Editor's Comment: May 2017
PUBLISHED: 09:43 25 April 2017 | UPDATED: 09:43 25 April 2017
"One man's bistro is another man's burger joint". Cotswold Life editor Mike Lowe wages war on keyboard warriors and "take with a pinch of salt" TripAdvisor reviews
I am quite fond of the general public. It wasn’t always thus. When I was editor of the Bristol Evening Post I sometimes seemed to be at war with half the city (although in reality it was probably just the soap-dodging, illegal-squatting, vegetable-chomping, professional Leftie, lurcher-on-a-string tendency).
Cotswold Life is, of course, very different – a much more refined, reasonable and genteel audience. Yes, we get the occasional angry letter of complaint, often about something quite inconsequential, but I find that a prompt and polite reply quickly takes the sting out of the situation and usually elicits a further missive saying “Oh, so sorry to have gone off on one. I was having a bad day...”
For me, a bad day for a customer results in nothing more than a spittle-spattered email. For a restaurant or pub, however, it can be much more serious. Which brings us to the modern-day menace that is TripAdvisor. If a reader is disappointed or annoyed with something in Cotswold Life, they might tell their family and friends, but that’s about as far as the collateral damage extends. If an anonymous diner is disappointed or annoyed with a restaurant or pub, TripAdvisor allows them to tell the world and his uncle, causing untold damage to a business that might just be starting out or might just be having one of the aforementioned ‘bad days’. And yes, there might be 100 ‘excellent’ reviews, but it’s the ‘terrible’ one that draws the eye, as every national newspaper food critic knows.
The issue is that of judgement and expectation. One man’s bistro is another man’s burger joint. And what does the anonymous assassin know about food anyway? Or the incredibly tight margins under which most restaurants operate? I’m always amused when a TripAdvisor critic feels the need to establish their so-called credentials before launching an attack: “I have eaten in some of the world’s finest Michelin-starred restaurants, but I have to say that the thumbprint I found on my glass of tap water in Fred’s Roadside Diner on the A404 made a mockery of the outrageous £4.99 price for the all-day full English breakfast...”
Of course, that’s if they ever went to the establishment in question in the first place. TripAdvisor allows any rival business to trash a new arrival while praising their own without any evidence as to the honesty or accuracy of the reviews. (A clue: fake positive reviews tend to provide way too much detail about the dishes on the menu). It has been suggested that contributors should have to provide a copy of the bill to validate their views, but this is apparently too complicated.
The internet has brought us many wonderful things. TripAdvisor isn’t one of them. Please bear that in mind when you’re next choosing where to eat, and have a considerable pinch of salt at hand when reading ‘reviews’.
After more than 400 years the ancient sport of shin-kicking has come a-cropper, and this year’s Olimpick Games on Dover’s Hill near Chipping Campden has been cancelled. Organisers cite a drop in the number of attendees, lack of finance and a shortage of volunteer organisers. All quite understandable, but there is also mention of “Health and Safety issues”. Yes, well I thought I glimpsed some hi-vis jackets lurking in the background.
The Fun Police have already launched a full-scale assault on our cheese-rolling tradition which, thanks to the sheer bloody-mindedness of the people of Brockworth, has survived relatively unscathed. If we’re not careful those toddlers dangling perilously over a bridge playing Pooh Sticks will be next, requiring licences, stoutly-anchored rope harnesses and lifejackets.
We sincerely hope that the shin¬kicking returns next year once organisers have found a way to circumvent modern¬day pressures. Robert Dover would have expected nothing less.
For more from Mike, follow him on Twitter! @cotslifeeditor