A Four Letter Word
Updated: Nov 22, 2017
We, as restaurant people cringe at this four letter word. No, it’s not fuck. It can’t be. In every restaurant I’ve ever had the pleasure at, fuck and all forms of fuck are used to describe everything. “That fuck just stiffed me.” “The fucking dishwasher is late again.” “Have you seen the fuckbags that just walked in?” “We were so fucked last night!” “The soup tonight is fucking fucktastic!” You get my point. There is a certain vernacular that comes with working in this business, a sort of slang and made up language rolled into one long fuck-fest. The other common four letter words are peppered in as well to spice up the topic.
The four letter word I speak of doesn’t come this naturally. It doesn’t roll off the tongue like say, ‘butter drippin’ off a hot biscuit’ (thank you Les Claypool).
This word has the grace of the German language or the Vietcong holding you at gunpoint. This word is YELP.
Conceived in 2004 and popularized by 2008, Yelp has, for most, become synonymous with finding the best place for whatever you’re looking for. In theory it has its merits. In reality its a bullshit site flooded with amateur critics and elitists. For people in my world it has become synonymous with Isis. Much, much worse than an old school newspaper or magazine critic coming in to eat, trying hard to stay anonymous. That was a better time for reviews. An educated person chosen for the role by a publication based on experience in the field, an aptitude for the hospitality business, a journalism degree and a strong moral code (for the most part).
It was a game of cat and mouse. We had an insider and we played along, infiltrating the system while they played “lonely diner out for a 4 course meal.” Waiting with anticipation for the Sunday paper to come out to see if we were the the next rockstars or if we were doomed was the best part. That is how a restaurant should be reviewed. That along with the best form of free advertising: word of mouth. Old school. If you suck you won’t be around long. If you’re good then you’ll be around long enough to become an alcoholic, if you’re awesome then, well, good for you.
My biggest gripe, and I am far from alone here, (lawsuits to prove it) is Yelps power to filter reviews at will. In the last few years, Yelp has been bullying small business to advertise with them. Its all about the Benjies. If you do speak with them and politely decline, sure as shit you’ll see some of your best, legitimate reviews disappear into the abyss of the Yelp filter. If you choose to ignore the cold calls, the telemarketing and the badgering, you’ll see even more of your top reviews disappear. You have no control because legally Yelp owns these reviews. The problem here is no one got my consent to be on Yelp in the first place. Somewhere ,someone, felt the need, long ago, to add me to Yelp so they could share their opinion, fulfill their need to be heard, fill the void in their vaped existence, to be seen; this how business yelp sites are started. Yikes.
I don’t usually like quoting other sources. This is more of a rant or a vent for me, but I found this statement from BusinessWeek very informative:
“Yelp has a complicated relationship with small businesses. Criticism of Yelp focuses on the legitimacy of reviews, public statements of Yelp manipulating and blocking reviews in order to increase ad spending, as well as concerns regarding the privacy of reviewers”.
Not only does Yelp mostly suck for business owners but reviewers beware as well! Your privacy? Really? How is this site still legal? Oh, wait, some multi-billion dollar investor somewhere is the final word in our lives. Not us.
I’m not going to get radical, I’m not one to argue politics, (I hate toddler tantrums, especially thrown by adults) but I will say this: they need to be shut the fuck down.
If you must review something, even though its most likely out of your league to do so, use Trip Advisor, use Google, use Instagram, use your mouth to actual humans, in person, review yourself. Anything else.
Don’t be a four letter word.