Respect Yourself

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A recent Los Angeles Times business column looked at a new company called ReviewerCard that issues IDs to “prolific online reviewers” to presumably help them get better service from hotels and restaurants.

According to the snake-oil salesman “entrepreneur” behind this venture, people who “post lots of reviews on websites such as Yelp or TripAdvisor don’t get enough respect from the businesses they write about.”

Um, what?

A legitimate reviewer does not ask for respect. They assume it will be given to them because they are a customer. And if it isn’t, that will be reflected in the review they write.

A legitimate reviewer will not demand good service – they will expect it. And if it is lacking, this too will be captured in their review.

And a legitimate reviewer will not announce their presence by waving a card and demand outstanding service or free upgrades. That’s not what reviewers do. It’s what assholes do.

I always thought that the point of a good review is to remain anonymous so you DON’T get preferential treatment. That way, you can write a review that accurately reflects the experience that every customer will get.

What the ReviewCard offers, in my opinion, is the opportunity for subtle blackmail. By waiving this card in a staff member’s face, you’re implicitly saying “Give me preferential service or I will write a nasty review.” That is not how this review thing works.

There are establishments that offer abysmal service and lousy food, but things have a way of pushing them out of business. Poor word of mouth, non-repeat customers and legitimate reviews usually do the trick. The world doesn’t need any card-waiving superheroes to save us from them.

I’m not bashing sites like Yelp or TripAdvisor, nor am I minimizing the contribution of online reviewers – I’ve posted several online reviews myself. I think online reviews, for the most part, allow people to share their experiences and provide details that you may not find elsewhere. I have many friends and acquaintances on these websites, whose tastes and values I share, and I frequently read their reviews for recommendations. Online reviews also level the playing field – it helps small, “mom and pop”-type restaurants get some publicity and allows them to flourish in a highly competitive market.

Like everything on the Internet, it can be abused, but you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

When I write a review, I try to provide value to others. I’m not a food blogger or professional critic by any means, just a consumer who believes that when a restaurant or hotel delivers good, reliable service that makes me want to return, praise is due. I also want to provide information about the venue that could help others make an informed decision. I never post anonymously and try to give as much personal information as I can in my website profiles. I do all of this because it  is what I would like to see when I look for a place to eat or stay.

If I am critical, I try to be fair and provide context. Well, I hope I’m fair – judge for yourself. I also treat staff with respect – I worked in retail for many years, so I know what it’s like to deal with the public. (It can be fucking exhausting and dehumanizing.)

Waving a card for better service isn’t going to help the next person who visits the establishment. It just a selfish attempt to get free products and services. And it gives legitimate reviewers a bad name.

I see this as a pathetic way for some people to feel important. Respect should never be demanded, and I hope that anyone who uses this card doesn’t get any.


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