One-Star Restaurant Review - Genuine?
The words reveal a lot
I’ve been looking at online reviews recently, and can we work out how truthful they are by analysing the words they use? I was pointed in the direction of this story today.
It centres on Lauren, who was charged by a restaurant for not showing up for a booking she made. Lauren tried to get a refund, when she was unsuccessful, she left a poor review on Trip Advisor. You can see the review here. (Since publishing this post, the review has been removed)
Was Lauren justified? Let’s look at her words.
I’ve eaten here a few times, and brought many friends when they’ve been visiting Chorlton. So when my family wanted to get together around Christmas I booked in advance a family meal on the 30/12, my only day off that week.
We’re being told a story here, the author is already seeking to convince us of what great customer they are. The use of “so” immediately triggers an alarm bell of someone trying to sell us their story as being true and rational. Something that truthful people don’t feel the need to do.
Unfortunately, on the day a couple of my family members were taken ill with covid, one of them being an 82 year old. Not only was I worried for her health but also was being told to go into work to cover for my head chef who had tested positive too.
It’s not an outright indicator of deception, but this paragraph feels like it is laying it on thick. They have 3 excuses for not attending and not cancelling the booking. Two people with Covid, concerns for the health of an 82-year-old and Lauren “was being told” to go into work.
The “being told” will be relevant later.
I’m also suspicious about the line “taken ill with Covid”. At the time of this event, there was a real focus on testing for Covid, some people were only slightly ill but were testing positive for Covid which meant they had to isolate and not go out.
Although people may express things differently I would have found it much more believable if the wording was “had tested positive for Covid”. “Taken ill” is more dramatic, another suggestion we’re being sold a story.
I thought I had cancelled the booking on the email link, but I was later charged £60 on my card by Launderette. In the chaos of checking in with my grandma regarding her health, having to go into work on my only day off, and worrying about the consequences of my head chef having to be off for 10 days when I work in an incredibly small kitchen team to start with, I may have forgotten to cancel, I genuinely am not sure.
Here we have contrasting facts. First she “thought” she had cancelled the booking but later she “may have forgotten to cancel, I genuinely am not sure”.
“I thought” here means “I believed”. She’s very certain that she thought she had cancelled on the email link, a very specific thing to have thought you’d done.
Later she concedes she “may have forgotten”. She is not simply “not sure” but “genuinely not sure”. “Genuinely” is a convincer, it’s added to make us believe the truth of what she says. Truthful people don’t feel the need to convince us of the truth.
I understand it’s their policy to debit a table that hasn’t shown up, and they were just following procedure. However I then emailed on 2/1 to explain the circumstances, and let them know that I also work in the hospitality industry and as of the 1/1 I also had to isolate for 10 days meaning I couldn’t work, and I would really really appreciate it if they could refund the amount. It’s been 12 days and I am yet to hear back from them. I completely understand the annoyance of having a table no show, we’ve had it constantly throughout covid (I also work at an independent restaurant in chorlton), and understand the inconvenience caused.
Most of this paragraph is very personal with lots of use of “I” and it’s mainly straightforward. I take the truth from this to be: Lauren couldn’t work for ten days and thought if she could get the £60 back it would be a big help. She understands why it was taken, but if they could help her out she would have more money at a trying time.
But at my restaurant we wouldn’t just bill the card payer and not display any sympathy to the circumstances. It’s unprecedented times for everyone at the moment, but especially the hospitality industry, and I know that we have barely made it through this festive period due to staff constantly isolating, tables no-showing, bringing front of house staff into the kitchen to cover in emergency circumstances.
Here’s Lauren appears to explain she understands completely why she has been charged. People not showing up for bookings has a financial impact in the hospitality business.
“But at my restaurant we wouldn’t just bill the card payer and not display any sympathy to the circumstances” is worded to make us think that Lauren’s restaurant doesn’t bill people who have behaved like her. But she doesn’t say that. If her restaurant has a policy that would have led to a refund in a Lauren-style situation, she could have made that clear.
But I would like to think that despite these uncertain times, local businesses still appreciate human error and genuine mistakes.
Again Lauren is admitting she didn’t cancel the booking. She had moved from not being sure what has happened, inferring it is a “genuine mistake”.
I’ve lived on beech road for almost a year now, and never once had a word to say about the music played or the level of noise made by people leaving the Launderette on weekend nights, singing and shouting in the street at 11.30pm. I’ve always been completely understanding and easygoing towards them, it’s a real shame they don’t seem to reciprocate this.
Here Lauren is trying to convey that The Launderette and its clients cause her issues with noise at weekends. However, she chooses not to state it explicitly. Instead of saying “I have not said a word about … (the noise)” she says, “never had a word to say about …(the noise)”. This suggests it has never been a big enough issue for Lauren to have anything to say about it.
She re-enforces this with “I’ve always been completely understanding and easygoing”, another admission that noise hasn’t caused an issue for her.
“It’s a real shame they don’t reciprocate this” is Lauren saying that because she hasn’t raised something that wasn’t an issue then she should get a refund. That’s strange logic.
When I had to go into work last minute I had planned to rebook the meal with my family (who I am still yet to see as I have been working and then isolating over the Christmas period) at the Launderette, but after them completely ignoring my pitiful email asking to be refunded I don’t think I will.
This paragraph has two types of content. “Feel sorry for me” content (having to work, haven’t seen my family, isolating, pitiful email, completely ignored) and “you lost business” content (planned to rebook, I don’t think I will).
The lost business content is weak. She only “planned to rebook” and “I don’t think I will”. It wasn’t the stronger “we were going to rebook the meal, but now we won’t”.
And, almost magically, the people who had taken ill with Covid have disappeared including the 82-year-old. The only reason stated for missing the booking is that Lauren had to go into work last minute.
Note “I had to go into work”.
£60 for a business like launderette, who I can see out my window are constantly flipping tables, could’ve plausibly been recovered by a walk in who probably got the table 15 minutes after I didn’t show up and buying their £50 sharing cocktail. Whilst that £60 to me is the 6.5 hours I spent in a boiling hot kitchen, covering for someone so as not to let my colleagues down/make their job harder by having to work alone.
There are conflicting facts here. Earlier she claimed she knew the hardship a no-show would cause the restaurant, now she says it is nothing for the Launderette.
There appears to be some jealousy of the amount of business the restaurant does and the prices they can charge.
Remember Lauren was “being told” to come to work and “had” to work? Here she says it was out of the goodness of her heart. She only missed the booking because she wanted to avoid letting people down or make their job harder.
Her story changes depending on which version looks best for her at the time.
Lauren is in story-telling mode, and it has enough convincing language and conflicting facts in it to conclude she has not been truthful in this review.
Lauren knows she didn’t cancel the booking. She tried to gain the sympathy of the restaurant to get a refund she knows she wasn’t entitled to.
When it was refused she decided to leave a bad review as retribution, embellishing the truth and drawing on her professional jealousy to fill the picture.
There are indications that she isn’t financially stable currently so let’s not judge Lauren too harshly.
PS, I can recommend The Launderette, it’s certainly not a one-star experience.
Have you spotted any other reviews you’d like to look at? Are there other words that need analysis. Put your suggestions in the comments below.