An Australian cafe has been inundated with fake negative reviews online due to an “inadvertent” coincidence on a high school English exam.
The state-wide exam in Victoria had featured a question involving a restaurant review of a fictitious coffee shop called the The Calmer Cafe.
After the test on Wednesday, students discovered a real cafe had the same name and began mocking it online.
Education officials have apologised, after the cafe expressed frustration.
“[We] understand the posts have caused the business considerable effort and inconvenience,” the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) said.
“The VCAA has offered its assistance to have these posts removed as soon as possible.”
The hypothetical review used in the exam, sat by more than 40,000 students, described a “soulless franchise” which served “burnt” coffee.
Many posts about the real cafe were left on Google and Facebook and mimicked the language from the exam. Fake reviews jokingly referred to bad service and “hipster” staff.
“I wrote about this in my exam and it seems that this is a terrible cafe with poor service,” one post read.
Another wrote: “You are responsible for my ATAR [school mark].”
‘We’re just a little, local cafe’
The cafe’s owner, Tara Conron, said she was initially shocked by the flood of negative reviews, which pulled down the business’s online ratings.
She said she had been left unsettled by the unwanted attention, but received support from locals.
“We are genuinely just a little, local cafe where we know 90% of our customers by name,” Ms Conron said. “[It’s] not a soulless franchise at all.”
However, she does not believe it will have a lasting impact.
“I get it – if I was doing that exam I would have looked up the cafe too,” she told the BBC.
“But I really wish the education office had done their homework to make sure there wasn’t a real business out there.”