Yelp Extortion Goes Legit
I have someone to thank today.
Working many years under the scrutiny of online review sites such a Yelp, I have developed a certain opinion of online reviewers. How could I not, when the fine minds of the internetz have brought us outstanding pieces of criticism such as the following:
- 1 star- Annoying hipster restaurant with hipster staff. I’ve never eaten there but I walk past it every day. Could be good
- 1 star- The waiter was soooo rude. He wouldn’t let me eat Chex Mix at the table! I don’t see what the problem was, we were spending money on drinks
- 1 star- They might sell “organic, grass fed” burgers here, but don’t be fooled. Meat is still murder, and this business is marketing their product to children, to get them hooked young, much like a drug pusher…
*These are all based on actual reviews. The real ones were longer and possibly written by people who flunked fourth grade English.
From the negligent to the outright malicious, many reviewers have tried their best to besmirch the integrity of review sites. The general public seems only vaguely aware of this problem, while business owners have been waving their hands around saying “help!” for a while.
Yet one man could potentially change all of this- One man whose force of douche is so strong he might bring down the internet review shakedown game in one big wave of backlash. I present this man and his invention, the Reviewer Card, which you can own for 100 dollars and a few active review accounts:
Brad Newman is a man with a vision. A vision where a person can be treated like a movie star with the flash of a card. “I’m a reviewer,” this card says to the business owners of the world. “You must respect my authori-ty.” He doesn’t see anything wrong with getting discounts on hotel rooms, skipping lines ahead of regular customers or getting free food because he is inherently threatening business owners. He is simply “getting the service he deserves.”
Here is the promo video for the card (it’s real and not a parody, I swear):
According to the LA Times, Mr. Newman, who claims to have invented Facebook before Facebook, has long had an entrepreneurial spirit. He came up with the idea for the reviewer card when he was in a restaurant in France and had trouble getting the right kind of tea. He told the waiter that he would write a nasty Trip Advisor review and ended up with his meal comped. “How can I get more free stuff?” he must have immediately pondered.
I’ve watched Yelp extortion grow more bold over the years, to the point where many customers will insist on gift cards or other freebies in exchange for “staying quiet.” Even Yelp will badger business owners, offering to “bury” bad reviews for their advertisers; conversely if a business chooses not to advertise with Yelp, their good reviews can be filtered out from their ratings. The reviewer card seems to be the next logical step in this evolution.
From what I’ve seen so far, the reviewer card is in trouble. The internets, Mr. Newman, are not amused. Maybe, just maybe, this kerfuffle could help people be more aware of the rights of business owners to make a living, or of their own personal responsibility when attacking an establishment on a review site. It’s a happy thought for me, that this man’s act of douchery could transform into positive change.
But wait, would that mean the internet would have to grow up?
Update: I’ve been so exhausted the last few days, I totally spaced on thanking Brett Minor and the guys at Dude Write for a Chairman’s Choice Award in the Dudette Write contest. It was lots of fun to participate, plus I found a bunch of new good blogs to read! Thanks again!