Irish cafe owner slams one-star review from customer who ordered 'hot water, sugar' to go with own teabags

Ben Madigan's Bar and Kitchen in Belfast, a screenshot of the Google review.
Ben Madigan's Bar and Kitchen in Belfast, a screenshot of the Google review. Photo credit: Google

An Irish cafe owner has come out swinging against two patrons who dared give his establishment a one-star review after ordering only "hot water and sugar" to go with their teabags. 

Kelvin Collins, the owner of Ben Madigan's Bar and Kitchen in Belfast, shared the one-star review on his Twitter page, captioning the image, "I can't believe this happened today." 

The "local woman" wrote the Google review after visiting the cafe following an "important meeting". 

"I ordered one hot water and sugar and they wouldn't serve me again as I used my own teabag," she said. 

"The bar was virtually empty and they weren't under any pressure with only two bar staff working. As a local woman, I find it utterly disgraceful that they would begrudge a 2p (NZD 0.04cents) because it 'might as well be alcohol'." 

The angry customer finished up the scathing review with some advice: "Avoid in my honest opinion." 

Collins, whose establishment has an average rating of 4.7 stars, chose to respond to the critical Google review.

"I'm sorry but I don't know where to start with this," he began. 

"Nothing was ordered by you apart from some hot water and sugar. No food, no snacks - nothing. There is a cost to my business for everything you were consuming while at Ben Madigan's - heating, air conditioning, lighting, the staff that served you, the electricity to heat the water, the water itself, the dishwasher used to wash the cup and saucer, the sugar, our rent, the cost to clean the building… I could go on and on," he said. 

"We have just come out of a pandemic where we have been closed for 13 months out of the past 18 - forgive me if I begrudge you the cost of all of the above, and for you to follow it up with a one-star review beggars belief." 

Collins then asked the teabag-owner to get in touch with him if she would like to discuss anything further. 

The local woman also seemingly had a friend write another one-star review in her defence, who labelled Collins' cafe "probably one of the worst restaurants in the country". 

"A friend of mine was denied service because she brought in her own tea bags," the second reviewer said. 

"According to the staff and the owner, it’s the customer's responsibility to ensure the bar is profitable at all times and that no freebies will be handed out."

The second reviewer says the pair have been regulars at Ben Madigan's for their "entire life" and have "probably spent thousands of dollars".

Collins decided to correct a "couple of discrepancies" in the second review.

"We opened in November 2019, and we’ve been closed for 13 months since then due to the pandemic," he said. 

"We're located in Belfast, Northern Ireland where the currency is pounds. I’d love to know who has been getting all your dollars your entire life - it sure hasn't been me."

Collins' tweet has garnered sympathy online, with many Twitter users agreeing his response was the right way to handle the disgruntled reviewer. 

"This is the kind of thinking that allows customers to treat service staff and hospitality businesses like subhuman garbage," wrote one user. 

"This reviewer is an asshole who uses reviews like this as a cudgel, and Kelvin's response was far nicer than it had to be."

"She didn’t want to pay for the tea. She wanted a free cup of hot water to add her own teabag!" another Twitter user wrote.

"All the while taking up a table from an actual paying customer and creating dishes for nothing! The cheek."

Since Collins' original tweet caused such a huge response online, he asked Twitter users to "be kind". 

"My intention was never to humiliate the original reviewer, it was to highlight the challenges facing our industry at difficult times," he said.