I don't have much time for Yelp, but a couple of interesting Yelp-related items crossed the screen recently.
1) Yelp is now making it possible for businesses to monitor and respond to comments on their establishments, I guess so they can send messages to Yelpers saying "Sorry about the pubic hair in your salad! Here's a coupon to enjoy dessert on us next time!"
2) Evidently, some businesses are putting up "No Yelpers" stickers.
The first makes me a little bit nervous. Whatever value Yelp and sites like it, or Zagat, for that matter, comes from it being of the barometer of the opinions of the hoi polloi. It looks like you have to register to see if you have to pay for this service, but in either event, it does not seem as if it would be too far-fetched to imagine Yelp for Business Owners Platinum Reserve, where messages could be screened, or zapped, Chowhound steez. That would be unfortunate, in that it would erode the credibility of the information Yelp is able to provide. As it stands, it is a way for Yelp to turn its users, which already providing its content, into a commodity in the form of a rather focused mailing list.
The second, in its own way, is almost as retarded as the
Leitch/Bissinger contretemps Bissinger Dino Media Wigout.* I do not own a restaurant, but I, too, work in an industry where anonymous, and sometimes unfathomable, critiques come with the territory, but I hope to do a good enough job not to piss off most folks most of the time, and a) hope that the general thrust of the comments reflect that, and b) the folks who read these things will take them for what they are worth. But other than as a general expression of antipathy, it's hard to see how this "No Yelpers" would work -- would Yelpers a) see the sign, and be expected to honor it with a vow of omerta vis a vis that particular experience? Or would it be more like a NINA thing, where they see the sign and go somewhere where their kind is welcome? I could conceivably imagine a cafe owner being annoyed if a patron were using his or her free wireless to denigrate the experience they were currently having in that cafe, but hard to imagine blocking Yelp from the network, even if it were technically possible.
The absurdity of the No Yelpers policy (matched only by the huffiness of the Yelpers) does raise one interesting point. A Yelper who asked about the sign reports:
What I was told, in a nutshell, is that the café staff has encountered a stream of would-be critics “with attitude,” predisposed to take issue with or be critical of the business.... The staff said to me rhetorically, “If you’ve got a problem with something, you should tell us first rather than going online and posting.”
Yes, maybe. This is a gripe that has been griped before about the amateur restaurant blogger in general. In some cases it makes sense. If there is a fuckup that it is within the restaurant's means and inclination to fix, then sure. To get a corked bottle of wine, or the wrong entree, and to go home and post on it, rather than mention it to the server, is retarded. If, however, the problem is a place that say, charges too much for shitty food, there's not much point. It's like when Homer Simpson heckles Garrison Kellior, demanding that he be funnier. Is it worth it to say to a server, for instance, "the conceit of your nine-dollar 'boudin blanc hot dog' is undermined by your use of a sausage that appears to have escaped from a fried breakfast at a B&B somewhere in the north of England"? Not really.
But if nothing else, the entire dustup is worth it for the Yelper from Houston using census data to discredit the disgruntled cafe owner's assertion that he was a hick:
Yelper: Hmm, I’m a hick? You have 457,000 people in Oakland. My metroplex in Houston has 5 million +. You exude class, it simply drips from you. I like your flippant use of the word F**K in your emails to customers. Class..you got it in spades.
Hard to choose between pottymouthed Raiderfan cafe owner, and Houston Yelper with shaky command of the word "flippant."Thankfully we do not have to. God bless the Internet.
*Orson, no surprise, has a very thoughtful response.