Restaurants slammed for passive-aggressive replies to negative reviews

SINGAPORE - The controversial ways in which a seafood and a steak restaurant here responded to negative reviews on their Facebook pages have become a talking point online.

Last Saturday (Jan 2), user Joan Soon gave Crab in da Bag's Singapore Sports Hub outlet a two-star rating after being served what she described as "the smallest crab ever". She added that the $55 price tag was "daylight robbery".

Her review was met by what community news site Mothership.sg called a "passive-aggressive" reaction from Crab in da bag at SportsHub.

Apart from reminding Ms Soon what it had offered her to make up for an unsatisfactory meal, the restaurant also wrote that it would check its CCTV to find out how many mussels the customer and her family ate after they complained that there was no meat in three of the shellfish they had.

The post continued with a couple of references to Ms Soon's Facebook friends and workplace, which she slammed as "inappropriate and unprofessional".

Several other Facebook users soon joined in the war of words. A few commented that Ms Soon shouldn't have complained after accepting the discount, but most of them were critical of the manner Ms Soon's comments were handled.

Following the backlash, one of Crab in da Bag's two owners - A.P. Tan and Monique Kwok - issued an apology to Ms Soon today (Jan 4) "for any misunderstanding and mishandling of your complaint", offering her a full refund as well as a free meal on her next visit.

Apparently, the poor service recovery on the part the restaurant is not an isolated incident.

Last June, it replied to a one-star review saying it was "taken aback" and "bewildered" by the negative sentiment as the customer seemed satisfied at the end of her meal.

Such responses to negative reviews are in stark contrast to those posted on the Facebook page of Crab in da Bag's other outlet at The Big Splash in East Coast Park.

For instance, when Facebook user Delise Lim posted a photo of a burnt garlic bread she was served and gave a one-star rating last January, the restaurant's reply was straightforward: "Thank you for your honest feedback and such food quality served to your table was totally unacceptable. We will look into this matter immediately and get back to you ASAP."

Following up on its report, Mothership.sg found another restaurant, Lavastone Steakhouse, that does not seem to be able to handle low Facebook ratings very well.

Similarly, it called a customer's profession into question, and even demanded a reply from him months after he posted a one-star review.

The restaurant also posted the Facebook profile photo of another customer who reviewed it as "one of the worst steakhouses", along with the comment that the "young promising guy with such bad attitude" would likely not succeed at a fine-dining restaurant, where the customer said he worked at.

Lavastone Steakhouse's average rating on Facebook is 4.1 stars, but reviewers say they have to give a five-star review in order to upsize their steaks for free.

soshiok@sph.com.sg