Posting reviews of “terrible” and “poor” restaurant experiences is sort of TripAdvisor U.K. “Top Contributor” Chris Hobson’s thing — he’s seemingly had a “horrendous experience” 107 times now. After the gourmand panned the Double Barrel Real Steakhouse in South Yorkshire as “one of [the] worst places I have ever eaten!!,” though, manager Sarah Bird offered a different read on the situation, that of libel. Bird offered Hobson and wife a 30 percent discount, but then found Hobson’s online critique so offensive that she was moved to respond online. But TripAdvisor pulled her response, so she went public. “We have had numerous issues with TripAdvisor reviewers and have reported Chris Hobson for blackmail,” she now tells a local paper.
In the review, Hobson savaged his 16-ounce steak as overcooked and claimed, sort of obnoxiously, he would use “the money discounted from my bill to dry clean my smelly clothes.” He counters that 70 percent of his reviews are positive and adds he’s “really annoyed,” because the blackmail claims are “ridiculous.” Bird says that customers who dole out stars-for-freebies is “the way that this industry is going,” and others agree: Last summer, a pseudonymous TripAdvisor user named “Oscar Parrot” filed a rave review for a completely fake restaurant to point out what some say are flaws that allow reviewers to take advantage of the review site. In response to the steak fiasco, TripAdvisor has removed Hobson’s one-star “terrible” review and says it’s investigating the matter.