Students bombard Calmer Cafe with one-star reviews after a cafe with an almost identical name featured in an English exam
A cafe in Melbourne says it is considering legal action against a local education board after a cafe with an almost identical name appeared on an exam paper, prompting student pranksters to bombard the real one with one-star reviews.
The previously stellar rating of Calmer Cafe in Aberfeldie, north-west Melbourne, was suddenly dragged down by a slew of poor reviews on Wednesday.
The critics took aim at its “soulless” ambience, “burnt” coffee and “man bun”-sporting barista – none of which rang true with manager Elise Jenkins.
Jenkins told The Age she realised something was amiss when students from a nearby school told her: “We are sorry this is happening to you.”
In fact, the onslaught of negative reviews came after a fictional Calmer Coffee cafe featured in a question on a final-year English exam taken by around 43,000 students on Wednesday.
The English VCE exam – the state of Victoria’s equivalent to A-levels – asked students to analyse a scathing review of a “hipster” coffee shop.
Almost as soon as the students left the exam hall, Calmer Cafe found itself the victim of copycat assessments.
Tongue-in-cheek reviews repeated the criticisms made by the exam paper’s fictional disgruntled customers. As the joke went on, some students even chimed in to defend the non-existent barista with a man-bun as “very kind and friendly”.
Other reviewers suggested locals instead take their custom to The Beanies High Moon Cafe or Ken’s Butcher – two other fictional businesses featured in the question.
While high-spirited students might have enjoyed the joke, Jenkins said she was “shaking from head to foot” to see the cafe’s Google rating plummet from five stars to 3.3 in a matter of hours.
“We are a small business and these reviews mean a lot,” she said, adding: “I’m just grateful that I know our loyal customers know the reviews are not true.”
The cafe’s owner, Tara Conron, told The Guardian that she had hired a lawyer and would be taking legal action against the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA).
“This is my livelihood, this is my business, I’ve spent ten years of my life building it up,” she said. “All the VCAA had to do was Google us.”
The exam board said it had checked to ensure there were no businesses registered under the name Calmer Coffee before using it in the question, but apologised for the inadvertent similarity.
“The VCAA has been in contact with Calmer Cafe management and understands the posts have caused the business considerable effort and inconvenience,” said a spokesman. The authority has offered to work with the cafe to get the negative reviews taken down.