Lolly review leaves bitter taste for owner

JENNA LYNCH
Last updated 05:00 29/01/2013
CONSIDERING MOVE: Candyland Queen, owner and director Michele Coker wants to move her confectionery operation offshore after a bitter battle in the employment court.
Chris Hillock

ROW: Candyland Queen, owner and director Michele Coker.

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A Hamilton businesswoman is at odds with one of the world's most popular travel websites after a failed attempt at writing positive reviews of her own business.

Waikato Candyland boss Michele Coker logged on to TripAdvisor.com where she found customers had written less than favourable reviews of the company.

Among the criticisms - many of which were more than a year old - were that the business was dated and expensive.

"It's a bit bloody rude. They just let people bag your business and you don't even know the reviews are there," she said.

Ms Coker decided to attempt to join the website, but found that she would need to provide credit card details or confidential business documents to first prove she was Candyland's owner.

"Any old Joe Bloggs can bang a review on there, but you won't even let the owner log on without a credit card or personal information? It sounds a bit shonky," she said.

After failing in her attempt to respond to the bad reviews, Ms Coker took things into her own hands and wrote a positive review for the business from the Candyland Facebook page.

She soon found the posts had been pulled from the TripAdvisor site by administrators. She then received a terse email stating it was "strictly against TripAdvisor policy" for owners to post positive reviews of their business.

There was also a warning that further attempts to gain ranking points on the website may be met with either a lowering of Candyland's ranking, or a penalty notice being posted on the Candyland listing.

"That's just rude if they make it difficult to log on and respond to these emailed reviews," Ms Coker said.

She is now threatening legal action against TripAdvisor claiming libel, defamation and fraud.

It is not the first time TripAdvisor has been criticised for allowing unsubstantiated anonymous reviews to be posted. In 2012, an action was brought in Scotland by a guesthouse owner who claimed damages for malicious statements.

Ms Coker said she longed for the good old days when reviewers were trained professionals and knew the industry they were judging.

Instead, the arrival of the internet had given rise to the amateur "armchair critic", whom she said would not go out of their way to talk about a good time they had experienced.

She said a lot of people were only logging on to "whine and whinge" about local tourist attractions and urged people to think about the industry and what their words could result in.

"For God's sake New Zealanders, support the tourist attractions that are here. If you had a positive experience, then write about it.

"Don't just whinge, whine and knock people. Support people."

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- Waikato Times

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