Wishes for Wilshire
Online readers comment on "The Battle Over the Wilshire Village Property Goes On," Hair Balls blog, by Richard Connelly, March 12:
Disgusting: Another huge chain coming to gentrify a once-charming area. There's a Randalls, Kroger and Fiesta all within a mile of this corner, and they don't seem to be busting at the seams, over capacity. Go away, H-E-B.
Renters pay too: While I would agree that it is hard to take the political arguments of people not registered to vote seriously, can we put away the suggestion that renters don't pay property taxes? A landlord would be pretty unwise if she or he didn't charge rent high enough to cover property taxes. Just because renters don't write checks to Harris County doesn't mean they don't feel the impact of property taxes.
Not possible: A park sounds nice, but damn, you want the city to fork over the better part of $20 million (or more) just for the property? Do you read the news? The mayor's dealing with a pretty tight budget situation, there's talk of mandatory furloughs for city employees (during a recession) and you want to spend tens of millions on a park?
I wish it were possible, but this is silly.
Bring on the store: I would use the H-E-B. I would not use the park. This group claims that there are not enough public spaces within the area, but I personally think there are already a satisfactory amount of parks. The Kroger and Fiesta are both miniature versions of grocery stores. I welcome H-E-B.
I guess I just don't see the point of protesting something that a) isn't that detrimental to the area, b) is owned by a Texas-based company and c) will upgrade the grocery store choices in the area.
Question: How can any Houstonian, well conversant daily with the travails of vehicular motion in this town, think for even one second that Alabama and Dunlavy (a street bounded by a drainage ditch, and often torn up because of the AT&T fiber optics underneath) could possibly handle the traffic that another grocery store would entail?
Reviewing the Reviews
Online readers comment on "The Yelp Effect," Eating Our Words blog, by Katharine Shilcutt, March 17:
Not worth it: I once had a bad meal at a fairly fancy restaurant here in town. I didn't have an opportunity to send it back, but I did leave some extensive notes and a phone number for the restaurant to call. I was just frustrated enough that, when I didn't hear from them, I dumped my frustrations out in a restaurant review on B4-U-Eat.
Within a day of it going up, I got a call from the chef, telling me that he had meant to call but this was his first opportunity to respond, and how could I write those unfavorable things without giving him a chance to make it right? It dawned on me that once my review was published, it would be there forever.
Someone looking for reviews of the place two years hence might not go because of my negative review. And then I decided it just wasn't worth it. Now I offer my constructive criticism directly to the restaurant. I tell them, "The worst thing that could happen is that suddenly no one is coming to your place, and you don't know why." And then I offer up constructive criticism.
The other side: What about the ability of a well-known blogger's good reviews to skyrocket a restaurant into popularity? The Internet isn't a bad thing, and online reviews go both ways.
See for yourself: I don't trust the reviews on Yelp, Citysearch, etc. I'd rather go to a restaurant and find out for myself. You never know what's happening in a place behind the scenes. Maybe your waitress gives you shitty service because she's got cramps. Maybe you've got cramps and you just think everyone's being an asshole. Perhaps the kitchen is short-staffed. I think that if you have a negative review, it should be brought up in person at the restaurant.
The same goes for the positive. If you have a great time and the food rocks your face off, let someone know in person. They'll appreciate the kindness, and it sends the message that they're doing it right.
That being said, I'm also guilty of negatively running my own mouth on Twitter while sitting in a restaurant. The upside to that is the owner immediately responding to my Tweets and making the situation right. Either way, I think we should go and have our own experiences before trusting the negative or the positive.
A lot to ask: I have a lot of conflicting opinions regarding this issue. On the one hand, things like Yelp, Citysearch, B4-U-Eat, etc. are useful resources; on the other hand, you have to take pretty much everything that's posted there with a grain of salt. For every vindictive employee who posts a negative comment about a restaurant, there could be an employee posting a positive one. Also, as we've seen in this very city, there have been Yelp users (and maybe others) who have all but blackmailed owners/chefs/bartenders into giving them free things "or else." When one hears about things like this, how do you even trust them, ever?
I'm not a chef or owner or anything like that, but I do know those folks are incredibly busy running day-to-day operations, and for them to then go to every different review site (the article names five) and respond or negate every negative review is downright impossible. While I agree that chefs/restaurant owners, etc. must get more involved in social media, I think this is just too much to ask for.
As for what we the consumers can do: Use those sites for information, take reviews with a grain of salt, and find reviewers you trust.
Critical trust: Why have critics been paid well over the years? Here's why: You can identify with a real reviewer — whether film, food, fashion or art. After a while reading and comparing your own experiences with the subject matter, you learn whether to trust them. You identify with their tastes or you don't. And you appreciate the eloquent way they give voice to your feelings. Or, you think they are blowhards.
There is no equivalence with Yelp, etc. It's usually a collection of anonymous people who have posted for whatever reason — malicious, boosterish or heartfelt. The point is, there is no reference point for whether to take their opinion seriously or not. There is nothing there to identify with. They are just empty voices.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Our St. Patrick's Day Guide (March 11 and 17) incorrectly listed The 51st Annual Saint Patrick's Day Parade as taking place on March 17. In fact, the parade did not take place.
The Houston Press regrets the error.