A frustrated cafe owner has spoken out about a culture of entitlement and rudeness among Aussie diners after a customer left her business an “unwarranted” one-star review recently.
The stoush began when Townsville’s That Place on Sturt coffee shop received a negative review on TripAdvisor by a customer who was peeved about being asked to remove his feet from a cafe chair earlier this month.
Ann Maree Reid, who has owned the establishment for the last seven years, fired back and called out the customer’s behaviour in a reply left under his post.
But speaking to news.com.au today, the 51-year-old said that incident was just the tip of the iceberg.
She previously said a small but “frustrating” number of customers caused havoc by rearranging furniture, stealing cutlery and other items, leaving behind tissues, chewing gum and toenail cuttings and clogging up toilets.
The Queenslander said she had “always had people feel like they own the cafe and that I work for them”.
“When I first opened the cafe I constantly had people telling me what I should be selling and what days I should be opening,” she explained.
“At first we were closed one day a week because I had a seven-day business before this one, and I swore I’d never do it again as it was too tiring — but I ended up bowing to public pressure to open because there were so many disgruntled people.”
She said she had also been forced to add items that weren’t on the menu due to customers’ demands.
“Customers walk in and order toasted sandwiches (that weren’t on the menu) and they never say ‘thanks for making a special meal for me’,” she said.
Ms Reid said cooking meals that weren’t on the menu often resulted in the customer being undercharged as it took time to work out pricing correctly.
“We’ve been underpaid for food when people have just demanded what they want — it’s just another aspect of this entitlement,” she said.
“I get frustrated when people force what they want on you — if people want to put their feet on my chairs, why do I have to bow to that?”
Ms Reid said she was in the “same boat” as others in the hospitality industry who were also battling rude clients.
“I think everyone in customer service has had something like this happen — but the particularly annoying thing was that weekend, for two days in a row, I also had other people putting their feet on the chairs. I hadn’t noticed it before but then I realised, ‘What’s going on all of a sudden?’” she said.
“If you come into the cafe, you should do things my way. Everyone has their own rules in their establishments. Where are we headed if everyone is allowed to give their opinion — who is to gauge who is right or wrong?”
Ms Reid joked that business owners should be able to review their customers in return but said uncalled-for negative reviews were a huge problem for the industry.
“It does stress you out … and these sorts of attacks have happened a lot lately,” she said.
“I had a lady yell at me the other day because she ordered a meal that wasn’t vegan. She took two bites of it, sent it back and said she had ordered something different.
“But she had also ordered a skinny cappuccino and a meal that clearly had egg stated on the menu. There may have been some sort of miscommunication, but why yell at me?”
Ms Reid stressed she adored most of her customers and a small percentage gave others a bad name.
“People don’t realise how much people in customer service have to bite their tongues for the sake of their business,” she said.
“I don’t want to sound like I hate my customers — I have brilliant customers — but there are people who treat us badly out there.”
A customer, identified only as TrentO84, left a one-star review earlier this month, citing “negative vibes from the owner”.
“A terrible time. I received some really negative vibes from the owner simply for sitting cross legged on a stool,” the review begins.
“She claimed that she didn’t want feet on the furniture, even though the stool was made of wood. There’s no rhyme or reason to that, other customers would be safe from germs assuming they are wearing pants. It’s just utter stupidity, and she is taking out her own negativity.
“And remember, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it, and the way she said it is what pissed me off and inspired me to write this review. If you can, opt for places with and friendly management, not this place.”
However, Ms Reid fired back and called out the customer’s behaviour in a reply left under his post.
“This negative vibe that you’ve been projecting to me both in person and in two different forums has really brought me down this week Trent,” she began.
“I have feelings too and I have the right to ask very politely for my clients to use better etiquette when they are in my cafe.
“If you were talking in a library and were asked to be quiet would you react like this? If you were in the movie theatre and they asked you to take your feet off the chair how would you react?
“Please consider the other person’s right to voice their opinion, especially in their own establishment, and stop these upsetting and unwarranted personal attacks on me — I’m becoming very stressed by your negativity.”