Frequently Asked Questions... and the answers!
Q: How do I deal with an unfair or negative review of my business?
A: HappyCow's goal is to support vegan & vegetarian restaurants worldwide and help to promote businesses like yours. We also have an unbiased obligation to our site users - to allow for a fair and democratic system for sharing their personal opinions and experiences.
HappyCow is legally protected against claims regarding content written by participants. A United States Federal law called the Communications Decency Act ("CDA") does not allow a direct action against sites such as HappyCow for the comments of third parties.
HappyCow and our reviewers/participants are also legally protected by SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) which grants every person petition and free speech rights to speak freely on public issues and issues of public interest, and facilitates the recovery by SLAPP victims of their damages through a SLAPPback (malicious prosecution action) against the SLAPP filers and their attorneys after the underlying SLAPP has been dismissed.
Here's what we recommend:
Get actively involved in the HappyCow community – primarily as an individual and also as someone managing your business' reputation on the HappyCow website. Below is a useful list of DOs and DON'Ts for business owners, and we hope you'll apply them, and let us know which works best.
First, the DON'Ts:
- DON'T review your own business anonymously or have your friends do that repeatedly (see below for alternatives).
- DON'T over-estimate the impact of a single negative review. It happens to even the best & most well-liked businesses. In fact, in speaking to HappyCow users, we've learned that negative reviews intermingled with favorable reviews often act to enhance the credibility of the positive reviews by illustrating the honesty and openness of the HappyCow environment. That said, if you see a trend of negative reviews, you may want to take this feedback and determine if there is a way to improve your business.
- DON'T lash out at the people who have written negative reviews about you. Tempting as that may be, we see that backfiring in some cases as the users/reviewers may up the ante and even engage in "vigilante justice" by spreading more negativity (see below for alternative).
Now, the DOs:
- DO register yourself on HappyCow, as an individual or as a business owner, and engage with the community by writing some reviews, upload an avatar, etc...). Even as a business owner/manager, you are a real human being, and HappyCow is the right place to show that.
- DO add photos to your business page, and make sure your business information is correct. Click on the 'UPDATE' link if you want to make changes, and be sure to announce that you are the business owner when submitting the information.
- DO post a response to a negative review by logging in, then click the "Respond" link under the review.
- DO use HappyCow member messaging ("Contact Member" link) to thank reviewers for writing about your business – but consider waiting 48 hours before responding to any negative reviews as a cooling-off mechanism. Be sure to put yourself in the mindset of your customer, and recognize that your tone may come across as defensive, so tread lightly. Additionally, you may also PM (Private Message) the member to keep your correspendence confidential.
- DO take the feedback to heart… but remember that each review is just one single opinion, and it's the entire set of the HappyCow reviews together that really matters most.
- DO consider becoming a supportive "FRIEND" to HappyCow so that your listing will appear first on the page. Those listed as first on the page and as FRIENDS get more attention by visitors and often receive twice as many reviews as those listed further down the page - more info on becoming a FRIEND.
- DO post a HappyCow banner on your own website with a link to Your Review Page. You can find banners for your business by clicking "link to this page" towards the top right of the review page for your business (under your phone number).
Finally, if an excessively negative review was written by a "GUEST" or a name that is not click-able from the review, we will have a look at the review to determine whether it qualifies as being "extremely unfair" or "excessively negative" - open a ticket. In the case that the review removal request meets the below guidelines, we will remove it:
- Review reflects personal difference between the reviewer and owner. Vulgar, vengeful, profane, attacking language. We strongly insist that customers and owners settle all fights, arguments, and disagreements elsewhere and NOT on the HappyCow website.
- Overly detrimental to a business. Slanderous, extremely negative remarks without explanation or justification.
- Excessively negative comments without explanation and not offering suggestions of constructive steps a business might take to improve and/or not fully explaining reasons.
If your request of removal does not meet the above guideline, no action will be taken.
Q: Why was My Review Removed?
There are a number of reasons why a review gets removed:
- The review was never posted. Reviews are posted immediately once you write them. If your review did not appear it could be that you had internet connection trouble on hitting the submit button. You should always see the message "Thanks, your review has been added to:" immediately after you hit "Submit Review". If you took more than 45 minutes to write it, it's also possible that your session "timed out" and you were logged out (we do this for security reasons).
- The business owner read it, has begun to make corrections/changes, and requested for it to be removed. HappyCow investigates all requests by business owners asking for excessively negative or damaging reviews to be removed -- these may include reviews that are intentionally damaging to a business or reflecting personal difference between the reviewer and owner. Such kinds of reviews will be removed. Please note that HappyCow is not a website for venting your personal conflicts, differences, attacks, and issues with a business or management. Please consider settling your fights, arguments, and disagreements with the business elsewhere. We are not here to take sides.
- Review was written a long time ago, anonymously. If you had left a review(s) as a "GUEST," we have no way to contact you to investigate the story behind your review. In such case, a request for removal by the owner will be based solely on HappyCow staff discretion. To deal directly with the owner (or people in disagreement), please create a member profile for yourself so that members (including owners who join) can leave messages for you. Your identity and email are kept private unless you choose otherwise. If you are making strong statements we highly advise you to use your real identity and link your HappyCow account to your Facebook account.
- The review is putting-down a business solely to promote another business.
- The review contains descriptions or claims that should be reported to the business owner and/or local health department and are potentially "legal slander" to the business in question. For instance, "I got food poisoning here". Contact your state or local Health Department. Phone numbers may be found in your local phone directory. Or, "This place is run by a cult!"- not appropriate to be posted on HappyCow.
- It did not include a review of the food, atmosphere, dining experience, just ranting/complaining about something else.
- The review expressed negativity without any story to back it. When a review is overly simplistic, bad-mouths a business without explaining clearly in detail what happened and why one disliked that particular restaurant or store, we reserve the right to remove it.
- Use of negative language. At HappyCow, our mission is to promote plant based dining and help to support vegan/vegetarian restaurants stay in business so veggie food lovers everywhere can have choices when dining out. Negative comments can be made in different ways. A remark like, "I hated the pumpkin soup as it was totally tasteless," is acceptable, while, "The guy making the soup is a stupid idiot who has no taste and he should get out of the restaurant business!" is unacceptable and will be removed, as would: "THESE PEOPLE ARE EVIL, PLEASE HELP ME SHUT DOWN THIS RESTAURANT!!!" or "please i'm begging you, do not go to this place". Negative remarks can be used as constructive criticism when viewed by owners, but excessively negative remarks can also dissuade potential customers from visiting due to one person's isolated experience. We all have different standards. We feel that if an owner has read and taken note of a user review and personally asked us for it to be removed, then it has served a purpose and made a difference. If nothing has changed over time, we want to hear about it and wish for you to contact us.
- Multiple reviews posted by same user/IP saying basically the same thing (positive or negative) we will delete all but the last
- You posted on one negative review, which was unsubstantiated or abusive, and never logged in again.
- The review was posted long ago (more than 1 year) and since then things have changed, been corrected, or may be there is new ownership, etc... We feel it is important to keep all existing reviews current.
- The business has closed/shut down.
- Profanity of any kind used.
- The review looked like spam or was incomprehensible gibberish.
- Review was written in a language entirely other than English.
- The review got lost. Although we keep back-ups of our website frequently, occasionally data gets lost. If you feel that this might be the case with your post, we apologize. Please consider re-posting.
PLEASE NOTE THAT REVIEW REMOVALS INVOLVE MANY FACTORS AND IS NOT PERSONAL. HAPPYCOW WANTS TO HELP BOTH YOU AND THE BUSINESS OWNERS, BUT WE CANNOT PLEASE EVERYONE ALL OF THE TIME.
OUR MISSION IS TO PROMOTE A PLANT-BASED DIET & HEALTHY DINING, AND WE APPRECIATE YOUR SUPPORT AND UNDERSTANDING. THANK YOU.