Business / How to Guides / User Experience

The Consequences Of Leaving A Bad Review

March 22, 2024 , 6 minutes

In the age of digital communication, online reviews have become a powerful tool for consumers to share their experiences and influence the decision making of other customers which can in turn lead to the success or demise of businesses. While leaving a bad review can be a way to voice dissatisfaction, it’s crucial to understand that there are consequences, both for reviewers and the businesses that they are critiquing. In this blog, we’ll explore real-world examples of where bad reviews have backfired and provide guidance on how businesses can effectively respond to negative feedback.

Real-World Examples

Let’s examine a few real-world cases where bad reviews have had unexpected consequences.

The Gold Coast Surgeon Defamation Review

A plastic surgeon and his wife thought they could get the upper hand by pretending to be a patient that left a review about how they were sexually assaulted by a competing plastic surgeon on the Gold Coast. In writing the false review, the couple were on a mission to “cause Dr Colagrande the most possible harm by inducing readers to believe that the sexual assault had occurred”.

The action led to a defamation suit against the couple who were slapped with $450,000 in damages to be paid to their ‘fellow’ surgeon.

It goes to show that keeping on top of your business reviews is important, especially when malicious comments like the one exhibited above are occurring.

The Lying Yelp Review – Investigating The Issue And Responding Accordingly

An apparent dissatisfied customer claimed that a maggot was found in their burger, whilst also providing a photo of the meal. They made sweeping claims about the restaurant’s lack of hygiene too. The review quickly garnered attention, but upon further investigation, it was discovered that the customer had never visited the burger restaurant as you’ll see from the restaurant managers response.



  • The reviewer’s credibility and online reputation has been tarnished.
  • The hamburger restaurant’s reputation was momentarily smeared but ultimately recovered.
  • Provides other businesses with the knowledge that there are reviewers using stock images when providing negative reviews.

The Unrealistic Customer – Responding Politely With A Rational Response

An unsatisfied customer ordered takeaway on one day but expected it to be available two days later. We can all agree this is an unrealistic expectation, and one that probably deserves to be mocked and laughed at. Instead, this restaurant owner politely responded to the customer rationalising the issue in a way that would make total sense to most readers.



  • The reviewer’s credibility and commonsense has diminished.
  • The falafel restaurant handled the situation professionally, in essence building their reputation as a food provider.

The Disgruntled Customer – Responding With Humour and Turning the Review Into An Advantage

A displeased potential house buyer attending a Plum Property auction decided to leave a negative Google review highlighting their displeasure at the number of other bidders she had to compete with. Plum Property decided that instead of responding to the review directly, they would plaster the review on billboards around Brisbane. This masterstroke of advertising genius not only made Karen look like a complete tit but showed potential house sellers that Plum Property generates excellent buyer interest for house auctions and aren’t afraid to have a little fun along the way!



  • The reviewer’s commonsense has been permanently tarnished.
  • Plum Property handled the situation with humour but also to their benefit, highlighting their expertise at attracting buyers to house auctions.
  • Plum Property greatly increased their brand visibility, making the billboard a talking point.

What to Do If Your Business Gets a Bad Review

As we can see, receiving a bad review, that isn’t in actual fact ‘bad’ can be a scary, frustrating moment for any businessowner, even those that have established themselves as being reputable online. How a business responds to a wrongful negative review can make a huge difference for other reviewers that are scanning your product or service for potential purchase. Here are several ways to address a negative review so that you can maintain your brand image and not unintentionally miss out on future sales:

  • Stay Calm and Professional – Respond to the review with professionalism and empathy. Avoid engaging in heated arguments or personal attacks but rather present the facts.
  • Investigate the Issue – Assess whether there is any truth to the reviewer’s claims and address valid concerns promptly. If the reviewer was wrong in their opinion, show other readers why. If they were correct in their review, prove how you addressed the issue and how you are striving to be better.
  • Respond Publicly –  Respond to the review publicly, addressing the issues raised, apologising if necessary, and offering solutions.
  • Try To Privately Communicate – Consider also taking the conversation offline to a private message or email to resolve the matter more thoroughly. This provides the opportunity to maintain the customer’s privacy and loyalty.
  • Contact the review platform – Companies like Google and Yelp have options for businesses that feel they have been unfairly criticised online, and often scrub reviews that contain offensive language levelled at small businesses.
  • Consider initial legal avenues – If attempts to contact a platform prove unsuccessful, and in cases where the reviewer’s identity remains undisclosed, small businesses may explore preliminary discovery. This involves filing a court application based on the belief that there is a prima facie cause of action, such as defamation, but the proper respondent is unknown. Subsequently, the business can send a ‘concerns notice’ to the party responsible for publishing the false review, providing them with an opportunity to apologize, retract, or remove the post.
  • Undertaking defamation action – The last recourse is to file a defamation action against the reviewer. Be warned however that this can be a lengthy and expensive process.
  • Encourage Positive Reviews – Ask satisfied customers to leave positive reviews so that you can counterbalance any unwarranted negative feedback.
  • Learn and Improve – Use actual negative reviews as an opportunity to learn and improve your business. Continuous improvement can help prevent future negative feedback.

Bad reviews can indeed have consequences for both the reviewer and your business. When handled professionally and thoughtfully, negative feedback can be an opportunity for growth and improvement, and in the case of Plum Property, some nifty advertising material to build up even more awareness of your brand. Ultimately, in a world where online reviews wield significant influence and have become necessary in decision making, understanding the nuances of this digital landscape is crucial for businesses and consumers alike.