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The wrong way to handle a negative review

I wanted to return a Christmas present that I bought from a third-party seller on Amazon. It was the usual bad story: They wouldn’t respond to my emails, then it took weeks to get a return authorization, then they wanted me to pay $25 postage for the return and a $28 restocking fee.

So I wrote a negative review (after corresponding with their people).

Surprise — they’re suddenly all nice and apologetic and happy to take my return and waive the fees.

Guess what? They still lost the customer. The negative experience won’t go away.

Negative reviews aren’t the result of a single grouchy customer that has to be “dealt with”.

Negative reviews are a sign that something is screwed up at your company. One negative review probably means you have 50 people angry over the same issue.

A focus on quieting the complainers means that you’ve missed the point.

Fixing the fundamental problem is your real job.

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  1. Rishi February 18, 2011 at 9:17 am #

    I wish you were an e-tailer because you totally get it!

  2. M February 18, 2011 at 10:42 am #

    I don’t 100% agree with this. The re-stock fee is ridiculous. If they stated at the outset they don’t pay for return shipping, that’s fair enough, not all retailers pay return shipping. Though they shouldn’t then dictate how the item is returned and you should be free to choose the cheapest postage. I agree they were wrong on a lot of this and you weren’t being a grouchy customer but…

    I don’t agree with the blanket statement that 1 unhappy customer means there’s a problem. Sometimes customers are actually being unreasonable. Even companies that do their very best to bend over backwards to make people happy are going to occasionally deal with someone who refuses to accept any solution, no matter what is offered to them. If you see a pattern with people bitching about the same thing, sure work on fixing that, but once in a while people are just crazy.

    I own a retail company, the vast majority of our customers compliment us on our service. Every once in a while we do deal with someone who is unreasonable and we can’t win with them. (i.e. The mom who wanted us to sell “sexier” toddler apparel for her 2 year old. Or the guy who insisted we give him the home address of the owners of the company and let him pay by cash in the mail by send it to the owners’ address.) I don’t really think the “feedback” we got in those situations was anything we’d want to “fix”.

  3. Stephen February 18, 2011 at 11:14 am #

    It’s worse.

    At one point, i was a developer in charge of a couple dozen internal web based applications. One day, i accidently broke one. It wouldn’t work at all. My 2,000 internal customers needed it to work to get their jobs done. But it was two days before anyone called the help desk. And these guys were some of the most communicative, vocal, and resourceful people i’d ever worked with.

    It’s not 50 other people. It’s at least thousands.

    Want to really piss me off? The sticker says $10, but at the cash register (and it takes over 10 minutes to get to the cash register), you find out that it’s really $20 with a $10 mail in rebate. I won’t come back to your store. Ever.

  4. nichole February 18, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    What a great post! It’s always interesting to see how companies react to negative reviews. Expectations of the consumer and business, I believe, is a huge part of the equation.

    Communication and listening is key but sometimes (most of the time) people take it personally instead of looking at the big picture, or oftentimes the small details.

    Thanks for sharing.

  5. Gail Gardner February 18, 2011 at 6:54 pm #

    While there ARE unreasonable customers there are more unreasonable companies who do not care about customer service except when they get bad publicity.

    Businesses should listen more carefully to well-written reviews that present logical reasons that your customers are dissatisfied. For every person who bothers to complain there ARE at least dozens if not hundreds of thousands equally unhappy.

    Restocking fees are often used to intentionally discourage buyers from returning products which many etailers in turn can not return to their dropshippers. (Returns to many businesses that use drop shipping are inventory they have to either resell or eat.)

  6. Rishi February 19, 2011 at 7:27 am #

    I agree with Gail.

  7. John February 22, 2011 at 8:23 pm #

    One negative customer. It’s called an Outlier in stats. Statistically can literally mean nothing and logically does not necessitate a trend. I found this post heavy on pathos and lacking on logos.

  8. Cyrus V Ryker February 24, 2011 at 12:46 am #

    While I agree that a single negative customer is in the fringe of that pesky bell curve of statistics it doesn’t necessarily mean nothing. Many people are not happy and just leave – quietly. I agree that those that post negative reviews are in the fringe but I would say a lot more simply leave or use those negative reviews as a basis to make their decision to buy especially online.

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