Report Card on ReviewerCard: F-

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Customer Hall of Shame

Posted: 05/21/2013

[This post is long overdue, but I couldn’t let this issue go by the boards without addressing it.]

It was only a matter of time. Until now, a handful of ill-informed, entitled assholes would drop hints, or direct threats, to service industry providers, about negative online reviews if they didn’t get preferential treatment. [Hello, ‘elite’ Yelpers.] The epitome of entitled arrogance and douchebaggery has now reared it’s ugly head in the form of a faux black Amex card called the ReviewerCard, that some customers are plunking down before engaging in a service industry transaction.

The premise? Blackmail. Despite anemic PR attempts to disguise it, that’s what it is, a modern-day sword of damocles, with cardholders threatening service providers who don’t play along with their ill-conceived, disingenuous schemes.

 Thanks to David Lazarus from the LA Times for exposing Brad Newman, a self-proclaimed, “lifetime entrepreneur.” Here are some terrific quotes from Mr. Lazarus: 

This is, of course, wrong on many levels and is an example of how the culture of amateurism that was once one of the Internet’s more endearing qualities has become a free-for-all unburdened by any thought of ethics or moral integrity.

Newman hopes his ReviewerCard will become as influential as the American Express black card — a totem of the bearer’s clout and achievement.

I can only hope that businesses see it for what it is: a shameless bid to extract personal favors under threat of Internet ruin. I can only hope they politely inform ReviewerCard holders that they’re entitled to the same treatment as all other customers.

On January 24th, I sent the following message to the ReviewerCard website message center:

My name is Patrick Maguire. I write a blog advocating for service industry professionals. I’d like to interview the founder of ReviewerCard for a blog post I am working on.

Thank you-PM

On 1/31, I received the following response from Brad Newman:

Hi Patrick,

Hope all is great. My bad for the delay in responding, as we’ve been overwhelmed with interest in the ReviewerCard. Are you still writing a blog piece? Here is a release that went out this week:

Let me know if you’d like to speak or email any questions. 
Best, Brad
Here are some highlights/quotes from the press release Brad sent me:
Entrepreneur Brad Newman originally created ReviewerCard, a membership card for active online reviewers, as a way to give consumers the rights they deserve and uphold the standards of the service industry worldwide.
Hotels and restaurants gain business as a result of positive online reviews…, but Newman has always felt that reviewers should be rewarded, too. With the ReviewerCard, businesses are made aware that the cardholder is a prominent reviewer while helping the customer obtain the best service possible.
“This card is not intended for freebies, but rather to insure the experience goes seamlessly for everyone.” [Newman]
Newman has decided to make the cards free to those who pass the extensive selection process instead of charging the original price of $100.
“This venture was never about making money, but for reviewers to experience more joy around the world.” [Newman]
On February 8th, I sent the following response to Brad:
Brad- Thank you for responding. Yes, I’m going to publish a blog post. Here are the items I’d like you to respond to:
#1- As a service provider, and customer, I believe the ReviewerCard is tacky, obnoxious, and a really bad idea. Flashing a ReviewerCard is akin to bribing or blackmailing merchants, and a means of attempting to extort preferential treatment and reduced costs.
#2- Do you understand why many people, myself included, feel that your ReviewerCard fuels the arrogant sense of entitlement that is pervasive in our world today?
#3- You were quoted in a recent LA Times piece by David Lazarus stating that, “If a restaurant brings me free quesadillas and gets a good review for it, what’s the harm?” In the 1/29/13 release you sent me from Business Wire, you stated that, “This card is not intended for freebies…”
#4- Extorted ‘pay-for-play’ removes objectivity from reviews. If a consumer flashes a ReviewerCard, receives preferential treatment, then writes a “5-star” review, how does that reviewer have any integrity or credibility?
#5- The old adage about any press being good press is bogus. As you can tell by the flood of horrible press you’ve been the target of, most people, including me, think the ReveiwerCard idea is disingenuous, and that you, and anyone who flashes the card, is a scumbag. Why don’t you just admit that the ReviewerCard was a really bad idea, and abandon the project?
I look forward to your response. Thank you-Patrick
Obviously Brad wasn’t enamoured by my scumbag comment, or compelled to reply to my questions and comments. He never responded.
The ReviewerCard is a vehicle for amateur, anonomyous online reviewers to leverage their arrogance, and threaten service industry providers. It’s the last thing we need in this era of pervasive entitlement.
If you agree, please tweet this link, and share it on facebook. Thank you.

14 Responses to “Report Card on ReviewerCard: F-”

  1. David Hayden says:

    It seems to me that the wise move for any restaurant owner is to simply refuse service to the guest. There is no way that you will escape without receiving criticism in the review. If you can’t win the game, then simply refuse to play the game. I would love to read that review and the reviewer will expose their absurdity to anyone reading. In the midst of otherwise positive reviews, this will only make your restaurant more attractive to those reading your reviews. As an added bonus, I would feel pretty sure that any local food blogger or critic would love to report that story. The positive publicity for the restaurant would be vastly more beneficial than the negative review.

  2. Big Louie says:

    I’d tell the bearer of one of these things what I think of the concept, and how little I think of *them* for utilizing it. And then ask them to leave. Ditto the p/r spin from local bloggers that David Hayden mentions, above.

  3. Kdog says:

    Online review forums are similar in concept; anyone can write one and it can affect the service at a restaurant. I have known managers who print and read negative and positive reviews from yelp, opentable, tripadvisor and chowhound on a regular basis and berate the staff for what they are reading aloud. What I have experienced in my employment is that the people who truly enjoy great food and wine don’t post on those sites to have their voices heard. They tell their good friends, their coleagues, their out-of-town guests, “hey, I know this great place, let’s go there tonight!” Our best clientele don’t post reviews online. They compliment us by returning, time and time again with different people every time. They are sharing the experience with as many people as they can, exposing their friends to a beautiful dining experience that they can’t wait to share with others. That is the best kind of review forum. The reviewercard would create the opposite effect that most restaurants want to achieve. We cannot pander to the threat of online bullying to sustain a business model of creating relationships with our guests. It would be completely counter-productive to the core of hospitality.

  4. ghostchef says:

    I’d kick them in the fucking teeth. But thats why a restaurant owner should know his limits and hire the right people to deal with it. Thank god for great General Managers…

  5. Debbie Haynes says:

    Thanks for calling foul on him.

  6. Yen says:

    I think that those of us that enjoy and respect (and work in) the restaurant industry have nothing to worry about. We will show the same level of hospitality to anyone presenting this card, as we would any new guest or beloved regular. I believe that someone with this card has probably never been very well taken care of in their previous dining experiences. It is truly unfortunate for someone to feel that they must either make threats or bribes in order to deserve and receive excellent service. In agreement with Kdog, the best kind of review forum is repeated returns of guests with their own guests. Genuine hospitality.

  7. Jeff Toister says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Patrick. I agree with Yen’s comments that the best way to approach this is to treat that person the same way you’d treat any other guest. At the same time, there should be obvious limits to what you’d do for a customer who is demanding what they don’t deserve.

    Perhaps if we all make a more concerted effort to recognize outstanding service with our own positive reviews on Yelp and other places, we’ll drown out the people who unfairly write baseless negative reviews.

  8. Dava says:

    What’s to stop someone’s mom from raving about a hellhole? Or a total jerk from being an asshole with a keyboard? I’ll believe those reviews when you get real names and accountability.

  9. Christine says:

    I write reviews – good, bad, indifferent – on Tripadvisor all the time. I’ve never made that known to a server, of course. I do have a bright green TA tag on my suitcase (they sent it to me after posting some number of reviews), but it’s not there to impress/intimidate anyone; it just makes it hella lot easier to pick my bag out of a sea of black luggage.

    I just don’t see the point of having a card that identifies you as a reviewer – heck, anyone can write a review, you don’t need a card to do it. If anything, the card identifies someone as a self-important asshole with an inferiority complex.

  10. p.mac says:

    I’d thought I’d heard EVERYTHING up till now! These cards are no less than a gun put up to your ribs…the big “Shake Down”, a stick up…and make no doubt about this! Who has the balls to present such a card? (Well OK, we already know who they are, anyway.) Smile bigger, run faster…ME, Me ,ME!
    Try pulling this shit at an airport! Or the DMV!
    I suggest that EVERY restaurant out there confiscate these cards, and snap them in two, in front of the customer. Photos of these cards should be posted on kitchen walls across America, and we should be on the lookout for them. Please be sure that the intent of these cards is NOT intended to “raise” service level of ANYTHING. It is flat out and out EXTORTION with the intent of fulfilling, or filling some fat asses’ dream of control
    over the hospitality industry. We can’t HAVE that in the real world, can we? RULE #1 when dining out: Never intimidate your server or chef. We prepare and serve your food. Always keep that in mind. Always.

  11. p.mac says:

    PM, Can you post a photo of one of these cards for everyone to see? I can only imagine that they are black and pink with “I’M SPECIAL” embossed at the top!

  12. MikeQ says:

    Excellent post, Patrick … thanks for the heads-up on all this. Should we look for ReviewerCard to now offer restaurant owners the option of having the “positive” posts appear on the top, the “negative” ones further down … for a sizable monthly fee?

  13. Stuart says:

    If every restaurant just said, “That card is not accepted here. Please leave,” that would probably put an end to this venture.

  14. Diana Louise Carter says:

    Sadly, in the Internet era, anyone with a keyboard feels they’re qualified to write and do what professional journalists and critics have done. And even sadder, many traditional media outlets are opening up to amateur reviews; readers never know when they’re getting information from a credible source or a person hoping to get free quesadillas by granting a positive review. The man who came up with ReviewerCard seems to have no idea about the importance of ethical behavior. I was a restaurant critic for eight years and operated anonymously the entire time. Even today, 12 years later, when my family goes to a restaurant that has framed one of my positive reviews, I have to explain to my teen-age children why it’s still unethical to identify me as the author of the item on the wall. The hospitality industry is, after all, hospitable. Its members can’t help trying to thank a person who has done them a good turn, even if it was just in the line of duty.

Leave a Reply

Permalink | Posted in Customer Hall of Shame | 14 Comments »