Getting slapped with a negative review stings. The question is, do you hit back or turn the other cheek? Take a look at lessons learned from these funny responses to negative reviews.
Every business owner or manager has experienced an unreasonably negative review at one time or another. Sometimes, even though the review is unfair, it can’t be taken down. Yelp, Google, and Facebook all have different policies for removing reviews. However, they do have one thing in common. It’s notoriously difficult to get a review removed from any platform.
So what do you do? Do you let it go? Do you fight back? Some businesses have chosen to fight back in hilarious ways, but it isn’t always for the best.
Here we’ll take a look at lessons learned from six funny responses to negative reviews. Then, as a bonus we’ve included a clip of Aziz Ansari and Jimmy Fallon dramatically reading negative Yelp reviews and their responses.
1) “Think What You Paid”
We’ll start off slow with a simply snarky response. Something like this sparks a chuckle, but what’s the point?
The owner of this business essentially dismissed any feedback and brushed the customer off. His statement, “Think what you paid,” would likely deter any future customers who see it.
If you saw this response to a review, would you choose to use the business? Probably not. Instead, a better, and still pointed, response would look more like this:
I’m sad to hear your experience was below your expectations. As you can tell, our staff is fairly limited. Me, myself, and I would love to clean your room for you, but we checked and there’s no time for that between managing the business and guests. If you wanted new towels, all you needed to do was ask. Our mind reading machine broke last week.
As for our location, did you check a map before you visited? Google Maps would show you the busy street outside our establishment. You did notice it was in a great location to go out, but did you not think that would entail noise?
I’m happy to hear you found other lodging to your satisfaction. I’m sure they’ll love to have you back next time you return to Glasgow. Our hotel is better suited for guests with a sense of humor and less unrealistic expectations.
The difference between the two is that one feels dismissive and rude and the other feels simply sarcastic and light-hearted. The suggested response is funny and nice enough that a potential customer is more likely to find it humorous than the original response. Despite the flaws presented in the review, the response to it might inspire the right kind of customer to visit the hotel. It might even bring in more who don’t mind the poor quality of the establishment as much.
But, if your business isn’t low-brow, budget-oriented, or branded as witty and sarcastic, this response will not work for you. Always make sure your review responses align with your brand, your customer expectations, and your desired online reputation.
2) The Dark, Dark Rabbit Hole
Although we recommend responding to all your reviews, some businesses don’t respond to any as a rule. But chances are, inevitably a reviewer will end up catching the eye of an establishment with such a policy. In this case, a Yelper with over 7500 reviews did the trick.
The response by Chisai was nearly perfect. First, it eloquently pointed out how ridiculous it was for the customer to criticize a shifting business model built to suit economic circumstances. They showed why they did it and how it affected the community as backup.
Then, they went deeper. They investigated his profile and found more Yelp reviews than most people could imagine.
[W]hen you mention the word “pathetically”, we can’t help but visualize you sitting in front of your computer or phone crafting over 7500 yelp reviews. We did some quick math, and based on an average review time of 8 minutes (could be conservative), you have spent around 1000 hours writing reviews that no one but yourself and the small business owners you critique will read. That’s nearly 6 months of a full time (40 hour per week) job writing reviews that you are not being compensated for, or improving to any sort of skill set.
With the statement above, Chisai undermines the reviewer’s authority without really being defensive. Instead, they subtly hint that the reviewer may be unemployed or have no social life. But, they couldn’t stop there. They continued to provide some friendly life advice:
Our suggestion to you is to get away from this dark, dark rabbit hole you have jumped down. Just think about the fact that you have spent nearly 6 months adding zero value to your career. Start putting the same effort and focus on a craft or skill set that will get you away from your social networking, and start working towards career goals that will bring you happiness and fulfillment.
While maintaining a witty and professional tone, Chisai is able to hilariously respond to this negative review and mostly keep its integrity. They lost points with their ad hominem attack on the reviewer by getting a little too personal. Despite this flaw, their response works for them for the following reasons:
- They didn’t get defensive in tone but still defended their business.
- Referring to their business transition, they pointed out the economic benefit to the community.
- It was funny, even if slightly too insulting.
- They did background research and math to show they put effort into the response.
- It sounds light-hearted.
- It’s written very professionally.
Without the above combination of elements, this response could have gone horribly wrong. It almost did when the writer derailed the point of the response with the “dark, dark rabbit hole.” The business should have avoided a personal insult in order to make this response work. If they left out the piece about their “pathetic” shift in business model creating jobs in the community, then they might have offended potential customers even further. There’s a nice balance to this response that makes its humor work, but it would have worked better had the insult not been pushed so far.
3) A Consulting Request
Onefold from Denver, Colorado tries to reply with funny responses to negative reviews, but occasionally it’s overdone. Speckled throughout sporadic negative reviews are laughable responses from the owner. His method is clearly aligned with his company identityt because he only becomes truly insulting when someone attacks his brand. There are exceptions though, like this review criticizing the food.
The reviewer didn’t attack the brand, but they insulted the food. You can almost hear the owner, Mark, laughing behind his keyboard. The lighthearted request for a consultant makes a passerby laugh, but does it do anything for the business in this case? Not necessarily. He could have followed it up with a simple, “I’ll make sure they’re being made right.” That would have at least let the public know that he did take feedback somewhat seriously.
On the other hand, in all his responses to those who attack the food selection that makes the restaurant what it is, you can clearly see his dedication to his menu and brand. In response to another review, Mark says,
[I]f you want garbage cooked in cheap vegetable / corn oil go else where we use duck fat and that won’t change. We don’t market ourselves as vegetarian as we cook everything in duck fat (clearly stated on website and menu) A little reading goes pretty far, glad you will not be returning. Also sir we cook all of our eggs in a separate pan so there is a zero percent chance that you got bacon grease on your eggs as they were cooked on olive oil. You probably just smelled our delicious bacon while you were eating them. Btw Starbucks is right up the street and probably has more palatable coffee for you , since you like trashing local roasters in all your worthless Yelp reviews.
This response alone might have passed as acceptable, given that his tone is the same across his Yelp page. But then he followed it with a link to an inappropriate video clip from South Park suggesting that he will seek minor revenge on customers who make him angry. In most cases, this tactic will backfire. Do not threaten your customers with disgustingly altered food, even in jest.
We’ve seen other business owners with similar tactics. Even if the humor is over the top, it could work for you. It really depends on your location, brand, and customer base.
4) “A Crime Against Fashion’
Even some of the most well-thought out responses can go south. The language used in them needs to be chosen carefully. For example, one restaurateur took offense when a reviewer called his integrity into question after he forgot to mail the customer a forgotten item. His long response was funny, but probably not the best choice for a classy restaurant.
The biggest mistake the owner makes here is bringing a multitude of personal issues into his workplace. His manager out on maternity leave is a borderline appropriate detail to include, but his rant about life, in general, is not.
If he had stuck with his cute Australian jabs, like “I should have done a Joe ninety,” and been slightly less defensive, then this response would be much better. For example, his offer to buy the man a new windbreaker next time he’s in town because the one he just sent back to him was a “crime against fashion” is insulting and light-hearted. But the following paragraph has an air of disdain that brings the feeling of the response down a notch.
Next time you feel like writing a review for a restaurant try to remember us for our qualities which we provide in the abundance of good locally sourced food wine, atmosphere at least that’s what we hear consistently from our customers.
While the owner has a point, he should have let his other reviews speak for themselves. He did forget to send the man’s jacket and he never owned up to the mistake. Instead, he listed excuses.
The superfluous and defensive nature of this response drowns out the fact that the owner decided not to charge the reviewer for mailing his windbreaker. Overall, we can learn the following from this response:
- Don’t get defensive, especially if you’re going to try to use humor.
- Keep it light-hearted.
- Don’t bring your personal life into it.
- Acknowledge mistakes you made.
- Write out your responses well and edit them.
5) “The Hotel Toilet Engine”
Thankfully, we did come across someone a little more eloquent in taking down negative reviewers. Basil, owner of Crags Hotel in Scotland, crafts review responses that are both comic and prosaic genius. He picks his moments wisely and when he chooses to fight back, the result is hysterical.
In this review, Basil opens apologetically addressing an issue not even presented in the review: the behavior of his wife. He uses humor to backhandedly acknowledge that the reviewer didn’t give him one star, but two, after not staying in the hotel at all. It’s almost like a sarcastic thank you, but not quite. And that’s just the opening.
The real genius of this review is in the dissection and dismantling of the reviewer’s comparison of the hotel’s toilet flush to “a Spitfire engine starting up.” Basil says,
I am concerned by your simile… I hope you don’t really think that I have powered my toilet with a supercharged V12 Rolls-Royce engine! I am all for disposing of waste but that would be going a little far!
He then suggests the reviewer researches “Spitfire Sounds” on YouTube and admits his toilet isn’t the best. Then he continues with,
Similarly, I have also never heard a toilet flush so horrific that it made me leap out of bed, dash to the old two-seater and not stop driving until I had actually left the country in which the toilet was resident! This seems a bit of an overreaction to me!
As if his complete annihilation of the reviewer’s metaphor for his toilet’s flushing sounds wasn’t enough, Basil ends with a clear challenge. He asks the man to return to the hotel, especially if he disagrees with the response to his review.
If you chose to take me up on this kind offer then please remember that it clearly states on all websites that check in is from 2pm and you might want to bring some sandwiches if the debate is going to stretch into the evening… or maybe you would like it if we opened the restaurant just for you!
The offer to open the restaurant for the customer clearly defines the message in the response: “You’re being ridiculous.” In this situation, Basil crafts quite the funny response to a negative review that’s levels above the example before it. But responses like this only work if it aligns with the brand of the business or in context of the review.
We might be laughing now, but there are times reviews make us want to pull our hair out. Sign up for our newsletter for review advice and more.
6) The Finale: A Shakespearean Takedown
Finally, our last example, also from Basil of Crags Hotel, speaks for itself. This takedown was clearly inspired by Shakespeare and spot on in response to the review.
Without outright insulting this woman’s intelligence, Basil basically told her that she had the grammatical skills of a chimp. His message once again was, “You’re being ridiculous,” but he said it in the best way possible. He used Shakespeare, the king of insults, and he did it in Scotland! Even the location aligns with this response.
The main reason this response works so well is that Basil actually does say that he took her feedback seriously. He addressed her concerns and informed her how he would remedy them. Granted he did it while he laughed at her for accusing him of a “botanical blitzkrieg” in his parking lot. But it worked really well.
Basil’s response, long and over the top as it is, is perfect for this hotel. However, I doubt that a high-end hotel in London could pull off the same kind of response. It would entirely depend on their brand identity.
Aziz Ansari and Jimmy Dramatically Read Bad Yelp Reviews
Before we dive into all the lessons we learned from these review responses, we thought you’d enjoy this clip from The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
Lessons Learned from Funny Responses to Negative Reviews
However you choose to handle your review responses, make sure you have a defined strategy for how they are written. Forbes has great tips on responding to negativity on social media that’s also applicable to your reviews. When you respond and choose to use humor, keep these key lessons in mind:
- Respond to your reviews consistently. If you’re going to respond to only those that are untrue, attack your brand, or contain a certain subject, then stick to it. If you’re going to respond to only negative reviews, respond to all of them. Be consistent.
- Don’t ever get defensive. When you get defensive, every drop of humor disappears from your response and is replaced with bitter sarcasm.
- Keep it light-hearted and make sure your tone is light.
- Leave your personal life out of it. It sucks that things happen and life gets rough, but it looks petty in writing.
- Write well and edit multiple times, but make sure you still respond quickly.
- Bring some research into it. Make it clear that you’re dedicated to the joke, not the insult of the customer or defense of your business.
Have you seen any funny review responses that either flopped or impressed you? Tell us about them in the comments!