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'First, the customer must be right': Orchard Central cafe defends stance on negative reviews

'First, the customer must be right': Orchard Central cafe defends stance on negative reviews
The Orchard Central cafe, Grain Alley, has expressed and defended their stance on negative reviews. They had recently gained attention from social media forums for their exceptionally harsh responses to negative reviews.
PHOTO: Instagram/Grain Alley

Faced with mounting criticism and review-bombing, a cafe in Orchard Central has held its position against netizens who have given it one-star reviews and questioned its business methods.

Accused of doxxing and shaming some of its customers, Grain Alley released a lengthy statement on Thursday (April 28) addressing the recent criticism against the cafe and its responses towards negative reviews.

"When a customer posts a review, it's done in the spirit of freedom of speech," said Joe, a spokesperson from the cafe. "In that same spirit, one should expect and accept a reply from the business it's directed at."

He explained: "When a customer says to our staff, 'I'll contact your boss', that person has opened the doors to a pari passu effect — ie. can be done back to you." Pari passu refers to the concept of being "on equal footing".


Joe also went on to say that while most businesses operate under the motto "The customer is always right", Grain Alley doesn't operate along that line of thought.

"We believe in 'First, the customer must be right'," he said. 

While expressing gratitude towards staff for their loyalty and hard work, Joe added that Grain Alley would always favour their staff over customers.

Although some Redditors empathised with him and his perspective on running a business, they still felt that the cafe's scathing responses to negative reviews went beyond what was permissible.

"[Joe] seems peaceable and honest, and it is true that customers often omit or downplay their own bad behaviour when writing reviews," a Redditor wrote. "If I didn't know better, I'd probably take [Joe's] side.

"But I actually read most of his Google replies. The replies with personal attacks, insults and otherwise caustic language make me shake my head in disgust."

Others felt that Grain Alley's response was deceptive and deflected away from the key issue.

"Shifting focus of [the] issue to protecting their staff and emphasising how hard their staff worked when the issue [has] clearly been their inappropriate response to reviews," one netizen pointed out.

Another netizen said: "Quite the saviour of the service industry, aren't they?"

'Online bullying' and 'personal vendetta'

Aside from defending the cafe's stance on customer reviews, Joe also detailed what he believes to be the incident that sparked the uproar.

According to him, a group of five patronised Grain Alley on April 23 to celebrate a birthday.

"Staff sent over a complimentary cocktail, a snowball, followed by a round of Tequila shots, which amounted to more than what they spent," he recounted.

But things went awry when the five customers decided to post bad reviews, with one allegedly taunting Joe to send them their "rudest reply".

When he confronted them, the group "took further offence" to his queries and went on forums to "invite fake reviews" and review-bomb the cafe's Google reviews page.

"[A bad] review is the only visible end product of their prior bad behaviour on premises," Joe said.

Grain Alley saw a drop in its rating on Google reviews over the past few days, but has since regained their rating of over 4-stars.

READ ALSO: Invasion of privacy? NUS student slams restaurant for contacting school over negative review

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