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Stromlo cafe owner lashes out at bad comments on Trip Advisor

Date

Phillip Thomson

Cafe owner Simone Hunter has lashed out at the university's reliance on the reviews saying the websites were defamation magnets that unfairly relied on anonymous users being able to make unsubstantiated claims without rebuttal.

Cafe owner Simone Hunter has lashed out at the university's reliance on the reviews saying the websites were defamation magnets that unfairly relied on anonymous users being able to make unsubstantiated claims without rebuttal.

The Australian National University plans to kick a cafe owner out of a premier Canberra location partly because of more than 40 bad comments on the TripAdvisor and Urbanspoon websites.

Cafe owner Simone Hunter has lashed out at the university's reliance on the reviews saying the websites were defamation magnets that unfairly relied on anonymous users being able to make unsubstantiated claims without rebuttal.

Ms Hunter runs the Scope Cafe at Mount Stromlo, which boasts possibly the best views in Canberra, but had closed its kitchen as of Thursday.

"I'm spent, I'm exhausted, I'm bedraggled," Ms Hunter said, although she insisted she was "not walking" without legal advice.

The university's decision not to renew her contract ends a lengthy battle which has seen Ms Hunter quoted in the media lobbying for the cafe's facilities to be upgraded and more recently a dispute about more than $8000 in unpaid rent.

A letter from ANU to Ms Hunter on Monday said her licence to operate at the site would cease at the end of this month.

The letter outlined the unpaid rent and said the university had noted negative reviews on TripAdvisor and Urban Spoon referring to poor service and food.

"The university is concerned about the reputational issues that this will cause to the future operation of the site," the letter said.

The letter said the university had spent "many resources" trying to resolve negotiations over a new contract "to no avail".

Ms Hunter said it was wrong for the university to use the bad reviews in its reasoning. She believed the comments had been used against her because she was in the middle of a dispute about upgrading the facilities.

Websites such as TripAdvisor have annoyed hoteliers and restaurateurs across the world for years and many have claimed reviewers have had bad motivations or were fake.

Ms Hunter said a lot of the complaints on the website related to the rundown nature of the facility which she had been lobbying ANU to fix.

The cafe owner, who has been at the site for four years, said the location lacked a decent kitchen – a shipping container was being used at the moment and mice were getting in – and did not have enough security infrastructure. She said there had been five burglaries in a year.

Ms Hunter said she believed her deadline to pay the rent had been granted because of problems with the facilities last year. In its letter, the university rejected this and said there was another occasion when the cafe had delayed paying rent.

A university spokesman said the licensing agreement between ANU and Ms Hunter's business, Hoshitaka Pty Ltd, to operate the Scope Cafe expired in February.

"ANU has been negotiating a new agreement with licence holder since January 2014, the spokesman said. 

"ANU and the licensee were unable to settle on terms and conditions for a new licensing agreement. 

"Details of the licence agreement between ANU and Hoshitaka Pty Ltd are confidential.

"ANU maintains that it has at all times negotiated with Hoshitaka Pty Ltd fairly and in good faith.

"The university plans to continue to offer cafe services to staff and the many visitors who travel to the historic Mount Stromlo site."

The existing agreement has been on a month to month basis since February.

and said it was wrong for ANU to use anonymous website reviews to back up its position in the middle of a financial dispute.
and said it was wrong for ANU to use anonymous website reviews to back up its position in the middle of a financial dispute.

37 comments

  • I never bother with comments on Trip Advisor because there is no requirement that the commenter has actually been there. Booking.com is more reliable for accommodation reviews because you cannot comment unless you have booked through them and have actually stayed there. However they do not do restaurants.

    Commenter
    MFL
    Date and time
    August 01, 2014, 9:02AM
    • Agreed "Booking.com" is more reliable than TripAdvisor as MFL pointed out you cannot post a comment without having first booked through them Booking.com and stayed there.

      It would be unwise for any Business to use Internet sourced information as a basis for basing legal decisions.

      Commenter
      Anton
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      August 01, 2014, 9:35AM
    • We just travelled Vietnam based soley on trip advisor reviews, the places with excellent feedback were excellent, and those with bad feedback were terrible.

      You do have to be able to know how to read reviews and spot a straight out whinger though, plenty of people out there trying to hold 2-3 star hotels up to 4-5 star standards.

      Commenter
      Daniel
      Date and time
      August 01, 2014, 11:56AM
  • Everybody knows people use trip adviser etc to give any competition bad reviews, I wouldn't be surprised if the bad reviews were from others at ANU who wanted to boost their argument about the facilities. Anyway it is obvious to anybody that the ANU is filled wall to wall with absolute weazels, sounds like it is where people go that didn't quite make it in life.

    Commenter
    WotTha?????
    Date and time
    August 01, 2014, 9:07AM
    • It's fine to say "everyone knows" that competitors post negative reviews, but in regards to this particular restaurant, I've heard by word of mouth from a few different people that the service and quality were poor. Saying that competitors slander other restaurant takes away from the fact that a lot of users do give poor reviews because they're being honest.

      Commenter
      Mads
      Date and time
      August 01, 2014, 10:17AM
    • @WotTha??? - Clearly none of us have "made it in life" if we're all still stuck in Canberra.

      Commenter
      yumq
      Location
      cbr
      Date and time
      August 01, 2014, 4:39PM
  • This is clearly the fault of the Rudd/Gillard government.

    Commenter
    TA PM
    Date and time
    August 01, 2014, 9:15AM
    • Lolololololololololol!! Nah it's clearly Tone abets fault

      Commenter
      Hungry 4 dix
      Date and time
      August 01, 2014, 9:48AM
    • 'Hungry...'shows that the BER failed.

      Commenter
      Drivel
      Date and time
      August 01, 2014, 9:57AM
    • Misogynist! Must be all the misogynists!! commenting on that website..

      Commenter
      Andy
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      August 01, 2014, 12:48PM

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