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Sep 21, 2005 12:56 PM

If I were going....

  • r

somewhere and dared post a msg on a chowhound board specific to that city/region asking for reqs, you'd bet I'd write something like "hey, folks, I am coming to Anywhere USA, staying for 2 days at the Sweet Hotel and am looking for chowhound recommendations. I die for anything asian, would nearly kill for the best dumpling, have a fascination with mexican food, and would also like the absolute best (insert famous local grub, i.e., the losbter roll, or the cheesesteak, or pizza, or gumbo..) you can give me. My price range is $ to $$ unless I really need to spend $$$. throw some suggestions my way."

that said, why do people say things so devoid of chow-love like "hi i am coming here, staying there, and want chow."

is this sort of post happening on your board and are you dealing with it?

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  1. Yes, and I generally ignore them, too hard and time consuming to answer.

    1. m
      Morton the Mousse

      Why do people do this? Because they are unfamiliar with board protocol.

      What do I do? I post a reply along the lines of: "General inquiries don't usually get a good response on this board. For best results, give us a few specifics: price range, preferred cuisines, part of the city you will be visiting, do you like to drink?, etc." Often times people will repost with a more specific query and generate a nice thread.

      11 Replies
      1. re: Morton the Mousse

        I think your response is the most polite way to go about responding to overly vague threads.

        on the Washington DC board we get alot of requests for recommendations, and the same places come up over and over...

        1. re: Morton the Mousse

          Ah, Morton ... how cute and endearing. However, you are in step 1 ....

          Four Stages of replying to generic posts

          1. Accommodation
          2. Bargaining
          3. Anger & Isolation
          4. Acceptance

          1 Accommodation

          You recently found Chowhound. Love all the help people have given and want to give back in kind. Also you love your city and want visitors to love it too. So you answer these posts with the places you love and ask them to be more specific. Sometimes you want to be so helpful, you go overboard and write something like the SF Tip Sheet.

          2. Bargaining

          Well, you’ve just answered the 1000th query, and it’s starting to get old. You need to get something out of this too. So you add to your posts “Don’t forget to report back on your trip and tell us how you liked the food.” This happens once in a blue moon. Worse is someone who does report back and says to the million or so replies they got ”Thanks for all the recs, but we didn’t use a one. We found all these pricy, tourist traps ...” which leads to ...

          3. Anger & Isolation

          The heck with them. Read the other posts, snub the ‘Four perfect days in ...' posts. Give the virtual finger to the demanding, self-engrossed types “Wonderful me will be in your city in one hour. I want you to tell me the most fabulous food in town and you better not be wrong”. Hey, buddy, this isn’t Concierge ‘R Us.

          However you find your Chowhound experience spilling over into every day life. You are cured of being helpful … ever. You leave little old ladies on street corners to cross the street and fend for themselves. The Girl Scouts take back your merit badges. That’s not right.

          4. Acceptance

          If you are in the mood, respond. There's always a few people who will answer the posts usually better and more patiently than you and with the same places you would have suggested anyway.

          If you do finally decide to respond because something great was left out, don’t forget to link to the Chowhound Guide to the city if there is one. Otherwise link to the goodwill page. In the first case, they will be getting a tasty supplement to the suggestions in their post. In the second case, you hope they will contribute so that Chowhound is a place they can always visit … and post their lame, lazy requests where they can't even be bothered to ... ok, so I haven't TOTALLY worked my way through step three yet.


          1. re: rworange

            Okay, so I'm still on Step 1, but looking at the choices, I don't really think it's a bad place to be!

            1. re: Katie Nell

              Probably not. It took a while for the honeymoon to wear off for me.

              There are some people that really are rude and demanding in tone ... posts like ... "I'll be in SF a week. What's the best food ... Go". Yeah, I'll go alright, on to the next post.

              Or there are the people who take so little thought and effort in their post that they don't even scan the board for that particular day missing the exact same question. I will not take my time and effort to respond to something like that.

              That's not to say I'll tell someone to search, even if the answer was the day before. I moved away for a while and when I came back, searching was a real mess. It is very difficult to find what you would assume is repeated information. However it doesn't take any effort to read, at the least, the titles of the current day's post.

              Like the OP said, these one line requests are not sharing any enthusiasm, curiosity or love of food.

              These posts are about taking and not contributing anything. So I just prefer, at this point, to encourage people who will contribute something back to the board in terms of info.

              1. re: rworange

                "It is very difficult to find what you would assume is repeated information."

                Not sure I follow you here rw, whenever I've responded with a link to a previous post about a location (city or resto) it almost always pops up using Ctrl-F. Occasionally for posts in the distant past I may have to load several previous archived boards, but for those that are fairly recent shouldn't a polite suggestion to scroll down or search for "x" suffice?

                1. re: PolarBear

                  I think it depends.

                  If I've been following the boards and I know there is a lot of recently searchable information, then in addition to whatever I may have to suggest, I'll suggest looking on the board for more info. That doesn't happen often though.

                  For some reason, this year there are TONS of inquiries about Napa/Sonoma, restaurants and wineries. I'd tell someone to search in that case because it is easily accessable and they will get more than the current thread.

                  However, someone looking for good Mexican food / burritos in the Mission ... well you would think there is a lot of info out there ... there is, BUT it takes a lot of mining to get some decent info.

                  Also, like with the Chowhound Guide, I won't usually suggest it or, for those rare occasions, searching the board until the thread is played out. I don't want to discourage someone from posting. Every now and then, in those tired, repeated threads, there is some nugget of info that hasn't been reported before. If the first response someone sees is 'search the board for everything you need to know', that poster with the obscure hint might not post because they assume it has been covered.

                  I don't remember the things I was specifically looking for when I moved back. I just remember the overall experience was a pain. Sure, you'll find it eventually, but finding it can consume major time.

                  And, currently I'd never tell anyone looking for a good pizza in the Bay Area to search the board. Pizza reporting has been exhaustive, but they seem to turn into extended discussions about technique and authenticity rather where to get a good slice. Not that the discussions haven't been interesting and informative. However, it is probably more than anyone wants to deal with when asking where to get a good pie.

                  How about best Chinese food in SF? Heh, heh, heh, While I am amused to see this generic question, I also pity anyone who asks it. The inevitable response is "Which of the 1000 variations of Chinese food do you want?" It's usually just some innocent looking for a decent plate of beef and broccoli and an optomistic fortune cookie. Searching the SF board for Chinese suggestions ... yeah ... lots ... but probably more than someone who wants a simple answer can deal with. That is a question that really does warrent direction to the Chowhound guide where Asian cuisine is broken down by type, there is a nice explanation of each and what to order at specific restaurants.

            2. re: rworange
              Morton the Mousse

              Honestly, as long as the office is slow and there's nothing interesting on FARK I don't have much else to do but help out the hapless. And I love helping people. When a stranger asks me for directions it makes my day.
              I need to make a generic "welcome to Chowhound, this is how we do things here" type post, and save it on my desktop. How much effort does it really require to hit ctrl C ctrl V?

              1. re: Morton the Mousse

                This is where I'm at too... I hate my job and a lot of times I don't have much to do but "surf!" I hope no one else notices just how much I'm on here... how embarassing! :)

                1. re: Katie Nell

                  katie et al....

                  there, my fine not-feathered friends, lies part of the crux of my situation - i am bored @ work and finding restaurants/chow, and sending people there, makes me feel good.

                  So, I am sorry if this is hashed out over and over (katie, my apologies), and nonetheless I did set out to write the original post as a bit silly and light and meant certainly not to imply that this is THE biggest thorn in my ____. This said, I just thought I'd maybe, just maybe, insipire a few lurkers to get down and dirty and give us details when they post. that's all.

                  When the dust clears and we learn that Poster McVagueson is traveling alone, doesn't drink, and has limited funds, then my list of recommendations changes drastically and I don't think that it is asking much to give up a few of those specifics at the outset. Meanwhile, I'll add that my knickers are not so twisted that I ignore it flat out alltogether - rather, i am more inclined to prod for these specifics so their chow recommendations - from me and other local hounds - can be tailored. et voila.

                  1. re: rumdrinks

                    Well, when you put it that way, it doesn't sound so bad! Oh, if only tone carried across the internet! :)

                2. re: Morton the Mousse

                  So true.

                  Plus, when a stranger asks me for directions to a good restaurant in the immediate vicinity, it makes my WEEK!

                  And yes, it's happened once, in SF. I think I scared the poor German tourists by rattling off five places they should try.

            3. j
              Janet from Richmond

              I think most often that happens with newer posters or fly-bys. I consider myself a Chowhound on many levels (I don't like to cook and am in awe of the posters on the home cooking board much of the time) but the first time I ever posted was for a vacation in Chicago and I wanted input on where to eat there. Chowhound was one of several sources for this. But now I have been posting for more than a year and think I fit in at least a little better.

              My peeve are the people who post on the Mid-Atlantic and South boards with something like "Had a great breakfast at Al's" without indicating even what state Al's is located in.

              1. You said:

                Why do people say things so devoid of chow-love like "hi i am coming here, staying there, and want chow."

                I say:

                Becuase as Chows, they trust us. Chows are not picky, and if I ask I Chow "what's good" then I expect an answer right away.

                5 Replies
                1. re: MidtownCoog

                  I hear what you're saying - but I still think that the question puts an onus on us that is not reasonable even based on our presumed expertise. That is, it expects us to guess what the requestor's interests and level of expertise really are.

                  I once replied "Burger King", to "what's good?" I meant it facetiously, of course, but depending on the person's level and interests, it could be spot on. Ok... ok... not in a chowhound world. But the point is that one guess is as good as another.

                  Suppose it was you that asked "what's good in Boston?", and I replied that the StickyBones chain had really good q... how much help is that? Based on your expertise in q, it would be meaningless. On the other hand, I could refer you to a great Vietnamese place, which could be equally meaningless, because you don't like Vietnamese (just supposing).

                  I think we all want to be as helpful as possible, and I think that a response saying, "please tell us what you like", is a reasonable one.

                  1. re: applehome

                    Come to the TEXAS borad to see some internet courtesy and ingenuity.

                    Don't mind the narrow sighted Dallas folks.

                    Gotta run. I have a hurricane to prepare for.

                  2. re: MidtownCoog
                    Morton the Mousse

                    The problem is this. You ask, "I'm coming to the Bay Area, what's good?" We say, "we have several hundred good restaurants in the Bay Area. Do you want us to list them all? If I did list them all, would that list even be helpful?"
                    Give us some specifications. We can narrow down the list to something that you can reasonably consider, and generate a productive thread for the archives.

                    1. re: Morton the Mousse

                      I bet you excell at follwing instructions.

                      Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I would have to say you lack a bit of Chow creativity.

                      How hard is it to ask anser question?

                      1. re: MidtownCoog
                        Morton the Mousse

                        You missed the point entirely.

                        The OP was complaining about ambiguous requests for help. It's almost impossible to answer the question "what's good in the Bay Area?" because there are hundreds, if not thousands, of good restaurants. It's much, much easier to answer the question, "what's good in Berkeley?" or "where's the best dim sum in SF." This has nothing to do with creativity or following instructions. It's a simple numbers game.

                        The fact is, all of those folks who post ambiguous queries have preferences. Most of them are simply unaware of the board protocol.

                        On the SF board, general questions are almost universally left unanswered. Specific questions consistently result in a lively discussion thread.

                  3. Speaking from the Los Angeles point of view, people simply aren't aware that our city isn't nice and compact like San Francisco, Manhattan or Boston. These are people who think that staying at the Universal Hilton and driving to Disneyland for three days (a 45-mile, at least hour-long and possibly two-hour-long commute each way).

                    Some people don't care about price. When I'm on vacation, I eat what I want. "Toma lo que quieres, dice Dios, y págalo" as the Spanish proverb goes -- take what you want and pay for it, says God.

                    Others don't care about cuisine -- I eat all kinds of cuisine and would be overjoyed if I posted "I'm coming to LA, I'm staying at the Hilton Garden Grove, what's good" to find out that that particular area is chock full of great Vietnamese and Mexican restaurants.

                    If more details are needed, you can always count on Chowhounds to ask after them... it's like a primal need to keep people from eating bad food.