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Before you post that scathing review… Part 1

You had a bad experience as a customer of a small local business.  Maybe you felt the mechanic was apathetic about your tight schedule. Or maybe the supposedly great burger from the town’s burger joint was bland and the bread was soggy.

So later that night you hit up yelp or urbanspoon  to exact your revenge. You’ll show them. You spend 5 minutes, at 45 words per minute, swiftly and bitterly outlining your experience. You rant about the terrible customer service, you compare the taste to vomit, and for extra measure, you throw in words like “the worst”, “terrible”,  “awful”, and write something like “he (the employee) was a total idiot. Slowest, most clueless person I’ve ever seen.”

With a deft click of the mouse, your review goes live–for all to see. Satisfied, you turn in for the night, falling asleep minutes after your head hits the pillow.

Somewhere across town, there is a husband and wife, reading your comments, trying not to let it get to them. Their business gets mostly good reviews–but this isn’t their first bad one. So they’ve tried to develop a thick skin. Because they have no money for advertising, their business will live or die by word of mouth, and they can’t help but worry about how many people might read the “awful experience” you had.

Is it justice you were looking for? If so, why?  Because the punishment definitely didn’t fit the crime. You had a small inconvenience, which did nothing to affect your livelihood. But you’ve spread negative press about a small business–which could potentially affect decision making of hundreds, if not thousands of potential customers. Was that worth it?

Online review sites have many purposes. It is a place for enthusiastic customers to help spread the word about a good business. They are also places for customers to inform other customers of what is and what is not good on the menu, or what a shop is best at, verses what they aren’t so good at. But are they the place for venom? For insults? Should you use a review site to attack character?

So before you post that scathing review, think about what you are truly trying to accomplish. Are you just seeking revenge for a minor inconvenience? Was it really the “worst ever”, or are you being a little extreme? And are you giving a review that will help both future customers and the business itself?

Small businesses need our help to succeed. They are the building blocks of our economy. They give character and individuality to our main street–and local customers would do well to do their best to try to help small businesses survive the continual march of big-box retailer expansion.

Contrary to what many people think, it is very difficult, and at times very thankless to operate a small business.  Owners live or die by word of mouth, and your online review could potentially affect the buying decision of hundreds of customers. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be honest in your feedback, but take a second before you “rip them a new one.”

In my next post I’ll describe what life is like running a small business.

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