Lessons From The New York Times: The Pros and Cons of a Negative Review

It was the pan heard 'round the Internet: Pete Wells, food critic at The New York Times, gave Food Network star Guy Fieri‘s Times Square outpost, Guy's American Kitchen & Bar, an extremely unfavorable, if not totally patronizing review last week.

What was so striking about the article was not so much his thoughts about the food (it wasn't good), but the way he wrote it. The article was a relentless string of questions aimed directly at Guy. Some of them were mocking and borderline scathing:

“The watermelon margarita? Any idea why it tastes like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde?”

And some of them seemed genuinely concerning:

“Or is it all an act? Is that why the kind of cooking you celebrate on television is treated with so little respect at Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar?”

Some people praised Wells for his witty approach, and some found it unnecessarily harsh. People took to Twitter defending both Wells and Fieri, and we won't harbor on who is wrong or right – only note that the fan fair following the review far exceeded the half-life of a typical Times review. (It now has over 1,000 comments.) The review brought a lot of eyes over to The Times, made Pete Wells a minor Internet celebrity and called to attention some probably much-needed changes at Guy's restaurant.

Should you write a negative review on your blog?


Misery loves company, and people, especially people on the Internet love to complain. This is why, coupled with the power of the truth, negative reviews can be so popular. If your blog features reviews as part of your editorial calendar, you're probably already familiar with this territory. It's tricky, isn't it? You owe your readers honesty and truth – and they will always respect you for it. But how negative should you be? What's critical and what's just mean? Will the brand or company you're reviewing be less inclined to continue a relationship with you? Do you care?

You have to decide for yourself if your audience will benefit from hearing the downside of a certain product, place, treatment, etc., or if silence will do just as well. Often times, the more negative the experience, the more inclined you'll be to share your thoughts. Whether it's a cautionary tale or cry for justice – is up to you.

The Pros:

  • Your readers will respect your honesty and it will help build your credibility.
  • You may garner some new attention if your review is particularly poignant.
  • Bloggers have influence – you could help make something better by calling attention to it's shortcomings.
  • A negatively reviewed brand may value your honest feedback, and come to you for more!
  • With the right mix of humor, light-hearted-ness and truth, negative reviews make for content that's entertaining and helpful.


The Cons:

  • You could lose the relationship with a brand or company who's product you reviewed negatively.
  • Your readers might not agree, and tell you so vocally.
  • If your approach is mean-spirited, you could lose readership and respect from fans and brands alike.


Have you written a negative review on your blog before? What inspired you, and how did your audience react?

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12 Responses

  1. lisa

    I’ve written negative reviews before (particularly of beauty products), but I try not to do so in a mean-spirited way. Instead, I’ll explain what I expected of the product and why it failed to meet expectations–try to be thoughtful and balanced instead of unduly vicious. Then I’ll send the publicist an email with the review link, thank them for keeping me in mind, and say something along the lines of “I regret that I didn’t like the product as much as I thought I would.”

    Being honest hasn’t hurt my relationships with any of the publicists I work with; in fact, the ones worth their salt know that you’re human, you won’t like everything you’re sent, and you can’t give a rave review if you don’t feel it.

    The only time I’ve gone out of my way to write an angry negative post, it was to retract all the nice things I’d said about a restaurant after attending their press preview and then going back on my own for brunch. (The press preview was great, but the brunch service was abysmal.)

  2. Nasreen

    This is always tricky but bottom line is I’ll always be honest..a review is what YOU think and how you liked a product, brand etc. but I do think theres a fine line between critique and being plain mean. I like to find a balance. So if theres something I didnt like, I’d offer what I think is a suitable solution 🙂


  3. Chaucee from Streets and Stripes

    Whenever I review a brand, product, or attend an event that I don’t like I just choose not to publish it. And it’s something I share with my contact up front. If I like it, I’ll write about it. If I don’t, I won’t.

  4. Lauren - Slowburn Fastburn

    I’ve never written a negative review before, but a brand I recently worked with told me to write the review whether I had a positive or negative experience. Because they gave me permission to write a bad review, I felt more comfortable working with them and respected them more. Of course, I loved what I was sent and wrote a positive review, but if I genuinely did not like something I don’t think I’d have a problem writing something negative, light heartedly and with humor of course.

    x laur

  5. This girl

    I think the whole point with blogging is to make your voice heard, wether it is good or bad. But there is still never any excuse for being mean..

    Personally I write about fashion/beautyproducts that I like and just ignore all else.

  6. Elissa

    I write regular reviews of my birchbox and they can be negative. I’m never negative in a mean way, only in an honest way. Sometimes if I didn’t like a product by a brand but that same brand has something I love I’ll say something like, I love benefit’s ‘bad gal’ lash, but ‘they’re real’ didn’t give me the full lashes bad gal does…”

  7. Cynthia

    It’s a bad idea for bloggers to be fangirls/fanboys. Positivity and only positivity makes one sound fake and unprofessional – maybe even too much like an ad rather than a true review. This is something that don’t do on my site.

  8. Barbara

    This says it all “With the right mix of humor, light-hearted-ness and truth, negative reviews make for content that’s entertaining and helpful.”
    I write negative reviews but mix up them up and shake them a little so it is actually a delight to read and the brand does not think I am trying to run them out of the market.

    I have had negative things to say about all the Nigerian makeup brands I have ever reviewed and they appreciated them a lot. I always find a way to help my readers go round the flaw of that product and I end up being a spokesperson for the brand.

    So for me it is all in the mix.

    Lagos, Nigeria