Seeing stars

TripAdvisor is very useful if you own a business. I've lost count of the number of customers, especially tourists, who have visited The Shakespeare after having read our online reviews and we're very grateful for that.

For those readers unaware of the mysterious workings of such things, it goes like this: you visit an establishment and then, according to your level of satisfaction, and as a member of TripAdvisor, you post a review of your experience and rate the place from one to five stars. Some people don't even bother with the critique and simply offer the star rating. Lazy lumps.

Obviously four or five star ratings are most common if your business is any good but, even then, you'll get the odd one star from someone with a perceived grievance or sometimes, sadly, from a rival business owner attempting to drop a spanner in the works. We've had two one-star ratings so far, the first from someone who was very angry about being rudely spoken to by a bloke in a red shirt who he presumed worked for us. Unfortunately, it turned out it was just a random rude bloke in a red shirt - so that was just a misunderstanding. The second one-star wonder was, frankly, mad as a box of frogs. His behaviour was wholly obnoxious all evening until he took umbrage at being asked to put a sock in it and leave (I'm paraphrasing) by staff and other customers alike. He must have decided to take revenge by posting his rambling tirade of fictional criticisms online. Neither of these examples was worrying because we hadn't done anything wrong in either case.

Three-star ratings are the interesting ones, especially if they're posted without a review to accompany them. Three stars? That's like somebody saying your concert was “very nice” after you've played for two hours solid and had to change your t-shirt four times because of the effort involved. You'd much rather they said, “I didn't really like it, I'm afraid. Nice t-shirts, though.” If these customers were to put up reviews next to their three-star ratings what on earth would they be? “Lovely beer but, blimey, the landlord's let himself go since the last time we were here”? Or “Perfect cosy lighting but I'm afraid I distinctly heard Kenny Loggins on the playlist”?

No, TripAdvisor needs to take out the two and three-star options and leave just the fours and fives for satisfied customers plus, of course, the one-star option - for any random boxes of frogs that might care to pass by.