With Yelp currently tangled up in piles of Federal Trade Commission complaints about its business practices -- which restaurant owners allege range from libel to extortion -- a new scourge upon the dining scene seems poised to take its weaselly place: the ReviewerCard.
First reported in the LA Times, the ReviewerCard is the creation of Manhattan Beach entrepreneur Brad Newman. It's a black card -- as seen above -- given to a restaurant, bar, hotel or other business by a potential "reviewer" that's a cross between a business card and an implied threat, although Newman doesn't see it that way. The ReviewerCard is only issued to "prolific online reviewers to help them get better service than the rest of us," writes David Lazarus in the Times. But doesn't that smack of coercion?
"It's not a threat," Newman told Lazarus, defensively. "It's a way to get the service you deserve." It's also a way to get kicked out of a restaurant, or worse.
"I'm going to review them anyway," Newman said to Lazarus, "so why not let them know in advance?"
And I agree. Besides running the risk of being bodily removed from a restaurant by an irate chef or manager, the ReviewerCard says quite a lot about the person who's ballsy enough to present it upon entering an establishment. Far from being pointless, the card can actually speak volumes about someone's character.
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I say, let people carry the ReviewerCard. Let them present it. So that everyone these "reviewers" meet can know the following key points about them in advance:
- I take myself and my writing so seriously that I need to let everyone I come in contact with know that I am a Serious Writer®, as my actual body of work doesn't speak for itself.
- I don't have legitimate business cards to pass to people upon request, because I don't actually write for a legitimate media outlet of any kind. I have, however, written 12 reviews on Travelocity.
- I recently learned how to use Blogger.
- I am a cheap son of a bitch who will maybe leave a 10 percent tip -- maybe -- but definitely not on the items you comped. And I do expect you to comp my dessert, at the very least.
- Yelp Elite status was not affording me the quality or quantity of free stuff I feel that I deserve due to the fact that I have figured out a way to translate my loudest and most obnoxious qualities into online forums.
- I employ the Caps Lock key with frequency and vigor, and people know that THIS SERIOUS WRITER® IS SERIOUS WHEN THAT HAPPENS.
- I follow five times the number of people on Twitter as follow me.
- I deeply believe that the Internet as a whole hangs on my every word. This sense of self-importance is vital to maintaining the delicate balance of navel-gazing and utter lack of self-awareness that allows me to be the most annoying me I can be.
- I enjoy taking advantage of small businesses with razor-thin profit margins just because I can.
- I have no ethical qualms when it comes to receiving and writing about a wholly different dining experience than my readers would experience.
- I have no ethical qualms about anything.
- I like throwing my weight around and subtly bullying people whenever possible, in the hopes that the special treatment I receive in return will compensate for the fact that my parents didn't hug me as a child.
- I possess a deeply entrenched inferiority complex that can only be temporarily assuaged by forcing people to treat me like I matter.
- The fact that I have to force them only exacerbates the inferiority complex, but I'm too focused on making myself feel important to seriously examine my own shortcomings and do any real work on making myself into the kind of person that people would naturally like on their own.
- I am not surprised when someone spits in my food.