By Aurelie Hebert
These are a few words on a website well known to travelers that have triggered the anger of Cédric Lechevallier, restaurateur at Andelys (Eure).
The owner of the Marco Polo, and his wife, have since been living in a totally grotesque situation, which could have turned into a nightmare if they had not reacted quickly.
On August 3, 2022, the restaurateur discovered a comment about his establishment on the platform Tripadvisor. A comment far from being laudatory, this one denounces a prohibited practice, namely the price difference between the display and the invoice, but also breaches. Behind this comment, an anonymous person who attacks the Marco Polo… located at amsterdamto Netherlandsor more than 540 km.
“It makes me look like a thief”
Neither one nor two, the Andelys restaurateur reports to the American website which offers opinions and tourist advice from consumers, his location error.
And at lunchtime, in full service, it was one of his loyal customers who told him that she had seen the same message, with a few different words, about the Amsterdam establishment.
“I immediately reported the message that made me pass for a thief. »
He will have an answer by email that he still can’t digest.
“I was told that the message met all the criteria put in place by the site. They didn’t even want to hear that this user was talking about the restaurant in Amsterdam. »
The email states: “We found no reason to move it. [ndlr : le commentaire] on another establishment or delete it, since it meets our publication criteria. “And to add:” In case you would like to answer it, we invite you to use the ‘to the management’ option in your owner space in order to be able to share your version of the facts, your answer will appear below the commented reviews, which will allow travelers to read your two perspectives. »
Failing to be heard by Tripadvisor, Cédric Lechevallier decides to launch a counter-offensive. “Since apparently anyone can leave a review even if they did not come to eat, I asked all my contacts to leave one on our establishment. »
In a few hours, the Marco Polo of Andelys, whose reputation is well established, therefore sees the positive messages accumulate, in fact making the poorly located commentary fall far behind.
“In fact, these sites accept any comment without verification. »
Finally, a few days later, the anonymous withdraws his message while leaving the one for the establishment of the Netherlands. But on the Tripadvisor side nothing. “I received a satisfaction survey from them. Suffice to say that I put zero to everything. »
Afraid to comment
However, the restorer of Andelys is far from refusing the comments.
“If something goes wrong, let customers tell us about it immediately. Because ultimately, good or bad message, this story shows that we should not rely on it to decide. »
However, the restaurateur, like his colleagues, must come to terms with it now.
“It’s the same with Google and such. People don’t even need to prove they’ve been anywhere, but can drop any comments. Now we are also afraid to make a remark to a customer. »
“It’s a hostage taking”
A situation that his colleague Yann Juhel, owner of the Mistral located in Petit-Andely, also denounces.
“It’s a hostage taking for our restaurateurs, hoteliers… especially since we can’t withdraw from these platforms. For that, you would have to close the restaurant or pay. Now everyone has opinions for everything. »
But sometimes a few words can have real destructive power, as confirmed by Yann Juhel.
“It weighs on the reputation of the establishments. And that can be a problem when we want to grow. It’s demoralizing for us, the staff. This has immediate repercussions. »
Fortunately, Cédric Lechevallier was able to count on his loyal clientele in this misadventure which could have penalized his establishment.
The profession is stepping up
Eure professionals request the lifting of anonymity and proof “to have honest comments”.
Contacted by Cédric Lechevallier, the Union of Trades and Industries of the Hotel Industry (Umih) of Eure took up the file, as explained by its president Michaël Schmitt.
“I called our lawyer in Paris. We are waiting for parts from the restorer. We were aware of this problem with comments on platforms and websites. It’s not the first time this has happened. What is all the more absurd in this affair is that the comment is not even intended for the good restaurant”, specifies
After having had to manage the emergencies linked to the health crisis, and the lack of manpower, the Umih will work to make itself heard from these sites. With the mobilization of the municipalities, rules have been enacted concerning the Airbnb private rental site or the Booking reservation site.
“There is still little Booking almost imposed the mode of operation of the establishment to its owner. We managed to turn the tide. »
A long drawn out battle
But Michaël Schmitt knows it, it will still be a long-term battle. “The federation requests the lifting of anonymity for the comments, as well as the justification of the presence, by the photo of the receipt for example. The view that he s
either good or bad would thus be honest. »
For Olivier Bicot, owner of the Chaine d’Or in Andelys and president of the hoteliers of the Eure, the grotesque situation of his colleague, Cédric Lechevallier, is symptomatic of current society.
“For me, these platforms like Tripadvisor, offer popular justice in which anyone can consider themselves a judge, and who, under cover of anonymity, can have hurtful words or come to defamation. Every word has a meaning. A hurtful phrase becomes destructive like a stab. »
“Under cover of anonymity, everyone does what they want”
And to the restaurateur to underline: “It is absurd that each party can use maneuvers, sometimes dishonest, to reverse the fate of mob justice. Under cover of anonymity, everyone does what they want. “Far from being a fervent supporter of social networks, Olivier Bicot admits to paying the price. “But too bad I live with it. For me it’s a bit like an illness, you have to deal with it. ”
The restaurateur from Les Andelys denounces the fact that everyone can consider themselves a judge. “Before the networks, it was a network of trained professionals from our professions who judged. We were judged by our peers. There, anyone considers themselves to be a Michelin inspector. I think some people should come and spend a week in our establishments to understand. »
Measure and honesty
So the two representatives of restaurateurs and hoteliers have only one piece of advice for professionals who would be faced with this situation. “We have civil liability with legal protection. Do not hesitate to call your council. »
As for the public, Michaël Schmitt and Olivier Bicot call for moderation. “Be in proportion and be honest. And above all, do not hesitate to go directly to the restaurateur to express your complaints. Give him a chance to explain. ”
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Eure. The rebellion of restaurateurs against Tripadvisor