A woman has used a public apology in The Times newspaper's announcement page to admit posting several false online reviews, including on the TripAdvisor website, of vegetarian restaurant the Good Life in Shrewsbury.
The move came after Helen Griffiths was contact by police, who had tracked her IP address down to her place of work in Warrington. Griffiths, who made false complaints alleging the staff were cold and inattentive and that there were hairs in a quiche she was served, was issued with a caution following the discovery.
Griffiths was reported to have been motivated to make the remarks as the result of a personal grudge, following a legal dispute with the restaurant's owner, Joanna Langfield, a former partner of Griffiths's husband.
In an apology published on The Times‘s announcements page, Griffiths, a marketing manager from Salford, admitted "misrepresenting the quality of the food and service of the restaurant which, from other reviews and nominations, does indicate an exemplary track record".
Langfield, who claimed profits at her restaurant dropped 25% as a result of the reviews, told The Times: "It started off quite extreme. Someone posted a review calling me ‘arrogant' and making other nasty references. TripAdvisor actually took one down.
"One of her last reviews was on a local site, and the chap who ran that was really helpful. The IP (internet protocol) was linked by police to Warrington, which is where Ms Griffiths worked."
The reviews have now been removed, including those on TripAdvisor although Langfield claimed she had had difficulty trying to get some of the TripAdvisor reviews removed. In a statement, TripAdvisor said:
"We're obviously appalled to hear about this incident last year and urge any business who feels they may be a victim of bullying to contact us immediately. We have a zero tolerance approach to this and will investigate every issues fully.
"Since this issue we have made significant steps forward in how businesses can contact us. Previously they haven't always been able to pick up the phone and speak directly to someone on our team. We agreed we could do better, so we have now expanded our customer care team and in November 2011 set up a dedicated toll-free UK phone line with a UK-based customer service team so that businesses can reach us quickly and easily. This is a major update to TripAdvisor's customer support program following the appointment our Director of Customer Care in March of last year (2011) and part of a broader effort to make our service more responsive."
Griffiths could not be contacted.
By Neil Gerrard
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