Brad Newman, the founder of ReviewerCard, lets avid reviewers on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor purchase a card for $100, which they can then flash at restaurants, hotels and stores to remind staff of their influence in the online world. As Newman described to LA Times, the cards are “a way to get the service you deserve.”
But LA Times columnist David Lazarus wasn’t buying it. Amongst many things, he called the card a threat to business owners, saying the card is “a shameless bid to extract personal favors under threat of Internet ruin.”
For some Boston restaurant industry professionals, Lazarus’ sentiment wasn’t far off.
Patrick Maguire, a manager at jm Curley, called the cards “tacky and horrific,” adding, “Flashing a ReviewerCard is blatant blackmail and a douchebag move.”
For James DiSabatino, founder of Roxy’s Grilled Cheese, it’s not necessarily ReviewerCard users that are bad, but a “horrible business model” that is cause for concern.
“I’d personally be embarrassed as a diner to flash a card like this, so I’m curious who this company is targeting to buy these things,” said DiSabatino. “This is just another example of serial entrepreneur trying to enter an industry he has no business being in.”
DiSabatino also brings up how reviewer credibility on websites like Yelp and TripAdvisor could be thrown into question by the ReviewerCards. “If these sites began to function on reviews that were ‘bought,’ wouldn’t that discredit them and take away the real value of what they do?”
“That’s exactly the type of ethics-barren review system that services like Yelp engender, and exactly what professional critics like myself (I SEEM MAD), have been complaining about for years.”
From the customer service side of things, Boloco CEO John Pepper sounded off on how his staff is trained to react to every sort of customer, including those who hold a ReviewerCard. When asked if his customers would be treated differently if they flashed a card, Pepper said:
There should be no “special” special treatment (double “special” intentional) offered to a guest who is offering to write a review… other than that our team members should give every customer who “needs” special treatment exactly that.
We think about it as follows… in general, most customers prefer to enter our restaurants, not bother with much chit chat, order what they like, pay full price, and get out of there as quickly and painlessly as possible. In return, they just want a tasty bowl, burrito or beverage made as they asked for it, at a price that works for them. Some like a little more interaction, and they should get that. Some like a LOT of interaction, and they should get that. It’s when one or more of those things do NOT happen, in the exclusive eyes of that customer (not our eyes) that we require our teams to jump in and provide very special treatment to correct the situation so that the customer feels they got what they asked and paid for at a level of service they expect. We do this multiple times per day every day.
In addition to recovery situations as described above, our teams have full authority to do whatever they feel like to amaze any guest for any reason. I suppose someone who came in and said they would be reviewing the restaurant might get a few extra minutes by a guest-focused team member to explain the menu, describe what’s most popular and what’s not, and maybe, as we would with many guests asking similar questions in various circumstances, offer a sample mini burrito or something like that. So I guess that could be considered special treatment to some extent.
Maguire put it more simply: “At jm Curley we already have a ‘rule’ in place banning behavior such as flashing a ReviewerCard. The last item in our ‘Law & Order‘ states, ‘…Just don’t be a douchebag.’”
What do you think about the ReviewerCard? Would you ever use one?