Some of my friends are obsessed with their TripAdvisor rankings, believing it will make or break their business. I suppose it is more important in the hotel rankings as opposed to restaurants. Anyone looking at the Top Ten restaurants in San Juan del Sur can see that there is something funny with the algorithm, especially when a sleazy sports bar with prostitutes standing in front of the place occasionally gets a number two or three ranking. Restaurants that are closed and have been for some time occasionally appear on the list.
I once went nine months in between reading the reviews, and then another six after that. It doesn't matter what my rank is (and it is abysmally low given my sales and the generous accolades from my customers and in comparison to some of the other places reviewed) - el gato negro is still the most popular spot in town in the morning and the vast majority of my customers are returning guests, sometimes even returning two hours later for lunch. It can't be perfect all the time and when it isn't, there is a good chance somebody will bitch about it on TripAdvisor. I have also learned that spurning the sexual advances of an insecure man can induce the spurned into making false claims on TripAdvisor in a pathetic attempt to discredit the business (hint to the spurned: you need a better synonym for your favorite term). Some businesses offer free lunch or beer for a good review. Some business owners have faked reviews and trashed their competitors, but at least there was karmic blowback.
Rob has recently had the unfortunate luck to be appointed by me as the person in charge of responding to bad Trip Advisor reviews. I prefer to put my head in the sand and have never responded to any of the complaints. Some say that is bad business, but I have a hard time dealing with petty whiners - and I am long-winded to boot. And sometimes mean. This is my first and only response to a recent negative review. We'll see if it makes it past the censors at TripAdvisor.
This is one of the owners of el gato negro - the sometimes sarcastic, often long-winded at the keyboard one.
You claim to have been traveling all day and couldn’t wait to get to El Gato Negro. This brings you to our store near closing time at 3 p.m. You then state that our prices are higher than the local area, but your post implies that you had just arrived in town. You should work for a travel guide publisher because you managed to travel all day and instantaneously knew the selection and prices of all of the other restaurants upon your arrival, much like the “writers” of guidebooks of all countries across this cut-and-paste world. Can you tell me what the average price of a Smoked Turkey Club with fresh, thick cut, locally smoked bacon, garlic cream cheese, provolone cheese, avocado, tomato, cucumber and onion on an imported NY style bagel served with organic field greens and a blueberry smoothie with maca, bee pollen, chia, coconut oil, raw cacao and goji berries costs you at other restaurants? Or smoked salmon from Chile (which is healthier than salmon fished from the Northern Hemisphere) on a cream cheese bagel with capers? No, because that quality of sandwich and smoothie does not exist at other restaurants in town or Nicaragua. How many coffeehouses have you been visited where they roasted the coffee on premise? Where do you suggest one find a better deal for coffee in San Juan del Sur, since you obviously know so much about the local offerings having just arrived into town. Your TripAdvisor reviews under this name consist of solely of El Gato Negro. If there are better places for a better value, why haven’t you listed them? Oh, you probably just need a little time to digest the overwhelming beauty of the cheap advertisements for beer, rum and cigarettes illuminated by white fluorescent bulbs at the the fine dining establishments, 90 percent of which have a big bottle of MSG next to the stove. I anxiously await your review of the 70 cordoba gallo pinto breakfast at the mercado, especially if you eat from the comedor famous for its toxic effects to your digestive tract, specifically the the lower tract. But you in your infinite wisdom, you already now which one I am talking about.
You claim that my employees were talking rudely about you behind your back and they did not know that you spoke Spanish. I don't believe your claims. You have another agenda for saying that. Whatever transpired was filtered by your attitude at that point, but my employees were not trashing you. They would certainly have waited until you had left the store before engaging in that kind of gossip. They have manners.
And might I ask why you think you can walk into a BOOKSTORE (or any business) and recharge your phone and computer without at least inquiring about it first? You state that my staff was rude, but walking into a business and acting as it is a fundamental human right that a BOOKSTORE provide you with a free charge for your phone seems rude to me. Why is it my duty to recharge your phone or laptop? One of the reasons for the charge is that we do not want people sitting for hours nursing a coffee, staring into a not-so-smart phone like a zombie while using our internet, which is not advertised as “Free wifi”. We graciously allow clients to use our PRIVATE internet connection for free. We are not an internet cafe, nor are we a recharging station. (By the way, it costs $3 to recharge a phone at one major US airport.) We suggest that references to wifi signal be relegated to reviews of Internet cafes should such a category exist. We would prefer people spend their time finding the right book to balance the negative vibrational energy of their electronic addictions or a book on survivalism, the Kindle version of which will be useless in a power outage.
Some people complain because we charge $1 to charge a laptop or iPhone (which uses more electricity than you think and in a country with the highest electricity rates in the Americas), but we do not want to cultivate a culture of entitlement. Your life is not going to end if you cannot check your email and Facebook account 80 times a day. We do not feel any desire to help you live in the electronic world while you sit in a real BOOKSTORE with a huge collection of books you will find nowhere else in the world. Complaining about your battery recharging experience in a bookstore/coffeehouse will not elicit any sympathy from us.
We always have a manager on duty; you could have asked to speak to one. Getting your point across would be easy since you speak Spanish, right? Sometimes our bills are confusing because the menu price includes the 15 percent sales tax created by the vultures at the IMF and World Bank, but the lengthy complexities of the Nicaraguan accounting system require us to back it out of the price and rewrite it as the tax on the official factura, all of which takes time. Again, you could have spoken to someone if you had a problem before whining here.
The petting zoo is not a petting zoo and it is not ours. It belongs to our landlady. She has chicken and geese, which she raises for eggs. Geese keep down the insect population, especially tics. I am not a fan of the pigs, but since I love to eat bacon and try to promote a self-sustainable lifestyle, who am I to criticize her anmimals? The kids love them and the geese are super friendly - and they are fenced in. Finally.
You state that you are never coming back. That is fine. We do not want the energy from clients who forget that they are in the Third World, regardless of the cool and funky aesthetics of the interior of our store. We do not want clients to treat our establishment as an internet cafe or a battery charging station. We do not want clients who demand a Four Seasons experience on a taco cart budget. There is a reason that TripAdvisor is known as WhineAdvisor amongst hospitality business owners around the world. You have reinforced this stereotype. You have taken it upon yourself to ANONYMOUSLY write ONE review of ALL the places that you have visited in your travels because your experience in a COFFEEHOUSE/BOOKSTORE IN THE THIRD WORLD wasn’t perfect. Perhaps it wasn’t the second coffee that was bad; maybe it is something inside you.
The worst thing you can do is try to compare ANYTHING that happens in Nicaragua to your experience in the US. Lead floats here. Just above that on the list of Things Not To Do in Nicaragua is to judge a place by your first impression, especially if you plan on sticking around in place with a limited selection of food. If I was angry and wine-typed reviews of my favorite restaurants in San Juan del Sur on TripAdvisor, I could HONESTLY write, “Steak so tough I needed the Heimlich Maneuver” and “Bit into bread crust and swallowed part of my molar” and “Last bite of chicken was raw and so is my esophagus” amongst other literary gems. Sometimes I get bad service in my own restaurant and I have given up trying to understand why. We all have bad days, especially at the end of our summer season. It is hot, dusty, humid and uncomfortable, making everyone grouchy. Let’s face it, my zinc roof store is hot in the afternoon and the girls are anxious to get home. The aren’t perfect and I cannot complain because I would only be a hypocrite.
I am sorry that there is so little to be grateful for in your life that you felt the need complain vociferously and publicy about your coffeehouse experience. Remember, you are the creator of your experiences. Peace to you, wherever your travels take you.