A South Australian hotel has lashed out at a complaining customer calling her “dim-witted”, mocking her name and sparking an ongoing storm on the pub’s Facebook and TripAdvisor pages.
But the owner of the Victory Hotel at Sellicks Beach to the south of Adelaide says he is not sorry for his initial fiery response, despite issuing a public apology over the controversy.
Hotel owner Doug Govan stumbled into the Facebook firestorm earlier this week when he shot off the colourful retort to a customer who had complained about his hotel and restaurant allegedly fumbling a booking for 17 and only providing a table for two at 6.30pm on April 1.
Shortly afterwards, Emma-Jade Fowler wrote: “Terrible customer service, you should be ashamed victory hotel (sic)”.
Her message followed another complaint from Jodie Clarke who complained: "You are rude, obnoxious and unacomidating (sic)".
"We had a group booking of 17, and yes 17, and and every single one of us has walked away disgusted. And every single one of us will tell every person we know our story of your terrible service and unhelpful rude staff."
Ms Clarke's complaint came just six minutes after the contentious booking.
Mr Govan responded "what an absolute crock" and insisted the booking had been made for two, not 17. He told 7 News Online he stands by that view.
But it was his response to Ms Fowler that sparked the ongoing controversy.
“Terribly dim-witted Emma-Jade not-sure-what-my-first-name-should-be, Emma or Jade,' Mr Govan responded on the Victory Hotel’s Facebook page.
“Don't get involved in something you don't know anything about. Imagine one of your friends told you the sun wasn't going to come up tomorrow.
“Would you agree just because they were a stupid dim-witted friend? No, you wouldn't.”
With that, the fuse was lit and the Victory’s Facebook page exploded into a war of words between the Mr Govan, the upset party of 17 and hundreds of onlookers.
'You should be ashamed of the way you have responded, it's disgusting,' Ms Fowler responded.
“Your behaviour is shocking. The customer is always right, you could have prevented this by acting in a mature way. But it seems your head is too big for that.”
A long, and since deleted, exchange followed in which the hotel and the group blamed one another for the booking problem.
Mr Govan told 7 News Online he was only sorry for his second wave of posts, and not for strongly rejecting Ms Clarke's claims.
He described Ms Clarke's initial complaint as “vile”.
“I must admit it wasn’t the smartest way of doing it,” he said.
“If I could wind back the clock, I have no hesitation in the reply to that first crack then, after that, I’d say I’d have done things differently.”
Mr Govan has owned the award-winning hotel for the past 25 years and in recent times has made a habit of delivering strongly worded replies to negative online reviews.
But, he said that was necessary because some social media users “liked to see their names in print” and would only offer negative reviews, in some cases to establishments they had never visited.”
“You get some people who’ve had a crack and they’re just negative with everything [they review], he said.
“If it’s someone of that ilk, I’ll have a crack too.”
Mr Govan said he would continue to offer strong responses to negative reviews he considered unfounded but would reconsider his language.
He was not concerned about a negative impact on the Victory Hotel though, saying the comments from the public appeared to be split 50/50 on either side.
It also appears to have sparked a flood of positive ratings.
Mr Govan told 7 News Online on Wednesday afternoon that an extra 266 five star reviews had appeared on his page.
“I didn’t encourage anyone,” he said.