inspired such personal animus.)

                            I also try VERY hard, based on the attacks I've experienced myself, to acknowledge the validity of someone else's bad experience if I'm defending a restaurant that I like. All you can do, in the end, is keep reminding yourself not to take things too personally - and I say that as someone who has a GREAT deal of trouble adhering to that tenet, but still making the effort.

                            1. s
                              soupkitten May 31, 2009 11:33 AM

                              chiming in to say yes, definitely post a negative review. fact is, there are places where the experience will be pretty much great for everybody across the board; places where it's usually great but not in certain circumstances (hometown game, for example); and places that are or become hit& miss. when i've loved a place and have rec-ed it to everybody i know, and then the dissenting voice comes in with a bad experience at the same establishment, i listen, and maybe stop rec-ing the place so ardently, or at least not before i've gone back for another visit. it can be really helpful in tailoring a rec to a specific person/occasion to know how that establishment has handled similar situations, and if they've ever fumbled. i think it would be terrible if chowhound was just for conventional wisdom and no dissenting voices were ever heard from. was your whole review deleted, or just the flame posts?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: soupkitten
                                a
                                adiosoven May 31, 2009 11:49 AM

                                did read the review - I agree the follow up to a critique is really more important than the initial, troubling exchanges...I always give those in the service industries a few passes for having a bad day, but this sounded way off the mark...the reaction and chain of events after the fact speaks volumes about the business. I won't plunk my money down at a place where the owner obviously doesn't care about customer service. Staff must "love" this guy!

                              2. MMRuth May 31, 2009 11:19 AM

                                Absolutely. I'm sorry you got a lot of crap for your efforts, so to speak. I almost feel obliged to post if I have a negative experience at a place I've previously recommended whole heartedly on CH, and did so recently, in fact.

                                1. c
                                  Cachetes May 31, 2009 10:39 AM

                                  Yes. I am more than a lurker, but less than a regular poster, so perhaps my input here is not fully informed. But I really value the input of posters like you. That is not to say that I don't respect the input of irregular posters. However, some people, like you, clearly are committed to the Boston dining scene and the pursuit of good food, and are critical in making Chowhound an extremely useful site, as well as a place with some integrity. I do hope you'll continue with your honesty, even if it means having to tolerate the immaturity of those who can't handle it.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Cachetes
                                    a
                                    adiosoven May 31, 2009 10:59 AM

                                    I agree, I want to see the negative reviews to make an informed dining decision! I haven't read this review yet, but I assume it was detailed, honest and offered constructive criticism. I can't eat at every restaurant, (in my dreams!), and I often host others at restaurants to celebrate or treat them to a relaxing, hopefully pleasant, experience. I value CH reviews and info. I realize there are limits and expectations, and they should be adjusted according to the type of restaurant and information the restaurant provides..thank you for your time, StriperGuy.!

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