Sunday, March 15, 2015

To review or not to review (online)

On a recent weekend trip to a writers' conference, my wife and I stayed in a hotel whose shabby furnishings and mediocre food were disappointing, especially after what the website promised.  We paid $200 for a room with 1920s plumbing, a laughably tiny bathroom, and TV that didn't work properly, followed by a dinner ($53) inferior to most of the meals I prepare at home.

So my first thought was to write a review on Trip Advisor. (I did so once, saying favorable things, since I know the effects of negative criticism.)  Then, upon reflection, I decided that telling the truth about the hotel and its food would be spiritually incorrect for me.  Let me explain.

It might make me feel temporarily better to vent my frustration, yet I know that writing a brutally honest negative review can only make matters worse for me, giving rise to new anger and reviving memories best ignored. It would be an exercise in ego.

I have learned from several emails I've sent that dashing off critical comments can sound hostile and harsh. Is that how I want to sound?  Email, which is a speedy mode of communication, seems to invite the off-the-cuff tirade; I find myself writing things I would never say in person. At least it can bring out the worst in me. Better to think the topic over carefully first, I have learned, rather than offend someone, as I have done.

My wife, Lynn, reminded me that she and her mother often said that inept restaurant service and poor food can provide its own entertainment value. That helped me lighten up. I saw that the various things the server forgot--butter for the rolls, plates to  put the rolls on, etc.--were amusing and too trivial to take seriously.

The waiter at breakfast, who identified himself as Floyd, had dyed black hair and a silly laugh. When I indicated I was finished with my juice, he said, "Oh, good!"  Lynn and I called him Pink Floyd, and he was one of several colorful characters we encountered at this historic (and nameless) Florida hotel who convinced me that being negative was not worth the energy or time.

I do not want to emulate the behavior of Lynn's friend M., who invariably re-hashes unpleasant minor incidents from his family, re-living them and sharing them with us. Any slight is remembered and repeated; the result is not amusing. He fails to think of anyone but himself.

I believe the only minor episodes from daily life worth sharing are humorous ones. And although I believe Trip Advisor and Yelp and the rest of such services have a useful purpose, it is not for me to add to the negativity of the world by going online and sharing, for all the world to see, how insulted, infuriated, shocked and disappointed I was by a mediocre meal or an overpriced and outdated hotel room.

I will use Trip Advisor for positive comments, just as a teacher, I want to give positive comments to emerging writers.  They have been wounded enough by critical teachers.

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