Businesses controlling user review Web sites - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Businesses controlling user review Web sites

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(WFLX) - For Eric Winick, it all started soon after he left this mixed online review for a restaurant. He raved about the food, but with a fidgety 2-year old in tow, he was frustrated dinner took an hour to be served.

"I said in the review that they had taken a ridiculously long time to bring the food," he said.

He was surprised to get an email from the restaurant's owner asking him to take it down. "He said that something along the lines of 'We're trying to make a go of it in this area, we all have families to feed' and sort of trying to prey on my sympathies a little bit," said Winick.

We found more and more businesses across the country reaching out to customers who leave bad reviews, and they're not always trying to make amends. Sometimes things get nasty.

In an extreme case, things got hot in the kitchen for an Atlanta restaurant earlier this year when it launched a Facebook and Twitter campaign identifying a customer who left a bad review. The food fight went viral

Social media expert Patrick O'Malley says the effect Web posts now have on companies can make or break their reputation. "A single person can now go home and get on Facebook and tell 500 or 1,000 people what they think of your restaurant," he said.

The impact is immense. A Harvard business school study found a one star increase in a businesses' rating on the online review site: "Yelp" leads to a five to nine percent boost in revenue for independent restaurants.

Aalmi Duchman, founder freshdiet.com, said,  "In the last few years, it has changed the way we have done business."

Duchman is among the business owners who have made the request to remove reviews. He explains to customers how damaging negative comments can be and asks them to remove them.

Sometimes it doesn't work, but sometimes it does. "We've found in the past, the faster you react to the customer, the better chance you're going to have to get that customer to remove their negative review because, they see, you take their comments and their feedback seriously," he said.

The online review site Urbanspoon says it actually encourages businesses and reviewers to connect, and warns customers many companies take what they type very seriously. "For a small business, their business is an extension of who they are," said Kara Northman of Urbanspoon. "There's a real emotional connection to that."

Eric typed back to the restaurant he wasn't removing his review. The business ended up apologizing for reaching out, but didn't offer any incentive for Eric to come back and give them another shot. "I thought it was a waste of time, frankly, on the part of the restaurant to do that," said Winick.

Urbanspoon says while it wants and depends on customer reviews to operate, consumers should remember that businesses do make mistakes sometimes. So if a company reaches out to you to make amends, it may be worth giving them a second chance.

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