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East Anglia Future 50

Norfolk restaurant punished as fake review ruse is rumbled

PUBLISHED: 08:15 19 April 2019 | UPDATED: 10:30 20 April 2019

From left John and Maxine Murphy, with John Collings, managing director and operations director Sharon Collings outside Arbuckles in Downham Market  Picture: Chris Bishop

From left John and Maxine Murphy, with John Collings, managing director and operations director Sharon Collings outside Arbuckles in Downham Market Picture: Chris Bishop

Archant

A Norfolk restaurant has lost its top-spot rating after a member of staff's "greed" resulted in the eatery being slapped with an online downgrade.

A letter sent out to Arbuckles staff. The letter was sent before Arbuckles were made aware that their certificates of excellence would be reinstated. Picture: SubmittedA letter sent out to Arbuckles staff. The letter was sent before Arbuckles were made aware that their certificates of excellence would be reinstated. Picture: Submitted

Arbuckles restaurant, in Downham Market, had its certificate of excellence rescinded by comparison website Tripadvisor after a number of false positive reviews were submitted by a member of staff.

And Tripadvisor investigators believe it is not the first time fraudulent reviews have been posted by Arbuckles' staff.

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The latest fraudulent emails had apparently been posted because of Arbuckles' policy to reward staff which have been named and thanked on the site.

Each member of staff whose name was mentioned on the site in a positive light received a £10 voucher.

John Murphy was the previous owner of Arbuckles, and now sits on the board of its employee ownership trust board – having sold the company to staff last year.

He said: “It's really disappointing that one person's greed has ruined it for everyone else.”

In a letter given to all staff management at the restaurant confirmed that all vouchers of this kind had been suspended and asked for the individual to come forward.

“We want to give great service and obviously encourage our staff to do so by offering this incentive,” he said.

“Tripadvisor change their recommendations every six months or so and rewarding staff this way had previously been recommended but now it no longer is.”

Tripadvisor's investigations team picked up on the fake reviews because they were all traced back to the same computer.

Spotting they were bogus, Tripadvisor counted them as negative reviews – hence Arbuckles losing its spot as the number one restaurant in the town.

A spokeswoman for Tripadvisor said: “We recognise that the employee involved reached out to our investigators to confirm their involvement, provide an explanation and express their regret.

“As such, we have contacted the owners to let them know that we have removed the ranking penalty that had previously been applied. However, due to a history of this kind of activity at the business, the certificate of excellence awarded to Arbuckles will remain revoked and the business will be excluded from receiving one in 2019.”

Mr Murphy added that he had been impressed by the site's handling of the situation.

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