Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ridiculous Yelping

Kansas City
I recently discovered a funny and yet disturbing story about a ridiculous Yelp review and the response it received.
Funny, because of the way the business owner responded to it.
Disturbing, because of the way the reviewer saw things.  
Quite obviously, the reviewer and her husband feel that the universe revolves around them, and they are the "magnificent exceptions".
Woman Leaves Bad Online Review, 
The Owner Finds Out And Responds

If that link doesn't work, try this one:

These folks clearly hadn't even checked to see if their requests were within the restaurant's guidelines.  As I was reading this account, it became clear that they wanted what they wanted, and that was that.
A sort of "don't bother me with the facts" mindset.

In dealing with a business, it seems that there are two ways that reviewers look at things:
"I'll check out their product or experience and receive it in the way the proprietor intends it."
Or - "I'll walk in, act like I own the place, and tell everyone working there how to do their jobs."

Yes, I do realize that I'm painting with a big brush here, 
but hyperbole is the best tool to make my point.
There are some Yelpers out there who seem to only speak in hyperbole.

Mr. Feng Shui
Recently we had a review that reminded me of this.
The client had come in with obvious visions of how our business should be, and was so focused on his own ideas...that he missed the experience we'd prepared for him.

He began his review by telling us (and the rest of the world) that we needed a cushy waiting area.
have a receiving / reception area where you can wait for your gondola; leather love seats with some feng shui (trickling water, fountain, nice foliage, maybe calming music, and magazines to read).

Mhmm, I'll get right on it.
For over twenty years we've had our gondoliers meet their passengers on the dock.  This allows them to make sure that any surprises go off without a hitch.  
Put your unsuspecting loved one in a waiting area for a gondola business, and your all-important surprise will trickle away like that feng shui fountain.

But since this guy has opened my mind to the possibilities:
of buying leather furniture,
investing in water fountains and ficus trees,
renting more space from my landlord,
and paying more staff to oversee this whole "waiting experience".
I'll run, not walk, to grab my checkbook.
Instead of pumping in "calming music" electronically, perhaps I should just hire a cellist or even a string quartet.

This guy doesn't want a gondola cruise, he's confused my business with some sort of new age spa.

Or worse:
I drove a friend to see their therapist today,
 As I sat there in the waiting area, I slowly realized that I was in exactly the environment this guy had described.

Why was this waiting area so important?
Instead we walked onto a small dock with a bunch of other covered boats and no one was around to greet\receive.  Once the boat arrived we awkwardly tried to stay clear of the couple returning from their ride to not kill the mood for them. 
Of course when we saw this review, my staff and I went in to full Crime-Scene-Investigation mode.

As it turned out, the author of this review arrived early, and instead of patiently waiting (as he had been instructed to do when booking), 
he and his date walked past a swing-gate and several signs that said things like "no admittance".
It's not surprising that they ended up on the dock as the earlier cruise showed up.
I am surprised that he didn't have the time to check his watch, 
but took plenty of time to write such an authoritative critique.

Checking My Seats
The next chapter in his review was dedicated to how comfortable the seats were in the gondola. This boat has been in service for 17 years.  We have never heard a peep about the comfort level of the seats.  
I personally made sure they were as comfortable as possible when they were re-upholstered a year and a half ago.

Caution: hyperbole alert!
The reviewer chose to compare the seats in my gondola to those of the Metrolink train - and according to his review, the Metrolink seats were more comfortable.

I was dumbfounded.

I read the review, grabbed my car keys, walked out of my house, drove down to the docks, and at about 1:30 in the morning, I climbed into that gondola to make sure that there wasn't some sort of major upholstery malfunction going on. No problems there.

He had also taken issue with the angle of the backrest.
No problems there either. No complaints there, ever, until this guy blessed my boat with his enlightened presence.

The client was not remarkably tall, 
and yet complained about legroom - I don't know why.

And according to the expert, my table was "fixed", when in reality, 
it slides fore and aft quite conveniently.
Understand that there are a few "professional complainers" in my life, 
and if they've never complained about this gondola, 
in my mind, she passes the test.

Disneyland? Really?
Ah, but he saved his best advice for last:
let the gondoliers wear contemporary formal rather than cheesy black and white striped shirts with a red sash...this isn't Disneyland.
Yeah, he went there.

He went on to pick apart a few of our cruising traditions, speaking like a true expert on the subject.

Much attention was given to the fact that "We're not in Italy" 
and he took issue with the fact that his gondolier said things like  
"in Italy it's tradition to..."

I can't help but wonder if when this guy goes out for Chinese food, 
if he schools them on how they're not in China, so maybe they should just call it "food" rather than misrepresent it by referring to it as "Chinese food".
Heck, I wonder if he might stand up in the audience during a Shakespeare play and tell the actors to cut it out "cause we're not in Stratford, England!"

Like most of my friends in this great business, 
we strive to give our customers a "great escape".  
It's one part Newport Beach, 
one part Venice, Italy, 
and the rest is tailored to meet specific needs 
such as making sure she says "yes" 
or someone has a great birthday or anniversary.

Mr. "We're not in Italy" looked right past all that, 
and instead chose to tell us all the ways we're doing it wrong.

Trust the Experts
Whether you're talking to a butcher, a barber, or a garage mechanic, 
unless you're an expert in meats, haircuts, or engines - there's a good chance the guy you're talking to knows more than you do on the subject.
He may in fact be more than just a professional.
He might just be a passionate fanatic in the field of work that he's chosen - that's certainly the case for nearly all gondola company owners I know. 

In my previous post "Getting Yelped" I touched on the topic of "reviewing by the masses" which is really what this is. 
Anybody can review.
Experts, idiots, objective compassionate thinkers, 
and self-absorbed blowhards.

As a business owner you have no control over what is said about your establishment.  As an extension, waiters, cashiers, and yes, gondoliers - also have no control over what is said online.
Fortunately, most people who review my business have had nothing but positive things to say, and that has helped us quite a lot.

But even so, just this past week I found myself on the phone with a guy who was considering hiring my service for his proposal.

Guess what he asked about...
"Are the seats comfortable?"
"Why doesn't the table move?"
And "why don't you have a waiting area?"

One review, by a guy with his own strong opinions, who in my mind fancies himself as the next great critic of all things gondola, and I'm on the phone assuring someone that everything will be alright and that his proposal won't suffer because of these supposed seat, table, and waiting area issues.

A bad Yelp review is like a bad rumor:
doesn't matter if it's true or not - once it's out there, it's out there.
When I was a kid someone told me that gossip was like squeezing toothpaste out of a tube.  
Once it's out, you really can't get it all back in the tube.

We're Missing a Button
When you look at a Yelp review, you'll notice a few things at the bottom of the review.
There's a little piece of text asking "was this review..."
and then there are three buttons to choose from:
"useful", "funny", and "cool".
There's no thumbs up/thumbs down option, no button options that say that it was "not useful" or worse.
Sure, there's an option to flag a review, but in many cases the flagging options don't apply.
What about "funny?" It seems like Yelpers are encouraged to not only be reviewers, but comedians as well (sometimes at our expense).

It seems to me that if we are now stuck with being "reviewed by the masses", that the masses ought to be able to also rate some of these reviews.
Proprietors have the option to respond to reviews in writing, but what if other people could rate existing reviews a little more realistically?

My wife suggested to me that Yelp should add a button that says 
"you're an idiot"
She's Italian with parents from New York.  She doesn't mince words.

Although I tend to be more of a diplomat than my wife, on this point I agree.
In fact I might suggest that Yelp also add a few more buttons:
"Go home - you're drunk"
and "Step away from the keyboard!"

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