When most people leave reviews of a place on Google, they don't usually expect a response — certainly, not those criticising their character, marriage or even their smell.
Grain Alley at Orchard Central has recently come under scrutiny after a Reddit post highlighted the cafe's criticism of customers who left one-star reviews on Google, allegedly rewarding those who gave five-star ones.
"Whenever a negative review is received, the reviewer is pelted with insults, name-calling, name-and-shame tactics and even doxxing," Redditor One-Possibility-1540 claimed in their post.
Providing context, the Redditor mentioned one incident where a reviewer allegedly had her one-star review sent to her employer, and another incident where a reviewer's relationship with his wife was allegedly insulted.
"You never know when you'll be at their mercy as a customer," the Reddit post goes on to say. "Look at them the wrong way and the CEO or HR of the company you work at could be receiving a nasty slandering email."
On the other end of the review spectrum, the Reddit post also accused the cafe of manipulating reviews by "incentivising five-star reviews".
"Apparently the business owner is incentivising five-star reviews by offering free gifts on the next visit for showing proof of having written a five-star review," user One-Possibility-1540 claimed.
Responding to his post, some Redditors said that this was an infringement of Google's terms of service.
"Should report them to Google," one comment said. "It's against the terms of service to reward or incentivise reviews on their platform."
According to Google's policies on prohibited and restricted content, it is written that review posts "should reflect your genuine experience at the location and should not be posted just to manipulate a place's ratings".
This isn't the first time Google reviews have been criticised in Singapore.
In January this year, Chicken Hotpot in Sengkang had complained to NUS regarding a negative review sent by its student. She was told by NUS that the restaurant felt her post "damaged their reputation".
In 2021, Japanese food stall chain Mentai-Ya dug up a full conspiracy behind a chain of bad reviews on their page, leading to Ishiro apologising to businesses affected by their manipulation.
AsiaOne has reached out to Grain Alley for comment.