For almost five years now, since first starting my Sevilla Tapas blog, my policy has always been to only put up tapas bars and restaurants that I would recommend to a friend. If I didn’t like a place it simply didn’t get included. I guess I just thought I wanted my tapas blog to have a positive and helpful feel to it. A couple of years ago I did put up a very scathing review of a place that had treated my friend and me horrendously, but I don’t know, it seemed to throw a shadow on what I like to think of as an upbeat and friendly site and I removed it.
But lately I’ve been wondering if this is actually the best policy, especially as fewer of the places I visit these days end up on the blog because I know I wouldn’t ever recommend them to a friend. Was I getting jaded, I asked myself. Or just more experienced and discerning? Then today happened.
I met my friend Pablo for lunch at a place that had not only been recommended to me many times over the years, but people couldn’t actually believe that I had never been there, as it was apparently such a popular location. So as I had a meeting right around the corner from this place that finished at lunchtime, that’s where we went. And well. I should have known upon entering that it was going to be dire, but again, you never know. Sometimes the shabbiest looking places serve up the tastiest tapas (though to be honest, this almost never happens in the city) and this place was certainly shabby. It had the look of someplace that had had its day about fifteen years ago and hadn’t bothered to paint or replace the tacky furniture. It wasn’t DIRTY exactly, but it had an unclean feel to it. So why didn’t we just get up and leave? Well, because I had to find out if all those who had praised this joint were right. They weren’t.
The food was not only pedestrian in the extreme, but most of it seemed past its time, hard and dry and tired looking. And the service was haphazard and impersonal. Even if the tapas had been cheap (they weren’t at 3-4 euros each) it wouldn’t have made up for such a dismal meal. Pablo and I were left feeling upleasantly full and unsatisfied and, well, a bit annoyed. And I felt ripped off thinking I’d wasted my time and money at a crappy tapas bar that I wouldn’t even be able to put in my tapas blog.
After lunch we ran into a friend of ours, Markus, and told him about our experience. His office is nearby and he said he never eats at that place. But both Pablo and Markus told me that it would actually give my tapas blog more credibility if there were some negative, or at least not glowing, reviews. So they convinced me to change my policy a bit, if only as a public service. Because I truly pity anyone who might end up eating where we were today, especially when there are so many other terrific places nearby.
So that’s it – no more Ms Nice Guy. 😉
What do you think?
[also posted on the Sevilla blog]
Wandering Coyote said:
Be honest. People want to know the good, the bad, and the ugly. And if you think a place is a crappy as that place was, you’re doing the public a service.
I am finally coming around to that opinion myself. I’d never thought of negative reviews having a positive effect before.
It’s a fine line between being positive and negative. People will usually think you are recommending somewhere when you are being complimentary, and then feel you are being rude when you are holding back on the praise.
Maybe you should introduce a score to your reviews? 10 for ‘I will never eat anywhere else’ and 1 for ‘ I am eating everywhere else but here’.
I have a one-to-five oranges scoring system. But unless a place got at least three oranges (in my opinion) I didn’t put them in my blog. Today’s place would definitely be a one-oranger.
Certainly I would be inclined to pay more attention to reviewers where everything isn’t positive – there is a temptation to think that someone who only gives positive reviews doesn’t see the bad.
That makes so much sense now. And it wasn’t that I didn’t see the bad, I just didn’t share it.
I’ll certainly have a lot more bars listed this way!
Exposing crappy restaurants makes you the Diner’s Friend. Which is what I would want when I checked out a review site — just in case I found myself next door to someplace and wanted to know if I should go another mile in some direction.
I’m one of those people who has always subscribed to the “if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything”. That was something sort of pressed on me throughout my life, even if I had a legitimate right to call a spade a spade. On the only occasion when I have been brutally honest about an evening out at a particular restaurant on my blog, I have had someone tear me off a strip. I finally removed the posting, even though I felt that it was a fair criticism.
That being said, I don’t have a blog that reviews and recommends restaurants. I agree that if you want to have real credibility, you need to post a fair balance of reviews of the good and the not so good.
I write reviews on Trip Advisor now and again. I include the good, the bad and ugly. I always try to be fair, but if there is something I don’t like about a place, or if something bad happened I will include that in the review. It doesn’t hurt to point out the negative along with the positive (if there is anything) and good establishments will take you comments to heart and improve.
Sites that only print positive reviews make me suspicious, frankly. For one thing, if it’s your duty to inform, isn’t it your duty to warn people away from bad places? For another, it makes you look like Yelp, which actively reaches out to places with bad reviews and offers to bury them if they buy an ad.
Be honest and impartial and you’ll get more readership.
For the most part I’ve had a very positive response to my new policy change, though yesterday I was cautioned that in a “big village” like Sevilla I could end up making enemies if I step on someone’s toes (or the toes of their friend, relative, etc). Hmmm…
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