How to Lose Customers by Being a Jerk: 3 Examples of Online Review Disasters

posted this in
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on July 2nd, 2013

Imagine your best friend Joe is a pretty good cook. In particular, he has an amazing baked spaghetti recipe. All your other friends have had it and told you how good it was. You’ve been trying to hint to Joe to invite you over and cook you this amazing dish. Finally it happens and you’re sitting at his table for the first time, mouth watering, waiting to try a delicious bite. You dig in.

But you’re underwhelmed.

You’ve had good spaghetti before and this just doesn’t make the cut for you. When your friend asks you how you like it, you are honest and tell him it’s just ok and tell him you’re a little disappointed.

All of a sudden Joe explodes. He screams at you and calls you an idiot and tells you that you have no taste in food. In his anger, he flips the table over and yells at you to get out.

Seems like an overreaction? It is. Yet this is how many business owners treat negative reviews. It’s silly, makes you look like a jerk and can cost you business (customers don’t like spending their money with jerks.)

Here are a few examples of some businesses that have taken this approach and what you can learn from their mistakes.

Amy’s Baking Company Circa 2010

Sadly, I’m not talking about the Amy’s Baking Company tirade that occurred earlier this year.

The owners of Amy’s Baking Company were creating havoc long before Gordon Ramsay walked out of their restaurant. Here’s a 2010 response to a review that restaurant owner Amy Bouzaglo wrote to an unhappy customers:

“Dear Joel, L. It is blatantly obvious to me why you were ALONE on a Saturday night!

Read any of the reviews that have been written about us and you will see that EVERYONE loves us!! The only people that don’t is our “Competition”. We knew you had been sent by another restaurant before you even ordered your $14.00 Pizza.

… As for you having the Patio all to yourself unless you have been living on another PLANET it is summertime in ARIZONA MORON!!! Only TRAMPS and LOSERS want to sit outside in 110 temperatures!!!!”

What they did wrong:

Everything. Don’t ever emulate this response.

The company owner clearly felt like her food and business were being attacked (that’s natural), so she tried to set the record straight. But she led her response with an insult to the customer and then continued to yell, scream and insult him the rest of the way.

What you can learn:

It’s okay to set the record straight if something incorrect was said about your business. In Amy’s Baking Company’s case, the customer commented on ingredients they thought were used and the owner attempted to correct what was said. Of course, she did it in a very impolite way.

It’s perfectly acceptable to correct a customer’s mistake, but it’s important to not be offensive or come across like you’re clearly upset about the situation.

Also, go easy on the exclamation points and capital letters. There’s enough of those on the internet as it is.

Jo’s NYC

Back in 2011, a Jo’s customer took to Yelp after having a less-than-stellar experience complete with a propane-flavored burger. Here’s what one of the owner’s had to say in reply:

What they did wrong:

Rather than taking the high road, the owner acted snobby in his response by calling the customer an “idiot” and inviting her to never come back again. (At least they avoided the capital letters and exclamation marks though, right?)

What you can learn:

There are two sides to every story. Obviously this owner and customer have different interpretations of what happened. That’s fine. But your response should clarify the facts without being condescending and calling people idiots. That’s not going to win anyone over.

There’s a huge difference between telling the truth and just being a jerk.

Home Furniture Mart

Last year the Home Furniture Mart received a negative review on their Reseller Ratings page after a customer had a bad furniture delivery experience. Here’s how the owner responded:


What they did wrong:

This response starts out okay. If they had stopped after setting the facts straight, this would be a pretty good response. But they didn’t. They then become accusatory and condescending.

What you can learn:

I think we can agree that there is a better way the owner could have handled the situation. Again, it’s okay to clear up something a customer said, but it’s never okay to accuse them. Don’t fight fire with fire. Again, avoid using all caps (and multiple question marks.)

Noticing a trend here?

It’s natural to want to stick up for your business, but it’s also important to be cool, calm and collected. In all of these cases, the business owners tried to clear up an incorrect statement or misunderstanding about their business. But then they went too far.

Perhaps they should have read our our tips for responding to negative review.