Respect Yourself


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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