Amy’s Baking Company Nightmare: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all?

In the last few days I’ve enjoyed among the most entertaining moments of my life online, watching the train wreck unfold on the Facebook page of infamous Amy’s Baking Company in Arizona, owned by Amy and Samy Bouzaglos.

I’m not going to go into a huge amount of detail describing its owners and what happened to cause The Great Trolling of 2013, but I absolutely urge you to check out the video that aired as the season finale of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, season 6. After almost 100 episodes of the successful show, Ramsay finally gave up and walked out on two people he rightly claims are incapable of help. It really is something to behold.

Video: Amy’s Baking Company on Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares Full Episode

It is fair to say, discussion of their business and behaviour has exploded across social media. Before the airing their Facebook page had a mere 483 likes. Now, it has over 88-thousand. That’s 18,000% growth on Facebook in one week. Good for business in this case? Umm, no.

abc facebook likes

thumbs up - facebook comment on Amy's Baking Company

Before and after the airing, reviews came thick and fast from disgruntled diners.
Here is but one of hundreds across many restaurant review sites:

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Are negative reviews fair?

Deserved or not, is it fair for a small business to be subjected to the negative opinions of diners? The Washington Post‘s Caitlin Dewey points out that many (small business owners, of course) think this is not right, especially when the business owners disagree with the review (well, of course they would, wouldn’t they.)

But while the Internet has rejoiced in the Bouzaglos’ raving — their Facebook pagehas nabbed more than 85,000 likes — even their angriest rants may hide a shadow of truth. Yelp reviews can destroy a business’s reputation, whether it deserves it or not, some owners say. In fact, more than 700 businesses and consumers have filed complaints about the popular online consumer review service with the Federal Trade Commission — and earned Yelp a few mixed reviews of its own.

In the Washington area alone, more than a dozen businesses have filed complaints, according to data obtained from the FTC by the government transparency site MuckRock. One frequent criticism involves the site’s use of an automatic filter to hide potentially suspicious reviews. Hidden reviews do not count toward a business’s rating, and users have to take an extra step to see them, even if they’re positive. Some owners have accused Yelp of filtering out good reviews unless a business advertises with the site.

Other Washington businesses complained that they could not remove unfair or false reviews from their pages. And a restaurant in Fairfax County claimed that two vengeful reviewers threatened to destroy the business with their bad ratings even though they had never even eaten at the restaurant.

“I repeatedly explained that these comments against us [do] not match with our restaurant or description, but they [Yelp] don’t care,” the complaint reads. “This is an un-American act against hard working citizens … I need your help.”

In late 2012, one Fairfax contractor went so far as to sue a Yelp reviewer for defamation.

Source: Read the whole article here.

Perception among businesses is that review sites like Yelp are not good for the business because they invite criticism. They believe that Yelp exists to be good for the consumer only.

Gordon Ramsay gets it, however. He says to Samy Bouzaglos in the Kitchen Nightmares episode, “If they didn’t like it, what are you going to do about it? The kitchen needs to know!” He knows that receiving negativity is ultimately about improvement. Therefore, receiving criticism should be seen as good for business, good for brands, good for people.

I sincerely hope sites like Yelp don’t become controlled by legislation. If that happens, then disgruntled patrons have no choice but to go back to the old style of trolling and expressing displeasure: the ol’ graffiti on the window trick.

Here are my answers to a few questions being debated about Yelp and other restaurant review sites in the wake of this business meltdown:

  1. Should a business have the right to complain if they’ve received bad reviews on Yelp?  My opinion: Yes, of course. You can complain about whatever you like.
  2. Should the restaurant have the ability to respond to reviews? My opinion: Yes.
  3. Should those reviews be removed? My opinion: No. Not even if they’re vitriolic. There are plenty of counter measures that could be put in place to make commenters more accountable for what they write, such as a implementing a trust/reputation system for commenters, but I will let you discuss such ideas in the comments.
  4. Should reviewers be forced to use their true ID before they leave a review? I tend towards “No”, but for reviews that build a permanent profile of a business, I’m in two minds: I consider forcing users to use their true ID a breach of privacy and potential safety; when you force someone to use their true ID you’re basically forcing them to downplay their true feelings in case someone retaliated against them. Then again, that’s precisely what we’re forcing small businesses and their owners to do by being on Yelp, so I guess it’s only fair to level the playing field there.
  5. Should an individual be able to be sued for defamation if their review is completely false? Yes. But remember, opinion is subjective. So this would have to be on a case by case basis and I imagine it’d be quite hard to prove intentional defamation in many cases.

Should people keep criticism to themselves?

In my observation, there seems to be an alarmingly large population of people who agree with the statement “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”. This is not, by any measure, limited to restaurant reviews. Do you find this to be the case too, or is it just me?

If I don’t like a song or video on YouTube for example, god help me if I attempt to post a negative comment about it. I’m almost guaranteed to receive a venomous reply from someone proclaiming that you “shut the **** up and get the **** off this page” for merely saying I don’t like something.

Same goes if you dare to criticise a celebrity, a TV show, a sports team, fashion, event, or especially, the most taboo of all — criticism on regular people who invite comment on social media. “Haterz gon hate”, be prepared for the fanbois and groupies to attack you back like rabid dogs.

It is a huge taboo to be anything but positive on social networks, to the point where it is doing the individual, the business and the world a disservice to have to completely censor yourself “out of politeness” if you disagree with something so that they only ever receive support. How many of you have censored your own fingers from leaving a criticising comment on a post by one of your Facebook friends?

50 cent with a wig

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Criticising someone on Facebook successfully

practice what you preach

My stance is this: if you’re out there on social media inviting responses from people on any topic, whether it be your music, your food, your beliefs or even how you look or how beautiful (ugly) your baby is, then negativity, criticism and disagreement of absolutely any degree is just as valid as positivity and support of any degree. Politeness? Come on, people. The world is not all rosy and everyone doesn’t think like you do. You should not expect this.

I’m not a hypocrite, either. Think what I’m writing is shit? Disagree with what I’m saying? Great! I’ve decided to put it out there for dissection and discussion, so it’s fair game. People learn from accepting conflicting opinions. Without it, you cannot ever grow.

The true saying we should all be living by is not “If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all“. Whoever coined that saying fails to see the larger benefit in accepting criticism. Try to teach the art of being diplomatic and reasonable when you dislike something. But please, do not teach your kids to shut up when they dislike something.

The “Compliment Sandwich” technique can work with sometimes quite hilarious results, as demonstrated below. But it risks just beating around the bush. Why sugar coat what you actually need to say, just because you’re afraid you might hurt someone’s feelings? Again, if someone invites your comment by posting it up for public review, it’s fair game.

The true saying we should be raising our children and running our businesses with is in fact “If you can’t take criticism, don’t invite feedback”. No one needs to learn this lesson more than the operators of Amy’s Baking Company, but I think this is a lesson a great many of people cannot apply to their own work or themselves.

As for Amy and Samy Bouzaglos… if they ever raise anything more than their three cats, God help us.

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Categories: Beliefs, Morals, Culture, Politics, Law, Psychology

Author:Andrew Beato

CEO, Chief Editor and founder of Intentious. Passionate comment enthusiast, amateur philosopher, Quora contributor, audiobook and general knowledge addict.

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