Tripadvisor troll harassed restaurant with fake reviews claiming food made family sick
An online troll has harassed a restaurant with a slew of fake negative reviews on Tripadvisor claiming the food is making his family sick.
Martin Stewart Potts wrote 10 fake reviews on Bispham Kitchen in Blackpool, Lancashire, claiming the restaurant’s haddock was actually ‘catfish’ and their fries were ‘fried in burnt oil’.
But Potts bit more than he could chew when restaurant owner Steve Hoddy, a trained lawyer with a first-class degree from Cambridge University, brought him to justice.
During a hearing Judge Sephton ruled Potts guilty of malicious lying and he was ordered to pay Mr Hoddy £ 7,455 in compensation in Manchester County Court.
Speaking after the verdict, the restaurant owner said trolling had become “prevalent” and called the bogus reviews a “scourge of modern society”.
He said: “Online trolling is rife and one of the big problems these days. It is becoming a pandemic in its own right. It ruins businesses.
“Especially for hotels, this is a real problem because people really take note of hotel reviews because they spend more money. “
Mr Hoddy said he received all 10 malicious reviews about his restaurant between October 23 and November 16, 2018.
He said: “He used eight different usernames and said things like ‘the fish wasn’t haddock, it was catfish’, and it made him, his wife and kids sick. children and “the fries were fried in burnt oil”.
“He put the review first, and he said,” The owner looks at you strangely when you try to eat your fish and chips, it’s not a great experience. ”
“The problem was, it was during the October 2018 semester week which is our busiest time, probably serving a thousand clients a day.”
Mr Hoddy, who is the general manager of six restaurants and one take-out restaurant, then managed to identify other bad reviews that Potts had left under different pseudonyms about his other places.
He added: “It was a whole catalog of bogus reviews. Later he also published reviews of some of my other companies.
“But he had made the same spelling mistakes in the different reviews, so it was obvious it was the same person.
“With four of the usernames, he had done a hundred reviews of other places, so I was able to piece together a picture of who he was.
“He knew exactly what he was doing. I found him and went to confront him.”
Qualified attorney Mr Hoddy said he began by sending letters to Potts, asking him to apologize for his false remarks.
He said: “I handed him a letter warning him that unless he apologizes for the criticism, I will sue him for malicious lies.
“Unbeknownst to him, I studied law at university and have two law degrees, even though I do not practice as a lawyer.
“I took him to Manchester County Court for malicious lying.”
He added: “These are hard actions to take, they are complicated and expensive.
“Most people couldn’t bring this kind of case because it’s complicated, and a law firm would charge a high fee for this kind of action.
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“He initially denied making the reviews. But when I presented him with compelling evidence, he dribbled in confession, but resisted the case anyway.”
At the time, Mr Hoddy reached out to Tripadvisor to stress that the reviews could not be correct and the website subsequently deleted the comments.
A UK spokesperson for Tripadvisor said: “Tripadvisor takes the problem of fraud very seriously and we are using the best of technology and practices of humane moderation to combat it.
“Our advice to business owners and consumers is simple: If you see a review that raises suspicion or violates any of our guidelines, please report it to us. Our team will then investigate and act accordingly. “