Even tough customers deserve some respect

25 November 2011
Even tough customers deserve some respect

You can barely change the channel on your TV without stumbling over a show related to hospitality.

If it's not Gordon Ramsay alternately sweating and swearing as he drags some restaurateur up by the bootstraps, then we have Alex Polizzi chiding hoteliers for their standards of hygiene, or Fred Sirieix demanding higher levels of service from sullen teens.

But for most independent businesses, a dressing down from a TV celebrity would hold little fear, by comparison with coming face-to-face with their biggest critics - the Trip­Advisor reviewers.

Thanks to Channel 4, that horrific prospect became reality for a handful of businesses in Attack of the Trip Advisors - aired, not inappropriately, on Halloween.

The critics did not come across well. We had Ricky who marked the corner of the B&B bedsheets with a biro to check if they had been washed each night.

Then there were Sean and John, whose checklist for establishments they stayed at was so long, it was a wonder they had time to do anything else during their stay.

But sadly it seemed the programme's producers had chosen one or two of the businesses for their idiosyncracies too. Colin at the Olde Forge in Norfolk appeared to be doing the right thing by inviting TripAdvisor Catherine back for a meal after her scathing review, but the personal comments he and his partner Sarah made about her as she arrived (out of earshot) were ill-advised. It did little to enhance their image as a hospitable business.

If the programme turned out largely to be about fomenting confrontation and doing its best to present its subjects as oddballs, it also did something else - it served as a reminder that treating customers , however eccentric, without sufficient respect can be dangerous.

By Neil Gerrard

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