writing a 2-star review for a business

How to Give a 2-Star Review

5-star and 1-star reviews are super common. Even 3 and 4 get plenty of love. But what about the seldom-used 2-star review?

When people are motivated to leave reviews online for products, services, or businesses, it is generally because they either had an amazing experience or a horrible experience. Think about it—would you return home from an ordinary trip to the ice cream store and write up a review if nothing stood out to you, good or bad?

5-star reviews are very common; a great experience was had. 1-star reviews are also pretty common; the waiter never checked on your table, or your car took two weeks to get fixed. 4-star reviews are also very common: “this treadmill was awesome, but it took a really long time to set up, so I’m docking a star.” Even 3-star reviews aren’t terribly out-of-the-ordinary: “the hotel room was fine, nothing fancy, not filthy.” Even people yearning for the ability to leave no stars isn’t unusual. “If I could leave zero stars I would, it was that bad.”

But a 2-star review? No. You just don’t see very many of them. A 2-star review says “The [primary thing] was awful, but this [minor thing] redeemed them somewhat.” “I had a miserable experience, but there’s a glimmer of hope I would consider it again in some fashion.” In other words. despite a largely horrible experience, there was one redeeming factor or saving grace.

Examples of 2-star reviews may include the following:

  • “Dr. Rizzo said he neutered my dog, but when we got home his testicles were still there! The one silver lining of this experience was the full-size candy bar jar in the lobby. I ate two whole Milky Ways during the supposed operation.”
  • “I would never buy a car from Motzell Dodge again. Tom was the pushiest salesman I’ve ever met and he tried to cop a feel on the test drive. But they are super convenient to get to, and it’s hardly ever busy.”
  • “Deb’s Flowers failed in every facet. I ordered a bouquet of flowers for my great aunt’s wake, and they showed up with a 8-foot hoagie. Seriously, why does a flower shop even have sandwiches?! For what it’s worth, it was a pretty good sandwich; everyone had some and liked it. But still!”
  • “Oh my god, this place makes the worst donuts I’ve ever had. They taste like cardboard and are like $4 each. My dog wouldn’t even eat it. But they apologized and gave me a free coffee, at least.”
  • “It cost triple what I was quoted to repair my moped, it took six days, and the wheels fell off on the way home! But I gotta give props to Alvin for giving me a decent loaner.”
  • “I wish I could go back in time and not stay at Little Blue Boy Hotel. There was blood coming out of the shower head and a fox attacked me in my sleep. But the view of the ocean was second-to-none.”
  • “Desiree gave the worst haircut I’ve ever had. She shaved me completely bald and then drew my hair back in with a Sharpie. But if you book on their app, it’s 10% off, and they have free Hawaiian Punch juice boxes for the kids, which I appreciated.”

When to write a 2-star review for a business

A 1-star review can be crippling to a business, especially a startup trying to find its footing. Your 1-star review says to the world that absolutely everything about this business was awful, and if it were left up to you, you’d fire every employee and torch the structure to the ground. With people putting so much stock into online reviews, a barrage of 1-star write-ups can literally tank a business. Bumping it up just one star tells the business owner that there is something to build on. If you can think of just one thing they did right, you might reconsider and award them the extra star.

Such scenarios may include the following:

  • The business is brand new and its employees may not be well trained and its standards and best practices haven’t yet been established. Example: A Thai restaurant advertises this weekend is their “soft opening” and it took you 75 minutes to get your check. They warned you this may not be the best experience.
  • The business or experience was horrible for you in particular, but you can see how others would like it. Example: If a 6’8″ man has a bad experience at Nordstrom Rack because they don’t have pants that fit him, he would be an anomaly.
  • Something was closed when you expected it to be open. Example: The food truck might have been really good, but you wouldn’t know, because they closed early due to high winds. Or a park trail that happened to be underwater the day you walked it.
  • An otherwise horrible experience had one standout aspect, for whatever reason. Example: One waitress is forced to tend to dozens of tables all by herself, perhaps because someone called in sick.
  • You visited the business during what was clearly a peak time. Example: The hotel was too noisy and you couldn’t sleep, but you were well aware Mardi Gras was going on outside your door.

When to write a 2-star review for a product

Unlike businesses, writing a 2-star review for a product is less debilitating. A product can be listed for sale on dozens of sites, and one bad product won’t necessarily doom a business. Nevertheless, be mindful of your poor review. Reasons to write a 2-star review may include the following:

  • The product was terrible, but it was clearly a “you get what you pay for” scenario. Example: The inflatable raft popped after just two days, but it only cost a dollar.
  • The product was terrible, but the company made it right by offering you a refund or some other nicety. Example: The board game was missing a bunch of pieces, but the company sent you a replacement game and let you keep the old one.
  • The product wasn’t guaranteed to work for you. Example: The butt powder didn’t put an end to your horrific chaffing, but it also didn’t claim that it was a miracle cure.
  • The product received amazing reviews from everyone else, leading you to believe you perhaps used it incorrectly or your item was somehow defective. Example: The broom has 929 5-star reviews and just 5 1-star reviews. Maybe you aren’t understanding how to use it, or had unrealistic expectations.
  • Or, perhaps the product was amazing, but everything else about acquiring it was awful. Example: You love your new picture frame, but the custom framer used lots of profanity, tried to overcharge you, and forgot about your order for a whole week.

In the end, a 2-star review, although fairly damning, does give the business or manufacturers of a product some positive takeaway. But don’t give a 2-star review just because you want to be nice; be honest!

My Hot Take

An avid Yelper, I have given about 200 reviews, and it looks like just 5 of them are for 2 stars. One of them was for a sub shop in Austin, Texas. I entered the establishment and it wasn’t intuitive where the line began or how to order. The man at the register was impatient and didn’t seem appreciative of my business. The sandwich, for its size, seemed like a ripoff for $9. But, for all that nonsense, the sandwich was rather tasty. In my mind, that screams 2 stars.

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