Wine waiter: "Nearly every week we're blackmailed in our own business"

Gina Miurin of the celebrated Hofke van Bazel restaurant has written an open letter.  It started: "We will not allow ourselves to be intimidated without reason.  The Hofke van Bazel and many other restaurant owners are fed up that certain people are abusing social media to blackmail or intimidate."

Gina posted the open letter on Facebook following an incident involving a guest who wished to cancel his room three hours before arrival invoking poor health.  The guest was unhappy he wouldn't be getting his advance payment back, but Gina points out: "We have a business to run, people on the payroll, loans to be repaid.  We wouldn't refund the advance.  Then I got a return call in which I was verbally abused.  I'm intimidated and told my reputation will be tarnished on social media.  The guy wrote a review saying he would never return, but he'd never been here.”

Wine waiter Sepideh Sedaghatnia speaks of similar incidents: "It's a weekly occurrence.  People try to blackmail you and play with your reputation, even in my own business.  A few weeks ago a guy repeatedly put his finger in my face in my own business.  I was still feeling the effects three days later.  When people have had one too many, they don't know how to respond.

Matthias De Caluwe of the hospitality industry federation Horeca Vlaanderen says that since the summer there have been reports from members who simply don't know how to deal with this abuse.

"If restaurant owners want to realise their dream, it costs loads of money and they really don't know it's going to be a success. The customer will judge at the end of the day, if it's a great place, but abusing social media can lead to bankruptcy."

(archive photo)