First, the good. Trevor L. recently visited Empire Mayo’s Brooklyn storefront and was so impressed that he bought $28 of artisanal mayonnaise. Afterward, he left a glowing, five-star review on Yelp. “Honestly, I’m not a big mayonnaise fan,” he wrote, “but this sh*t’s dank.”
Now, the bad. Megan B. went into NYC’s Iron Horse bar for a quiet afternoon drink with her friends. She didn’t enjoy her experience at all, and left a one-star review on Yelp afterwards. “The service was terrible just to get a drink at the bar. The food was also terrible,” she wrote.
Megan B.’s review, at least, got a response from the owner of the Iron Horse, Zbigniew S., who ultimately gave her a one-star review as a customer. “It seems you like quiet coffee shops and fancy food, none of which we have ever advertised to provide.” The one star was for her inability to pick out restaurants and bars to suit her taste.
It’s funny, but ultimately, the owner is correct about Megan B.’s review: a lot of bad Yelp reviews come from poor expectation management.
Looking again at Empire Mayo’s Yelp page, not all the reviews are as glowing as Trevor L.’s. In fact, with fourteen reviews, its average star rating is 3 1/2, thanks in large part to reviewers who view its presence in Brooklyn as a bastion of gentrification. Take Josh M.’s review, seen below:
And with 248 reviews, the Iron Horse maintains a respectable average of four stars. A lot of the five-star reviews are from people who come ready to have fun, such as Molly M.:
Even my favorite neighborhood coffee shop — which won the America’s Best Coffeehouse award just a couple of months ago and has an average of 4 1/2 stars among its 241 reviews — isn’t immune to the Yelp polarization. It has tons of five-star reviews praising the hipster/urban vibe, the fresh and flavorful food, and the friendly service. But interspersed throughout are downers like these:
The biggest problem with Yelp one-star reviews seems to be the fact that the people who are leaving them just aren’t prepared for what they’re about to experience. So, when they end up paying more than they expected for a small coffee and no refills, or they end up not being able to enjoy conversation with their friends at three in the afternoon because of the music in the bar, so they leave angry. It’s not the place they wanted it to be!
Is going to Yelp to gripe the best thing to do, though? Coloring your review of a place with personal disappointment you experienced? A business deserves a one-star review if there are cockroaches skittering across the floor and you get food poisoning afterward. Or if it charges a lot and the food and service are average. It doesn’t deserve a one-star review for being itself and offering mayonnaise that may seem spendy in comparison to what you can find on the shelf at the supermarket.
It also doesn’t deserve a one-star review just for being in the news. Zbigniew S. came back again to leave another witty response to a complaint that he pored over security footage of his bar just to leave snarky comments on the one-star reviews on his page: