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Right to reply: Quinn’s Tea Rooms

quinnsMany eons ago, I wrote a bad review of Quinn’s Tea Rooms in Abbeyleix. The staff were rude, the service was appalling, €11.90 was an obscene price for a slice of  quiche served with chips, and my small bowl of vegetable soup which cost €4.90 was watery and tasteless. That was my experience of Quinn’s, and I stand over the review.

Other commenters had better experiences. A few weeks after posting the review, the owner Marie left a comment, stating that Quinn’s has a loyal customer base and would have gone out of business years ago if it wasn’t up to scratch, and that it was fairly priced for the quality of food and service provided.

But rather than address my bad experience, Marie said:  “Perhaps Peter you were just having a bad day.”  In response, I said that I was having a very good day, that my experience was poor, and it was unfair (I didn’t mention inappropriate) to lash out at a customer when they report a bad experience, albeit publicly.

Nearly a year has passed since Marie’s response. Yesterday, curiously, Marie sent me an email about the original post, which is published verbatim here:

Cheap shot from cheap eats

Peter,
I take your comments on my business as an offensive personal attack, a “cheapshot” in actual fact. Its very easy for  someone like you to hide behind your website and make public derogatory remarks about someone else’s business. As acknowleged by your other writer, whose comments I acknowledge and greatly appreciate, we are surviving the recession,why? because we provide good value home made food to our customers. We are extremely busy on a day to day basis, and as you well know in these hard and trying  times people speak with their wallets, thats why they come in droves to Quinn’s Tea Room’s Main Street Abbeyleix.Excellent Lavazza coffee, “Real Tea” Good old fashioned home baking, lots of athmosphere, beautiful coffee garden at the rear of the Tea Room’s, and lots of celebrities.Bob Geldof, Ryan Tubirty, Frances Black, Hal Roache, Gay Byrne,Kathleen Watkins, Penolopy Keith,Seamus Heany, but to name a few and believe me the list goes on and on.I would like also to thank all!
our loyal customers both road users and local users forall their custom over the last 27 years. You have made us who we are ” a wonderful oasis on a long and weary road.
Marie

What do you think? Am I being personally offensive to Marie (who I have never met) by giving a bad review? Are all us reviewers just a shower of..?

39 Comments

  1. Marie may be panicking due to the new by pass opening this weekend.

  2. Personally I can’t wait for the Abbeyleix bypass to open

  3. Yes, I cant wait to see even more men peeing on the hard shoulder of the M8.

  4. anybody is entitled to give a bad review if they feel they received bad service. maybe it was marie’s staff rather than peter who were having a bad day. maybe she should admit this and accept it. 1 bad review does not equal a bad business and most people will make up their own mind based on the service they receive.

  5. If she is really into customer service, she would at the very least take the time to spell her “celebrity” customers’ names properly. Spelling somebody’s name incorrectly is just the worst insult.

    We could all go on about how Marie is being ridiculously arrogant, but I think her email speaks for itself!

  6. I had a nice scone in Quinn’s many years ago, but what I really remember about it is Mary Coughlan telling my friend to quit smoking. I’ve never gone back though, partly because the tail-back coming into Abbeyleix generally makes me want to move on as quickly as possible, partly because the food wasn’t so memorable that I would feel particularly inclined to and partly because, if I want a sandwich in Abbeyleix, for good or for bad, it’s always going to be Morrissey’s.

    Going back to the point though, there seems to be a bit of a history of restaurants suing critics for libel, winning damages for a sympathetic jury and then seeing that overturned on appeal by judges who recognise that it’s a free speech issue. From my point of view, it’s also a quality issue, and a really good restaurant will welcome the fact that the flipside of poor quality not being tolerated by the public is that great quality will be appreciated and rewarded.

  7. I find her response incredibly inapproriate. What a great “head in the sand” attitude. She would be better off not taking criticism of her establishment personally and using a more mature approach in dealing with it. I for one would avoid the place now, just because of the way criticism seems to be handled.

    If she is so confident in the virtues of her café then why is she taking one review so badly?

  8. I agree with John in that her response was inappropriate. As for the spelling and grammer….!
    Everyone is entitled to their opinion and calling your opinion a cheap shot is a bit rich. One thing I always wondered is why we all review online but rarely actually complain in the places. People like Marie who come back with silly answers like “maybe you were having a bad day” is obviously the reason!!!!

  9. I think your absolutely right to voice your opinion, bad food and way overpriced. The Irish dont complain enough ifyou ask me.

  10. I’ve never been to Quinns and I’d say I’ve never even been in Abbeyleix, either. However, having read the original review, and comments, and your post here today, I feel I have to comment.

    The responses from Marie actually seem like cheap shots themselves, rather than your review. I think you may be right, it sounds like Quinns was having a bad day, not you, and Marie doesn’t seem to have addressed the issues you had at all.

    By the way, speaking about Marie’s poor grammar or spelling by some of the commenters here IS a cheap shot, and not needed. I’m glad you rose above that.

    Perhaps if Marie took a more customer oriented approach she’d win you back, so to speak. It wouldn’t have been too difficult for her to invite you back for another lunch, and this time prove to you just how good she believes her place is. Cheap for her to do, great publicity and also make her look gracious, instead of just inappropriate.

  11. Wow. Hard to know where to begin with this one. But I’ll give it a shot:

    1) If you open your business to the public, they are free to comment on it. It’s not like Marie invited Peter to dinner in her house and then he wrote a mean post about it. He paid for a service and found it to be below-par.

    2) It was absolutely not a personal attack – how could it have been, when Marie’s name was not mentioned in the original post?

    3) Peter doesn’t ‘hide’ behind this website. His full name and profession are listed on the ‘about us’ page.

    4) I feel silly even saying this, but just because some celebrities have been to a cafe, that does not prove that the food is good!

    And this is just a point of information type thing – it was not one of our writers who praised Quinn’s for surviving the recession, but one of the commenters on the original post.

    Marie Quinn, if you’re reading this, I have some advice, and I genuinely mean it in a friendly way – read up or ask for expert advice on engaging with criticism online. It’s natural to be defensive, but it can do you more damage in the long run.

  12. @TheQ47 I didn’t mean the spelling remark as a cheap shot. All I meant was that it makes her look very unprofessional. I understand that if you’re running a restaurant, grammar, spelling etc. isn’t a high priority, and nor should it be really. However, if you’re going to associate Ryan Tubridy with your brand, you should definitely make sure that you spell his name the right way, especially if you’re sending the piece of text on to an external source. It’s a simple matter of going on to the RTE website and checking the spelling.

    I’m an editor, so it’s a pet hate, but I think that in general everyone notices when their name is spelled incorrectly.

  13. Totally agree with Jean. Its completely unfair to come back at Peter and give out. If a similar review was written on one of the many restaurant review sites she wouldnt be able to go back and give out to those people or ask for it to be removed.

    I have eaten in Quinns before and likewise found it overly expensive for what it was and the service woeful. Yet, it does seem packed every time I pass (including last weekend) which I can only put down to it being one of very few places on the way between Dublin and Cork where you can stop (in fact drive through very slowly).

    Id say it will be interesting to see how busy she is once the road is completed. I suspect thats when good reviews will be so much more important to her.

  14. as one food critic in the saturday papers opined – some really bad restaurants are going to survive this recession while some truly good ones will go to the wall. surviving the recession is not at all indicative of good food and service. other factors must surely come into play.

  15. I’d choose Quinn’s over Morrissey’s any day.

  16. When I ran Tast.ie I had a similar response to one of my reviews. Like Quinns, it was a small local business, which in hindsight just aren’t used to negative publicity like restuarants in larger cities. When there isn’t much choice in town, locals appreciate what they have. The woman who contacted me was so upset that she used the term libel and threatened litigation. I calmly responded as follows:

    “I am a bit confused as to how you can accuse me of an “attempt to publicly destroy a reputable business.” What motive would I possibly have for such an endeavour?

    The nature of the restaurant business means that there is always the possibility for reviews. Unfortunately they may not always be favourable.

    I have written lots of reviews that have been much worse. I have never had a complaint from a restaurant owner as I think most of them are aware that this is the nature of the business and bound to happen at some stage. In one case I had a restaurant manager contact me and apologise about my bad experience. He sent me a gift certificate and urged that I give them a second chance. A much more appropriate response.

    I would suggest if you have issue with my review that you respond on the blog post in question. That gives anyone reading it the opportunity to see your view at the same time as reading the review. It is also the nature of blogging, a post such as mine opens a dialogue and I am a firm believer in that. I would be more than happy for you to share your opinion on the post, which would then become just as public as my review.

    I think it’s a shame you aren’t open to constructive criticism. At no point did I mean to offend and quite frankly I don’t understand how you could be offended by such a tame review. I concluded by saying the food was decent and the service was good, what more could you ask for?

    I understand that it must be frustrating to read reviews that don’t paint your restaurant in the best of light and I certainly didn’t mean to hurt or offend, but I think it’s important to remember that nothing in the review was personal and taking it so, is only going to frustrate you further. I might even suggest that you step back and take it as constructive criticism. Instead of getting defensive, wonder what, if anything, you could do differently.

    I would also say that my visit was over a month ago and any time I have driven by since, the restaurant was full. My posting my OPINION has obviously had no effect on business, nor would I expect it to.

    In terms of the restaurant’s popularity, I did mention that. I mentioned I had heard good things about it and that it was always packed. Perhaps I am off the mark, but I would guess most of your business is repeat business and my humble opinion isn’t going to make the slightest bit of difference. Indeed a friend of mine mentioned the review and was surprised I had the experience I did, as she is a regular. Perhaps it was just an off night?

    If you look at major restaurant review sites like menupages.ie you often see unprofessional and scathing reviews, yet people continue to visit the places in question. Not to sound like a broken record, but it’s the nature of the business. If world class chefs can take it, a smaller restaurant should be even more open to it.

    Again I regret if I have hurt your feelings as that was not the intent. The intent was merely to share my opinion.

    Should you wish to discuss further, my email address is xxxx and I do welcome you to voice your concerns or opinion on the post in question, if you feel that will give a more balanced view.”

  17. Please continue with your very useful and honest reviews.

    I take this story as a reminder that speaking up at the venue is something to be respected and encouraged, particularly where dissatisfied. It leaves less room for complaint about subsequent online reviews on blogs, yelp, menupages etc.

    Keep up the good work.

  18. I think that’s an excellent response Thrifty Mammy, and would advise any small business owner to take heed of what you say.

    Mary Jane – I completely agree, surviving the recession does not always indicate quality – it can be down to lack of competition, convenience, deeper pockets, or a myriad of other factors.

  19. I think that Thifty Mammy put down a great sample response in her post.

    I wish I had the time to be more eloquent, but in the simplest of terms Marie’s response to you makes her come across like a right harpy.

    I am familiar with Quinn’s but I am not a fan of being overcharged and I just have a fondness for Morrissey’s so I go there to take a time out while in Abbeyleix. Frankly Marie’s response to you indicates that she thinks customers should be grateful to eat there rather than she being grateful that customers come there so her reply makes it even less likely for me to ever wish to spend money in her establishment! One can never underestimate the importance of good customer service, which includes responding appropriately to customer complaints!

  20. I review places to eat online too, at http://www.lunchblock.ie. I haven’t (yet) been contacted by an aggrieved subject of LunchBlock, but I have thought about bad reviews. (Particularly since I have had to deal with aggrieved subjects of a different publication I worked on in the past). First of all, I never publish a review after just one visit; each spot is visited at least three times, on different days, and I’ll order different things each time. This is important to me because a particular place can been having an unusually good day or an unusually bad day, and you get an idea of what it’s like at different times of day too.

    Secondly, I generally focus on places that are good rather than bad places. (Not least because it’s difficult to drag myself to an awful cafe three times.) In Dublin, the good spots are outnumbered by the bad spots so my readers will get better value for their time spent on my site if I highlight good places to go. This doesn’t mean I’ll shy away from a negative review though — and you can see there are a few on LunchBlock — but I try to focus on the positives.

    I think these principles — particularly visiting several times — make for fairer reviews.

  21. This being a blog, though, means that other people can chime in with their more positive experiences, if any, which is exactly what happened with Quinn’s, with the result that at least a dozen different views of this venue have now been aired, some positive and some negative. Mostly positive, in fact – am I right? That’s pretty fair.

  22. I have stopped at Quinn’s Tea Rooms on a number of occasions over the last few months. Each time I left feeling aggrieved by the rude service. I do believe in giving second or third chances but Quinn’s are well past that.

    On one visit I asked if the had any wheat-free snacks or baking – most places at least have a wheat-free packaged biscuit, if not more – but the response I got was a laugh! A laugh in my face. That was humiliating.

    The most recent time I visited, a man who I guess was a manager or owner was placing a call from behind the counter of the small front area of the Tea Room. He left the call ring and ring on a surprisingly loud loud-speaker as he stood next to it hands on his hips. It went on for a while very loudly, and I admit I cast an exasperated and scathing glance towards the counter. A young girl behind the counter gave an embarrassed and furtive acknowledgement of the rudeness of the man.

    They are not doing themselves any favours especially as they are about to enter a more challenging trading environment with the opening of the bypass.

  23. Its an interesting one alright. If you read Peter’s original review, its quite harsh – he mentions thing like piss poor in relation to the soup – which in fact is the only thing that he had from the place.

    I’ve been in there a couple of times and whilst its not great – I really didnt expect it to be great – I normally got to Cafe Odhran.

    As much as Peter has the right to review the place, Marie has the right to reply and I think in her reply, she really doesnt say anything derogatory. Certainly nothing worse than describing somebodys food as piss poor.

  24. Peter’s bad review of Quinn’s certainly wouldn’t put me off giving it a shot. A response like Marie’s however, certainly would. Not that I even know where Abbeyleix is, but still. Morrissey’s all the way for me

  25. Gallic cafe is the best place to eat if in Abbeyleix. Its fantastic and great value.

  26. Good lord, what an over-reaction to a review… Most celebrities nod and suck up the bad with the good as they’re in the business of keeping people happy and don’t want to be known as “yer wan who had the cheek to criticise my apple tart”. It would be around the bingo and the devotions in an instant!

    Seriously though, all feedback should be taken seriously and not refuted – if somebody goes to the trouble of writing a review or complaining, the business owner should deal with it and try to make sure the particular problem doesn’t reoccur. This How Very Dare You reaction is just poor.

    Send in Michael Winner!

  27. As someone who travelled from Dublin to Cork by car once (and sometimes twice) every week for eight or nine years, I have stopped in most places along the way. Suffice to say that I tried this place only once – it was mediocre and expensive for what I had and they certainly didn’t give service with a smile, I was made to feel that I was in the way.

    If Marie’s response at the top is quoted verbatim, I certainly hope that her cooking is better than her spelling !

  28. I have to say that I actually forgot about Peter’s review and tried Quinn’s. I won’t be going back and I think that says it all. The breakfast we got was reheated, rubber rashers – the works. It was also expensive. In these recessionary times I think that a place has to get it right first time or else they stand to lose repeat custom.
    The response was unnecessary though, most places would be horrified to think a customer left unhappy and would invite them back at their convenience to show them what the restaurant is capable of.

  29. i have frequented quinns on a number of occcasions as i was meeting other people there…it is completely over priced and the staff less than friendly. unbelievable reply to a bad review. i live locally and wont be back to quinns in a hurry and it will be local trade they will be relying on when the by pass opens. poor form and ill advised response by marie im afraid.

  30. Peter, I think you called it as you saw it – that is your duty as a reviewer, no more, no less.

  31. Haven’t been back in Quinns since i got the bill for some chips. Was so overpriced, they had it easy up until now with Abbeyleix being a natural place to stop on a trip from dublin to cork but not any more.

  32. Hi…My husband & I stopped at Quinns returning home from a wedding a few months back and I could have written the same review. Awful service, way over priced, & the staff were so rude. I asked to speak to a manager but the foreign staff played the foreign card – ‘I dont know when she will be here’. Its a sad day in any type of business when a little criticism can’t be taken on board. You were dead right to air your comments. Mrs Quinn – take note!

  33. Interesting comments. In the original thread, most commenters had enjoyed Quinn’s, but of 32 comments in this thread, the vast majority had mediocre-woeful experiences. Faint praise indeed from Charlie: “I’ve been in there a couple of times and whilst its not great – I really didnt expect it to be great – I normally got to Cafe Odhran.”

  34. 1 year later and things haven’t improved. Just stopped in there today on the journey from Cork to Dublin. Indifferent staff, poor service, mediocre fare and Celtic Tiger prices.

    I won’t be stopping there again.

    Tim

  35. july 17th 2012

  36. Called in this morning on the way to dublin from cork.Staff were’t nice.We ordered 2 americano’s and one tea with 5 slices of brown bread,total bill €18.30.Sister paid. and questioned bill, the women said it was right.She didn’t make a deal of it because she had paid and we were in a hurry to go to the airport.I dropped off the people to the airport and called back to Quinn’s on the way home.Their was different staff on.I asked for the manager,put they said she was too busy to see me.I questioned the bill.The hot drinks came to €6.60.They charged us €12.70 for 5 slices of bread.The girl gave me back €3.50.So we still paid €9.50 for the plain bread.I bet they wouldn’t charge locals them prices.The bread and coffee weren’t even nice.How are these people in business.The worst i come across.

  37. There are so many nicer places to stop in the area, why do people continue to stop here?

  38. Only stopped in Quinn’s once, on a beautiful sunny day on the way to Kilkenny. Enjoyed our coffee & cake, in the pleasing surroundings of the garden: but in response to the customer who left dissatisfied, no matter how you feel about the situation, isn’t it better to turn the other cheek and turn the situation around to your advantage even though you may not agree, as in these recessionary times you need repeat custom badly, and the world wide web is very powerful to either boost or ruin a business. To me it’s a question of timing….you could get a waitress/waiter who is under stress for whatever reason…you could call at a very busy time and be in a hurry, and be left waiting or the particular item you order may just not be the way that you would like it to taste… so it can be a collision of circumstances as to whether you enjoy the experience or not. Regardless, for the sake of survival/profit/staying in business, the old addage still applies – the customer is always right.

  39. Just stopped here today for breakfast with my mam an sister. We stop every year on our way to Dublin for our christmas shopping. We look forward to it. The food is always amazing and staff are lovely 🙂 happy christmas Quinn tea rooms xxx