The co-owner of a new Indian restaurant has accused customers of blackmailing his business after threatening to leave bad reviews online if they did not receive a full refund.
Prayas Choudhary was gobsmacked to read an e-mail from a customer at Mumbai Diners’ Club who vowed to tarnish his business’s reputation on sites such as TripAdvisor if her demand was not met.
The customer reeled off a number of complaints sent in an e-mail just an hour after leaving the restaurant including mediocre food, staff smoking outside the front door and a dog eating on the floor, demanding her £140 back for her party of five’s bad experience.
She claimed to have an allergy to dogs, despite failing to mention it to staff, becoming breathless and developing a rash on her return home.
A review posted on Yell by another member of the party, which has since been deleted, said: “Had a very average meal here with friends and family. Service was good. We have eaten Indian meals world over, including India. This is not one to remember. Finishing touch was a lady with a dog joined table next to us and dog ate from a plastic dish under the table. Quite unbelievable. Could smell clearly from our table nearby. Not cheap either.”
With the Atholl Place restaurant only being open for a couple of months, Prayas says a bad review could have cost him thousands of pounds. He reluctantly issued a full refund while also offering the group the chance to return to the Mumbai Diners’ Club with a half price discount off their total bill.
Prayas Choudhary, co-owner of the restaurant, 36, said: “This is blackmail and the tone of the first e-mail especially was very threatening. I investigated immediately, asking members of staff what happened on the night in question. In the meantime the customers had begun uploading negative reviews online to TripAdvisor and Yell.
“Even after telling them that it was a service dog for diabetes and was allowed lawfully, they insisted on a full refund which we had to do as we are a new business and cannot afford to be bold with our reviews at this stage. For a new restaurant to have multiple negative reviews could cost us thousands of pounds in the future. We were intimidated.”
Top city restaurateurs from Dine and Wedgewood the Restaurant have previously told how they had experienced diners attempting to blackmail staff for discounts.
For Paul Waterson, spokesman for the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, the issue is now becoming all too common and believes action is required to stop fake reviews being published online.
He said: “This situation unfortunately happens all the time. Some review sites don’t verify comments meaning anyone can post fake reviews online which can have a detrimental impact on businesses. The reputation of these businesses are in the hands of their customers and can be ruined in just five minutes.
“Online review websites need to introduce verification so only credible views can be posted.”
TripAdvisor said business owners could flag up potential abuse of its systems before reviews are published and said it would investigate any reports.