Last week David Lazarus of the Los Angeles Times reported on ReviewerCard, the troublesome brainchild of amateur-online-review entrepreneur Brad Newman. So what is ReviewerCard? According Newman’s site, a $100 membership gets you a ReviewerCard to show to local businesses. This lets you “enjoy premium service” and “build rapport” with said business.
But really, it probably works more like this: Say you stroll into a new hotspot at prime dinner time and the hostess tells you the wait is 90 minutes. Simply flash that ReviewerCard, explaining that you’re a prominent member of a user-review site such as Yelp or TripAdvisor, and get shown right to a table. Not a fan of that brioche sandwiching your burger? Flash that card and the kitchen will give you your bun of choice, because, after all, no one wants an unhappy customer or — what’s really the issue here — a scathing Yelp review.
The world of online reviews is swarming with opinions. Should professional restaurant critics be the only ones allowed to voice their judgments about the places they eat? Of course not. And user-review sites can be helpful when it comes to decisions about everything from where to enjoy an over-the-top tasting menu to choosing the right exterminator.
But then there are those who use these forums for something else, such as personal gain. And airing of grievances is all well and good, but there are times when things get downright nasty and personal.
Suspecting that restaurant folk would have strong feelings about ReviewerCard, we asked Dave Garry, owner of in-the-biz-friendly South Philly spot The Industry, what he thought about the card. “Pretty much everything I hate about the Internet” is the PG version of Garry’s response, as he explained how anonymous reviewers can get carried away with power and a real lack of common sense.
Garry agreed that user-review sites “started off with the right idea, but eventually got poisoned.” In response to these sites, he’s planning to launch a forum on The Industry’s site called Pley (get it?), where restaurant workers can stand up for themselves and share their tales of less-than-lovely encounters at work — all double-checked and verified, of course — with no repercussions.
As anyone familiar with the online-reviewing community might predict, there’s already a heated thread concerning ReviewerCard on San Francisco Yelp, where one astute member commented, “the very people who will use those cards are the same people who should never be near one.”