We've all been there - a bad review on Yelp. But if this happened to you, would you go to a customer's home...even just to apologize? That's what the manager of one restaurant in Virginia did - and unfortunately the gesture backfired.

The incident occurred last month after Yesha Callahan ordered takeout from a local Italian restaurant. Unfortunately, the food was underwhelming and so Callahan left the following three-star Yelp review:

"Tried this place based on the reviews and the fact that they had zeppoles (sic) on the menu, which you don't come by often. Ordered the cheese burger, which was very dry & unseasoned. Also did not come with lettuce or tomato. The zeppoles barely had any powdered sugar on them & were soggy from the Styrofoam container. I would suggest sending them to people in small paper bags. Maybe next time I'll try the pizza."

I've seen a lot worse reviews on Yelp, haven't you? But the manager of the restaurant took the comments to heart. A short time later (around 10PM) he drove to Callahan's home with a replacement order and to apologize. I get it -you see a negative review and emotions take over. But the action had the opposite effect: his repeated calls and late-night presence outside her front door not unreasonably scared the daylights out of her.

"Not only that, he repeatedly called my phone, to let me know he was standing outside my door," she wrote on an updated review, which lowered the restaurant's rating to one-star. "WTF! I do not answer my door late at night for anyone. How dare you show up at my house! What kind of business are you running? And yes, the police have been notified."

Obviously, mistakes were made. The manager was a wee bit over-zealous. The owners of the restaurant apologized. But the damage was done - the story went viral on Twitter and now they're dealing with the backlash.

Here's the thing about online reviews: they're online for a reason. People rely on the relative anonymity of services like Yelp to leave (mostly) honest reviews and that's what you want to hear. I'm the first one to take a business owner's side, but if I was in Callahan's shoes I would've been equally upset. I'm not sure I would've taken the story to both Yelp and Twitter but she had every right to do so.

The takeaway? No matter how earnest your intentions, respond to online reviews - good or negative - online. Period. Once in a while I hear these tales about how a business owner goes insane after receiving a lousy Yelp review. For some reason, the more violent responses seem to occur in Asia, but that's probably just my perception. 

Regardless...calm down.  People on Yelp don't judge based on one lousy review - or even a few. Always take the high road and keep it professional. Never get into an argument about it because you'll likely lose. You're not going to please everyone but in today's B2C world where people can easily complain about anything they want and make their complaints public to the world you want to shoot for an 80% approval rating - or four stars on Yelp, whichever makes more sense.

And remember Callahan's own advice, which she posted on Yelp: "Next time, don't ask for a review, if you don't want the truth."

Published on: May 1, 2018