No. No. No, no, no, no, NO. NOOOOO.
I honestly didn’t see this coming, but I suppose it was inevitable. A California man has started a business, ReviewerCard, issuing ID cards to “online reviewers.” It’s intended to inform (warn? threaten? extort?) businesses of the customer’s plans to review it online, thus seeking preferential treatment, discounts or freebies.
Hold on while I finish screaming and pulling hair from my head.
I know it’s routine for restaurants, venues and businesses to ply bloggers with freebies in exchange for positive reviews. I don’t have to like it, or participate in it, but I accept it as common practice these days.
But soliticing a restaurant for a free meal in exchange for a glowing writeup, or taking it a step further and slapping down a meaningless piece of plastic to strike fear in the hearts of small business owners, is another move altogether. An absolutely abhorrent one.
“Lifelong entrepreneur” Brad Newman (I’m assuming that’s code for “never held a real job in his life”) came up with the idea when he was treated rudely by a server in a French restaurant last year, he told the Los Angeles Times. After he told the waiter he planned to post a negative review on TripAdvisor, the manager apologized and paid for his breakfast.
“‘Why can’t waiters, hotel workers, concierges know that people are reviewers? If that French waiter had known at the beginning that I write a lot of reviews, he’d have treated me like Brad Pitt,’” he told the Times’ David Lazarus.
If you, too, want to be a literal card-carrying extortionist, you can apply for your own Reviewer Card – to the tune of $100. Newman has “also passed out about 400 more to travelers, bloggers, marketers and journalists who he thinks merit ReviewerCard status.” (Real talk: Any self-proclaimed “journalist” who uses one of these ought to be blacklisted from the industry for life.)
I’ve been vocal about this topic to a fault – I know people are sick of the blogger vs. journalist dynamic and I don’t blame them. While we all write about food, our approaches will always be different. But I was most interested to hear a reaction to ReviewerCard from a restaurateur’s angle, and maitre’d/beverage director Brent Bushong of Millwright’s nailed it with his response.
Brent – besides being a font of food and beverage knowledge – believes in old-fashioned service, the kind where you walk out of the establishment feeling pampered and extra-special no matter how many dollars you spent. Spend three minutes in his presence and you instantly feel more educated, by osmosis. He joins a staff of consummate professionals at the beautiful Simsbury restaurant, where no detail is overlooked.
“To insinuate that, because you might write a non-professional hobbyist review, I should give you better service or something extra is dumb. Silly, foolish, ignorant and dumb, and the Card is empowering the same imbecilic and entitled view.”
‘Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take a good review any day, but from a guest that feels we deserve it, not one that was compensated to write it. To do that would be a disservice and slap in the face to the hundreds of hours that my kitchen staff spends cutting crazy little french-techniqued vegetables in the kitchen. It would cheapen the training that the service staff pains over, the hours spent poring over the reservation list, and more importantly, would be offering off our soul – the soul of the kitchen, for what will surely be a fake, poorly written review. Keep it.”
“Angry, anonymous posts aside (for which I have very little love, too…), less-than perfect reviews – when honest – give us important fine-tuning data that helps us to improve daily. This is something that is invaluable to us – and, while I would always prefer to hear, in person the same day, feedback from guests, I have to believe that the general public is too smart to think that we’d only have all perfect reviews from every diner that ate here.”
I can only hope that if the ReviewerCard makes its way east, no self-respecting business would take it seriously. As Brent said to me earlier today:
@funwithcarbslg no comps. You spent 100 bucks on the card, you can afford your dinner.
— Brent Bushong II (@maitresomm) January 22, 2013