The customer dined with a party of eight at the Sun Inn, Dedham, near Colchester, last Sunday (27 Nov) but called the pub on Wednesday (30 Nov) in what owner Piers Baker claimed was an attempt to blackmail him into refunding three diners’ payments.
Baker told The Morning Advertiser (MA): “The customers ate on Sunday and had no issues at the time. We got a follow-up call on Wednesday, they ran through the details of their lunch experience to say that the person calling and two of the others had been ill.
“We went through standard procedure, apologised that they had been ill and confirmed that there had been no other reports of illness but that we would investigate thoroughly.
“But, in order to be thorough, we needed them to go to the doctor to ascertain the cause of the illness as instructed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
“They said if we didn’t refund their meals they would go on TripAdvisor and give us a bad review. We said it makes no difference – we can’t refund it because if we do we’re admitting liability and we don’t feel we could have caused it.”
On Saturday (3 Dec), a user identifying himself only as Herbi B. posted a review on the Sun Inn’s TripAdvisor page.
It read: “One of the other diners that suffered the gastric problems contacted the Sun Inn to complain. They were offered no sympathy and the insinuation was that it was a dishonest attempt to gain recompense.
“Consequently not only would I never revisit the Sun Inn, but I would also very strongly advise others to steer clear.”
It is not clear whether Herbi B is the diner that called the Sun Inn, but Baker told The MA the caller had been adamant the meal had caused his sickness and refused to go to the doctor.
'They didn't care'
He said: “Of course if we had caused the illness we would do anything to make it up to them, but they said they didn’t care – they only wanted a refund for three of the party of eight and the person that called was not the person that booked the table.
“We got the impression that they didn’t want the person who had booked to know about this.”
Baker replied to the review but is understood to have contacted TripAdvisor to get it removed.
He said: “We said if they insinuated that we'd poisoned them we would complain to TripAdvisor and hopefully they will take it down. We’ve had this twice before in 13 years and TripAdvisor have taken it down each time, but the review is generally up there for about 48 – 72 hours.
“We try to make it clear to people when they’re with us that if there is something wrong we want to put it right, so we try not to engage with TripAdvisor. But when libellous stuff goes up that’s when we get involved.”