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Maybe they don't have a clear conscience

Kristine Munroe-Mahoney reports that if you give Clear Conscience Cafe in Central Square a less-than-glowing review on Yelp, the owner and his minions will come after you, via nasty e-mail messages:

I have gotten contacted by business owners in response to a negative Yelp review before, but usually they’re asking for my opinion on how they can better serve me or apologizing for any bad experience I've had. I think that's wonderful. But sending out nasty messages to people who don't like their service? Highly inappropriate.

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which is collectively owned by all of its members?

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It's funny that they never told us co-op members that they were selling out the cafe.

At least, I never saw an announcement to that effect. The only mention I recall, in fact, seemed to imply that it was still part of the Harvest.

I began to have my doubts, especially when I noticed that the restroom was no longer "for customers only", but for "cafe customers only." Hmmm.

I was extremely annoyed to find that the formerly quite useful community bulletin board had been removed. I'm still annoyed about that.

And, no, I've never ordered anything nor sat down in the cafe since the change. It's too bloody expensive now, and I don't care for the choices anyway.

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Pretty commonly known to be a racist term these days...yeesh.

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I mean, you get gypped when someone welshes on the business deal you made -- you know, the one where you jewed them down to a reasonable price.

(what?)

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Yep, I also got flamed for a negative review. Here's what my message said:

"your postings make you sound like a snotty little ass wipe"

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Scot-free doesn't count. It has no relation to those from Scotland. It derives from an Old Norse word for payment. It's a tax or fee, laddie.

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Let's translate that into PCspeak:

I mean, you get ROMed when someone CYMRICs on the business deal you made -- you know, the one where you HEBREWed them down to a reasonable price.

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I'd swear that it used to say "gypping" and now says "ripping off" instead.

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for the ripped community, I am offended.

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I'll bring the paddywagon, I swear.

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rice!

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LOL , this doesnt sound like the way to get people to write good reviews about your business! I would consider changing a negative review if I got a nice note from the owner with some sort of excuse/apology/clarification for details. I would think if I owned the restaurant I would have sent an email asking for more info/advice and possibly forward along a coupon for their next purchase at my establishment to get me to come back (Thats what one restaurant did for me when I sent a slightly negative email to them about one of their front door reception people being impolite and seemingly too busy talking to her girlfriend on the phone about her nails to seat us in an empty restaurant in a reasonable period of time, we sat around for 5 minutes before my friend started coughing.)

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See this discussion on Eagles Deli in Cleveland Circle, in which the owner jumps in and the critic is won over.

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A chronology might be helpful...

Munroe-Mahoney initiates the interaction by addressing the owners directly on Yelp:

"Did I just spend $6 on a sub-par too-sweet smoothie in a relatively small cup? To the owners: how clear can YOUR conscience be when you are totally ripping off your customers? I know I felt overwhelmed with buyer's remorse after that smoothie!!!"

In her blog, she reports on the response:

First, I got a scathing message from an owner of the Clear Conscience Cafe.

She does not reveal the contents of the message, but goes on to say:

I was LIVID. I lowered my rating to one star, and then today, I got another message in response to my Clear Conscience Cafe review from someone who I imagine is also an owner saying: “you sound like a very snotty person. have you ever considered the fact that you are, in the end, completely wrong about everything you believe to be true? it’s a helpful exersize.”

Seems like the contents of the "scathing message" are relevant.

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I ate there once and was completely ambivalent about it--it was kind of card-boardy and took forever. I thought the people behind the counter were generally jerks before the change, and I still think so. Didn't seem like much of a change to me, except that it is a lot more expensive. I miss the bulletin board too.

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I would have posted the first message I got if I hadn't deleted it after receiving it. It was something to the effect of: "My conscience is fine, thank you very much...our smoothies come in a 20 oz cup, how big do you want it? And if you thought the smoothie was too sweet, you should Yelp mother nature because we use all-natural ingredients."

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... about the 20 ounce cup? How big did you actually want it?

That doesn't sound like an especially nasty reply. A bit snarky, perhaps.

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C3's response does not seem totally out of line to me, considering they were accused in a public forum of "ripping off" customers. The reviews can have a real impact on their business, and even on their personal reputations.

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If I were the owners I would be very annoyed by your review too. You don't say how many oz you get in your review, so $6 doesn't mean anything to me. If it really is 20oz you should clarify in your review.

Maybe some day you will own a business and understand how the internet can hurt it without thinking twice.

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Its doesnt matter, they should not have been rude about it. When someone gives you a negative review and you respond by telling them where they can stick it that only reinforces the negative review.

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I find Yelp indespensible when I travel. I have found myself in a strange city and used it to locate a kickass taqueria within walking distance. Yelp use helped me discover that that tidy little Thai place across the street from my hotel in Pasadena was highly rated and could provide a tasty feast well within my per diem. My colleague and I had a fantastic meal at an italian restaurant we might otherwise have overlooked, and my husband and I have found family-friendly food all over the map through Yelp. I have also used Yelp to find stuff near conference locations that will seat 20 people, or to figure out which bus or train will take me to where the most options for food are.

I tend to ignore the singular bad review, because it is usually a whiner or victim of a bad employee or some minor but isolated catastrophe. I will read "counter reviews" from the restauraunt and accept reasonable explanations (our oven went out that night ...), but if I ever saw anything like the review this place posted in reply, I would never go there. I don't waste my time with places that either don't listen or blame the customer ... even when that customer is probably a bit off-base to begin with.

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Sounds like one of the owners sent her a private email in reply.

They probably haven't figured out this Internet thing yet.

Had she complained in person that her smoothie was too sweet or too small, they might have done one of the usual things, such offering to prepare a different one or give the customer their money back. Or, if it were a problem customer, such as one who started ranting about being ripped off, the owner might have pointed the customer to the door and told them not to bother coming back.

The complication with the Internet is that any random person dissatisfied with a place might not only grumble to their friends, but also wield media power approaching that of a reviewer from the local paper.

I think I agree with SwirlyGrrl that customer service for cafes must extend to review sites on the Internet.

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A good enough site, but some people post blatant attacks and flat-out lies about businesses, for which they deserve every negative response that comes their way.

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The Yelp site here in SF has come under fire for just that - heavy amounts of quid pro quo among business owners so that it's difficult to tell the real entries from the 'faked' ones.

But, like Swirlygrrrl, I've used Yelp to help me find goods and services in an unfamiliar city, and more often than not it's been a wealth of information.

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The more reviews a place has the easier it is to tell if there are some fake reviews in there. It also helps to check out the persons other reviews, see if they have a pile of positive reviews that say almost all the same things...

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The Clear Conscience Cafe apparently got its name because nobody there cares.

Even if you get robbed. (See below for the punchline.)

This afternoon my wife suffered her purse to be stolen by another customer. Even though the staff knew of the incident - they were alerted by another patron - no one bothered to speak to my wife.

Since my wife no longer had a cell phone, she could not call the police, and no one at the Nobody Cares Cafe did either.

My shell-shocked wife felt so disoriented by the experience that she waited outside in the cold rain for 40 minutes for me to come get her. (Yes, her car keys were in her stolen bag.) By the time we got to her car, it had a ticket on the windshield.

My wife practically begged me not to go into the café, and I foolishly assented.

When we got home, I called The Nobody Cares and spoke with Brian, who identified himself as the cafe manager.

Brian tried to convince me that he had spoken with my wife "a little bit". When I corrected him, he asked me to describe my wife, and I did.

The punchline:

"Oh!" Brian said. "No, I spoke to an 89 year old lady who had her wallet stolen!"

TWO thefts in the same afternoon, Brian?

A lot of thieving going on at the Nobody Cares Cafe.

Obviously, Brian has been shirking a security problem, (I smell a lawsuit somewhere down the line.)

Well . . . at least Brian spoke to the 89 year old lady "a little bit". Maybe he offered her a discount on a scone. Brian is such a swell guy.

Swell place. Swell people. Highly recommended if you want to get ripped off in more ways than one.

(If you check out the numerous complaints below and on Yelp about the rudeness of the staff at the Nobody Cares (That's Why We Have a Clear Conscience) Cafe, this report probably won't surprise you.

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Did she see who stole her purse? How does she know it was another customer?

C3's space is a high-traffic hallway, with people walking through it constantly to enter&exit the grocery store at the Mass. Ave. entrance.

Did your wife ask nearby patrons if they saw anything?

I suspect that C3 doesn't have security cameras. Harvest has some, which conceivably could spot someone carrying an unobscured purse, but I suspect the thief would exit to Mass. Ave. An unobscured purse would also show on security cameras if thief went into a nearby store or the T station, or walked past one of the ATMs, but that's reaching even more, and probably a prohibitive amount of work to obtain and review.

I suspect that nothing can be done, unless the thief gets caught on a subsequent theft, either by luck or by sting.

I doubt you'd win that lawsuit. That she got her purse stolen is really crappy. I can understand why you're upset about that, and I can understand you're upset that C3 staff seemed disinterested, but what do you think they were legally obligated to do? It's Central Square, and a cafe frequented by lots of different people, including poor students/hipsters after a hard day of shoplifting art supplies from Pearl. I suppose you might have something, if police reports show that C3 is a crime hotspot and you argue that C3 is negligent for not installing cameras or something.

Cancel all the cards, lock credit on her identity, call to have your locks changed, make a police report, do something nice for her to calm her down and lift her spirits.

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